3.5mm Mini Stereo Jack Cable and Connection

3.5mm Mini Stereo Jack Cable and Connection
Updated: September 04, 2019

A mini stereo jack connection is found on many AV devices, and in some circumstances it can be a useful option.

But what is it for, and when should we use it?

What Does a Mini Stereo Jack Connection Look Like?

Mini stereo jack connections on a graphics card

The 3.5mm mini stereo jack sockets on your device look will look something like this.

These examples are on a sound card with 5.1 surround sound. They are color-coded according to a standard convention:

  • Blue - Stereo Line In
  • Pink - Microphone In
  • Green - Line Out / Front Left & Right Speakers / Headphones
  • Black - Surround Left & Right Speakers
  • Orange - Center Speaker & Subwoofer

Your device may not have all of these connections, and it may not be color-coded.

A single 3.5mm stereo jack is often used for a headphone connection on a small portable device - such as a mobile phone or media player.

Or, as a line-level stereo audio input/output on a device like a TV - although, these days, a stereo output on a TV is more likely to be an optical connection.

Analog mini stereo jack input on the rear of a TV

The picture above shows a mini jack input on the rear of a TV.

In this example, it is used for receiving stereo audio from a PC or laptop. So you can hear any audio from the PC on the TV speakers.

But, it could also be used for any device that has this type of stereo audio output.

The stereo left and right audio signals are both transmitted through this single connection.

What Does the Mini Jack Cable Look Like?

Stereo mini jack cable connection

The 3.5mm cable looks like this.

It can either be a mono or a stereo version. The mono version will have one ring on the barrel of the jack itself - and the stereo version will have two.

The example pictured here is a stereo mini jack cable as it has two rings to separate the left and right channels in the cable.

You would need one of these if you wanted to use with a stereo output connection. For example, the stereo outputs on the sound card pictured above.

What Does a 3.5mm Mini Jack Do?

The mini jack is used for transmitting analog mono or stereo audio signals.

It does not support surround sound (unless used in multiple pairs like in the sound card example above) or digital audio signals.

When Should I use a Mini Stereo Connection?

A mini stereo jack is often used as an alternative analog stereo connection to the more common phono connector.

If you have the option of using digital audio connections like an HDMI connector, coaxial digital audio and optical digital audio, then you would usually transfer the audio with these.

However, where it is provided, a mini jack connection is often your only way of hearing the audio.

It is also common to find different analog stereo connections on the back of a TV.

So you may get a 3.5mm mini jack audio input for the VGA connector, but a stereo RCA plug for the component video cable input.

What Else Can You Tell Me About a Mini Jack?

You will find this type of analog stereo connection on many consumer devices.

It is more likely to be found on small devices with limited space, and is also very common as the line-level output on computer sound cards and monitors.

It is also commonly used for connecting headphones.

This connection type can be known by a number of different names:

  • Mini jack
  • Headphone plug
  • 3.5mm jack
  • Mini-stereo plug
  • Mini-TRS jack
  • ... and many more

'TRS' stands for Tip, Ring, Sleeve. This term refers to the design of the connector and the way the cable is connected to it.

It is a common design for different types and size of analog audio connectors.


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About Home Cinema Guide

Paul started the Home Cinema Guide to help less-experienced users get the most out of today's audio-visual technology. He has worked as a sound, lighting and audio-visual engineer for around 20 years. At home, he has spent more time than is probably healthy installing, configuring, testing, de-rigging, fixing, tweaking, re-installing again (and sometimes using) various pieces of hi-fi and home cinema equipment.


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