Category: Hacking

The Unlikely Long Life of My AKG-Y50s

2 Years and 10 Months ago I was gifted a pair of AKG Y50s by my father for Christmas. I love these headphones. I’ve worn them daily, sometimes for hours at a time. I can say for certain:They were not meant to last this long. Yet, thanks to a lifetime of fixing things, they’re still going strong: To this date I have:

  1. Bought a carrying case for the headphones
  2. Replaced the cable
  3. Replaced the cable
  4. Replaced the cable
  5. Repaired the right ear cup (it fell off).
  6. Repaired the left ear cup (it fell off).
  7. Repaired the right ear cup again (the screw loosened and it fell off).
  8. Replaced both ear pads. 

The first thing I noted about half a year into the ownership of these headphones is that the nice neoprene carrying case that came with them was completely incapable of protecting them properly. So I bought a hard shell headphone box from Amazon, which, as a bonus, had a perfect slot to carry my graphing calculator. What can I say? I have specific needs.

Next, the cable that it came with was no longer working. So I contacted AKG. My first shock was that, for a 100 dollar pair of headphones, they wanted 30 dollars + another 12.00 for shipping to send me a replacement cable. This was unacceptable:

So I did what any self-respecting modern person would do. I searched Amazon for a replacement cable. They had one! and for $12.00, shipping included. The off-brand cable worked just as well as the Y50’s original, and no one could tell the difference in the microphone quality.Then,half a year later I replaced the cable again. This third one has continued to work.

Then I had a new problem. The ear cup fell off! It would just forlornly dangle from its cord. I tried to fix it a few times by carefully rerouting the wire the way AKG intended and re-tightening the screw. However, despite loctite and other measures, it would inevitably work its way loose. It ends up the threads themselves wore from regular use. So I broke out a drill and a soldering iron. I routed the wire through the top of the ear cup and put a new self-tapping screw in the side which held much better.

This worked for a while and then the left ear cup had the same issue. Fortunately my fix/redesign has held up. So far the screw has only come loose once, but I was able to simply tighten it and it returned to normal operation. I suppose there is a chance I messed with the tuning of the headphones this way, but as far as my untrained ear goes, they still sound like a mid-range-decently-good-but-not-amazing-you-won’t-be-disappointed set of headphones. 

Most recently, after nearly three years the ear pads had started to wear down and the foam was poking through. Much to my surprise I could get another set on eBay for 13 dollars. They even had the silk printing on the inside of the cups for left and right!


  1. Brand Name and Popularity: If I had purchased a less popular set of headphones from a different brand I might not have had access to the same level of repair parts. Simply typing in Y50 got me access to all the replacement cables and ear pads I could want.
  2. Protect your items: Honestly, I should have had a hard case for these from the beginning. I think there’s a chance that I could have at least made it to year two without the cups falling off had I done that.
  3. If it’s already broke, how bad can you fuck it up? Last is just a general rule of repair. Take your time, think through it, but if it’s between a new one and fixing it: Don’t be afraid to bust out the soldering iron and drill. 

All in all these were a great pair of headphones. If it wasn’t for the ear cups falling off, I’d rate this an extremely durable pair of headphones. I consider ear pads and cables to be reasonable wear items; though I was disappointed at the high cost of ordering replacement wear items from AKG. I think this is a failure on their part.  

The thing that bothers me about the ear cups falling off is that it really seemed to be something that could show up in testing. Everything else worked great and is still working within a reasonable lifespan. The headband adjusts. The joints tilt and move like they’re supposed to. It’s just this one joint that failed, and it failed the same way multiple times in a row. I’d have felt really betrayed if I’d had to order a new set of headphones a year into ownership. We shouldn’t be making trash to fill our planet with garbage.

I think it should, at some point, become the ethical and moral obligation of engineers and hardware companies to not produce trash. I also think it’s our responsibility as consumers of objects which consume vast supply chains, enterprises, and companies to try and maintain and repair these miracles for as long as we can. 

Anyway, if you’re handy, buy these headphones. They’re not bad. Though, since my Pixel 2 needs a dongle, I think my next pair will be wireless

Hackaday OC: What’s in a Tool and Adventures in Resin Casting.

I’ve written two new articles for Hackaday. The first is “What’s in a Tool: A Case for Made in USA”. This article made front page of slashdot, has over 50,000 views, and nearly 500 combined comments. I’m very excited about the good reception. Read it on Hackaday.

