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My broken headphones have different colored wires. Are the red, green and blue wires all copper? The colored wire is wrapped around a white thread.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The color you see comes from the insulation. Most likely the conductive material inside the wire is copper. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Mar 6 '13 at 19:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ these wires dont have insulation. theyare bare wires, extremely thin, wrapped around a white thread \$\endgroup\$ – Cliff Mar 7 '13 at 3:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Cliff, they do have insulation, or they would short each other out. The Insulation is painted or dipped on enamel, like nail polish. It just isn't thick rubber insulation like cables you are used to. \$\endgroup\$ – Passerby Mar 7 '13 at 4:16
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Yes, all of the conductive stuff inside the cable is copper. However, the copper wires are coated with a very thin insulating layer called enamel.

Headphone wire

The enamel can sometimes be removed by rubbing molten solder on it.

Tinning enamelled wire

If this doesn't work, then you might have some luck rubbing some fine emery paper on it.

sanding enamelled wire

As you can see, you don't need to clean your fingernails before you do this.

But one of the problems with headphone cable specifically is that it often contains some thread to reinforce it.

Headphone cables with thread

The thread makes soldering the cable pretty difficult. Usually, if I find threads in my cable, I just throw it away.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 just for "As you can see, you don't need to clean your fingernails before you do this." \$\endgroup\$ – marcelm Jul 13 '16 at 10:29
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The inner conductor is usually copper. The outside, the colored stuff (red, green, blue) is usually some kind of plastic. You can carefully remove the insulation from the conductor to reach the copper. Some headphones have very thin wires which easily break when you try to pull off the insulation. Don't tell the other electronics engineers here that I said this, but if you are careful you can remove the insulation by carefully holding it in a flame of a match or cigarette lighter.

If you are planning to try and connect the wires together to make it working again, be careful to not make shorts between different colors as that may kill your amplifier.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ If using fire, do it in a well ventilated area and avoid the fumes! Plastic chemicals are really nasty stuff. \$\endgroup\$ – helloworld922 Mar 6 '13 at 19:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ Actually heating those wires sometimes makes them very brittle, so I'd be careful. \$\endgroup\$ – Gustavo Litovsky Mar 6 '13 at 20:11
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I broke the connector off a bluetooth microphone for a car stereo. The wires inside the sheath were red and blue, but happily nestled together...I soaked them in nail polish remover for a few seconds, agitating slightly...then burned the enamel off - carefully.

To my surprise...I was left with slightly carbon-covered copper wire...definitely something I could work with. I soldered the newly "cleaned" ends after tinning carefully at 700 degrees. The result is a serviceable salvage job.

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