Headphone Jack and Plugs: Everything You Need to Know

You will never look at the headphone jack and plug the same way again.

Headphone jack is dead!

Apple has killed the headphone jack.

Sounds familiar? Ever since Apple removed the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 in favor of a lightning port, other smartphone companies have quickly followed suit with the removal of the once omnipresent port.

“I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.”

-Fight Club

There are still a few major companies like LG and Samsung who choose to release their flagships with the headphone jack, but I suspect that could change with the upcoming trend of true wireless headphones.

The truth is that most mainstream consumers don’t care for the headphones jack. Good riddance, they say.

So, why should you care then?

Who Is This Guide For?

  • Do you want to enjoy audiophile headphones that only have a wired connection?
  • Are you looking to buy an amplifier for your headphones?
  • Are you looking to buy and upgrade your audio cable?
  • Do you want to try balanced audio?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, this guide is for you.

By the end of the guide, you will be comfortable with terms like:

  • 3-pole mini
  • Stereo mini
  • 3.5mm single-ended (or unbalanced) cable
  • 2.5mm balanced cable
 

Difference between a Headphone Jack and Headphone Plug

The Sony TA-ZH1ES with many strange looking holes at the front.

Do you see these sockets that the above Sony TA-ZH1ES have? Those are headphones jacks. It is where you insert the headphone plugs to receive audio signals.

A variety of headphone plugs

The headphone jack is a family of electrical connectors that are typically used for analog audio signals. It is also known by other names like phone jack, audio jack, aux input, etc.

There are cases where headphone jack are used for digital audio signals. For example, the Google Chromecast can output either analog or digital signals off its single 3.5mm output jack

Female and male connectors

From Amazon. Male Connector (L) Female Connector (R)

In electrical and mechanical trades and manufacturing, each half of a pair of mating connectors or fasteners is conventionally assigned the designation male or female. – Wikipedia

Unfortunately, the audio industry has not unified in the way the electrical and mechanical trades have to describe the different gender of connectors. You will often find the word “plug” used to describe the male connectors while “jack” used to describe the female connectors.

Evolution of the Headphone Jack

Who is jack?

The origin of the term “jack” can be traced back to 1874 when C.E. Scribner patented, what he calls, a “jack-knife” connector.

Patent of C.E. Scribner

The earliest known jack was a ¼ inch (6.35mm) version and still has mainstream usages which we describe below.

Rounded to pointed tip profile

In the early development days, there were many different jack designs. The rounded tip design was particularly popular because it was compatible with different manufacturers. The rounded tip quickly gained traction as the de-facto tip profile for audio equipment.

But with the rise of stereo audio, a different tip profile was needed to prevent the old rounded tip from frying the circuit when inserted into incompatible equipment. A pointed tip jack will prevent a rounded tip plug from being inserted fully, hence solving the problem.

Anatomy of a Headphone Plug

Conductors

Regardless of the plug size, all headphone plugs have conductors. Conductors are the contact points of the plugs that close the circuit.

A headphone plug has a minimum of 2 conductors and commonly up to 5.

If it has 3 conductors, it may be called a 3 conductor plug. Some manufacturer uses pole to replace conductor. Hence, it can also be called a 3 pole plug.

Identifying conductors.

Each conductor has a specific name:

  • Tip (T)
  • Ring (R)
  • Sleeve (S)

All plugs have at least a Tip and Sleeve. It is the number of Rings that differentiate them. If the plug only has one ring, it is a 3 conductor plug or a TRS connector. If it has two rings, it is a 4 conductor plug or a TRRS connector.

Don’t mistake the black band as a ring. It is an insulating band. The band separates the parts of the plug from being shorted together.

Nomenclature of the Headphone Plug:

  • 2 conductor, 2 pole, TS
  • 3 conductor, 3 pole, TRS
  • 4 conductor, 4 pole, TRRS
  • 5 conductor, 5 pole, TRRRS

Different Plug Connectors configuration

Depending on available conductors, manufacturers can choose to configure jack and plug in various ways. Both must be complementary to each other.

