4 Pole VS 3 Pole Headphone Jack | All you need to know

It can be pretty confusing to someone who wants to know how to get the best listening experience from their wired headphones and is sometimes made worse by users’ perplexity around the definitions of “plug” and “jack.” Not to worry, I’m here to help. You will learn the difference between 4 Pole vs 3 Pole Headphone Jack.

This article will cover all aspects of headphone jacks and plugs, including how to identify and work. Moreover, you will know the details of the connectivity of the 5 pole plug to the 3.5 mm jack later in the article. 

What are headphone plug conductors, and why do they matter?

Conductors are the contact points between the plug and the jack which close the circuit. All headphone plugs, regardless of their size, have conductors. Some plugs have only two conductors, while others have as many as five.

  • Tip (T)
  • Ring (R)
  • Sleeve (S)

All headphone plugs have a tip and sleeve. What differentiates each plug is the number of rings. For instance, plugs with one ring are 3-conductor plugs, while those with no rings are 2-conductor plugs. The terminology for these different combinations is as follows:

  • TS (Tip-Sleeve): 2 conductors or poles
  • TRS (Tip-Ring-Sleeve): 3 conductors or poles
  • TRRS (Tip-Ring-Ring-Sleeve): 4 conductors or poles
  • TRRRS (Tip-Ring-Ring-Ring-Sleeve): 5 conductors or poles. It is the number of rings that differentiates them. 

What is a 3-pole jack? 

The 3-pole jack is the most versatile. The three poles are the three separate electrical connections it allows: the tip, ring, and sleeve. The principal use of the 3-pole jack is as a stereo connector. 3-pole means that the device plug is earthed in three pins; two are used to transfer the current, and one is used for personal protection.

Available Connectors:

Tip, sleeve, and one ring connector with two insulating bands.

Connectors’ Connection:

Pin Unbalanced Mono Balanced Mono Unbalanced Stereo

  1. Ground Ground Ground
  2. Optional (mic, etc.) Signal – (Cold) Right audio channel
  3. Signal Signal + (Hot) Left audio channel

Common Usage: These are the most common jack connectors, and I often see them on the end of most stock headphone cables.

What are the 3 wires in an AUX cable?

There are three wires in an AUX cable that are: a ground cable (usually black or a shielded wire), a right signal cable (usually red), and a left signal cable (usually white or yellow).

Also Read: How to Turn Off Headphone Mode on Android? 5 Easy Steps 

What is a 4 pole jack?

A 4-pole 3.5 mm stereo (trrs) mini jack is used as a regular audio cable. I use it to enable microphone input from headphones. For example, the M-1 compatible devices, such as most smartphones or the OP-Z. 4 Pole cables, have ground left and right audio like a standard stereo cable but also have a common connection for microphones or videos. Available Connectors: Tip, sleeve, and two ring connectors with three insulating bands.

Connectors’ Connection:

Pin Function

  1. Microphone
  2. Ground
  3. Right audio channel
  4. Left audio channel

The above connection configuration follows the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) standards. Such a connection format is also called the CTIA TRRS jack connector format.

In addition to transmitting stereo audio signals, the TRRS plug also has a dedicated conductor for a microphone. As such, it’s a popular choice for many new mobile devices requiring support for a microphone and stereo audio connection simultaneously.

Common Usage: Modern smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, and some laptops.

What are the 4 wires in earphones?

Most audio cables and headphones have three or four wires running through them: a red one, a green/blue one, and a bare/copper one. If there are four, odds are there are two bare/copper ones. The red is the right channel, the green or blue is the left channel, and the bare wire is the ground.

Will 3 poles work with 4 poles?

Like a 4-pole pair of cheap earbuds with an in-line mic will work in an audio-only 3-pole port (i.e., headphone port on a computer), while any 3-pole headphones or earbuds will work in a 4-pole compatible port (i.e., headphone port on your smartphone).

What is the difference between TRS and TRRS?

A TRS is often thought of as stereo, as the addition of the ring gives us two contacts allowing us left and right audio channels. Finally, a TRRS cable is usually going to include both a left and right channel as well as a microphone channel.

Is TRRS the same as aux?

Aux input connectors are nearly always 3.5mm unbalanced TRS that can accept TRRS. Aux outputs can be either balanced mono or unbalanced stereo. Aux sends line outputs sometimes have a single TRS connector which can be wired as balanced mono (rare) or unbalanced stereo (common).

Is the headphone jack TRS or TRRS?

Most mobile devices with a headphone jack use the TRRS standard. Today, these “phone connectors” come in three common configurations: Tip/Sleeve (TS), Tip/Ring/Sleeve (TRS), and Tip/Ring/Ring/Sleeve (TRRS).

What is a 2.5 mm jack used for?

The smaller 2.5 mm size is often used to connect headsets to landline phones, lightweight two-way radios, and video cameras. Those need to put a microphone into the headset and audio, which is why there’s sometimes an extra stripe.

Can a 5-pole plug be connected to a 3.5mm jack?

No, in the 5-pole version, the 2 poles are identical. They are connected inside the jack. And the 3.5mm jack only accepts 3 pole male plugs. 

Can a 3.5mm jack be used as a power source?

A decade later, Sony’s mobile phone line has figured out how to make the 3.5mm jack the power source, taking out all the weight and using the phone for its sensors more/less. So a 3.5mm jack can be used as a power source.

Final Thoughts:

Since headphone plugs and jacks are responsible for transmitting audio signals, they can directly affect audio signals and indirectly affect the overall quality of sound. They also 

tell us what the cable is capable or not capable of doing (mic, stereo support, etc.). So in this guide, I thoroughly differentiate the 3 Pole and 4 Pole jack, and in my opinion, the 4 Pole jack is more beneficial to use because it’s the best quality.

Recommended Articles:


Leave a Comment