26 February 2020

Stupid fix, but it works: How I keep from losing my 1/4"-to-1/8" adapter

My 20-year-old headphones came with a threaded 1/8"-to-1/4" adapter (Fig. 1). I have misplaced it several times in the past, despite my best efforts. I usually avoid losing it by putting it in only one spot when not in use: in my little box o' adapters. That doesn't always happen if the box o' adapters is not within easy reach or when I'm in a rush, so I occasionally cannot find it when I need it. 

Fig. 1. Threaded 1/8"-to1/4" adapter

To ensure I have a convenient and secure place to keep it when not in use, I taped an old input jack (an incredibly inferior one removed from a Silvertone bass) to the side of the head band (Fig. 2). Now I just plug the adapter into that when I'm not using it. 

Fig. 2. Adapter holder, sans adapter
I loosened the tension on the jack a little, so that it's secure enough to hold the adapter, but not so tight that I would need two hands to remove it.

Fig. 3. Adapter holder, with adapter
The only danger now is the glasses-on-my-head scenario—looking all over for my lost adapter when it's plugged into the jack on my headphones. Hasn't happened yet, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Fixed: Silvertone Bass Keeps Cutting Out

I have a really cheap Silvertone LB11 bass (Fig. 3) that plays fine and sounds good except for one issue: it kept cutting out. I could recreate the problem by wiggling the cable, so I thought it might be just a loose jack, or possibly a bad solder connection on the jack.

I opened it up (Fig. 1), expecting just to bend the jack so it holds the plug tighter. I did that, but the problem persisted when I wiggled the cable. Looking more closely, it appeared as though the ring part of the jack was too big for the plug. I tried another cable to be sure  the one I was using wasn't slightly small. Same issue.

Silvertone Bass stock wiring
Figure 1. A little too much space between the ring and the plug. And how about that top notch shielding?

So I just replaced the jack with a better one (Fig. 2). The plug fit perfectly, and no amount of wiggling made the noise cut out. I don't know what brand the jack is—I had a bunch on hand—but it was noticeably more solid and well-made than the stock jack. (If you're unsure, you can't go wrong with Switchcraft, sold pretty much everywhere.)

Stock jack and replacement jack
Figure 2. Crap jack on the left, and the newly installed and visibly much sturdier jack on the right.
Careful inspection of Fig. 2 might reveal that I learned a little lesson while installing the new jack. If you look closely, you can see that the lugs on the two jacks are the reverse of each other. For the cheap jack, the ground lug is on the far side in this photo, and the tip lug is on the near side. For the new jack, it's the opposite, which I did not realize until after I took this photo. So I rewired the new jack correctly and neglected to take a photo of the correct wiring before reinstalling the pickguard.

With such a cheap bass, I figured it's a good idea to check out everything else too, while I've got it apart. I cleaned the pots and checked all of the connections (looked good). You can always replace the electronics wholesale while you're at it, but this is a cheap bass that I use only occasionally, so it's good enough now.

Silvertone LB11 bass
Figure 3. Silvertone LB11 bass.