Headphone Cables/Builds w/ Pictures - DIY

Yeah … I wouldn’t do that …

But in general rosin-cored 60/40 or 63/37 Sn-Pb solder is going to be fine.

With some materials you need to use a more aggressive flux and use higher temperatures than the raw solder itself actually requires. Copper and gold (plate) are easy enough to solder with the standard stuff/temperatures. But when you start using rhodium plating or Te-Cu then you have to pay more attention and generally use different flux and higher temperatures to get things to wet and flow properly and avoid bad joints.


I love to tinker and have been thinking about getting into cables, so having a guide to start with would be incredibly useful to those in my boat!


Since I have a bunch of amplifiers and sources, all with different connections, as well as myriad headphones, none of which seem to share the same connector type, I wound up putting together a fully modular headphone cable system.

There are “core” cables which can be any length and simply connect a “headphone adapter” to an “amplifier adapter”. In general I just leave the amplifier adapters connected to the relevant amplifier and the headphone adapters to the relevant cans. Which in addition to being very flexible, helps avoid wear and tear on those connections:

Those cover the Abyss AB-1266 Phi, Audeze LCD, HD800, Utopia and HD6XX/Fostex TH900 Mk2*. I’ve built others for the Focal Elear, Sony MDR-Z1R (funny screw-on connectors, much like Sony’s microphone cables), Mr. Speakers Aeon and Ether C and so on.

And then the most common amplifier connections I use:

Both my Woo WA234 MONO Mk2 and the iFi Audio Pro iCAN can use dual 3-pin XLRs, which is the first adapter, and then we have the standard 1/4" TRS, 4-pin XLR and the less common 4.4mm TRRRS “Pentaconn” connector used by Sony and Sennheiser.

In doing this, I also decided to apply everything I knew/experienced from an engineering perspective, in building those cables. So these are all-out designs, with very pure, long-chain, OFC, wiring in a complex geometry, with ultra-low impedance and capacitance, heavy copper-matrix shielding, all cryogenically and EBI treated.

As well as enabling dielectric biasing and active shielding.

The modular nature of them means I can do things like put a “Phase Reversal” adapter in the middle or turn an HD6XX cable into a TH900 Mk2 cable (same connector, but both reverse polarity), very easily.

Even with the excellent cables that ship, as standard, with the Audeze LCD-4 and JPS Labs Abyss AB-1266 Phi, I’ve found mine to be more enjoyable to listen to, as well as being more resolving, and wanted them for all my cans/amps.


This is exactly the cable set up I’ve been wanting to build, I really like the design and functionality of this style of cables. Once I have some other projects complete I’ll start diving more into the cable making.


Thanks Torq, I’ll have to take a look when I get my work station sorted and am feeling industrious!


Have not ventured into making DIY cables…yet! Curiously though, I’m having thoughts about changing cables on my modded HE-6. Broke 'em in new with the WireWorld Silver Eclipse 7 headphone cable. Thick & stiff but acclimated.

I’m starting to view my speaker cables - A23 Auditorium - with temptation and a sense of adventure. Of course, I wouldn’t dare butcher or mutilate my speaker cables! But I can imagine retrofitting the ‘6’ for banana plugs so I could simply swap the speaker cables in at will. I’d still want to use the cables between my Shindo Lab monaural amps and speakers.

Thoughts anyone?

I believe in cable differences. I had a stock (cheap) USB cable running from my computer to my DAC. With nothing to compare it to it sounded fine. But then I ordered an audiophilleo 2 (which I’ve since sold) and the upgraded Wireworld USB cable (which is still in my system) and have been totally convinced since then that cables carry their own sonic identity. The Wireworld cable blackened the background which improved clarity. It also widened the sound stage and improved voice and instrument separation. I use a Wywire Red Series balanced cable with my HE-6 over Hifiman’s stock XLR cable. The Wywire cable turned the etchiness of the HE-6’s treble into a mellow sweetness. The WyWires cable also brought the mid section out more and increased its clarity, air and focus. Yes, cables make a difference. It’s just finding the cable that brings out the sonic differences that are pleasing to each individual listener. There are so many to choose from.

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I need a decent 1/4"-> 4pin balanced adapter which seems to be available from various online outlets.
One less common is a double 4pin balanced “splitter” to connect two balanced cans to one amp for various quick comparisons. I haven’t seen any readily available so will have to find someone who makes custom adapters.

I did stained glass work so am familiar with flux/solder/tinning etc and the work was often very precise. I just never bought the right soldering iron for cable work.

The iron for stained glass is a 100 cut Weller and it seems a lighter duty iron or gun is preferable for electronics.

I just don’t know if I’m going to get around to building another work station with different tools after selling the glass gear. Stained glass is very labour intensive and hard on your hands with all the cutting and grinding. Arthritis and fingertip cuts got the better of me after awhile.

You’re talking about a 1/4" TRS male-plug to 4-pin female XLR, like this, right? In other words, you have a headphone cable that ends in a 4-pin XLR and you want to be able to connect it to a standard 1/4" TRS jack?

I ask, because if you’re thinking about doing it the other way, you’ll very likely damage, or destroy, your amp.

