¼ Inch Audio Cable: Everything You Need to Know About it

About ¼ Inch Audio Cable, With the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack, wireless audio has gradually dominated the single-user market. However, there are several applications where using an audio cable to transmit audio signals is inevitable. 

Whether you use them in a simple home recording studio, a professional setup, or your surround sound home theatre system, audio cables are a crucial element of the recording and playback industry. 

Getting started using a jack plug and don’t understand different types and how they work? This handy guide provides a detailed overview of one of the popular audio cables: ¼ inch.

¼ Inch Understanding

The ¼ inch cable has been with us for more than a century- since 1878. People mainly call it a “phone plug” since it was originally used to conveniently switch telephone lines at central stations. You must have heard people refer to them as either headphone jacks,  jack connectors, microphone jacks, or audio jacks.

Today, people use the ¼ inch cable for analog audio signals. If you have professional audio gear, such as an electric guitar, amplifiers on stage, digital piano, mixer, or speaker, take a close look at it. You’ll notice that it has a ¼” port.

Take another look at your phone’s docking port. Note that the port is cylindrical and has a grooved tip to keep it in place. Generally, there can’t be a connection unless the male jack connector fits into the female-balanced or unbalanced phone jacks.

The ¼” inch connector is an advanced version of the 3.5mm connector. If you measure the cable in millimeters, it has a diameter of 6.35mm (¼ inch). Experts consider it the standard in the world of audio connections. On the other hand, the mini-connector measures 3.5 mm in diameter (0.14 inches).

¼” TS Connectors

Types of 1/4″ Connector

The 6.35 mm connectors take two main types: 

In a TRS, the wiring is as follows:

  • Tip: It is the contact for positive.
  • Ring: It is the contact for negative.
  • Sleeve: It is the contact for the ground signal.

On the other hand, TS has two contact points. The wiring is as follows:

  • Tip: It is the contact for positive.
  • Sleeve: It is the contact for the ground contact.

¼” TS Connectors

Like 3.5mm TS connectors, ¼ inch TS connectors have two main parts: The sleeve and tip. They only transmit unbalanced mono audio signals since they contain only one transmission channel.

People use it in most consumer applications and portable media players, including laptops, smartphones, and mp3 players. Also, you can find ¼” TS ports in many other mixing consoles, audio interfaces, and integrated amps. The TS connector is the best option if you want a connector for an instrument that outputs a mono signal. 

A TS cable has various benefits. For instance, it is longer and easier to use when playing musical instruments in a concert venue. Also, it is easy to connect amplifiers on stage. Nonetheless, the cable shouldn’t be too long to prevent noise and ensure high-quality connector signals.

¼” TRS Connectors

Unlike the TS connector, which has 2 contact points, a TRS cable has 3 contact points: The sleeve, ring, and tip. This extra contact makes a huge difference. It enables the cable to output a stereo or balanced audio signal. 

While the ring has a negative wire, the tip has a positive. These wires gather any interference and noise when an audio signal passes through. The opposite polarities help cancel the noise when using stereo headphones.

You can use the connector with any host device that requires balanced connections or stereo headphones. Also, you can use this American headset jack with both stereo and mono signals. 

¼” jack wiring

Generally, a standard ¼” jack wiring comprises two conductors carrying monophonic signals, i.e., a single channel. For example, a single pickup on any musical instrument. However, a TRS connection has an extra conductor, which enables a solo cable to carry double sound signals. 

¼” Mono Plug Wiring Diagram 

As mentioned above, TS wiring has two contact points.

  1. Tip: positive or hot audio signal conductor.
  2. Sleeve: ground or negative sound conductor.

Ring “i” is present between the Tip and Sleeve, whose main purpose is isolation. Hence, the two conductors do not come in contact. 

The mono plug is best for transmitting an unbalanced mono sound signal, as only a single transmission channel is present. It is simple yet effective and applies to basses, kajillion guitars, on-stage amplifiers, and other musical instruments.

¼” Stereo Jack Wiring Diagram

TRS wiring is built based on TS wiring by adding another isolating ring between the tip and sleeve, allowing the single cable to transfer two channels. 

  1. Tip: it conducts hot channel 1 or a positive contact.
  2. Ring: it conducts hot channel 2 or a negative contact.
  3. Sleeve: it is ground contact, receiving signals from both channels.

You may think stereo is a pair of the same signal, but in fact, the left and right versions are two different pickups, a microphone and a pickup.

We take advantage of the stereo with certain preamps and bass pickup sets. The TRS plug is the same design as the one found on stereo headphones for iPods, smartphones, or other personal listening devices. Stereo headphone jacks work exactly the same way but usually use a smaller 1/8-inch or 3mm jack/plug.

Can a ¼” Stereo Jack be wired as a Mono?

As the ¼” stereo jack wiring has 3 contacts and the mono plug has 2 contacts, it is possible to wire a stereo jack as mono. Thus, omit the third contact (ring) present in stereo, and the other two contacts, i.e., Tip and Sleeve, are wired together just like that present in mono.

After cutting the cable, there are mainly three wiring ways:

  • Wrapping of the copper wire sheath over two insulated sound signal cables.
  • Separate insulated wires have their own signal cable and ground cable.
  • A single cable has a separate insulated wire for left, right, and ground sound.

The approach toward the pins depends on the plug type. After identifying the wires, solder them to the correct input channels.

For converting stereo into mono, the wires from the left and right sound channels are joined.

¼” TRS Connectors

¼” TRS Connectors

How 1/4″ Audio Cables Work

You can better understand how the ¼” plug works by looking at the connector segments.

