A mini stereo jack connection is found on many AV devices.
You will be very familiar with this connection type on plenty of the devices that you own – especially headphone connections on mobile devices and computer sound cards.
In some circumstances, it can be a useful option for getting audio from A to B.
But, it is not a connection type that you would use for most of your home theater connections.
So what is it for, and when would you use it?
What Does a Mini Stereo Jack Connection Look Like?
The 3.5mm mini stereo jack sockets on your device look will look something like this.
These examples are on a computer motherboard 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.
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?
The 3.5mm cable connector 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 above 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 it with a stereo output connection. For example, for the stereo outputs on the sound card pictured above.
Another good example is the jack connection for headphones.
Headphones will have the stereo jack because your headphones are stereo – left and right channel.
At least I hope they are. If not, you’ve been sold a pup, my friend.
Just so that you can understand the difference, here is a mono mini-jack connector:
Notice it has the single black ring. This is the quickest way to identify a mono or stereo connector.
The mono version will only transmit a single channel signal.
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.
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.
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:
- 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 sizes of analog audio connectors.
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.