2 conductor plug (TS)

Available Connectors: Only the tip and sleeve connectors are available.

Connectors Connection:

PinFunction
1Ground
2Signal

The connection is fairly straightforward here. One connector is used to carry the audio signal while the other acts as a return path and ground.

The ground acts as a reference point for the signal but it also picks up interference noises like an antenna. The longer the cable, the higher chance the more noise will be picked up.

Common Usage: You can find TS connectors mainly with guitars, instruments, and applications that do not require a long cable connection.

3 conductor plug (TRS)

Available Connectors: Aside from the tip and sleeve, there is an additional ring connector with two insulating bands around it.

Connectors Connection:

PinUnbalanced MonoBalanced MonoUnbalanced Stereo
1GroundGroundGround
2Optional (Mic etc)Signal - (Cold)Right Audio Channel
3SignalSignal + (Hot)Left Audio Channel

With the addition of another conductor “R”, we open up different possibilities such as supporting balanced mono signals and unbalanced stereo signals.

As seen in the “Unbalanced Mono” column above, the engineer can choose to make use of the additional conductor to carry a microphone signal instead. In this case, where the audio is unbalanced, we may also sometimes refer to this as a single-ended plug.

TRS still cannot carry a balanced stereo signal. For that, see TRRRS connector below.

Common Usage: Most common form of jack connectors. You see these on the end of most stock headphone cables.

4 conductor plug (TRRS)

Available Connectors: With a 4 conductor plug, we have two additional rings with three insulating bands.

Connectors Connection:

PinFunction
1Microphone
2Ground
3Right Audio Channel
4Left Audio Channel

The above connection configuration follows the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) standards. Such a connection format is also called the CTIA TRRS jack connector format.

Common Usage: It is the most commonly adopted standard for modern smartphones and gaming consoles where the cable supports a microphone and stereo audio connection at the same time.

5 conductor plug (TRRRS)

Available Connectors: For a 5 conductor headphone plug, we have 3 ring connectors.

TRRRS connectors are used to support balanced stereo signal. You will find that XLR connectors (3 pin pairs, 4 pin, and 5 pin) are also a common choice for stereo balanced headphones. XLR connectors have been the standard balanced connector in the professional audio market for decades.

It is no surprise that when balanced headphone connections grew in popularity, the standard XLR became a go-to solution.

XLR5 Female (L) XLR5 Male (R)
Unlike TRS connectors, XLR connectors have pins instead of tips, rings, and sleeve. However, they work the same way. The XLR5 connector has 5 conductors just like a TRRRS connector.

Sony did make a TRRRS headphone jack – 4.4mm Pentaconn connector.

Penta means “5” and conn is short for connector.

Please be aware that the Pentaconn connectors are new and not adopted widely by the industry. You either have to get an adaptor to accommodate the 5 pole connector or purchase a compatible Sony amplifier.

If you are looking to make your own DIY cable with the 4.4mm Pentaconn connector, check out moon audio store.

Schematic of a headphone jack and plug

From CUI DEVICES

If you are interested in the schematic of a headphones jack, you can hop on over here for a more detailed article.

Different sizes of headphone jacks/plugs

When we describe the size of the headphone jack or plugs, we are referring to the diameter of the connector.

  • 6.35mm Connector

This is the largest connector among the jacks. It is otherwise known as the ¼ inch connector.

NameSizeConductors
UGREEN Stereo Audio Adapter6.35mm Male to 3.5mm FemaleTRS
UGREEN Stereo Audio Cable6.35mm to 3.5mmTRS
  • 4.4mm Connector
NameSizeConductors
Yinyoo Upgrated 6 Cores Copper Stereo Earphone Cable4.4mm to MMCXTRRRS
FiiO 8-Stranded High-Purity Monocrystalline Silver-Plated Copper Cable4.4mm to MMCXTRRRS
Geekria Apollo Balanced Gold-Plated Adapter4.4mm male to 3.5mm femaleTRRRS
  • 3.5mm Connector

Known as the miniature size or mini for short. You can call it a ⅛ inch too.

