How Do Headphone Jacks Work

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Understanding the functioning of headphone jacks


If we go by popularity of smartphone, it can easily be said this is the most revolutionary product in recent times as it making life easier and simpler. The multiplicity of utility makes it a necessary part of your life. One most important part is the headphone that helps you enhance your sound experience. Your headphone and quality of music, however, is dependent on the headphone jack. So, it is important to know how do headphone jacks work.


To understand the functioning of the headphone jack, we have to understand the basic structure and technology in play. In simple words, your headphone is nothing but a loop of wire connected via jack to get the desired current. The current in the wire interacts with the magnet and creates an air pulse which is sound to your year. The jack helps you connect with the current source of your smartphone and complete the circuit to get the desired sound output.


Looks so simple, but your jack is complicated in terms of design and circuit.  Jack, aka connector, helps your device transfer signal to headphone and vice versa. Even a small problem in jack can spoil your whole musical experience. Let us understand how do headphone jack work.


  • The headphone jack is made of three parts called Tip, Ring and Sleeve. Accordingly in tech terminology it is called the TRS connector. Depending on the diameter, these jacks are classified as 2.5 mm, 3.5 mm and 6.35 mm jack.
  • If you jack has four parts namely Tip, Ring, Ring and Sleeve then it is called TRRS and if it has two parts then it is just a TS connector.
  • Your smartphone has normally has TRRS connector as the fourth part is used for transferring video signals or output of the microphone.
  • If you unlock the rubber or plastic casing, your TRS jack will have three wires one for ground and rest two for left and right ear pieces. Each ear piece again has two wires one is ground and other to carry signal.
  • The Tip wire is for left ear and Ring wire for right ear piece and the Sleeve act as ground.
  • Your jack has three metallic parts inside it but all are insulated to avoid contact.
  • If you notice the jack pin, you will see that it has thin rod in center, then a plastic layer and then a hollow metallic cylindrical pipe. The diameter of the pipe varies from bottom to top.
  • The part with large diameter forms the ring and the other end with smaller diameter is covered with second plastic layer. Above this layer there is another metallic cylindrical pipe of uniform diameter. This part is called the sleeve.


Isn’t it complicated with multilayered structure? This simple looking tiny part at the end of your headphone cable decides the quality of sound you will get. So, it is better to be little cautious while dealing with your jack as little mishandling could spoil your sound experience. Hope this will help you get the answer for how do headphone jack work.

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Hi, I'm Red, the Chief Editor of Red Diamond Audio.