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Geeking Out in a Disposable Society

About three years ago, I bought a pair of Beats by Dr. Dre wireless headphones. They were a gift, but then I thought, that’s an expensive gift. You’d better keep them, rather than make someone feel bad. [It’s amazing what you can talk yourself into.]

They actually were expensive, however. Over $200. They’re fancy studio-style cans, the sort you see singers wear in the recording studio–Bluetooth, noise canceling, the whole nine. I use them when I record voice over stuff or edit self-recorded video auditions in my secret life as an actor. Also for listening to music when I write, which is a great help in my process. I say all this in view of my writing them off on my taxes as a business expense. They rarely leave the desk at which I write, record, and edit said stuff. They occupy a place of honor on my desk.

Being wireless and all, they run on rechargeable batteries. Lithium ion. Over time, rechargeable batteries lose the ability to recharge. In short, they die, because SCIENCE!

Last winter, I hit a point with my Beats where they wouldn’t charge. Crap! I thought, here it comes, the big sleep. The dirt nap. The death of my lithium ions. I Googled. I tried things. Being a geek, I always try things. In this instance, resetting the headphones worked. They started charging again. Phew.

A couple of weeks ago, it started again. I reset them again. Nothing. I Googled ’til I went blind. I tried different cables, different outlets, USB charging. I tried updating them. Nada.

So, as I am wont to do, I bitched about it on Twitter, specifically at Beats’ Twitter support people. To their credit, they got back to me and started troubleshooting…all the things I had previously done, plus another attempt at updating their firmware. Again, nada. They asked for a copy of the purchase invoice, pictures of the headphones, serial numbers, yadda yadda. Oh, too bad, so sad, they’re out of warranty. If you want, here’s a link where you can set up an appointment to have them repaired.

Now, if you didn’t know, Apple bought Beats a couple years ago, so getting them repaired means either shipping them or schlepping them to an Apple Store with a Genius Bar. Yay. But I rely on these, so I follow the link where there’s a summary of charges for service.


That, as you may recall, is almost as much as they cost in the first place. That is unacceptable. Win-win for Apple, since they get your money for a repair or a replacement pair [assuming you’re brand loyal and not pissed off about having to cough up for a repair or replacement pair], but we’re a disposable society, and most people have stopped thinking about “how can I fix this.” They just go along with the program and dispose and buy, dispose and buy.

Not I. No, sir.

I am a geek, hear me kvetch. Kvell at least. To teh Googlies I go, and Google I do. And what do I learn? I learn that you [meaning anyone, not just you]  can order a replacement battery for your Beats for $13. Note the distinct lack of zeroes after that number. Not $1300. Not $130. $13 freaking dollars.

This annoys me no end. Why would I pay almost the full price of a new pair of headphones to get a battery replaced? I’m an IT guy. I tried turning them off and back on again. I know what to do.

So I order a battery and will figure out how to replace it when it arrives. This, as Daffy Duck says, means war.

[One Amazon Prime Shipment later….]

Holy fuck, are these things hard to get apart.

Dr. Dre must be a belt and suspenders kinda guy because his headphones are put together with glue and screws. Teeny tiny little invisible motherfuckers of screws. Black screws. Who paints screws black? Fuckers with good eyes that don’t need them to be glossy chrome to find them, that’s who.

Apple is notorious for this shit. Special tools, hex wrenches, and all that happy horseshit. More Googling. Here’s a video that pretends to tell you how to replace a battery in this model, but claims you can somehow not disassemble the right earpiece completely to do it. You wind up like this:

With your fingers pinched inside the half-opened earpiece, tying up half of your hands while trying to wrestle out the old battery [which is glued in there] AND to get the new one inside AND to connect the little bastard of a plastic power connector to the outer part of the earpiece, which is currently trying to eat the fingers of the other 50% of your hands. ALSO while trying to see the little fucker of a power connector which is inside the ersatz clamshell, literally where the sun don’t shine and where your big sausage fingers [of 100% of your hands] are keeping the available light from penetrating.

Not good. Not working. Time for a whisky and a regroup, stat!

[Several large whiskies later…]
Battery attached, just this fucker.

In the interim, I ordered some magic magnifying goggles, did some more Googling, and calmed the fuck down. Sometimes you have to know when to walk away. In the Googling department, I found a site that did a Beats breakdown, taking a pair apart just for funsies. My kind of people. So, problem solved in that regard. I was able to get the fake clamshell opened, giving access to my big sausage fingers, and [accidentally] disconnecting a wire[with another one of those #%^&!@  tiny motherboard style connectors] from the headband to the printed circuit board–probably just how the right channel music gets to the right channel, no bigs.

As suspected, the magnifying glasses were of no use. Neither was wearing my reading glasses over my regular glasses [mainly because the second pair kept falling off, visually they worked pretty well]. However, I managed to get the battery in [stuck to the original glue, even] and connected in short order. The other bastard was a problem because it’s near that beige piece of plastic to the right, and it partially blocks the connector on the PCB. Enter the bent nosed pliers I borrowed from work. They help because I can at least see around them, unlike my stupid Snausage™ fingers, but this is just going to take some sheer force of will and a lot of finagling to get them connected. Also swearing. Lots and lots of swearing.

Possibly, I should not have had so much coffee this morning. Nah.

By the time I got the fucker reseated, I had pretty well chewed up the bitty little wires leading wherever. I’m sure at this point that the headphones are not going to work. Fuck it. Loudly, and clearly: fuck it. I slap them back together. Push the button. It lights up. Four of the six or seven power level indicators light. So, the battery works and is in correctly. Also charged. Groovy.

Now I hook them back up to the computer and see if they work. You know, in both ears. I fire up the new LCD Soundsystem album on Amazon Music and, wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, the fuckers work. Mission accomplished.

I spent about $30 if you add the cash for the useless for this purpose magnifying glasses, and fail to add in a couple of hours worth of my time it [what with all the repair attempts and various googling sessions], whatever that time is worth. At my hourly day job rate, it probably would have been cheaper to have Apple fix them. But I did it.  They work. They aren’t pretty. I just slapped them back together, so the earpiece is a little gappy on the side where it clamps onto the headband. I’ll take them apart and fix that when it starts to annoy my OCD. In the meantime, brain droppings and LCD Soundsystem. Whisky soon.

Groovy. Cheers.
#StickItToTheMan #RockOnWithYourBadSelf



So, delighted as I was with myself, I plugged in my headphones when done, and when I just went to put them on, the battery had drained overnight, from three dots to one. Gevalt! 

If you’re playing along with the home game, that means:

  1. The battery may not have been the problem.
  2. It may be the micro-USB charging port.
  3. It may be that the battery was the problem, but that I fucked a new something up in the repair process. [Remember those gnawed wires on the mystery connector that was giving me so much grief?]

Anyway. Back to teh Googlies I go. I will update as required.



I’m an idiot. Apparently, the Beats don’t like charging from a USB hub. The new battery is fine. I just have to plug it in to a wall charger. I don’t understand the purpose of giving me a USB charger, then, but whatevs. As long as they work.

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