NameSizeConductors
AmazonBasics 3.5mm Male to Male Stereo Audio Aux Cable3.5mm to 3.5mmTRS
Zeskit Aux Audio Cable3.5mm to 3.5mmTRRS
Nacodex Audio Cable3.5mm to 2.5mmTRS
Kingtop Combo Audio Adapter Cable3.5mm male to 3.5mm femaleTRRS
  • 2.5mm Connector

Known as the sub-miniature or sub-mini for short.

NameSizeConductors
NewFantasia Replacement Cable with Remote and Mic2.5mm to 3.5mmTRS
NewFantasia HiFi Cable Balanced Male2.5mm to 2.5mmTRRS

Why does a headphone plug matter?

A headphone plug:

  • directly affects the audio signal it transmits.
  • indirectly affects the overall quality of sound.
  • tells us what the cable is capable or not capable of doing (mic, stereo support, etc).

Let us first understand two basic concepts with regards to the transmitted signal from the audio source to our headphones.

Mono VS Stereo Signal

Two types of signal can be transmitted from the audio source to the headphones

  • Monaural (Mono)
  • Stereophonic (Stereo)

A mono signal uses only 1 audio channel while a stereo signal uses two audio channels (left and right).

Stereo signal simulates “natural” hearing by creating the impression of sound coming from different directions. This is accomplished by the separate audio channels producing sound in two different speakers (or stereo headphones). You can call this the “surround-sound” effect.

As for mono signal, the sound reproduced is intended to be heard from one position.

Balanced VS Unbalanced Audio

For a more in-depth discussion on balanced and unbalanced audio, you can read “Balanced vs Unbalanced Audio Connections

Balanced audio is all about interconnecting audio equipment and transmitting signals in a “balanced” manner.

To do that, we need a combination of an audio source (amplifier) that can produce balanced output and a cable that is capable of carrying that balanced output.

From boxcast

A balanced output has two signal phases (or a hot and cold signal) per channel. Each phase has an equal impedance relative to ground, hence the name balanced.

A balanced mono cable typically has at least three conductors (TRS) to carry the signal to the headphones. A balanced stereo cable has at least five conductors (TRRRS).

Advantage of Balanced Audio

The advantage of balanced connections over unbalanced connections is the canceling of noise interference via a technique named Common Mode Rejection (CMR).

Any noise interference that hits the two balanced phases in the cable is imprinted equally on them. The receiving equipment (headphones in our case) only cares about the difference between the phases.

So, interference that adds equally to both phases creates no difference between them and is canceled out when they are recombined by the amplifier. This canceling process of noise while preserving the original sound is known as CMR.

This means that balanced cable can run longer than unbalanced cable and operate in noisier environments because it cancels any noise interference.

So when is audio unbalanced?

When the requirements to meet balanced audio are not met, the audio is considered unbalanced.

For example:

  • The audio source is unable to produce a balanced output.
  • The cable is not capable of carrying a balanced signal (TS, single-ended TRS connectors).

Plug is the key

With the above two concepts, you should know that you can send 4 types of signal from the output (amplifier for example) via a cable to a pair of headphones.

  • Unbalanced mono
  • Balanced mono
  • Unbalanced stereo
  • Balanced stereo

Whether a signal can be fully supported or even supported at all depends on the number of conductors found on the plug.

Output SignalJack ConnectorBalanced Audio Connection
Balanced MonoTSN
Balanced MonoTRSY
Unbalanced StereoTRSY
Balanced StereoTRSN
Balanced StereoTRRRSY

Is it confusing?

It can be hard to digest if you are reading all this for the first time. The part where stereo uses two channels and balanced audio needing two copies of the same signal with reverse polarity tripped me up pretty good, too.

An easy way to understand is to first acknowledge that we need conductors to send and carry signals.

