2010-Aug-03, Tuesday 08:20 pm
chebe: (OnTheVergeOfSomethingWonderful)
[personal profile] chebe
I like listening to music. I find when navigating the city and its public transport that having portable music is a must. However, when you're subjected to very changeable weather there are often problems with trailing wires, bag straps, jumpers, coats, buttons, zips, and passing umbrellas. Not to mention having wires catch on the most awkward of things even in fine weather. (Which is particularly painful when wearing those wrap-ear headphones.) Every one of my portable CD-players smashed to the ground because of this, and smaller MP3-players have been known to go flying through the air. Wouldn't it be great, I thought to myself, if I could wear my headphones as easily as I wear a tshirt. *grin*

- Headphones break all the time, at one stage I was buying a new pair every two weeks. And sometimes you just want something different. So, I want to make my headphones replaceable, just something I plug into my tshirt. This requires a female stereo audio jack. Okay, but how am I going to attach it to my tshirt? Aha! Finally I've found a use for the Lilypad mini protoboards!

Looking at the bottom of the female audio jack: the two metal bits at back left of picture correspond to the tip; the two metal bits at back right of picture correspond to the ring; and the bit at the front, including the round bit itself, corresponds to the sleeve. (This will probably make more sense if you look down at the male audio jack later in the post.) Only the outer pins actually make contact with the male audio jack when it's inserted. When nothing is inserted the two pins (in each group) make a connection to each other. This kind of arrangement is used in things like my MP3-player, to sense if a headphone jack is inserted or not. If it is playback is through the headphones, if not, music is played back through the in-built speaker.

Oh, and look, they fit together so perfectly!

The protoboard comes will all the holes attached to all others. You need to trace your path back from the petal-hole you want to sew through, to the leg-pin you want to connect to. Take your time and make sure this is possible for all paths, without them crossing. Then break the connections you don't want there. I did this, carefully, with a craft knife and patience.

Then solder the female jack onto the protoboard. As always, keep checking with a multi-meter as you go along.

- Now, you have your jack to plug your headphones into. I'm going to put this on my shoulder, to keep the wires away from my body, where they have the habit of getting caught on things. But my music player will be somewhere around my hip/waist, in a pocket or bag. Okay, so I need to connect the two together, and I don't want wires... Ah, conductive thread! So, I came up with a design to suit having three trails of conductive thread (sleeve, ring, tip) across my tshirt.

Trace out your design with something temporary like tailors chalk.

Mask off the areas you intend to paint as a temporary stencil, and paint.

When tail is dry, repeat with star.

When completely dry, pull out your sewing machine, conductive thread in bobbin, and sew three trails along the design (remember, bobbin thread is on the bottom, so sew inside out). [Or stitch the conductive thread in by hand, but if you do this make sure you haven't applied the paint too thick, it will just make your life more difficult.] Leave long tails at either end.

Stitch the Lilypad protoboard with female audio jack in place. Then bring the conductive threads up to the petal-holes and stitch in by hand.

At the bottom of the star-tail add a metal snap to finish each conductive trail. (Stitch in with conductive thread by hand.)

- Okay, this last bit could have been done with conductive thread as well, but I reckon this part will be subjected to a lot of wear-and-tear, and wire comes pre-insulated, which makes our life easier (the small insides of the male audio jack is very likely to result in shorts). And, as long as it's removable the rest should still be washable. This bit, being the plug into our music player.

You can get male audio stereo jacks already wired (or cut off one from a damaged pair of headphones), which will make your life easier, and means you can skip the next step. But I couldn't find one at the time. Instead I got this kind, that unscrews, and lets you in. Looking at this picture: the very end of the plug is called the tip, this connects to the little wing top-right inside the jacks barrel; the middle bit of the plug (between the two stripes) is called the ring, and connects to the bottom-left wing inside the barrel; and the final bit of the plug (closest to the plastic) is called the sleeve, and connects to the largest bit inside the barrel, in the middle of the picture, behind the two wings. If you're confused just grab your multi-meter and check which bit connects to what.

Wrap three pieces of (non-touching) wire through the holes in the barrel, solder in place, add insulation [I used insulating tape, but this turned out to be slightly too thick, heat-shrink tubing is probably a better idea] and thread the barrel cap back on.

I actually used stereo wire, simply two pieces of wire that come stuck together. It's also multi-stranded, and I got the thin one (with less strands). I halved the wire strands, and threaded one half through one of the metal snap eye-holes. I then threaded it back through the eye-hole above that one, and twisted the wire about the base. [Multi-stranded wire is as awkward to use as embroidery floss with multiple strands. Patience, and practice, helps.] I repeated with the other half of the wire strands through the other two eye-holes.

I repeated for all three wires/snaps, and then soldered the connections. Insulate/reinforce [again I used insulating tape, and here it worked just fine]. Make sure you know which wire is which part of the jack.

Connect the snaps. Make sure the tip connects to tip, ring to ring, and sleeve to sleeve.

- Done. Now plug in music player, and headphones. And enjoy!

You may want to add some extra things, like an inside pocket to hold your music player if it's small, or a loop of fabric to keep the wires from annoying you. But overall I'm loving this! It's comfortable, much less likely to catch on anything, and there's only a slight drop in volume level. Plus I think it's pretty cool to have audio waves carried through silver-plated thread across your body!

Date: 2010-08-03 09:59 pm (UTC)
damanique: (Default)
From: [personal profile] damanique
What the heck, you have totally l33t tech skills.

I wouldn't actually like the setup - I always find wires tugging and getting stuck at everything, even my skin, no matter where I put them, no matter what wire management. That's why I have a bluetooth setup with my music player now. XD I have had these since October last year, and before that I'd need new headphones every two months, pretty much.

Hurrah for effective audio solutions :D

Date: 2010-08-04 03:25 am (UTC)
damanique: (Default)
From: [personal profile] damanique
True, it's a huge battery drain. I usually find a way to recharge or switch to my cellphone which also has music and Bluetooth, heh.

I really like the wirelessness, though. Totally outweighs the battery life thing for me.

I may actually have the last functioning Sony DR-BT140Q headphones in Europe. (Earclips are more popular in Japan, I think.) I can't live without clip-ons - full headphones like in your photo are way too bulky for me (and will break faster) and the other types (the normal earbud, and the in-ear) do not fit into my freaky ear. I heart the clips. But I fear these may be the last Bluetooth earclip-phones I'll ever find...

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