Types Of Headphone Jacks


The headphone jack is a staple of every single audio system. While wireless headphones are slowly becoming the norm, the headphone jack is still an essential aspect when it comes to listening to your music via headphones. In this article, we will be taking a look at the different types of headphone jacks that are currently available in the market.

Headphones are used for music | Photo Credit: Marcelo Chagas

When looking for a headphone jack at your local electronics store, the most common type you will find is the 3.5mm jack. The 3.5mm is currently the default size used by most media playing devices such as smartphones, MP3 players, and desktop computers.

Headphones used with smartphones
Headphones are used with smartphones | Photo Credit: bruce mars

Then, there is the 2.5mm jack and a headphone jack variant that incorporates the USB connection design. You will also find audio jacks such as RCA and MIDI cables that are used on a variety of stereo equipment. With these types of audio jacks, it is essential that you plug the right jacks into the correct sockets to ensure it will work properly as well as preventing damage to your sound system.

Now, then. Let us take a closer look at the various types of headphone jacks and their specific uses.

Types Of Headphone Jacks

The 3.5mm Headphone Jack

Apple Lightning to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter
Apple Lightning to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter (Image: Amazon)

The 3.5mm headphone is the type most will be most familiar with. It is the default size used in most smartphone ports as well as other media devices. You will find that most other devices ranging from computer desktops to portable compact disc players use this type of jack size to connect headphones.

While 3.5mm headphone ports are the most commonly utilized size, it is still best to double check whether your device does use a 3.5mm port. Some devices even use a proprietary headphone, which makes buying a replacement a bit of a hassle.

Most of the 3.5mm headphone jacks today come with built-in controls and microphones. These are designed specifically for smartphone use as you can answer incoming and outgoing calls as well as control the volume and skip tracks without the need to whip out your phone from your pocket.

You may also encounter 3.5mm headphone jacks that can only output sound through one speaker, which prevents you from enjoying your music in stereo. If you prefer making the most out of your listening experience, avoid this type of headphone jack.

For safety precautions, it is advisable to dial down the volume of the device before plugging in your headphone jack. There are occasions wherein some headphones will have a jarringly loud audio output compared to others.

The 2.5mm Headphone Jack

Gold Plated Audio Adapter 3.5mm Male to 2.5mm Female Headphone Stereo Jack or Mono for Apple iPhone 3GS 4G 4S 5 Samsung Galaxy S3 S4 Galaxy Note 2 iPad 2 3 4 iPad Mini (2 Pack)
Gold Plated Audio Adapter 3.5mm Male to 2.5mm Female Headphone Stereo Jack (Image: Amazon)

As the name suggests, the 2.5mm is a smaller variety of the standard headphone jack size. This is commonly found used by smaller devices and some smartphones as well. This is pretty much identical to the 3.55mm in all aspects, except for the visible slightly smaller frame.

Most 2.5mm headphone jacks will also come with your standard smartphone integrated built-in controls. The thing about 2.5mm headphone jacks is that devices that use 2.5mm ports have become quite uncommon. The good news here is that there are 3.5mm adapters that you can buy to make sure your 2.5mm headphone jack will remain relevant.

Other Headphone/Audio Jack Types

Different types of jacks are used to connect to specific audio equipment as well. These are:

The RCA Jack

AmazonBasics 3.5mm to 2-Male RCA Adapter Audio Stereo Cable - 4 Feet
AmazonBasics 3.5mm to 2-Male RCA Adapter (Image: Amazon)

This patented audio jack is used to connect media players to a stereo system. It has been around for decades and is still considered an integral element of a quality home audio system and even for professional use. The RCA jack is not a standard fixture in phones as it is impractical to include and is also not usually found in your consumer-grade desktop computers, but can be installed if preferred.

The MIDI Cable

Roland 10ft MIDI Cable, Black series (RMIDI-B10)
Roland 10ft MIDI Cable (Image: Amazon)

This audio cable is not technically a “jack” in a sense. It is primarily used to connect electronic musical instruments like keyboards to the computer or other audio systems. The MIDI cable can be considered as one of the last generation cables as most electronic musical instruments have shifted to using USB cables as its primary method of connecting to a piece of audio equipment.

Certain audio equipment will require specific cables to connect. Make sure to read the manual carefully to know what type of jack will be needed to set up your sound system in order to avoid incompatibility issues in the future. In the instance wherein you have the wrong jack for the input, you can check if an adapter is a viable solution, which is most likely the case.

Wireless Headphones

Mpow 059 Bluetooth Headphones Over Ear, Hi-Fi Stereo Wireless Headset, Foldable, Soft Memory-Protein Earmuffs, w/Built-in Mic Wired Mode PC/Cell Phones/TV
Mpow 059 Bluetooth Headphones Over Ear (Image: Amazon)

Most of the modern-day users prefer wireless connection when it comes to their headphones. This is an excellent alternative if you prefer to avoid tangling issues. Wireless headphones connect to smartphones by using Bluetooth technology; a technology that everyone is familiar with in some form or another.

Bluetooth headphones can be quite convenient for people who mostly listen to their music outside while traveling or doing other physical activities. The main downside to using wireless headphones is that it runs on rechargeable batteries. You might encounter instances where your headphone dies mid travel, leaving you with no way to listen to your music at your discretion.

Straight and Right-Angled Plug

CERRXIAN 90 Degree 6.35mm 3 Pole Male to 3.5mm Female Stereo Headphone Audio Adapter Converter Connector(2-Pack)
CERRXIAN 90 Degree Stereo Headphone (Image: Amazon)

There are also two different varieties of the plug design used by headphone jacks. There is the standard straight plug, and then there is the L-shaped plug. The main difference between the two, besides the appearance, is with their functionality.

The L-shaped is best suited for smartphones and portable devices as it will surely need to endure being twisted and turned almost constantly. The straight plug is best for stationary use as it will be less likely to be put under stress, prolonging its use considerably.

Final Thoughts

Headphone jacks may become less and less prevalent in the future with the advent of wireless headphones, but one cannot deny that it is one of the most reliable methods of connecting headphones to other audio equipment. Its robust and extremely reliable construction will keep it as a staple audio system accessory for decades.

Headphones used for gaming
Headphones are used for gaming, too. | Photo Credit: Jamie McInall

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