Are Headphones Input Or Output Devices? (Answered!)

Are headphones input or output devices? Headphones are transducers that generate sound as they receive audio signals and are often used in conjunction with computers ( laptops, smartphones, etc.) ).

To fully understand headphones, we must first understand the flow of the audio signal in terms of inputs and outputs, as well as the definitions of input and output devices in computer systems.

Reading: Is a headphone an input device

are headphones considered input or output devices? when the headset is connected to a computer (laptop, smartphone, etc.), it receives data from the computer.

This means that headphones are a type of output device. According to the computer, headphones with built-in microphones are input and output devices. In this article, we’ll go over the full definitions of input and output devices, as well as discuss the role of headphones in the context of a computer system.

Are Headphones Input Or Output Devices?

Are Headphones Input Or Output Devices?


A microphone is an input device. This means that it “receives” audio information and sends (or inputs) it to its receiving device.

It could be your computer, phone, or someone else’s device. when you use a headset, you are using an input/output device as it can receive and play audio.

what are input and output devices?

input device and output device are computing terms. An input device is a device that inputs data into a computer for processing. An output device, on the other hand, is defined as receiving and reproducing information from a computer.

Headphones receive data from computers (think smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc.) and are therefore output devices.

It’s worth noting that, by definition, headphone transducers are analog devices. as a result, a digital-to-analog converter must be installed between the computer and the headphones in order for the headphones to reproduce the computer’s output data.

what is the difference between an input and output device?

the function of an input and output device distinguishes them. input devices receive and transmit data to a processing device. the captured audio can be interpreted and played by output devices. Most general-purpose devices, like a phone or laptop, now have I/O capabilities, while specialized equipment focuses on a single function.

Consider this: An input device receives “in” information and sends it to a renderer, which then sends it to an output device, which “ejects” the audio by playing the rendered information.

Input devices are only designed to accept information/audio/data, while output devices can only reproduce that information. if you have a dedicated input device, such as a recording microphone, you won’t be able to send the data it receives.

that would require the use of a separate device. if you have a dedicated output device, such as a large set of speakers, it will only output the audio it receives. however, there are devices that can receive and produce input. these are commonly known as I/O (input/output) devices.

Two of the most common I/O devices on the market are your computer and your phone. There are also numerous applications that have made I/O conversion simple and extremely useful, such as text-to-speech software.

When you speak, the computer receives the audio through its input microphones and converts the processed data into text using software.

Other features of I/O devices include:

  • receive an email and send it to the printer for printing.
  • press the keys on the keyboard and see the text appear on the screen.
  • When you take a photo with your phone, the camera serves as the input device and the phone screen serves as the output device. the list goes on and on.

Input Or Output

Input Or Output

Examples Of Input Devices:

the actual input device is a piece of hardware. the hardware input device receives data from an external source and has the ability to process and send that data to another device.

This external input is sent to the internal processor and converted to raw data. this data must be sent to an external processor before it can be interpreted by an output device.

The most common examples of input devices are:

  • the computer mouse: To generate spatial data, the computer depends on the user moving the mouse. because the mouse cannot move on its own, it is an input device.
  • the keyboard: The keyboard accepts user input (which keys you press) and sends it to the computer for processing and output. cannot receive or process information.
  • the webcam : The webcam receives images and sends them to the computer. the webcam can’t output anything like a projector, and a projector can’t output sound unless it has built-in speakers; however, it is preferable to use external speakers; see my other post on how to connect a bluetooth speaker to a projector for more information.
  • the microphone: External sound is an input source that the microphone receives and processes. the computer then interprets the data and saves it as a file or sends it to an output device.

Examples of output devices:

Output devices are pieces of hardware that have the ability to output information in a form that we can interpret.

The output can be in the form of text, images or audio. receives data from a source and can display or replicate that data in the form it was originally received.

See also: Is a Microphone Input or Output? – Audio MAV

The most common examples of output devices are:

  • your computer monitor: Your display receives data from your computer and then displays it on the screen as text, images, or video. it cannot receive raw external data or transfer data.
  • a projector is a device that can display data visually when it receives it from a computer. it cannot accept external data or send data to another device.
  • speakers: When the speakers receive audio data, they can interpret it and convert it into sound. it cannot receive sound like a microphone, and instead simply outputs what it receives from the audio device.
  • Headphones: Like speakers, headphones receive audio data and convert it to sound. your headphone speakers cannot receive raw sound from the outside world and transmit it to your computer. To do this, you’ll need to add an input device to your headset, such as a microphone.

alternate video: input or output devices?

