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Thread: Soldering lacquered headphone wire

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    Soldering lacquered headphone wire

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    The other day the cable at the mini-jack end of my pair of Sennheiser px100 headphones broke. I love the sound and feel of these 'phones and they have just been discontinued so difficult to buy new. I have a new 3.5mm stereo jack but can't work out how to solder the awful wire they use. Each channel clearly has an earth lead - this doesn't seem to want to accept solder (seems to actively repel it!) under any circumstances. But the main problem is that the signal leads aren't sleeved with plastic but seem to be metal coated in red (right channel) and green lacquer. When you try to clean this off the leads just fragment. I've lost about 10cm of cable already cutting back to try again and again. These leads also seem to repel solder. Does anyone have any idea how you solder these horrible things? Grateful for any help!

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    I would say scrape it off but it sounds like you tried that.
    Second tac' I'd think is to burn it- to break it down, then an appropriate (fine enough) metal brush. Then a pre flux clean/brush/wipe.
    Note flux isn't necessarily in all wire solder now, so you might check you have the correct solder! I was surprised how many kinds there were when I last bought some!

    Here's a brush example. (You might find one with a tighter bristle spacing..
    JAZ USA Wooden Handle Scratch Brush, Tooth Brush, .006" Stainless Steel, 3 x 7 Rows, at sparkyabrasives.com
    I'm assuming it's stranded wire, another tip is un-twist it so you can lay them out straight to brush-turn-brush.
    I've come through this many times here cleaning up electrical and crimp connections :>)
    Last edited by mixsit; 12-30-2017 at 10:31.
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    It's called tinsel cable and the general advice is to use a very sharp Stanley type blade at 90 degrees to the wire - and then you do scrape off the laquer. Then turn it over and do the same again. You then must tin th copper the scraping revealed - with a quick, hot iron. Too long and the wire melts, and the cotton filler goes black. Too short a time and the solder doesn't flow into the strands. I think everyone who has done it HATES the stuff. Most Sennheisers have replaceable cables that push into the headset - and these are worth swapping, to be honest - because the damn cable is simply horrible to work with.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rob aylestone View Post
    It's called tinsel cable and the general advice is to use a very sharp Stanley type blade at 90 degrees to the wire - and then you do scrape off the laquer. Then turn it over and do the same again. You then must tin th copper the scraping revealed - with a quick, hot iron. Too long and the wire melts, and the cotton filler goes black. Too short a time and the solder doesn't flow into the strands. I think everyone who has done it HATES the stuff. Most Sennheisers have replaceable cables that push into the headset - and these are worth swapping, to be honest - because the damn cable is simply horrible to work with.
    Rob, good call. I forgot about the stuff with fiber in it. Wouldn't you want to separate' and cut (or burn?) the stuff out?
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    Thanks so much for your help guys - will try again and keep you posted

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    The type Sennheiser uses has the fibre strands pretty well mixed with the metal - I think that's how it stays so flexible, so the really hot iron just carbonises the filler - but a too small iron won't - the big iron heats it quickly and the solder flows. You can then just trim the end with cutters and if the surface you are going to attach it too has also been tinned properly, the quick application of the iron flows it quickly and then you can get a decent and strong joint. Just needs practice so you don't mess it up and have to chop off the ruined bit and start again.

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    Then, SOME tinsel wire is actually Aluminium! Now you can get Ally flux cored solder but all the other problems, carbonizing etc still apply and you really need a new or very well cleaned bit to use Ally solder, it also need higher temps than Lead or even Lead free.

    All up, easier to get the cans fixed at the makers.

    Dave.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ecc83 View Post
    Then, SOME tinsel wire is actually Aluminium! Now you can get Ally flux cored solder but all the other problems, carbonizing etc still apply and you really need a new or very well cleaned bit to use Ally solder, it also need higher temps than Lead or even Lead free.

    All up, easier to get the cans fixed at the makers.

    Dave.
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    I think aluminum wire is pretty rare due to the extreme difficulty in soldering it.

    Pretty sure this stuff is called litz wire because the strands are insulated from each other. maybe I'm wrong.

    I just use a hot soldering iron and a lot of flux. Eventually I've burned off all of the coating and usually carbonized the fiber as well, and then i can clean it with alcohol and solder it to whatever i was going to solder it to.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Timpanogos Slim View Post
    I think aluminum wire is pretty rare due to the extreme difficulty in soldering it.

    Pretty sure this stuff is called litz wire because the strands are insulated from each other. maybe I'm wrong.

    I just use a hot soldering iron and a lot of flux. Eventually I've burned off all of the coating and usually carbonized the fiber as well, and then i can clean it with alcohol and solder it to whatever i was going to solder it to.
    Soldering Aluminium is as easy as Copper for a manfctr because they have the right solders and fluxes. Then, a good deal of connections are made by crimp. 'IDC' techniques.

    Dave.

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