Zen audio hack

Awhile back I acquired a Creative ZEN Stone mp3 player. It was a a little scuffed around the edges but otherwise a perfectly functional mp3 player. For some time I was using a pair of regular headphones but then I tried using in a pair of iPhone headphones (and then later HTC headphones). The results are somewhat weird. Take a listen:

Original song: Fade to Daft by Look What I Did (download for free from here.) I had to record this by placing my headphones on my microphone for reasons that I’ll explain later.

You may not be able to hear it but it sounds like one of the channels is being muted, whilst the other sounds like it has an echo effect. Also, it sounds as though the bitrate has been reduced to about 24kbps!

At first I couldn’t understand why this was happening so I consulted fizzPOP (who have just started hack sessions again) and it’s apparently due to the rings on the headphone jack.

Headphone hack

Wikipedia, which is so obviously a reliable source, informs me that this is a TRRS plug, the extra ring being used for the microphone/control button. This extra ring is obviously interfering with the devices and making it sound glitchy. Naturally my first instinct was to record it, but this presented many problems.

First, in order to record the output of the player I needed a male to male 3.5mm cable that uses TRRS plugs. A quick Google search revealed that these don’t exist so I had to make my own.

Headphone hack

Some of thinnest wires in the world evar!

As I had discovered earlier, the headphones capable of reproducing this glitch are iPhone headphones so I soldered two of the cables for these together, essentially creating a male to male 3.5mm cable with TRRS plugs. Happy times! 🙂

Or so I thought.

The problem I now still face is that the socket on my laptop is obviously capable of accepting TRRS plugs without glitches so the audio comes out clear when recorded via Audacity (well, it would be clearer were it not for my crappy soldering skills!).

This is where I require help from those more adept with audio than I. Is there a way to record the glitchy sound in the same “quality” as it is output from the mp3 player? The recording above was made by holding my headphones to my laptop microphone, which doesn’t faithfully reproduce the truly weird audio experience (though does produce a lo-fi aesthetic).