The more signals we need to send, the more conductors we need.

For example, if we want to send a balanced stereo signal, it needs to send

  • one right channel (R+),
  • one flipped right channel (R-),
  • one left channel audio (L+),
  • one flipped left channel audio (L-).

In total, it needs 4 signal wire and one ground wire which only a TRRRS connector can provide.

Thus, if a jack with an inadequate connector is used (like a TRS connector), the headphone doesn’t receive the complete set of signals to do the CMR. Hence, the whole audio connection becomes unbalanced.

Let’s Practice Our New Skill

Let’s see if we can put our new-found skill to good use.

Remember the “3 pole mini” term we mentioned right at the start of the article? What do you think it means?

3 Pole Mini

Ans: 3.5mm TRS jack

Stereo Mini

Ans: 3.5mm TRS jack (Bonus Qns: why do we think is TRS and not TS?)

3.5mm single-ended cable

Ans: 3.5mm TRS jack (Bonus Qns: Is this a balanced cable?)

2.5mm balanced cable

Ans: 2.5mm TRS jack that can carry balanced signals

From https://www.fiio.com/q5

Do you see that the FiiO Q5 had two outputs? One with a headphone logo, another with “BAL” sign. Do you understand what that means?

Lastly, another practice question.

See if you can read the “Headphone Output” specifications of the Sony TA-ZH1ES and understand what they mean.

If you do, congratulations! You just leveled up your audiophile knowledge.

Do you like this article? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comment section below.

48 comments

  1. Thanks Colin for this very helpful article. I understand Hi Res and balanced sound but I use Sennheiser MTW earbuds, BT 5.0. I love their sound and the tuning is superbly balanced but I know that the music will sound better though headphone jack.
    Japanese firm Aviot has produced Bluetooth earbuds with two dynamic drivers and one balanced armature. I don’t know what they sound like but know that wired will always have better quality sound for same source.
    Can or will Bluetooth technology ever match wired?
    Thanks.
    Graham

  2. Contrary to what this article says, you should *not* refer to 3.5mm connectors as “1/8 inch.” There was an older size, really 1/8″ diameter, ca. 1960s. Do the math: 1/8″ = 3.175mm.

    If you actually have an old 1/8″ plug, it will be very sloppy in a present-day 3.5mm jack. Conversely, if you have an old rig (tape player, etc.) with a 1/8″ jack, a present-day 3.5mm plug will not fit in the hole.

    Calling a true 3.5mm connector “1/8 inch” is like calling your size 32 jeans “size 29.” It’s a significant difference, more than ten percent.

    (However, 6.35mm really is the same as 1/4 inch. The Japanese did not change the physical size when they started making this connector, which originally had English system dimensions.)

  3. Is it because I am in europe and you in america? I’m puzzled.
    Here in Europe ”tip” is the Right channel ”ring” is left and sleeve common ground.
    Only exception I ever found was on my Samsung television…..

    Nice article BTW…

  4. I find it hard to believe that tip is right channel in Europe. That means every manufacturer of audio equipment — TVs, radio receivers, audio mixers, portable radios and CD players, pro audio gear used in every broadcast station, etc. — would need to make one version of equipment for Europe, and one version for the US. Not gonna happen. For that matter, I’ve worked on equipment bought in Europe, then brought back to the states by servicemen or gov’t employees who were stationed overseas. I never ran into tip=right. I’ve never seen schematics of imported (to the US) gear that had a note saying “in Europe headphone channels are reversed.”

    Going back 60 years, I’ve had pro audio gear made in the US, in Germany, in Japan, as well as consumer equipment from all those places and more. Tip is always left; ring is always right. This was true with 1/4″ TRS connectors, as well as the newer 3.5mm size. Perhaps you’ve always had your headphones on backwards.