The second is an article about my adventures in resin casting. Unfortunately it’s a bout a learning experience I had with different sorts of mold release for silicone molds. Also on Hackaday.

Adventures in 3D Printer Design Part One of Many

I have a Prusa i2 that I built at a build-a-thon years ago. It works great! Well, it did, but time kept on moving forward like the big jerk it is, and everyone built much better printers.  Now it only works okay. I’m saving up for a move across country so I don’t want to spend too much of my hard earned dollars. Luckily though, past me hated money, so I have a lot of spare parts right now.

My plan is simple. Use what I have lying around all the parts from the prusa i2 to make a printer that’s really above average.

My inventory is thus:

How ain't it broke yet. It is.
My trusty old Prusa i2, run hard, put up cold.

Vitamins not for eatin'. 'cept for the brave of course.
Vitamins not for eatin’. ‘cept for the brave of course.


With these limitations I set out to work. I went through a couple of revisions

A couple of revisions
A couple of revisions




before I figured out what I’m calling my no. 1 rule to printer design (no. 1 rule pending to change).

1. Design the movey hot plastic bit first. It determines the size of everything else.

So, without any more delay. Here’s where I am with the x carriage.

Very Skinny, Very Fancy
Very Skinny, Very Fancy

I’ve done some neat stuff here that I would like to shamelessly brag about. Feel free to shamelessly flay my ideas to shreds in the comments. If we cant be dicks to each other on the internet then what did we invent it for?

Cool stuff:

  1. Did you know there is a RepRap Vertical X-Standard? I did not, but my roommate mentioned it to me so now this fits it.
  2. The center of mass of the whole thing sits right in the middle of the two horizontal 8mm rods. This should let me move it really fast without tearing all the things to pieces.
  3. There are lots of bearings.
  4. It’s got one of those bird shaped quick change filament things.
  5. It’s really really skinny. Right now with the belt tensioner/bearing retraint assembly, this thing is only 56mm wide.

That’s all I have for now.

My next step is to finish the X-Carriage. To do that I need to design the belt tensioners, then print it out and do test fits of everything. Rinse repeat.

After the X-Carriage comes the Vertical Assembly. This will cover my X and Y. I am trying to stick to the same movement as I had before so I don’t have to buy new belts.


Thanks for ruining my programming font DejaVu

I run Windows 7 on my desktop with great success because I cheat and run ubuntu 9.10 in a virtual machine for all my programming needs. Yesterday, much to my dismay I realized that my font looked strange. Quickly, I navigated to my font menu and went to select my favorite “bitstream vera sans mono”.

“Ah, it’s not here, it must just not be installed. I’ll just fire up Synaptic and… Oh god, where is it”

I panicked. A fast ctrl-t and a google search later I find my answer, “In Ubuntu 9.10 we decided to replace ttf-bitstream-vera with DejaVu. Forget you, it’s better.”

“Ah, well”, i thought to myself, “It says here that this DejaVu font is exactly the same as Vera but with more characters, that’s cool.”

This, however, is a horrible lie. Why?



To me, what makes a programming font is that you can see every character. There are some languages that depend on the programmer being able to count those little “_” marks .

It may be a small thing for most people, but it bothers me intensely. Especially since it’s a blatant lie. This isn’t bitstream-vera this is something else. Things have been changed, that makes it different. End of story.

It’s like someone forcing you to drink pepsi because they cant tell the difference between it and coke.

How to make soldering fine pitch surface mount ridiculously easy.


This simple tool will change your life. I was lucky to learn how to solder surface mount from a master. He had crafted a tool very similar to this for himself and used it daily.  The design is simple, a weighted pin is attached to a piece of round stock and this holds the part down on the board. Using this tool I soldered an entire surface mount board with no errors on my first try.

When you assemble the tool make sure that you push the bolt through and thread the nut first, because you might bend the threads while filing the tip down. Make sure that the tip has a round point about the size of a standard ball point pen. Any sharper and you could damage/mar

To use the tool just put the part under the pin and go. It’s that simple, no re flow plates or panavises or any of that junk. You don’t need to worry about tip size for most jobs either. Another plus is that the bolt acts as a heat sink so small parts don’t fry.


You see that tiiiiiny little part. You’re welcome.