How to mod Apple remote control headphones with better IEMs

I was drinking my morning water and browsing my RSS feeds like I always do and one of the articles was from The Unofficial Apple Weblog. The article is about headphones with remote control, something that Apple introduced a couple of years ago and bundles with some of their products, but not the iPad. $30 will get you the remote control iBuds if you want them for your iPad, but the sound quality and comfort on those things are crap.To introduce their article about third party solutions that offer remote control abilities, TUAW list two solutions: “Solution 1: Ditch your current headphones for another set with built-in controls and a mic. Solution 2: Keep your current headphones and find an adapter”. Unfortunately they missed solution 3, and it’s something I wrote about on my personal site 1.5 years ago.

For those who haven’t checked out the About section or know me from ABi, I’ve done a lot of DIY projects. Woodwork, electronics, glass engravings etc. Worklogs from most of it is available on my site. When I originally bought the iPhone 3GS, it had the remote control iBuds bundled with the phone and I really wanted the remote control capabilities with some better headphones. Given that I DIY everything else, I decided to try the same approach with the iBuds.

I broke open the iBuds and desoldered the wires from the drivers. I then got a pair of Sennheiser CX300 IEMs and disassembled them carefully. I then took the cable from the iBuds and put the CX300 IEMs on that, complete with stretch relief. A bit of glue to get them back together, and I had a pair of Sennheiser CX300 IEMs with remote control. This mod is a great way of getting remote control headphones for your iPad, without having to settle for the available third party solutions.

Since I did the first mod I’ve done the same thing multiple times, both for myself and others. I also filmed two of the first times I did the mod and put on YouTube, though my technique has improved since then. It really isn’t very hard to do if you have a little bit of experience soldering, although there are quite a few third party solutions out there now that didn’t exist back in August 2009. Still, this tutorial is my second most visited article every month, so I thought I’d share it with the NBT crowd as well seeing that the remote control headphones work perfectly on the iPad.

For a full set of pictures and two videos on how to do this, head over to my blog.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.