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Broke my ATH-M50s, need some advice [EDIT: FIXED!!]

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

So today I plugged in my beloved ATH M50s into my iPod and no sound came out, even at full volume.  (I plugged in some old earbuds into the iPod, and sound came out like it should.)


I am very convinced that this is because just yesterday I was moving through a row of chairs in an auditorium, and the headphone cable got looped around an armrest as I was moving forward.  So since the M50s were around my neck, I accidentally yanked (pretty hard) on the connection between the cable and the headphone.


Now that I examine it, the connection between the cable and headphone is not firm, and wiggles in a way it didn't before.  I'd imagine the wires disconnected there.


What do I do?  The ATH M50s don't have replacable cables, I don't think, and I have no wire soldering experience, and I don't know of any good repair services for this kind of thing.


As far as headphone repairs go I'd think this is a relatively easy one?


Any help would be appreciated~!!!


...as well as tips on preventing this kind of thing from happening... I keep my cable nicely wrapped around a oval cable holder in order to cut the length down to about 6 feet, but maybe I should thread it through my shirt too? :P

post #2 of 20

Sorry about your headphones.


Now, I can't really comment too much about how to fix them, so I won't comment. Somebody else probably has experience, so they can help better than I can.


...But I can give you a few tips about cable managment.


First, M50 isn't the world's most portable headphone, and the 10ft cable dosen't help either. So, try and possibly find a "portable" headphone. One that you can take when you travel. Whether they be an IEM or a portable set like the Zino's or PortaPros, is up to your choosing. My portable set is the PortaPro's and my 9850 in-ear. They are very cheap, thus if I accidently break them, I can easily fix or replace them at minimal costs.


Second thing. The shorter the cable the better for around-and-about use. Every foot of cable you have increases the chances of it getting yanked, tugged, snagged, caught, stepped on, etc. Which obviously can shorten the life of your headphone. My AD700 has a 10ft cord, so I definitely know what it's like. I be very careful when walking around with those.


And last, if you must use a headphone with a super long cable, just be sure to be extra carful. Minimize the length of cable from the "jack" back to the "earcup". This minimizes the extra length so it lowers the risk of it getting snagged. Also, you can cable manage by wrapping the cable and possibly use and elastic or twist tie, to keep it in a nice roll-up. I even sometimes put it around my neck, although I can't recommend that method, as it could be dangerous.


Hope this helps. And good luck with "fixing" or "buying" new headphones.

post #3 of 20

Well you will probably have to re-solder internally.  It is pretty easy but if you are not comfortable doing such things it shouldn't be too hard to find someone who is.


The wires are pretty thin so I'd imagine you broke them, I can't remember if the stock wire was enameled or just the internal wiring to the right ear was enameled, (that part definitely is,) so that part might potentially be a little tricky.  Red is right, black is gnd, green is left.  Should be labeled on the solder points inside on the back of the driver unit.

post #4 of 20

Try opening up the headphones. First remove the ear pads by pulling them off. Then remove the outer screws with a screwdriver.


The inside should look like this:


( From: http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/484744/crosstalk-on-audio-technica-m50 )


Let us know what yours looks like. It might be something that's easy to fix. Maybe you can find a fellow head-fi'er in your area who can help? But DIY is fun, so now would be the perfect time to start :)

post #5 of 20
Thread Starter 

I live in Simsbury, CT... if anyone would care to take a look I would greatly appreciate it.


I opened it up and found that it looked almost exactly like the picture posted above.  I don't have as good a camera as the person who took that photo, but here you can see there is nothing severely out of place.  I checked the connections, and each of the 5 connections are intact.


Further, the black rubber cable still has some slack, which indicates that when the cable was yanked, it probably didn't actually yank off the soldered contacts.  Rather, the tension from the yank probably went to the loop down below.


Is it possible that the wire inside/near the loop was disconnected when I yanked it?  Is that possible?


 ATH M50repair.jpg

post #6 of 20

Good news is your M50 drivers should be fine. As for the cable, it doesn't seem likely that the inner wires would break while leaving the outer sleeve intact. But it's not impossible, I guess.


Try checking the plug end of the cable for anything unusual. That's usually the first point of failure for most headphones, in my experience. A multimeter would be great for diagnosing what the problem is. You can test for electrical continuity between each of the inner wires in the headphone and the plug.


Most likely you will either need to replace the entire cable, or at least solder on a new plug. I'd help you with it but I don't think the shipping costs to and from Canada would be worth it.

post #7 of 20

Yep, that's likely what it is. Since both channels are dead, I suspect the ground (black) wire is bad.  Here's what you should do:


Get a multimeter (voltmeter, DMM, whatever) that has a resistance or continuity setting.  Use the meter to check between each of the 1/8" plug and the wires that are soldered to the board in the phones.  Instead of measuring on the blob of solder, measure on the gold trace connecting to the solder for each wire.  That way you'll find a broken solder connection.  The connections should be tip->green, middle ring->red, ring closest to cable->black.  The continuity should beep or the resistance should read under 1 ohm depending on what the meter is set to.