    Now as to what has recently changed: many cellphone manufacturers have started using a single connector for stereo earphones *and* mono mic. They’ve added an extra ring (designated R2), moved common ground to that new R2, and then the mic hot wire goes on the sleeve. Tip still is left, ring still is right. Headphones w/ the usual bigger sleeve will usually play back OK. Mics will not work without TRS>>TRRS adapters, and it’s a real pain because I think most consumers have no clue about this, so many seem to think they have broken equipment when things don’t work as hoped.

    1. Hi Greg, sorry for wasting your time,I ‘ll check before I post next time.
      I was so convinced I fear I have dementia….
      Well, I can repeat; Usefull article!

    2. Can I use a TRRS to TRRS (m-m) from an old boom box to a cellphone jack (to use as a pillow speaker)? Cellphone speakers are so far superior to the flimsy sound coming out of retail pillow speakers, I’m constantly yelling at the mice to keep quiet.

  5. Now that’s what I call informative. I’ll probably have to read it several times (if I go out without a shopping list these days I come back with the wrong stuff) but that’s just me. Excellent, top marks all round.

  6. “A pointed tip jack will prevent a rounded tip plug from being inserted fully, …”

    That’s an interesting factoid. Where did you dig it up?

  7. Here I am…a 70-year-old fart trying to keep up with he millennial technical age of understanding. My first computer came in 1983, so, I’ve done pretty good; and I find such articles as this one a TREASURE to find…because it was SO well written and explained; however—as the person said earlier—I will probably have to go over it a few times to get it. And I was a professional musician for about 22 years. things have really changed since that career ended.

  8. You didn’t mention headphone bias voltage and polarity. Ideally, an AC signal centered on zero volts is sent to the headphones, maybe via an output transformer to remove any DC bias. If I understand it correctly, unbalanced line level audio is all positve voltage, from +0.2 volts up to +1.8 volts, allowing the next piece of gear to use a single sided amp. Main reason: transistors can only amplify positive voltage. After going through a 1:1 matching transformer you’d get -0.8 to +0.8. Maybe that explains the thump I can sometimes hear on headphones when my macbook audio turns on and off?

  9. I am using stereo audio codec in my design, I want to know the pinouts of audio jack to connect it.
    Can I get the pinouts of audio jack?

  10. Great article for a master of seventeenth century technology like me. I understood a good bit of it I think, Just a question: I saw someone use a splitter meant for a video camera. It has a trrs on one end and 2 trs(s) on the other. He used it to plug an external mic into an iphone. I am confused because my understanding now is that a lot of headphone jacks, especially for phones, are designed to function for a phone headset that has both audio out left and right for your ears, and a mic audio in. So, if I have a stereo feed (from my Zoom H4 line out jack, the Zoom h4 has two mics on it), that would mean I have to use an adapter that has a stereo, trs plug (because I am guessing it is not balanced, but maybe I am wrong) on one side, and a trrs on the other. But the headphone jack would think (I know they don’t actually think, but) it’s designed, rather, to send the stereo signal out to headphones, and only a mono signal in. So what exactly would happen ? Would just one signal from one mic be recognized and no sgnal at all would travel where the stereo out would have been? Which mic would go in to the device, the left or the right? (Good Lord, and I thought playing the violin was hard! I wish recording would be easier, but I don’t get or speak tech.)

  11. Thanks for the article. Well done.
    I’m trying to connect my iPhone to my headset via an amplifier. I’ve just ordered a cable, 3.5mm male line out from iPhone to 2.5mm male line in to amplifier. Hope it works when it arrives next month.
    I’ve got a 3.5/3.5 direct cable with no amp and that works. Watch this space.

  12. Probably the best technical pub I’ve ever read …. and I’m a EE who was in the IT business for 40 years. Just outstanding clarity and pics …. Thanks …. what a pleasure to read!

  13. I am trying to find an adapter which will allow me to convert a 2.5 mm diameter X 13 mm long plug into a 2.5 mm diameter X 11 mm long plug.

