Can a headphone jack be used for a microphone

Unless you’ve been paying close attention, each connector on the end of your headset, headphone, or microphone may look the same. If only life was that simple. while they may all look identical, there may be some minor differences.

when you plug what appears to be the same connector into a port, it’s supposed to work. but it’s not like that. some headsets use a single connector and others split into two separate connectors. now it’s getting very confusing?

Reading: Can a headphone jack be used for a microphone

Therefore, I decided to create this guide to give you a better understanding of the 3.5mm jacks that are commonly used for headphones, earphones, and microphones. So let’s jump right into using the headphone jack as a microphone…

multiple types of connectors

Multiple Types of Jacks

To the untrained eye, all 3.5mm jacks look nearly identical. however, for very good reasons, they are not all the same. there are several types of connection, which allow different types of transmissions between devices.

There are three types of the most common connections for 3.5mm audio jacks. they are known as tr, trs and trrs. t means tip, r means ring, and s means sleeve.


You won’t see many ts jacks anymore, as they can only carry a mono signal. although they are still often used in guitar and bass amplifiers. as the name suggests, a ts connector transmits via a connection through the tip and sleeve.

one of the connection points is at the tip of the connector, while the other is further back around the sleeve. think of it as a positive and negative terminal. when you look closely, you’ll notice there are no black rings around this type of connector.

trs connectors

You are probably most familiar with these types of jacks. they are used to transmit a left and right stereo signal between your audio sources. you’ll find these jacks on headphones, earphones, or a separate microphone.

This connector is also found on the headset, which splits into two separate connectors, green for the headset and pink for the microphone.

Looking closely at the jack, you’ll notice two small black rings around the sleeve area. this creates a separate ring, creating a tip, a ring, and a sleeve. the left signal works through the tip and sleeve as a ts connector, and the ring provides a signal for the right channel.

trrs connectors

This is the most common type of connector on modern headphones, earphones and headphones. they can also be found on other devices, such as camcorders, tablets, and other audiovisual devices.

just like the trs connector, a trrs connector also has black rings around the sleeve. only this time, there are black rings, creating two separate sleeve rings. you now have a left channel (tip and sleeve), a right channel (ring one), and a mic channel (ring two). these types of connectors are also capable of sending video signals.

port support

Port Compatibility

See also: How to Decide Between On-Ear vs. Over-Ear Bluetooth Headphones – Rolling Stone

There are always two sides to every story. Since I’ve covered how the different headphone jacks work, now it’s time to cover how the jacks are inserted into each port. not all ports are compatible with all connector types.

Although all 3.5mm plugs can be inserted into a 3.5mm port, that doesn’t mean it will work properly. moreover, sometimes it can even cause damage. I will now cover which headphone jacks are compatible with which type of port.

ts ports

These types of ports present the greatest risk of damage when the wrong type of connector is inserted into them. Since they are designed to only accept a mono signal, having an extra channel or two always creates the possibility of a short circuit.

use only ts connectors with ts ports, and do not insert any connectors that contain black rings around them. if it’s inserted, you’ll still hear audio, but only from one channel or speaker. there is also the possibility of damaging your equipment.

trs ports

Both trs and trrs connectors can be inserted into a trs port, and both types of connectors will provide full stereo audio. however, if you use a headset with a microphone function, you will only hear the audio and the microphone will be disabled.

You should not use a ts connector inside a trs port for the same reasons as just mentioned. Since nothing separates the channels in the connector, there is a risk of shorting out your equipment.

trrs ports

both trs and trrs connectors are compatible with trrs ports; however, the ts sockets once again are not. There is even more chance of shorting out equipment when inserting a TS connector into a TRRS port. this is because there are more channels internally, which could cause problems.

placing a trs connector into a trrs port will still allow stereo audio and poses no risk of damage. If you notice there are no rings on your 3.5mm audio jack, only insert it into a port that you are sure is a TS style.

ports commonly found on pc

newer laptops and desktops will have what is known as a 3.5mm combo port, which is basically just a trrs port. can be used for both headphone and microphone functions. even if there are two ports on newer pc’s, most likely they are both trrs ports.

Older laptops and desktops may have two ports, and probably a green and pink color around them. these will be both trs ports, with the green one set to stereo audio and the pink one set to microphone use.

what if my headphones aren’t compatible?

a common problem they face is using older headsets with newer computers, along with using newer headsets with older computers. you could have a headset with two connectors and only one port on your computer, or a headset with only one connector and two ports on your computer.

