Hack Airline Headphones To Work With Any Device

Hack Airline Headphones To Work With Any Device

Many airlines use double-pronged headlines so you’re not tempted to waltz off the plane with them. But if you forget your own headphones and want to use a double-pronged model with your iPod or mobile phone, Lifehacker reader Joel explains how you can adapt them with some basic electrical nous — and a little chewing gum.

Here’s Joel’s methodology in his own words:

I travel a fair bit, and my iPhone has become a staple source of entertainment for long journeys. However this last trip (of which I’m on the returning flight as I write this), I forgot my headphones.

On all Qantas flights (and I’m sure many other carriers), they provide complimentary stereo headphones with a plug for each channel. I know you can get dual plug to single plug adapters but I didn’t think to look for one before getting on the plane.

The Qantas headphones will work with any device with a 3.5mm plug just fine as long as you don’t mind hearing sound in only one ear. However, with a little tweaking, some sharp strong fingernails and some chewing gum, I was able to get one of the channels outputting to both headphone speakers.

And here’s 10 simple steps to do so:

1. Take a fresh piece of your favourite gum and begin chewing.

2. Remove the soft foam cover from the earpiece that has the cable connecting to it.

3. Unclip the plastic cover to reveal the speaker.

4. Lift the speaker up to reveal the cables and soldered connections.

5. Trace back the opposite speakers’ wire, taking note of which terminals each is connected to.

6. Carefully break the opposite speakers’ wire connections from the solder joints by bending them back and forwards a few times.

7. Carefully strip back more of the plastic coating on that wire, so there’s enough length to separate the individual positive and negative wires.

8. We now need to piggy back these two wires off their respective sibling speaker connections. If you can, wrap the individual wires around their respective connections, otherwise you can just rely on that spearmint flavoured Blu-tak you’ve been preparing. Ensure no loose strands of wire are making contact with the wrong wires or solder terminal.

9. Take the gum you’ve been working on getting soft, juicy and sticky, and press it over the piggy backed connections, making sure it presses the correct wires together and also makes enough contact with the plastic to anchor itself.

10. Before reassembling, connect it to your music device of choice and make sure you get sound out of both speakers. If not, check your wires, or press the air host button on your armrest for assistance. 🙂

If the connections have been made successfully, you should now be able to hear sound from both speakers.

Thanks Joel!


  • “I know you can get dual plug to single plug adapters but I didn’t think to look for one before getting on the plane.”

    Didn’t think to buy headphones at the airport ether or have and use a “don’t leave home without” list.

    This hacks sucks as you DESTROY working headphones to have dual mono output, not stereo!

    Unless your kind enough to steal them also, someone else will end up with your hacked headphones.

  • Wow… I’ve been flying pretty regularly for years, and thought they were complimentary i.e. you could take them with you – I thought that’s why they give them to you in sealed plastic?

    Turns out I’ve been stealing headphones for a while.

  • Since about the mid 90s all aircraft i had ever been on, whether or not they used the single hole jack or double hole jack, could all plug in a single pin connector and receive stereo on the headphones. It wasn’t until Jetstar came along that I finally found double hole jacks again that could only use a double pin connector for stereo. It’s just way more annoying because not only can you not use your own, you have to buy their really crap painful ones for $3 that can only be used on a plane anyway

  • So you have a device with a 3.5mm socket, and the first time you think to plug something into it, is on the airplane? How about using the $4 earphones that came with the device?

  • Hmmm… I wonder what would happen in today’s post-911 environment if the flight attendant saw me tearing apart a set of headphones and rewiring them in my seat? Better yet… in the bathroom? Could I just say lifehacker taught me how to do this at my arraignment?

  • Advanced user’s tip:
    At home with the modified headset, you may find that the second jack stops the first one from entering the socket. (This in technical terms is called jackus interruptus.) Take a 4mm drill, and drill a hole the same distance from the socket as the jack spacing. When the blue smoke clears, you’ll find you’ve achieved a volume control too,
    and you can get stereo silence from both sides of the headset. Start chewing gum, you’ll need it in the next step, how to patch an integrated circuit.

  • if the headphones are to be taken with you, this could work unlikely most would bother for a little music. HOWEVER “if they are to remain on the plane” this “hack” should be removed or at least carry a WARNING! 1-potential for legal issues 2-simply Gross 3-Not a replacement for common sense – ALWAYS check & recheck before a trip..use a checkoff list if you must ……….I have NEVER forgotten anything on any trip in over 35 yrs of constant travel.

  • Angus, has your brain thought about the terrorism like parallels that could be drawn by a paranoid air traveler !?

    Cabin crew members prone to being OTT, are only going to divert the aircraft… and you wouldn’t even know – except for all the manhandling by the Fuzz after landing.

    Looking forward to your new LH category. Prison Hacking.

  • @Angus – Thanks for sharing your ‘hack’. There seem to be a lot of naysayers, and while their comments are not without merit, you went out of your way to explain your circumstances, how you overcame them, and in the process one option for others to deal with similar circumstances. So to hell with the naysayers – Thank you for sharing!

  • So why would you want to hack airline headphones in the first place? They are basically junk. You can find more comfortable headphones for a couple of bucks at the nearest dollar store with similar or better sound quality.

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