    I have a consumer level 2-way FRS/GMRS radio that has a jack that fits a 2.5mm X 11 mm plug. I am needing to use a different headset due to the extremely noisy environment I am working in and my headset has a 2.5 mm X 13 mm plug. When the plug is inserted in the jack it does not seat firmly since it is 2 mm longer and does not match the measurements. Do you know of an adapter that would solve this issue?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Sincerely
    Scott

    1. I need this information as I’m building the same type of cross over plug for Motorola Talk-a-bout’s. It seems to be a proprietary jack; Motorola is taking lessons from Ford.

      Please pass along any info on buying the longer than normal jack.

  14. Thanks for this article. I think it helped me identify an old Radio Shack 2.5 mm headset with mic (HF-2001) that I have as a TRS plug with “Unbalanced Mono” and the additional conductor carries the microphone signal. Does anyone know what adapter I can use to make this work with a standard (recent) 3.5 mm Android smartphone jack? I tried to get a regular 2.5 mm female to 3.5 mm male, but it doesn’t pass the microphone signal through, only the audio.

  15. Help! I have a cordless Panasonic phone with a headphone jack that is smaller than 2.5 mm! I had an adapter that stepped my standard 2.5 mm headset down to this smaller size so I could work from home hands free. The adapter now has a break in it and pops and crackles and is driving me crazy. This article gave me one more piece of info, the adaptor is a 2.5 mm female to a smaller??? TRS male! I can’t figure out the step down size to order a replacement! I’ve guessed 2 mm, 1.5 mm, nothing on Google. The users manual online just says “headphone jack! Useless! It is model KX-TGA931T cordless phone with answering machine base. Why do the Japanese have to make everything smaller/non-standard…sheesh. I’m having flashbacks to that movie “1941” where the Japanese soldier is trying to fit that big American radio down into their submarine! Ha! Anyway, can anybody point me to a link to this adaptor??? Thanks in advance!

  16. Years ago, I bought a Sony Active Speaker System SRS-T33. The “plug” (what must be a 2.5 3-conductor plug with green insulating bands) fits nicely into laptop, but now I would like to find an adapter for this little speaker to connect to my iPhone 7S. Any suggestions? I found this, but am not sure it will work because of the color bands (green on the Sony). I would greatly appreciate your help. https://www.miniinthebox.com/en/p/8pin-to-3-5mm-jack-audio-cable-for-iphone_p7425254.html?prm=2.1.250.0

  17. I’m looking for 6.35 mm female to 3.5 mm female audio jack adapter. Or could you please tell me how to make this connection work.

  18. Thank you for such a full and helpful article. Love the diagrams and tables. Very clear. Can you use this way of looking to explain how we can get a line in to a Mac laptop or iPhone so it acts as an external mic. Preferably from a a simple TRS output. I imagine there is an adaptor

  19. An excellent article – I am saving it for future reference. But I have the following question and in attempting to find the answer to it I stumbled on your outstanding article and illustrations.

    Q: Over the years I have repeatedly found that male/female 3.5mm socket connections develop static and/or actual loss of signal due to the fact that spring tension in the female socket degrades – due to insufficient electrode contact pressure and due to oxidation of contact surfaces; here I’ve used Deoxit with some success – but basically the problem persists and grows.

    I believe the primary cause is that the 3.5 mm female dimension is just too darn small to allow for robust physical spring contacts to be employed within the tiny internal spaces available in modern portable electronics, especially given the low voltages involved.

    Ergo, I had been Googling for a perhaps slightly OVERSIZED male-female jack ADAPTER, which would stay in place within the radio (semi-permanently) – while the female end would be designed to easily take the daily in-out punishment of the headphone male jack by introducing far more robust spring tension.

    No luck so far.

  20. I am hard of hearing and trying to connect a Sennheiser amplification system via the headphone jack in a Marantz AV receiver. When I plug it in to the,jack on the receiver, the speakers cut out. No way to override. I read on another site that using a 4 conductor jack rather than 3 might make a difference. Any logic in that?