¼” TS Plug as Unbalanced Instrument

This plug has two contact points: The sleeve and the tip. The two points function as follows:

Sleeve= Shield (-)

Tip= Hot (+)

¼” TS Plug as Speaker

It also has two contact points: The sleeve and the Tip. They function as follows:

Sleeve = Cold (-)

Tip = Hot (+)

¼” TRS Plug as Unbalanced Stereo

It has three contact points: The sleeve, Ring, and Tips. These points function as follows:

Sleeve = Shield (-)

Ring = Right (+)

Tip = Left (+)

¼” TRS Plug as Unbalanced Insert

It has a sleeve, ring, and tip. These three contact points function as follows:

Sleeve = Shield (-)

Ring = Return (+)

Tip = Send (+)

¼” TRS Plug as Balanced Mono

It has three contact points that function as follows:

Sleeve = Shield (ground)

Ring = Cold (-)

Tip = Hot (+)

Pay attention to the output and input 

Pay attention to the output and input. 

Which ¼” Jack Wiring to use?

The input of the plug into the wrong gear will result in noise and many other sound system aberrations. Luckily, it is not complicated to know which plug to use by understanding the expectations of INPUT and your OUTPUT delivery.

Cable TypesWiring Configuration
MICROPHONE CORDS BALANCEXLR to JACK STEREO JACK SLEEVE to PIN 1: GROUND/SHIELDJACK TIP to PIN 2: +HOTJACK RING to PIN 3: -COLD
MICROPHONE CORDS UNBALANCEDXLR to JACK MONOJACK SLEEVE to PIN 1: GROUND/SHIELDJACK TIP to PIN 2: +HOTJACK SLEEVE to PIN 3: GROUND/SHIELD
JACK CORDS BALANCED/STEREOJACK STEREO to JACK STEREO JACK SLEEVE to JACK SLEEVE: GROUND/SHIELDJACK TIP to JACK TIP: +HOT/HOT LEFTJACK RING to JACK RING: -COLD/ COLD RIGHT
JACK CORDS UNBALANCED/MONOJACK MONO to JACK MONOJACK SLEEVE to JACK SLEEVE: GROUND/ SHIELDJACK TIP to JACK TIP: +HOT
ADAPTER CORDS UNBALANCED/MONOJACK MONO TO RCARCA TIP to JACK SLEEVE: GROUND/SHIELDRCA TIP to JACK TIP: +HOT
INSERT/STEREO CORDS UNBALANCEDJACK STEREO to 2 x XLRPIN 1 to JACK SLEEVE +3: GROUND/SHIELDPIN 2 (XLR1) to JACK TIP: +HOT SEND/LEFTPIN 2 (XLR2) to JACK RING: +HOT RETURN/RIGHT
INSERT/STEREO CORDS UNBALANCEDJACK STEREO to 2 x JACK MONOJACK SLEEVE to JACK SLEEVE: GROUND/SHIELDJACK TIP to JACK 1: +HOT SEND/LEFTJACK RING to JACK 2: +HOT RETURN/RIGHT
INSERT/STEREO CORD UNBALANCEDJACK STEREO to 2 x RCARCA SLEEVE TO JACK SLEEVE: GROUND/SHIELDJACK TIP TO RCA 1: +HOT SEND/LEFTJACK RING TO RCA 2: +HOT RETURN/RIGHT
Choose the connector according to your needs

Choose the connector according to your needs

FAQs

What is the use of XLR to ¼” jack wiring?

Balanced XLR cables are fabricated to transform a balanced XLR output to a balanced ¼ inch TRS input.

These signal cables are in active speakers and studio sound applications. Moreover, they are also applicable for carrying the sound signals to the speaker from the mixer.

How can you wire an XLR cable to a ¼ inch jack plug? 

If you want to wire an XLR to ¼” stereo jack wiring or TRS, the connection is through a sleeve and pin-1 association.

However, the link of the shield should be with the ground from both or at least one end.  If you connect the shield with the TRS plug sleeve, then there is no need to connect it to the XLR shell.

But if you do not ground it, then it may be possible that it works as an antenna and may lead to noise pickup growth.

The common way of connecting a 3-pin XLR to an ¼ inch stereo jack plug gives you a balanced mono audio cable.

  • ¼ inch plug sleeve to XLR pin-1
  • ¼ inch plug tip to XLR pin-2 
  • 1/4 inch plug ring to XLR pin 3

Moreover, if the connection is from XLR to TS, the low side of the connection is the shield and should be linked with a sleeve of 1 ⁄ 4 ” plug and pin-3 and mostly with XLR pin-1 to complete the circuit.

The Most standard way of this connection is to join the shield and negative together.

It can be easily done by soldering the shield and negative wires of the XLR to the plug sleeve or soldering a jumper on the XLR. Either way gives you an unbalanced audio cable.

Choose the connector according to your needs

Conclusion

The ¼” connector is currently the standard music industry audio plug. You can use it with some microphone cables and musical instrument cables. On the other hand, the 3.5mm connector is an inferior and mini-sized version of the ¼-inch plug. You can use it in various consumer applications and portable media players. If you buy a cable fitted with a ¼ inch connector, you’ll enjoy enhanced signal clarity, a lifetime of usage, and ease of replacement.

Nonetheless, buy the connector that works for you and your unique situation. Regardless of the kind you prefer, contact Cloom for various audio cable options. We also provide help with cable assemblies.

Hey, I am John, General manager of Cloom and OurPCB.

I am a responsible, intelligent and experienced business professional with an extensive background in the electronics industry.

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