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September 16, 2011

Building a Sennheiser Headphone Cable

Sennheiser, a family-owned audio electronics company founded in Germany in 1945 is one of the most famous headphone manufactures today. With over 100 different headphones on their site as of this writing, it seems like Sennheiser has a headphone for nearly every budget and every purpose. I would contend that the HD580, HD600 and HD650 trio of headphones are Sennheiser's main staple in the current audiophile headphone landscape.
Sennheiser HD580 / HD600 / HD650

The HD580 really put Sennheiser on the audiophile map back in the spring of 1993, one only has to read Wes Philips of Stereophile's review to see why. Three years later, the company would release the HD600, which was based on the special edition HD580 Jubilee made with carbon fiber and a more free-flowing grill. Finally in 2003, the HD650 was released, which presents what I feel is a more warm and full sounding presentation than the previous two headphones.

One unique feature of the HD580-650 trio of headphones is the user-replaceable cable. One would imagine that this feature was initially implemented just in case a listener mistakenly rolled over their cable with a chair and needed to replace it without sending it back to the factory. What this (possibly inadvertently) led to was cable manufactures building their own unique high-quality cables to improve the sound of the headphone.
Stock Sennheiser Cable with Pin Connectors

Sennheiser headphones and their corresponding cables have a proprietary pin and spring system to transfer the signal from the cable to the driver. Each side of the cable has two pins, one large one for ground and a smaller one for signal. These are inserted into the headphone and a small spring within the cup conducts the signal and sends it along some very thin wires to the driver. Early on, the only way to get these pins was to use an existing Sennheiser cable as a donor. I cut though countless Senn cables and used a dremel to trim into the plug to gain access to the pins. Once the cable was soldered in place, a number of layers of epoxy and heatshrink were used to make sure it stayed in place. Now-a-days, we have it easy; Cardas manufactures rhodium plated Sennheiser connectors so users can make their own cables with relative ease. At a suggested retail of $16 (as of this writing), they are quite a bargain. Below I will detail a few of the steps required to make a Sennheiser headphone cable using these wondrous little connectors.

As nearly every cable starts at Zynsonix, a number of runs are measured and cut from a spool of wire. In this case, four wires are trimmed. This cable will be approximately 10 feet, but this does not incorporate the wire lost during the braiding process. Because of this, the wire needs to be measured longer and trimmed down after the braiding process to the size needed. 

Xev silver plated copper wire in Teflon dielectric
This cable is braided in litz style to help maintain cable geometry over the whole length and can help reject EMI / RFI. The braid can be done tightly or loosely depending on preference. At the "Y" split of the cable where it separates to go to each of the Sennheiser earcups, the braid is converted to two separate twisted pairs. 

The braided headphone cable
After this process is complete, the cable is sleeved, in this case with non-microphonic soft black nylon multifilament. This sleeving requires a hot knife so that it doesn't fray after being cut. I also take the time to melt the sleeving together at the "Y" split to ensure it stays together after many hours of use.

Fully sleeved headphone cable
Now comes the point where the connectors need to be soldered to the individual wires, beginning with the Cardas Sennheiser connectors. These connectors are rhodium plated, which means they require a decent amount of heat to set the solder properly, however the surrounding material melts very easily. The wire fits into the concave inlet on the inside of the pin. I personally prefer to tin the wire first, then use quick spurts of very high heat and solder to achieve a good connection. As stated before, the large pin is the ground connection and the small pin is the signal. 

Cardas Sennheiser headphone connectors
Once the connectors have been soldered securely, a bit of epoxy is used to fill in the open area on the connector. Once dry, 2-3 layers of heatshrink are used to protect the area and act as additional strain relief.

Fully attached Sennheiser plug
This particular cable was going to be used with Bottlehead equipment, so the user requested a right angle 1/4" plug. For this the high quality Neutrik NP3RX-B was selected, which is gold plated and has a black case for sleek looks. My numerous years of DIY have led me to find that Neutrik makes some of the most robust 1/4" connectors on the market, and are likely the best value out there. If one is willing to spend extra though, the $20 nearly tank-proof Furutech FP-704 may be worth looking into. 
Neutrik NP3RX-B right angle 1/4" Plug 
Now that these items are soldered in place, the cable is complete. Below is the final Zynsonix Xev Sennheiser cable.

Zynsonix is offering custom Sennheiser HD580, HD600 and HD650 headphone cables and recables for many other headphones. Zynsonix can transform your headphones for a very reasonable price, please contact us for a quick quote.

The Fine Print:
The above steps detailing the recabling of a headphone are for entertainment purposes only, and not to be performed under any circumstances. The owner of this blog and all associated parties can not / will not be held responsible if you attempt the process posted and cause physical harm to yourself, your surroundings or your property. Please keep this in mind.


  1. Thanks for the post. I never knew it was a family business. Boy, their brand is rated very high.

    I bought the HD420 headphones years ago and just replaced the foam with home-made foam, cut from some foam purchased locally. Now I need to replace the red and black connectors, so the Cardas connectors should do the trick.

  2. Hej nice work dude, where did you get the Sennheiser Pin COnnectors, ive been looking for them all over the internet ?


  3. Partsconnexion stocks them here: http://www.partsconnexion.com/CARDAS-71677.html

  4. Good article, very informative. I have the hd 380's with detachable cable. The cable is coiled and heavy. I am going to look into trying to build a 4ft cable for a bit more convenience.

  5. Hi Allan that is black nylon multifilament sleeving

  6. This is a great post! This is just what I needed to repair a pair of beloved 1990's era Sennheiser headphones I have not been able to use for several years. Thanks so much for posting this!

  7. Fantastic Brock! Let us know how it goes! :)