Also read:

  • can headphones dent your head? (answered)
  • can you use bluetooth on a plane? read more
  • how to pair skullcandy headphones? (solved!)

why are microphones considered input devices?

The main function of a microphone is to convert sound waves into electrical signals using an acoustic-to-electric transducer. these electrical signals are then converted into digital audio data and sent (or input) to a computer.

A microphone must be able to capture and send audio signals to a computer to be considered an input device (or phone, or any other device).

This is typically achieved by converting analog audio signals (AC voltage) into digital data that is compatible with your computer. There are several methods of connecting microphones to a computer that will allow analog to digital conversion. each method has advantages and disadvantages:

  • Digital Microphone: Better known as a USB microphone, digital microphones have built-in ADCs and convert sound into digital data directly. the usb connection connects directly to the computer.

one of the most popular examples of a usb microphone on the market has to be the blue yeti (amazon link). most people, myself included, use it as a microphone for conference calls, a home recording studio, think podcasts, and even gaming thanks to its supreme sound quality.

headphone input and output as transducers

Headphones, as stated above, are energy transducers. they do this by converting analog audio signals (electrical energy) into sound waves (mechanical wave energy). headphones “in” audio signals and “output” sound this way.

So headphones are output devices relative to the computer, which is the most accurate answer to the question “are headphones input or output devices?” ”

However, if we use the headphones as a reference point, we can see that both the input and output power. Drivers are used in the earphones to convert power. these are typically dynamic (moving coil) drivers that work via electromagnetic induction.

The electrical audio signal (an alternating current voltage) travels through a conducting coil attached to a moving diaphragm and is surrounded by a magnetic field. the magnetic field causes the signal to move as it flows through the coil due to electromagnetic induction.

This causes the diaphragm to move, which generates sound waves emitted from the headphones. there are two different signals in stereo headphones.

A left channel signal is sent to the left headphone driver, while a right channel signal is sent to the right headphone driver.

reverse order: headphones as microphones

Moving coil headphone drivers are essentially wired in the same way as speakers, but have a smaller design. dynamic headphone and speaker drivers are wired the same way as dynamic moving coil microphones, except the signal flows in the reverse direction.

As stated above, headphones receive audio signals and convert them to sound through a moving diaphragm. microphones, on the other hand, have diaphragms that move in response to sound waves.



These diaphragms have a conductive coil attached to them that moves with the diaphragm in a magnetic field. The movement of the dynamic microphone diaphragm causes a changing magnetic field in the coil, which induces an electrical AC signal across it.

This signal is essentially the microphone signal. computers and input devices use microphones. however, similar to headphones, if we look at the microphone, we can see that it has an input (acoustic waves) and an output (electrical signals).

As a result,it stands to reason that a microphone could be configured and connected in reverseto work as a speakerphone or a headset.

Similarly, a headset could be configured and plugged in backwards to function as a microphone. Of course, these devices are not designed to work in reverse, so they would be useless. however, due to the way they are designed, they can be used upside down.

digital to analog converters

Headphones are transducers that use analog audio to power their elements and generate sound waves. computers, on the other hand, are digital devices that use digital audio instead of analog audio.

As a result, in order to properly use headphones as an output device, we must first convert the digital audio from the computer to analog audio. a digital-to-analog converter, or dac, is used for this.

Fortunately, our computers have built-in sound cards that work like dacs. That’s why we can plug our headphones into the headphone jacks on our smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other devices and listen to the audio that the computer is playing.

See also: 50 Fun and Interesting Things to Say for The Whisper Challenge

Suppose our smartphone lacks a headphone jack (as was the case with Apple’s iPhone 7 in 2016), and we connect our lightning headphones (Amazon pricing link) via the lightning connector. the lightning connector is digital, while the headphones are analog.

as a result, a dac sits immediately after the lightning connector on the earpiece. Likewise, Lightning or USB to 3.5mm (or other analog connection) adapters are not supported. for the adapter to work properly, a digital to analog converter is required.

other dacs, on the other hand, can produce better results than integrated sound cards and consumer headphones. these dacs are available in professional audio interfaces.

