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?
The 3.5mm mini stereo jack sockets on your device look will look something like this.
These are on a sound card with 5.1 surround sound, and are colour-coded according to a standard convention.
Blue for line input, pink for microphone input, green for stereo output front speakers, black for stereo output rear speakers and orange for stereo output for centre speaker and subwoofer.
Your device may just have one of these connections, and it may not be colour-coded.
It is also often used for a headphone connection on a small portable device or as a line level stereo audio input/output.
The stereo left and right audio signals are both transmitted through this one 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 and the stereo version will have two.
The example pictured here is a stereo mini jack 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.
The mini jack is used for transmitting analog mono or stereo audio signals. It does not support surround sound or digital audio signals.
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 an HDTV. 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.
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. 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.
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.