Headphone Jack Types

Headphone Jack Types


Whether it’s because you finally want to understand why you have to buy new earphones every couple of months, or because of your new found curiosity for everyday electronics, we are glad you made it. Connectors, in general, have been around for longer than you would imagine, and the latest incarnations have proven to be surprisingly consistent, despite originating during much simpler times.

There are headphone jack types out there for all kinds of purposes; some for rugged professional-grade recording, others for everyday use like listening to your favorite rock song on the way to work, and others still, edging closer to obsolesce. 

Against this backdrop of ever-changing technology, let's look at some of the significant types of headphone jack we have today.

When Was The Headphone Jack Created?

The new 3.5mm headphone jack evolved from the older ¼-inch jack during the 20-century. Its larger predecessor was invented in the late 1800s as a phone connector used by telephone operators to connect different lines.

What Are Other Names Of Headphones Jack?

Based on the application it may be called a microphone jack, stereo plug, mono plug, aux input, etc. The 3.5 mm jack, in particular, may be called a mini as well.

Standard Sizes For Headphone Jacks

1⁄4 inch (6.35 mm)

  • What is a 6.35 mm jack?

The ¼-inch is the largest in the family of headphone jacks. The term "headphone jack" may well be inaccurate to call it a headphone jack, since it is more commonly used as a connector for heavy-duty equipment. 

6.35mm headphones jack

Image Credit: amazon.com

  • Where is it used?

You are most likely to find the ¼-inch or 6.25 mm jacks in high-end equipment. The large size makes it more durable in the face of repeated rugged use and more comfortable to use in more extensive equipment. The ¼-inch jack is a staple in almost every musical studio. 

Depending on whether it is a TS or TRS connector, the ¼-inch jack is the go-to connector for cables used to connect instruments and amplifiers, or amplifiers and speakers. You will also find it being used for headphone outputs in pianos, guitar amplifiers, mixing tables, or in high-end studios in general. 

  • How does it work?

The ¼-inch jack work in much the same way as any jack does, but there are some intricacies involved.  Remember how we mentioned the TS and TRS connectors? Here is where they become relevant. It will spare you from all the technical jargon, TS or Tip-Sleeve connectors are mainly used for transmitting generic one-way signals, like from a guitar to an amplifier, where the tip and the sleeve connect to different parts of the circuit.
The TRS or Tip-Ring-Sleeve jack, which has two black rings on them instead of one, is also called the "balanced jack." It is because the tip and ring transmit separate signals for either the left or right side, while the sleeve works as the common earth connect. It is why they are used for headphone outputs, or generally where output on each side needs to be distinct. 

1⁄8 inch (2.5 mm)

  • What is a 2.5mm jack?

The 2.5 mm jack is the smallest headphone jack out there. Even though the 2.5 mm jack has mostly been replaced by the 3.5 mm jack, due to issues of reliability, it is still capable of being used as TS or TRS plug for low-intensity environments.

2.5mm headphones jack

Image Credit: advancedmp3players.co.uk 

  • Where is it used?

2.5 mm jacks can still be found in some mobile phones and the TTY devices. They are also commonly found in office grade headsets. It is because many office phones even come with 2.5 mm port for the optional headset since office headsets neither have to be too versatile nor have to be too robust. 

In the past, the 2.5 mm jack was used for microphone inputs on tape recorders. In some models, the 2.5 mm jack was even used for connecting with a DC power source, while some camcorders also made use of the 2.5 mm jack.

  • How does it work?

The 2.5 mm jack also works on the principle of combining multiple circuits that work in tandem. With each additional application such as microphone input, or video, the number of conducting bands on the plug increase. Older variations of the 2.5 mm jack were only used to connect microphones came in a TS or TRS configuration.  The jacks featured on camcorders sometimes used a TRRS configuration, where one conductor was used for audio, video, and microphone each.

2.5 mm jacks that are used on telephone headsets these days also come in a TRS configuration as well, despite the provision of a mic. It is because these headsets only have one-sided audio connected to the tip, while the ring completes the microphone's circuit.

3⁄32inch (3.5 mm)

  • What is a 3.5mm jack?

The 3.5 mm jack is the most widely used out of all headphone jacks. Having the same shape as the 2.5 mm and the ¼" jack, it falls right in between the two regarding size. However, in the recent few years, it has replaced its smaller counterpart as the industry standard in consumer devices.

3.5mm headphones jack

Image Credit: zavvi.com

  • Where is it used?

The 3.5 mm jack rose to prominence with the Walkman and is now everywhere, from portable AV devices like iPods or music players, to literally all smartphones, Apple or Android alike, to tablets, to laptops and even desktop computers. The 3.5 mm jack is the standard connector size for audio output or microphone input on all these devices. 

It is also used for line-out audio to earphones or for auxiliary input to car stereos or other devices in general. It is why you will most commonly see them on earphones that come with smartphones as well as on the cable you use to connect your phone to the car stereo.

  • How does it work?

Once again, the jack works on the same principle but with different applications. Concerning the number of conducting bands and resulting black "hoops," you will find the most variation in the 3.5 mm jack. Back when laptops had separate audio and microphone ports, you would have jacks with TRS configuration. However, these days’ earphones serve the dual purpose of being extended speakers and external microphone on both laptops and smartphones. 

So don't get excited if you find a TRRS configuration, where the left and right channels are linked to the tip and ring, while the other ring acts as the common earth channel and the sleeve attached to the microphone input channel. The same configuration works for camcorder AV cables as well, but here one of the rings takes care of the CVBS video channel.


  • What is a USB headphones jack?

