Headphones, speakers, and earbuds manufacturers tend to use the same jack size for connections. It’s better both for the user and the manufacturer if there’s a standard for plugs. Not everyone follows the standard though, sometimes the technology demands something else. So, hitting the right connections can be confusing. What is the standard headphone jack size?
Most headphones use the 3.5 mm plug-in. Newer smartphones changed to USB-C and lightning port for headphones connection. But the 3.5 mm plugs are still considered to be the industry standard.
Not all 3.5 mm plugs are the same though. There’s more to this topic, keep reading.
Headphone Jack Or Headphone Plug
I just want to point out that “jack” and “plug” do not mean the same thing. Regardless of the standard connection size for headphones, people tend to use these words as the same.
The word that should be used when we’re talking about the standard connection size is “plug”. Headphone plugs are the connections you insert into a device, i.e the male connector. The headphone jack on the other hand is where you insert the headphones, i.e the female connector.
Nonetheless, you’ll see me using both “plug” and “jack” when I actually mean “plug”. It comes more naturally to mean, I don’t know why. I’m not the only one. When I need to point out that I’m actually talking about the different types of connectors, I’ll use “female” and “male.
The 3.5 mm Headphone Jack
If you ever owned headphones or earbuds, chances are, you know how this plug-in looks like. To be clear the “3.5 mm” refers to the diameter of the plug. You may have 2-3 plugs that look different but all are 3.5 mm.
The standard headphone jack we’re talking about right now mostly covers headphones and speakers for personal use. Professional-grade audio equipment uses a different standard. The 3.5 mm doesn’t perform well with powerful equipment.
So, you’ll find the 3.5 mm jack in most headphones, earphones, bookshelf speakers. That is if we don’t include professional equipment. If it’s not the 3.5 mm jack, it will be USB or Bluetooth connections.
Types Of 3.5 mm Plugs
We’re all familiar with the standard headphone plug. It kind of looks like a bullet, there’s a sleeve, pointy tip, and rings. The number of rings is what sets apart 3.5 mm plugs from each other.
Basically, every plug has a sleeve and a tip. There are plugs with no rings, one ring, two, or three rings. All of the mentioned components are called conductors. What you need to know about conductors is that they allow for electricity to flow.
The tip of the plug carries the audio signal(the audio input). The sleeve is the ground, it gives a direction to the signal, i.e a reference point.
Number Of Rings
I would like to point out how to count the rings in your headphone plug. The instinctive thing to do is count the red or black insulating bands. Those are not the rings, they insulate the rings from each other.
Note, every headphone plug has at least one insulating band between the tip and the sleeve. It’s located right below the tip. Count one ring for two insulating bands, two rings for three insulating bands, etc.
With each ring, the plug is tweaked to work in a certain way. For instance, with one ring, you can add a stereo option, audio channels for “Left” and “Right”. Or, you can add Balanced Audio. With a second ring, you can add a microphone.
The standard headphone plug has at least one ring. Usually, the ring is for allowing stereo signals. That doesn’t have to be the case though, sometimes it’s for Balanced Audio. Headset plugs with one ring mean there’s no stereo signals nor Balanced Audio, it’s for the microphone.
Alternative Headphone Plugs
The truth is that the 3.5 mm plug is a bit outdated. It still works great with amplifiers, receivers, and similar audio equipment. However, a majority of the people that use headphones use them with a smartphone or a computer.
With Apple switching to the lighting port and then to AirPods, and Samsung switching to USB-C, things have changed. Headphones and earbuds manufacturers adapted to these changes. So, we’re seeing a lot more headphones with Bluetooth or USB-C connections.
The lightning port is used by Apple devices. It was introduced in 2012 but there was still an audio phone jack. The phone jack was removed with the iPhone 7 which used the lighting port for headphones and earphones.
There are rumors that the lighting port will be removed in 2021 with the new iPhone model. Anyways, you can still find headphones that use the lighting port. The models are not limited to Apple products. Amazon has a range of alternative earphones and headphones for iPhones.
Android smartphones have also started to remove the 3.5 mm jack. Newer smartphone models like the Google Pixel 3 and the Google Pixel 3 XL have no phone jack. So, some headphones specifically target these phones.
What’s cool about it, it’s that you can use these headphones with all phones that have a USB-C connection. That includes smartphones that have a 3.5 mm jack. The USB-C offers a better audio signal, check it out.
Headphones connections changed with PCs and laptops too. The thing with the jacks in computers is that they are prone to damage. Either the plugs get damaged or the computer jack falls in.
Again, manufacturers adjusted, so more and more headphones for PCs and laptops are using the standard USB connection. USB connections are also better because it’s easier to add audio channels for stereo on top of Balanced audio.
If you’re tired of the 3.5 mm plug, I recommend switching to USB for PC headphones. It’s a much smoother experience. USB has become pretty much the standard for PCs and laptops.
Bluetooth is the future for earphones and headphones. Wireless earbuds have changed how people use earbuds. While for activities like running and cooking, earbuds were an annoyance, with Bluetooth it’s an experience.
Many customers started to prefer wireless devices, so manufacturers started providing them. The only people who refuse to switch to Bluetooth are those that hate being limited to batteries. They are right in that, the technology needs to improve to take over, things are optimistic, however.
Related Questions And Other FAQs
How To Connect USB Headphones To Computer Jack
If you’ve bought headphones that use USB but you don’t have any ports space, you can connect them to the jack. You will need to buy an audio adapter that converts USB to 3.5 mm. USB female to 3.5 mm male. If it’s the opposite situation, just buy a USB male to 3.5 mm female.
How To Connect Headphone Plug To Lighting Port
Using an audio adapter, you can connect headphones with a 3.5 mm plug to a smartphone with a lighting port.
Buy an adapter with a 3.5 mm female and a lighting port male. The same can be done vice versa. This is a neat trick if you have the connections mixed up.
How To Connect Bluetooth Headphones To PC
PCs that don’t have built-in Bluetooth can still be connected to wireless headphones. This is done with a USB dongle. The dongle is inserted into a USB port, with it, Bluetooth is added to the PC. There are plenty of dongles you can find on Amazon.
What Is Balanced Audio
The sleeve of headphones plugs carries unwanted noise. Balanced Audio means that there’s a conductor that carries a copy of the audio signal but as an opposite charge. As the two audio signals travel through the sleeve they cancel each other out until they are reversed in the end. The unwanted noise isn’t reversed, so it doesn’t get through the sleeve in the end.
Mono Vs. Stereo Sound
Headphones with mono sound have a single channel for the audio signal to travel through. With stereo sound, there are two channels, left and right. Mono is better if we want to hear sounds that come from a single position. Stereo is better for sounds emitted from various sources.
What Is The Standard Amplifier Jack Size
The standard amplifier jack size is 6.3 mm. It looks just like the standard headphone jack but thicker and bigger. There are adapters for connection 3.5 mm to 6.3 mm. Get a female 3.5 mm with a 6.3 mm male adapter.
There we have, I think that’s about it. We could dive deeper but I don’t think it’s productive. You don’t need to hear some technical stuff, just know the basics. The next time you choose to buy headphones, you’ll know what to look for.
The headphone plug is getting replaced. If you’re not using the headphones with instruments or some audio equipment, you don’t need the plug. I highly recommend Bluetooth connections for smartphones and laptops. For PCs, go with a USB connection or buy a dongle.