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Headset/Microphone/Headphones - What's good?

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I've gone the full range, from a super nice 80$ headset to the 10$ bargain bin special... I can't seem to make any of them last longer than 3 months. Mic breaks, headband breaks, one ear piece goes out, etc. I've resorted to just buying whatever is affordable at the best buy down the street and doesn't look like it'll fall off my head.

I get this problem, personally. Had a set of senn PC150's, myriad other headphone sets, most of them are dead in one ear or the other, and my current pair is starting to decline. I should say my current headphone speakers, because i too do that mic around the neck from an old pair thing.

So, I have a small aquaintance with solder and basic wiring, and I've tried to patch other broken headsets before with no success. I'm tired of picking up fragile headsets that will eventually be broken and thrown away, because they use tiny wiring and are made for effectively single use. I think I have most of the basic skills to repair/create my own, but I'm not really sure where I might start looking, and I know I don't currently have enough expertise to straight up design my own.

Does anyone know or have any idea where I might start looking to craft my own headset? Where possible parts might be available?

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I think that most headphones that go dead on one ear are actually not broken themselves but the cable breaks. I had several heaphones cables of my MP3 player headphones break, and even the cables of my Microsoft mouses tend to break after some time. If you look at the better 50+$ stereo headphones, pretty much all of them have exchangeable cables. The cables are *expected* to break after some time. Even good quality cables are brittle because pure copper cables deliver the best sound quality and just are brittle.

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Kalman (or others) would you be able to recomend a coherent method for modular USB sound that Doesn't Suck?

I'm spoiled by having spent a very long time with access to studio equipment as a hobby/volunteer work (Yay for theatre) but have not bothered to upgrade my home setups because of the turnover rate on my gaming hardware (I'm playing on a laptop atm, and likely to update it again in the near future).

Ideally, I'd like to find a good way to get sound out of the laptop with the usual failure suspects being modular (Minimum full wiring, idealy some of the other garbage) so I can replace the fail points instead of the entire system.

This would ideally start with a usb cord to a external audio device that either produced true channeled sound, or if there's a mixer that can support usb point it my way.

I happen to have a pair of nice headphones, and even have a nice mic packed away. The only trouble is that they're expecting something a little more theatre like and a lot less computer like as their connection style, and I haven't found a Good Way to get the sound into a mixer. (I could go buy a tower I suppose, but that defeats the purpose. I'd like to keep my audiophile upgrade schedule seperate from my gamer pc update schedule if I can).

As for headsets, the best advice I can offer as a laptop user so far is to accept that if you cannot change the wires, you are going to buy new ever x months where x is determined by your personal workspace/habits. I'm working with an altec lansing pair that is nothing special, but had the benefit of having a seperate USB device for the usb audio card, with normal jacks for the headset/mic. It's made the "these cables died, time to replace" part a bit easier, and probably saved me a few dollars in replacement each cycle.

Well, I have a digital mixer, so I cheat and use SPDIF to get the sound out to my mixer (and for the record, in my current temporary living situation, I don't have enough space for my mixer to be hooked up, and it makes me so sad). So I just have two RCA's running from my mixer to my tower, when the whole thing is set up, and then the rest of the connections happen at the mixer. If you're working with an analog mixer, you're going to need something that can do (preferably) 1/4" output. You also need something that'll work with games.

If you're lucky and your laptop has SPDIF out, you could pick up a SPDIF-1/4" converter DAC; Hosa (which I believe is BSW's in-house brand) makes an XLR-TOSLINK converter box for 72 bucks, bidirectional. BSW is at

If you don't have a usable output from the laptop (and laptop 1/8" outs aren't usable, in my book), you've gotta look at USB interfaces. There are a lot of decent 2 channel USB interfaces for reasonable money out there, the only downside being: I have no idea which ones support DirectSound and thereby video games. You could screw around with a Behringer UCA202; I have no idea if it works well with games, but honestly, for 30 bucks, who cares? It's RCA I/O, which is not ideal, but most mixers will support at least one channel of RCA, and RCA-1/4" isn't that hard to come by. Edirol's UA-1EX might be another one to check out; if you hit a recording equipment shop - if you're in theatre, I'm sure you know who the local one that doesn't suck is =) - you might even be able to snag a demo to test with.

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