An audio interface is any device that connects a computer to audio devices. These audio devices, which include inherently analog devices such as headphones, monitors, microphones, and instruments, can be either input or output devices.

These audio interface I/O have better sound quality and more versatility than a computer’s built-in sound card.

can a device have input and output at the same time?

Until now, we’ve discussed input and output devices separately, and rightly so, because they are, for the most part, distinct. a device can be both an input device and an output device, but can it be both at the same time? yes, the answer is yes.

input/output devices

To perform both functions, a device must be able to receive raw data from an external source or other device (input) and send data.

here are some examples of input/output devices we use every day:

  • the usb flash drive: capable of receiving, saving and transferring data, the usb flash drive is the perfect example. when it receives data, it is an input device and when we retrieve data, it becomes an output device.
  • a rewritable cd or dvd drive: we can easily send data to these devices and get it back again.

Headphones: Input or Output?

Headphones: Input or Output?


so if cds and usb flash drives can have input and output at the same time, where does that leave something like a headset with a built in microphone?

Headphones designed to listen to audio are examples of output devices. however, when you add a microphone, it becomes an input device. that is, it can both input and output data. while the speakers and microphone are separate, the dual functionality is tied to a single device.

So while the first headphones began with humble beginnings as output-only devices, modern developments have given us headphones that can now receive input and deliver an output. usually the output will be alternate audio signals (like when you’re chatting with a friend or playing an online game with chat).

Are headphones without a built-in microphone input or output devices?

so do headphones without a built-in mic have any input functionality? just think about it, we’ve all had those stinky airplane headphones and, yes, I did consider using them the first time I flew (don’t judge me).

However, you quickly realize that 1) the connector is weird and 2) you can’t use them to chat because they lack input functionality. a pair of headphones without a microphone is just an output device.

Theyreceive audio signals from a computer and send them to your ears. They are not designed to accept external inputs and convert them into electrical signals.

However, there is a trick you could use to turn your speakers (headphone speakers can be a bit tricky, but who knows) into a microphone; however, don’t try this with your best speakers.

can I use a speaker as a microphone?

It is technically possible to turn your speakers into a microphone. It’s not for the technically challenged, but if you’ve got a couple of old speakers and want to mess around, why not give it a try? Consider the following to get an idea of ​​how this works:

To produce sound, your speakers have a cone that vibrates. it is analogous to the diaphragm of the microphone, which vibrates when it receives sound and converts those vibrations into electrical signals. you can make a speaker microphone that receives external audio by reversing the function of the speaker cone.

You might be wondering how the heck that would work. Actually, it is quite simple. Although the speakers and microphones appear to be very different (all in an effort to capture and produce great sound), the inner workings (along with a bit of trickery in the wiring) can produce the same results.

if you’re dying to try it, follow these instructions:

what you’ll need to use a speaker as a microphone:

  • an old microphone (broken is fine)
  • a wire cutter
  • tape isolator
  • an amplifier (working)
  • a loudspeaker

step by step guide on how to use a speaker as a microphone:

  • start by removing the microphone from the cable; you just need the cable with the output connector on the other end.
  • strip the cable a bit to expose the wires. you will notice three internal wires.
  • remove the protective jacket from the red and black wires (about half an inch is fine).remove the electrical tape from the white wire , since you won’t need it.
  • Take the speaker out of the protective box.
  • On the speaker, there are two pins: the left one is usually the positive terminal, and the right one is usually the negative terminal.
  • connect the red wire to the positive terminal with pliers, and the black wire to the negative terminal.
  • connect your output jack to the amp and try out your new microphone!

conclusion: is it output or input?

Microphones are input devices. receive external sound and convert it into electrical signals that can be sent through a computer to an output device. the output device can either play that sound or convert it to something else, like text.

See also: Best Headphones for Smartphones of 2022 | VentureBeat

Why Are Headphones Considered Input Device?

Why Are Headphones Considered Input Device?

FAQs About Microphone Output and Input

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