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When I pack away my headset, I loosely loop the cable around my fingers and then stuff the headset in my jacket pocket. When I retrieve the headset later, it has inevitably turned into a little bird's nest and I need to spend a little while to untangle it. That is annoying.

The cable of my iPhone headsets (both the included standard set, and the in-ear variety) are somehow more "rubbery" than the old walkman cables so they tend to straighten themselves out, which helps to keep them untangled. But it's not working for me, the bird's-nest problem remains.

Is there a special trick, or method, to easily and quickly pack the headset away in such a way that it comes out untangled?

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8 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

For ordinary earbuds like the Apple stock product I repeatedly fold the cable in half until I have just enough length to tie the bundle into a loose overhand knot. (Sounds like heresy, but I learned this technique for storing cables from a "big time" touring concert sound company.) Been practicing it with all sorts of cables for better than twenty years without any negative fallout.


I added this photo of my cord knot after this answer was accepted by Torben, who I believe was most interested in the Devil Horn Technique mentioned below.

image of my cord knot technique After tying the initial knot in this particular cord bundle the loose ends were a little too long for pocket carry so I tucked them back into the center of the knot and pulled gently to tighten them into place, converting the initial overhand knot into a Double Overhand Knot


However, I do coil my good earbuds neatly and keep them in a little pouch. Same for the Jlab phone headset I use for every day carry.

If none of these techniques suit, there are many practitioners of what, for lack of a better description, is referred to as The Devil Horn Technique

Pretend you’re at a Def Leppard concert and make the devil horns with your left hand. (Don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean — middle and ring fingers bent and held down by the thumb, index and pinky extended.) Tuck the buds underneath the middle and ring fingers to secure them and use your devil horns as posts around which to loop the cord. (Some people advocate a figure-eight wrap, but I find a simple loop works fine.) Leave a couple inches of cord at the end. Slide the loop off the devil horns, and wrap the remaining cord around the middle of the loops, creating a little bundle. Thread the plug end through the loop opposite the buds and give it a gentle pull to tighten the bundle. This little package now fits neatly in your pocket, is almost entirely tangle proof, and unravels with ease.

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+1 for the quoted technique. But I'm nearly offended that you say cheapies - these suckers cost €70! –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 2 '12 at 7:13
    
I think this one's a winner. The videos in the link show the concept clearly. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 2 '12 at 7:24
    
Just watch for any motion that wraps the cord the same way, this twists the cable and kinks it over time. –  bmike Mar 2 '12 at 7:40
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Now look what you made me do... I signed up to Apple.SE just to be able to upvote this answer - and I have never owned a single Apple device in my life! –  thkala Mar 2 '12 at 20:38
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That's how we get you. Just try a little taste. –  jaberg Mar 2 '12 at 21:58
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What works good too, is to fill your pocket starting with the earbud end of the cable, keeping the jack at the top. Pull on the jack when you need your headset.

It's a trick done on a boat to put a rope in a bag and avoid knots.

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Cut an empty plastic shotgun shell off where the brass meets the plastic. Wind cord around fingers and insert cord into the empty shell.

In the end it would look similar to this:

enter image description here

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Oddly, not wrapping the cords is the simplest strategy, just crunch it up and throw it in your pocket. The more grippy cord will avoid tying knots as long as you don't go to the trouble to wind things up.

If you prefer to wind, then fold in half, twist once, fold and twist one more time. I find this to stay put when in the pocket and you can get things unfurled in a snap without needing to "finish" the coil.

That or a small amount of oil or grease to make the cord less sticky.

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+1 for the fold&twist method, that sounds workable. I will try this! Even a single drop of oil/grease is out of the question; I use the headset with my business suits and don't want to risk any stains. It also sounds like it would become sticky and attract pocket lint. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 2 '12 at 7:14
    
Yes - oil is not ideal, but no different than what happens with skin oil over time. It ruins that new look, though. Bascially, the twist keeps you from looping tightly or unbalancing the loop which twists the cable and makes a tangle catch. Longer cables can be looped in a balanced way, a bit hard on short/tiny headphone cables... youtube.com/watch?v=6duVvwdd5F0 –  bmike Mar 2 '12 at 7:35
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Lifehacker provides another interesting solution to keeping headphones tangle-free: Use Paracord as a Tangle-Free Headphone Sleeve

By running your headphone wires through some paracord and rebuilding the Y junction, you get an audio set that hardly ever ties in on itself, is far less prone to breaks or rips, and can be changed in color, too, if you don't dig the hue the cord came in.

Be warned, you're going to want to be comfortable with a soldering iron before attempting this hack.

Step-by-step instructions are provided on Instructables: Sleeving Earphone/Earbud Cords with Paracord.

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The way i did it is by winging it around my fingers, but upon every winding around my hand, i rotate the cord 360 degrees between my index and thumb (of my other hand). This compensates for the rotational tension caused by winding it around while holding it fixed in your other hand. This works so well, i can put it down on a table and not have it unwind, it just stays there

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Yes, I too am twisting the cable as I wind it; I've learned that from sailing. The problem is not the unwinding during storage. The problem is that it doesn't unwind well when I need it. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 2 '12 at 7:11
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What I always do, which seems to work okay, is to fold it in half repeatedly until I get something about four inches long. After removing this from my pocket, it's usually a bit tangled, but only in a couple places. It never takes me more than maybe ten seconds to unravel it.

If you need a product recommendation (I know this isn't SE-frindly, but I do have a non-recommendation answer) to keep them untangled, Quirky's Wrapster ($6.99) works quite well, and also functions as an iPhone stand.

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Wrap them around something, even if it's just an inch of card. You can get nice cable tidy key rings that are really good for this, but a piece of card with 2 slits will do the same job:

enter image description here

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This is a neat idea, and easy to create myself! I think I'd prefer the thing to be a bit wider than the pictured example so that the cable won't be too curly when in use. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 2 '12 at 7:17
    
@TorbenGundofte-Bruun Sure, wider is better, and instead of cardboard try a small piece of cut up mousemat. –  stuffe Mar 2 '12 at 8:07
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