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Designing a Custom Adapter for my Headphones: High Quality Headset with Top-Tier Noise-Cancellation

This is a short Design Log about designing and printing an adapter to stick a microphone to my favorite headphones like so:

Modmic to Sony XM5 adapter by LEN polygon
The final result!

I use my Sony XM5 headphones for almost everything from listening to music and audiobooks to gaming and watching movies. While I’m happy with the sound they produce, I’m even more amazed by how great its noise-cancellation is! Due to living in a relatively busy environment with lots of traffic just outside of my windows I have these on almost the entire time. Sometimes, I have these on without any sound playing just for the noise-cancelling effect when I want to focus on reading or just relaxing.


However, one thing that bothered me was that as soon as the headphone switches to communication mode the sound quality dropped dramatically. This is due to the limited bandwidth that the headphone can use over bluetooth which approximately gets cut in half for playback when also using the onboard microphone as input. Frequencies that are most relevant for human speech are still retained somewhat, but for anything else this is really bad especially compared that what the XM5’s are capable of with the full bandwidth dedicated to audio playback. Luckily, I also have an Antlion Modmic V5, a high-quality microphone that can be attached to any headphone to turn it temporarily or permanently into a high-quality headset for both audio playback and input. While this solution was perfect for my needs, it also came with a problem:


Sony XM5 headphones within reach.

To attach the Modmic to any headphones they supply you with a small adapter with an adhesive backing. I don’t want to use this to stick this black pointy adapter to my nice crème colored XM5’s permanently! Also, I often use my headphones outside, and I did not trust the adhesive to survive outdoors for extended periods with risk of losing the adapter. It was time to come up with a custom adapter that was easily attachable and removable without causing any permanent damage or deformations.


So, I decided to design and 3D print my own custom adapter. I knew that standard 3D printing PLA material is not conductive, so I decided to use the 3.5mm jack on the headphones to attach the adapter. This solution not only eliminated the need for any adhesive but also made it very easy to attach and remove the adapter from the headphones by using the same clamping/friction fit that normal 3.5mm plugs use when inserted.


I began by taking all the necessary measurements with a caliper. I used a standard 3.5mm jack as a reference and took measurements around the parts near the jack on the headphones. Since a 3.5mm jack can rotate in the plug, we needed an adapter that could prevent the mic from rotating and moving closer or further away from the mouth. After careful consideration, I decided to use the ledge between the earcup and the foam to grab onto since it was flat and within close proximity of the 3.5mm jack.



Since the Modmic is attached via a magnet, I initially tried attaching it to a nut in the first version. However, the force was not strong enough and caused the mic to move around too much. I tried a bigger nut, but that was too large for the Modmic's adapter to fit...


To print the adapter, I used a Voron V0.1 3D printer which is a fast core-XY printer. This made prototyping very fast, with only 10 minutes per adapter at a 0.15mm layer height.

Tip: Always check the orientation of your print! At first, I had it vertical because that surface was the best candidate to make flat. However, this caused the thin edges to be very weak and break when pushing in the magnet. In the next version, I printed it horizontally, and due to the layer lines being laid in that direction, this part was much stronger. For this exact reason I made sure that the peg that went into the 3.5mm audio jack always had it's printing lines in the long length to make sure that the chance of a piece of plastic breaking off inside my headphones was reduced to a minimum.


The left part broke easily due to the thin parts being perpendicular to the layer lines. By flipping the part 90 degrees these layer lines bridge across the entire thin part making it much stronger!

After many iterations, I decided to use the magnet in Modmic's original adapter. It was simply held in its original holder by the adhesive backing and was easily removable. I measured the dimensions and changed the design to fit it. However, the magnet still had some wiggle room, so I tried some glue, but it got messy and wouldn't really stick. After a few slight changes to the design and a reprint or two later, I finally got it just right.



Finally, I was able to take glamour shots of the final design by itself, the adapter attached, and the Modmic attached. This custom adapter is exactly what I needed, and I hope this inspires you to use your own creativity to solve your problems.



For this adapter and more check out the 3D file on this Printables page: https://www.printables.com/model/477739-modmic-to-sony-xm5-35mm-adapter


For this sleek printable headphone stand by JGR go here: https://www.printables.com/model/184164-headphone-stand


This was the first of what hopefully becomes a series of posts in which I go over my design process and steps. I want to make more of a habit of celebrating accomplishments even if they seem tiny to me (at the time) and I hope to spark some inspiration for others while at it!

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