Connecting two headphones to a single amplifier, with a splitter, in that manner will almost certainly result in neither of them sounding the way they should. Especially if they’re very different in impedance.

Assembling cables doesn’t need anything fancy, iron-wise. Though most gun-style units have much higher thermal mass and might well deliver enough energy, quickly enough, to melt insulation in the connectors. They also tend to be rather too large when dealing with small connector’s solder-points/pads/cups.

Something like the Hakko 888 is ideal … with the right selection of tips. But you can go certainly go cheaper if you’re just doing cables … the Chinese Hakko clones/rip-offs are fine for cable work (I would not use them for actual electronics work, personally) … and some of those are $29 or so. You just need to get suitable tips.

YES that’s the one (price will double in CAD$ with conversion, tax important fees etc)
I don’t need to swap it the other way and it has never crossed my mind to attempt it. Hence my need for a balanced splitter as I have two balanced cables.

Impedance does not sound to be a big issue with a mixed SE/BAL session as I simply use the 150ohm 580s into BAL and 300 ohm HD650 into SE which just about volume levels them.

A BAL splitter would reduce power per pair but would provide a better means for quick comparison on a more level playing field (ie BAL + BAL instead of SE + BAL) Although I’d have to adjust the volume a bit more it’s not that difficult and certainly easier for quick comparison.

I’m using a LD MKVII+ which is both balanced and SE capable (4pin + 1/4" TRS jacks) and can run two pair no problem (no detectable SQ deterioration).

It has a separate toroidal transformer for each side so is completely dual mono powered.

I don’t use it for extended periods of time this way but it’s great for quick headphone comparisons.

Also, my favourite cable is a perfect length 4pin bal. and I’d like to use it with my new portable Arrow 6G dac/amp.

In short, I previously considered all your objections but still would like to split the balanced out and have dual purpose/use for the TRS/BAL adapter.

I just need to find someone qualified and need to keep fees down to a dull roar. So I need a seller either in Canada or someone willing to send a “gift”

Chinese sellers are pretty good at doing that but I’d prefer it made and bought in and from CANADA or US. We’ll see how it goes :wink:

On the soldering iron front, I know what is needed and they cost a lot less than the 100 Watt Weller iron I have which is just too high in Watts and does not have lower temperature pointed tips (or VERY small chisel head).
It’s kind of a pain to buy the new iron, “helping hands” and other gear to just build two adapters!

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You can likely have the guys at Redco put the cable you need together then. You’ll need to choose the connectors you want from what they sell (a pretty extensive list) and provide the specific connections you want. They’re pretty cost effective, do excellent work and turn things around pretty quickly.

Thanks for the tip. If they’re a US located online store then conversion/fees is still an issue but I can check their prices.

I might head over to a forum I used to frequent to see if there is anyone building relatively inexpensive cables :wink:

A few NCXX(?) Neutrik 4pin terminations
and 3" of Canare or Mogame shouldn’t be a big problem. Even if I decide to just do it :thinking:

Here’s a couple balanced cables I’ve built earlier this year.

This is the Audeze Sine with a black/white paracord cable over a recycled AV cable. It has neutrik XLR female jack and some 3.5mm connectors I bought on AE. I am actually currently using it on my Focal Elex. I have a very similar looking one for the Sine except the XLR head is now a 2.5mm balanced connector for portable use.

This second photo is my Hifiman HE560 with a braided paracord cable over some 26AWG copper wire. Also uses Neutrik XLR connectors and 2.5mm male jacks. I also made a 2.5mm balanced male to XLR female adapter for using it with my DAP.

In the back of the photo is a XLR male with a recessed 2.5mm balanced female jack. I was going to make my own, but ended up just buying a pre-made one by Norne Audio. It’s great.


So did you put your how-to together here? (If it’s around I suppose I didn’t spend enough time looking through the forum).


Made a crappy speaker tap today because my new focal powerbird amp has really weak headphone output. Probably won’t use it much but worth exploring


Always an “A” for effort. Always an “A+” for sharing the not so good efforts also. It help me to learn from my mistakes and learn from them. Thanks @antdroid

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Heh, it worked. It was just a 5 min hack job though. I just wanted to see if it would actually work, and it did. :slight_smile:

I may end up making a better higher quality one in the future once if I get a speaker selector box to go with it, otherwise, I’ll be running these at the same time as speakers which defeats the purpose. :slight_smile:

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They look sick! :+1:

Thought on a similar approach, but couldn’t come up with good connectors for the middle points, what are those? (the ones on the right side of the pictures).

I have avionics silver plated cable, but thought on doing an experiment also with flexible cat 5e scrounged from (soft) patch pannel cabling.

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I’m using HiRose connectors there, which come in myriad combinations depending on whether you want female or male connections, female or male jacks/shrouds, how many pins, what strain relief/collet/retention you want and so on. So you get to play “construction kit” games with the very comprehensive product data catalog.

They’re expensive though … $25-35 per connector (so a full modular cable, which needs 4 connectors, can chew up $140 just on those parts), and often a pain to source.

As with most things these days there are myriad “compatible” versions out there, from the usual suspects, with as much variation in quality as there is in price. And generally more trouble than their worth.


I love those cables / adapter setup that you built and the quality seems excellent … Is there anything in the open market like this?

Thanks for the share

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