When faced with this problem, there are two different types of cheap adapters you can buy that are easy and simple to use. one will convert a single trrs connector to two trs connectors, while the other will convert two trs connectors to a single trrs connector.

koopao – female trrs port to twin male trs jacks

This adapter is for when your headset only has one trrs connector and your computer is equipped with two trrs ports. simply plug your headphones into the female end, and the male ends have color-coded rings for the stereo audio and microphone ports.

ugreen – female trrs port to twin male trs jacks

With the same performance as the koopao adapter, this splitter has some great features. Constructed with double shielding to reduce interference, an aluminum shell, and a nylon braided cable for strength and flexibility.

envel – male trrs jack to twin female trs ports

See also: Jaybird X4 review | TechRadar

When your headset is equipped with two trs connectors and your computer only contains one trrs port, this is the type of adapter you need. Plug each of your headphone’s TRS connectors into the two color-coded female ends. the male end of the adapter can be simply inserted into the trrs port on your computer.

kingtop – male trrs jack to twin female trs ports

Identical in function to the envel adapter, the kingtop also offers some premium features for maximum performance. With 24K gold-plated terminals, durable rubber cable material, and aluminum housings, this adapter is sure to last and perform.

your microphone still doesn’t work on a computer

Your Microphone Still Won’t Work on a PC

You may have gone out and bought one of these adapters, only to be disappointed that there is sound, but the mic still doesn’t work. don’t worry; it is still possible to use the headphone jack as a microphone. it’s probably just the software configuration.

software setup on a windows 10 pc

If you run into this issue when using a Windows 10 laptop or desktop, it can usually be fixed with a few simple steps. the process for how to check windows 10 audio output settings is given below.

  • make sure your headset is connected to your computer.
  • click the [windows] logo in the lower left corner, then click [settings].
  • in the settings window, click [system].
  • after the new window opens, click [sound] in the left sidebar.
  • on the right side of the window, check the dropdown box under [input].
  • make sure [microphone] is selected.
  • by clicking [properties of the device], you can test your microphone and adjust the volume settings.

software setup for apple mac

This same issue can occur when using an apple macbook or imac pc running macos. once again, there is no need to panic as the software will most likely require adjustments. these are the steps for macos.

  • make sure your headset is connected to your computer.
  • in the upper left corner, click the [apple] logo and select [system preferences].
  • when the window opens, locate and click the [sound] icon.
  • once the sound window opens, click the tab at the top labeled [ Input].
  • In the box under the heading [select a device for sound input], your headset should be displayed. make sure it is selected.
  • below the box, you can adjust the input and output levels of the microphone.

more windows 10 settings

There are a couple more options to check if you’re running a windows 10 pc. It’s worth checking that the input device is selected correctly, or you may have some headphone driver issues. I’ve included steps on how to check the settings for both.

select the correct input device

  • click the [windows] icon at the bottom left and then select [control panel].
  • select the [sound] option within the control panel.
  • click the [recording] tab near the top of the sound window.
  • make sure your headphones are selected and have a green check mark.

checking your headphone drivers

  • click the [windows] icon at the bottom left and then select [control panel].
  • select in the control panel window [device manager].
  • then click the small arrow next to [sound, video, and game controllers].
  • in the expanded list, locate your headset and [right-click] on it.
  • click [update driver] and follow the instructions on the screen.

need some quality headphones or earphones?

We’ve reviewed a huge selection over the years, so check out our detailed reviews of the best headsets, best xbox one headsets, best bluetooth headsets for conference calls, best conference call headsets, google and the best pc gaming headset you can buy in 2022.

Also, check out our full reviews of the most comfortable gaming headsets, best gaming headsets, best razer gaming headsets, and best nintendo switch gaming headsets currently available.

You may also be interested in our helpful guides on how to fix a loose headphone jack, how to use single-jack headphones on a pc without a splitter, how to use two or more headphones on a pc or mac, how to connect your headphones to games and how to fix headphones when only one side works for more useful information.

using the headphone jack as a microphone: final thoughts

You should now be armed with a better understanding of the different types of 3.5mm audio jacks and ports. this will make it much easier to resolve any issues that arise, as you can now identify the key differences.

Even if you need to purchase an adapter, there are many high-quality, affordable options available. I would highly recommend the ones listed in this guide. Hopefully, it was as simple as adjusting a few settings on your computer.

enjoy your new knowledge; you never know when it might come in handy in the future.

Until next time, happy to hear.

See also: Jabra Elite Active 75t review | Tom’s Guide

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