If you’ve recently purchased a wired headset, it mostly likely has one jack. Before that, most wired headset came with two jacks – one jack dedicated to sound output while the other jack was dedicated to audio input. Most PCs and Macs were also shipped with two audio jacks – one for sound output and the other for audio input or mic. Two jack headsets have been replaced by single jack headsets which are capable of both sound output and audio input.
Before we delve into how to use a headset mic on PC or Mac with one jack, we’ll need to understand how headphone jacks and plugs work and why old headsets had two jacks. This will give us a clear understanding why companies transitioned to single jack headsets.
How headphone plugs and jacks work
At the most basic level, headphone plugs and jacks make it possible to send and receive audio signals from an audio source to the headphones. Headphones have wires with current running through them and in order for audio signals to flow through them, the audio plugs and jacks have conductors which act as connection points to complete the circuit.
All plugs and jacks have at least two conductors. Some jacks have as many as 5 conductors. The number of conductors a jack has determines the functionality it can achieve and also determines the name of the jack. That means that a jack with more conductors can achieve more functions than a jack with less conductors.
As mentioned above, the number of conductors determine the name of a jack. The conductors in a jack are:
We shall briefly look into the different types of headphone jacks and how their functionality defers depending on the number of conductors they have.The most typical headphone jack has two conductors also referred to as TS or 2 conductor plug; a tip and sleeve. The tip transmits the audio signal to the headphones while the sleeve acts as the ground wire.
The 3 conductor plug or TRS; This jack has three conductors namely tip, ring and sleeve. The sleeve acts as the ground wire while the tip and ring are used to transmit audio signals to the headphones. In some jacks, the ring is sometimes used to carry the mic signal.
The 4 conductor plug or TRRS; This jack has 4 conductors, a tip, 2 rings and sleeve. One ring acts as a ground and return wire while the other ring carries the right channel audio signal while the tip carries the left channel audio signal. The sleeve transmits the mic signal.
The 5 conductor plug or TRRRS; This jack has 5 conductors, a tip, 3 rings and a sleeve. This type of headphone jacks carries balanced stereo audio.
To learn more about headphone plugs and sizes, check out our in depth guide.
How headphones work
Simply put, headphones are circuits which send and receive audio signals from the audio source which also serves as the battery for the headphones to the ear speakers. Headphones are loaded with transducers which are then able to convert the audio signals from the source device to sound which we can understand and perceive.
The conductors completes the connection between the audio source and earphones, making the circuit complete to send and receive audio signals. In instances where a headphone has a microphone, a fourth conductor is introduced in the headphone jack which powers the microphone when the connection between the plug and jack is made.
Why old headsets had two jacks
The jacks on the old headsets with two jacks had the TRS setup. That means that the jacks had three conductors. As earlier explained above, three conductor plugs can only be used for sound input or output. They are unable to do both at the same time. This is because the TRS setup is able to carry two signals, left and right signals for the headphones. The sleeve acts as a ground while the tip and ring carry the signals. Before most companies adapted the TRRS setup which can achieve both sound input and output, most companies used the TRS setup in their devices and this meant that one plug was to be used for sound output while the other was for sound input. This is the reason why old headsets had two jacks – one was dedicated for sound input while the other was dedicated to sound output.
Modern single jack headsets
Now that we have covered the basics, it’s easy to understand how modern single jack headsets can manage to achieve both sound input and output. This is because they have the TRRS setup. As earlier explained, in this kind of setup, the plug has 4 conductors and is able to transmit three signals; left channel audio signal, right channel audio signal and the mic signal which is usually in mono.
This is why the TRRS setup is popular in the recent devices, and headphone plugs. This is because it can be used for both sound input and output. Most of the wired headphones produced adhere to the TRRS setup.
It is due to this that most recent PCs and Macs have one headphone jack. They are able to utilize that one jack for both sound input and output.
How to use a single jack headset on PC or Mac
Most recent PCs and headphones use the TRRS setup which are compatible and can be used for both sound input and output. It is also possible to use a TRRS jack with a with a TRS port but you can only use it either for sound input or output. As mentioned above TRS jacks cannot achieve both sound input and output functionality. They can only be used either for sound input or output but not concurrently.
If your PC has one TRS port meant for sound output, this guide is going to show you various ways you can use that port for sound input purposes.
Using a Headphone Splitter
The easiest way to use your headset mic on older PCs is to invest in a splitter. When buying you have to be careful not to buy TRRS headphone splitters. Shop for TRS headphone splitters or joiners as they are mostly called with both the headphone and mic functionality. It should have a mic and headphone symbol on it.
To use your headphone mic, simply plug it in the mic port and you are good to go.
Using a USB Sound Card Adapter
You can also invest in a USB sound adapter. This plug and play devices are convenient if your headphone jack is not working or if you want additional ports. It acts as an audio adapter. Depending on the type of USB sound adapter you are buying, some adapter come with some extra functionality such as volume control and playback functionalities.
To use the headset mic, simply plug the USB sound adapter in your PC and then plug your headset in the mic port.
How to Use a Single Jack Headset on PC or Mac Without a Splitter or USB Sound Adapter
1. Go to the Start menu and open the Control Panel
2. On the control panel menu click Hardware and Sound
3. Go to Sound
4. When the Sound windows opens, click on Recording tab.
5. In the Recording tab, you will see a list of devices that have been used. Find the one you are using and make it default right clicking and then click on Set as default device.
NB: In some cases you might need to enable the device first before setting it as the default device. If you can’t find your device you need to set up microphone. This will enable windows to automatically detect any sound input devices connected. To do that:
- Go to Control Panel
- Click on Ease of Access
- In the Ease of Access menu, select Speech recognition
- Go to Set up Microphone to begin the process
- Follow the prompts to finish the process. Your input device should now be detected.
- And if no input device is detected, your PCs drivers might be outdated or not installed, so check your manufacturer’s website for the drivers
1. In Finder search for Sound. Alternatively, you can click on the volume icon to open sound preferences
2. In Sound Preferences, go to the Input tab
3. Click on the device you want to use as mic and set it as the default
Why single jack headsets are better than two jack headsets
The most basic reason why people prefer single TRRS jacks to double TRS jacks is that they offer more functionality. They can be used for sound input or output.
Easy to Carry Around
The fact that they are also with one jack it makes it easy and convenient to carry around because that means that they have less wires and less complications than two jack headphones. This means that they cannot be entangled as much as two jack headphones.
Most devices are fitted with a single headphone port with a TRRS setup. This means that owning a TRRS headphone makes it easier to use on almost all recently produced devices. This make it easier to avoid changing headphones with each device.
We have covered various methods and hacks on how to use a headset mic on a PC or Mac with one jack. The advantages of doing so are numerous and there are both software tweaks and hardware solutions available. If one method doesn’t work for you try another one. We hope this guide has allowed you to resolve a simple problem with a simple solution. Let us know in the comments below which method worked for you or if you have any other suggestions.
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- Headphone Jack Sizes & Plugs Explained
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