If one of the wires fails, use a low heat (Rat Shack 15W iron will do, try not to use anything more powerful) iron to quickly desolder the wires from the PCB.  Pull the wire out of the phones, cut them below the entry point.  Strip 1" of the jacket and about 1/8" off each of the wires.  Do the continuity test of the cable now that it's free of the phones.  If it fails again, you can try cutting and replacing the connector, but at this point you might as well recable the phones with new wire.  If not, you can thread this back through and solder it in and you're golden.  I recommend lead solder as it melts cooler and reflows better, and the "no trash" icon inside the headband means that it was originally leaded to start with.


Originally Posted by Hayang View Post

Is it possible that the wire inside/near the loop was disconnected when I yanked it?  Is that possible?

Edited by pokey9000 - 8/23/10 at 8:35pm
post #8 of 20
Thread Starter 

Thanks so much for the help, guys!  That was very logical and I understand.  I have no soldering experience or equipment, though, so I figure i'd need to buy it (they're not expensive, right?) from home depot/rshack.  It's not too hard, right? I just ooze a teeny bit of filler metal to connect the gold and the wire?


One more thing: what did you mean by "desolder"?  How does one do that?

post #9 of 20

Just like headphones, soldering equipment can be cheap or costly. But for this purpose, a cheap one will do just fine. I've gotten by with just the cheapest one I could find from my local RadioShack equivalent. Try to look for one with replacement soldering tips available from the same store. Get some rosin flux too if you can.


Helping hands is a worthwhile investment too. I got mine for like $12. For just replacing a cable, you can probably do without one if you have steady hands though. But you will need this for splicing two cables together, or attaching a new plug.




In this case, desolder means to heat the solid blob around the wire until it becomes completely molten. Then remove the wire. Then pull away the soldering iron.


And watch Tangent's tutorials. I would not be half the man I was without them etc. etc.


post #10 of 20
Thread Starter 

I did the ohmmeter test, and the result was that none of the connections, green - tip, red - middle ring, black - bottom ring, worked.  I tested various other combinations to make sure I didn't have the pairings wrong, and none of them worked.


I know the ohmmeter works because I touched the cables together and the resistance very visibly dropped all the way to zero.  Touching both ends to the same gold foil yields the same result, as does touching both to a solder metal.


Yet all the solder points L, R, GND seem to be intact, which must mean there is a point in the cable where all three wires break, right?  I plan on trying to cut the cable a little before the loop, test for breaks, and resolder the connections if there are no breaks according to the ohmmeter.


Please do say if there is anything wrong with my logic.  My only experience in circuitry is a high school physics class XD

Edited by Hayang - 8/24/10 at 9:56pm
post #11 of 20
Thread Starter 

head-fiers, i might have done something I should regret.


I just cut wires as follows (yellow X represents where I cut it):



I did this thinking that there is probably a disconnect in that loop area, since that probably was the place that got the most of the tug.


But after cutting the wires as I indicated, I took the resulting middle piece of cable and stripped it down: black rubber > green/red/black rubber > copper? wire

so I took the ohmmeter's two ends and connected them with the thin copper wire, and nothing happened; resistance did not go down to 0, rather it stayed at infinity.  Again, I controlled by touching the two wire ends of the ohmmeter together with nothing in between.  Instant drop to 0 resistance.


Then I stripped the green red and black insulation off of the wires in region A after the cut, and touched the ends of the ohmmeter to the wire and the corresponding gold.  nothing happened; the resistance stayed at infinity.


Doesn't this mean my previous troubleshooting was to no avail?  can someone perhaps try doing the ohmmeter test to a healthy pair of M50s, touching gold to corresponding tip, upper ring, and lower ring and see if the resistance drops?


Can anyone explain this? I am lost.



I rescrewed so I can work on them again in a few hours... and I can now say I have wireless ATH-M50s!  No cable trip, and great for use as a fashion statement.  They look better than skullcandies, and probably sound better as they are right now anyhow.


Edited by Hayang - 8/24/10 at 10:26pm
post #12 of 20

That was a good idea actually. The only part you missed was that the inner wires are all coated with varnish or something similar (enamelled). So that's why they aren't conducting. Quickest way to get around that is by lighting the tip of the stripped wire on fire. (Get ready to blow it out quickly.)

post #13 of 20
Thread Starter 

yoga flame, you are a very cool dude. thanks for your help, and same to pokey9000 and everyone else.  I will report back once I try tomorrow.

post #14 of 20

If you want to do an end-to-end check of those solder points, turn your meter to resistance and check the tops of the solder blobs from black->green and black->red.  Try not to stay long on the point as this passes DC current through the driver.  You should see 35-45 ohms.  This tests from one blob to the driver and back to the other blob.

post #15 of 20
Thread Starter 

I actually get a drop to 0 ohms for both pairings doing that test.

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