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