We all know what USB is, but for the sake of clarity, USB stands for Universal Service Bus. And it is not lying on the universal bit. USB ports are found on all devices nowadays. So it makes sense that we also have many headsets on the market that use the USB to connect your computer. 

usb headphones jack

Image Credit: soundguys.com

  • Where is it used?

USB jacks can be found everywhere there is a USB port. That means you can find USB jacks on all laptop and desktop computers, considering how most computers have multiple USB ports. The beauty of the USB is in its simplicity and the availability. It makes connectivity very easy. The USB jack even comes in the form of USB connector for regular jacks 3.5 mm or 2.5 mm jacks. Commonly used for increasing number of AV ports on computers, these USB connectors act as intermediaries between computers and regular jacks.  

  • How does it work?

For a working knowledge, all you need to know is that as long as your computer has a USB port, your USB headphone jack will work. If you are wondering how multiple kinds of data can go in and out of the same port and still reach the right places; that is achieved through a process called enumeration. In simple words, your computer assigns a unique identity to each USB device and therefore known what kind of data to exchange with it.


  • What is Bluetooth jack?

Bluetooth is one of the ways you can connect two devices wirelessly. So a Bluetooth “jack” technically does not exist. However, in principle, you can think of Bluetooth as an invisible version of your average earphone cable.

Bluetooth jack

Image Credit: lazada.com.ph

  • Where is used?

Bluetooth is a wireless alternative to both the USB and the 3.5mm jack in smartphones and computers. Almost all smartphones and computers are Bluetooth-enabled. Many other types of devices like car stereos and even some smart TVs come with Bluetooth. It means that your wireless earphones can connect to your smartphone like regular earphones and your smartphone can connect to your car stereo the same way it does with an auxiliary cable. 

  • How does it work?

Every Bluetooth enabled device is equipped with a microchip.  This chip is for transmitting and receiving Bluetooth radio waves and software that operates it. When your headset and your phone are nearby, the two are paired. However, both the devices must have their Bluetooth turned on. It allows your headset to send and receive audio.

2.5mm Jack Vs. 3.5mm Jack

Regarding capability, the two can be used interchangeably. However, the 3.5 mm has become the standard for more practical reasons. 2.5 mm connectors have a shorter lifespan and come with reliability issues. 

In comparison, the benefit of saving space with a smaller jack is not enough. On top of that, it can be difficult to distinguish between the two in a practical scenario which confuses.

How To Choose Headphone Jack Types

  • Understand what you need the jack for. If you need it for amplifiers, use a ¼-inch jack. If it is for connecting to a smartphone or PC, then go for a 3.5 mm jack.
  • Once you have decided the size, examine the port on your device. Does it have just one port for everything or separate ports for the microphone and sound?
  • According to your device, choose the configuration of your headphone. Use a TRRS jack if there is only one port. Use separate TRS jacks if there are.
  • Decide if you need adapters. If you do not have the right kind of jack, use an adapter. It will enable you to either split a single port into two or combine two into one.

What Is The Difference Between 3.5 MM Jack In Headphones Vs. Mobiles Vs. Laptops

Headphone jacks tend to be the same for smartphones and laptops and can be changed most of the time interchangeably. However, some laptops have a separate port for the microphone. In this case, a separate TRS jack for the headset and a TRS jack for the microphone may be required. 

On the other hand, since smartphones let you use the mic on your earphones, one jack needs to carry all the signals. So it may have TRRS configuration with three rings and four-conductor bands.

Mono Vs. Stereo

Stereo implies a sound output that makes you feel like it is coming from more than one direction. In contrast, mono would be sound that is perceived as unidirectional. Mono jacks and stereo jacks correspond to the same idea.

Mono jacks usually have a TS configuration, with one conductor band for all audio signals. Meanwhile, stereo jacks, typically having a TRS or TRRS configuration. They have distinguished channels for speakers on the left and right side, which makes stereo-sound possible.

Could USB Type-C Kill Your Headphone Jack?

USB Type-C

  • What is a USB Type-C jack?

The USB Type-C is the newest variation of the USB jack. It aims to take its universality to a whole new level. The USB Type-C jack is not only smaller but also capable of transferring multiple kinds of data much more quickly. 

  • Where is it used?

The USB Type-C a standardized jack presently featured on a handful of laptops and smartphones. However, Google has expressed its intention to use it in future products. So you can expect to see the USB Type-C on almost all future devices. 

  • How does it work?

It works on the same principle as any other USB but it much more efficient. USB Type-C cables have the same jack on both sides. These jacks are smaller as compared to the others, and the faster exhibiting almost doubles the speed of a standard USB 3.0 jack.

Why might you lose the 3.5mm headphone jack?

The USB Type-C may very well replace your 3.5mm jack for two significant reasons.

  • Firstly, they offer better sound quality by receiving digital audio signals from your phone, instead of analog signals.
  • Secondly, your phone doesn’t have to go through the trouble of decoding digital inputs into analog. However, with 3.5mm jack, it has to do that.

Therefore, USB Type-C also saves battery time. Add to this the fact like the micro USB jack the Type-C can still be used for charging as well, and there is no reason why the Type-C will not replace the conventional audio jack.


So there you go. Now you have a complete guide on headphone jack types. Hope it will satisfy all your curiosities and ideally give you, even more, to be curious about. 

Headphone jack types are just one of the many ways to appreciate just how pivotal a role, technology plays in our lives. We have provided you with information beyond technical know-how, and an overview of headphone jacks as products. 

We hope this information allows you to be mindful of the intricacies that go into constructing our everyday interactions with technology.

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