  21. Great article. Thanks

    Question: I need to extend audio cable. On the cable from my headphones there is a 4 conductor male plug. The extension cables only have 3 conductor male and female plugs. I only require audio and mic for the extender. Will a 3 conductor extension cable work? Thanks

  22. Hi, great in depth article. Can you please help me with a specific problem please? I have a TV on my caravan with very poor sound quality and I have unsuccessfully tried to Bluetooth the sound to a USB-Aux device plugged into my on board radio/cd player which has USB and aux plus large speakers for better sound (8 years old maybe) , unfortunately there is latency and the sound and picture do not sync. My last option is to use an aux cable from the TV which is supplied with a phono/aux link cable. The 3.5mm pin on the link has four poles. Can I use any cable to connect to my radio 3 or 4 poles?

    Thanks in anticipation.

  23. Help. I have Fiio M11 and sennheisher 599 I want to use the 4.4 mm output but cannot find a 4.4 male to 6.35 female adapter. I did find one but it was November ship date. I could use double adapter 4.4 to 3.5 and then a 3.5 to 6.35 but that seems like not a good way to go. Any ideas?

  24. wow. FANTASTIC article. i am not an audio person, or musician or really even care about sound and ports and equipment. BUT, this was super informative and easy enough for a noob like me to understand. really a fantastic bit of information that made things clear.

  25. I am looking for a soundbar which can send audio to headphones / earbuds.

    If there is not a sound bar is there a way to hook them up. When the earbuds / headphone is in use then the sound on the soundbar should be shut down

  26. Thanx. But, the female jack in my LG Stylo V phone has “loosened” and will not transmit audio to my headphones. The male plug doesn’t fall out. But, it is loose. HELP.

  27. Great article on various jacks but it did not answer my question. Which 3.5 jacks are compatible without damaging equipment? Especially plugs with one or two rings? May one use a plug with two rings (cable has buds and mic) on a device that is intended for headphones only? And the other way around.

  28. The last two lines of one of your tables are:

    Balanced Stereo TRS N
    Balanced Stereo TRRRS Y

    The last one makes perfect sense to me, but I can’t figure the one before it. I don’t understand how one could get balanced stereo with just TRS, and I don’t understand how it can be balanced stereo with “N” in the third column.

    Can you elaborate? thanks

  29. Although early in the article it mentions people buying something that ends up not working because the bought the wrong style, it does not mention if there is any interchange ability with the different styles without adaptors.

    My background: Mechanic, roofer, carpenter, machine tool builder, I can play the radio.

    My project: I have a turntable with a USB cable and audio editing software on my lap top to where I can digitize my album collection. I can also record directly from the lap top. The problem is, when recording from the computer the comes out the speakers and recorded from the microphone. Recording this way means the room has to be quiet during recording and it also adds a slight humming sound. I would like to try plugging into the headphone jack (3.5mm TRS headphones work) to the USB port and see what that does. I have seen both (3.5mm) TRS to USB and TRRS to USB adaptors. I would like to get the latter for more versatility down the road, not to mention they are cheaper, but don’t want to waste money on something that doesn’t work.

    Very informative article, thank you for your time.

  30. How can I identify if a jack is TRS or TRRS? I replaced the OEM stereo in my Mustang with a Kenwood. The back of the Stereo has an AUX IN that the manual identifies as a TRRS. The dashboard adapter kit provided has interchangeable component pass through connectors (e.g. USB, HDMI, and audio jack). The configuration of the audio jack is not specified. I connected a male-to-make TRS cable to my PC and to the audio pass through and a set of ear buds with a TRS connector to the other side of the pass through. I can hear audio out of the ear buds. Is this sufficient to determine that the pass through is TRS and not TRRS?

  31. Jake

    Maybe someone can advise me. I have a new, original, in the box Sennheiser HD 525 Stereo Headphones I purchased some yrs. ago but never used. I now want to use them w/ my desktop PC. I need an adaptor but Sennheiser website is useless. I need to know what type of adaptor I need and where I can get it at the best price. Thanks.

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