Why Do Some Headphones Come With Two Audio Jacks?

At a time when most headphones are either completely wireless or come with single 3.5 mm (0.14 in) jacks, any headphones with two jacks will almost certainly draw extra curiosity. Why are these headphones built with two jacks?

Headphones come with two jacks for various reasons. Some manufacturers include the second jack for redundancy. One jack going bad shouldn’t stop you from using the headphones. On other headphones, the second jack might be a microphone output port. Older airline headphones may also have two jacks.

The rest of the article will cover all you need to know about why headphones come with two audio jacks and how you can use such headphones. You’ll also learn how to use single jack headphones with sources made for dual jack options.

Why Some Headphones Come With Two Audio Jacks

If you find a set of headphones with two audio jacks, the manufacturer may have done so for any of the following reasons:

Usage Redundancy 

How often have you had to dump headphones at the repair shop because the audio jack no longer works or has developed partial contact? If the headphones had dual audio jacks, you could have simply switched to the second jack. 

So, manufacturers may include two audio jacks on heavy-duty headphones to allow you to switch wherever possible.

Microphone Channel Inclusion

One of the jacks you’re looking at could be a microphone port. Headphones with built-in microphones are commonplace today. However, some headphone designers may also include a physical port for an external microphone. Such setups come in handy when using a computer with separate audio and microphone channels instead of having both combined in one port.

Theft Prevention

If the headphones you’re looking at were made for use on airplanes, they were likely designed with two audio jacks to prevent theft. In the past, airlines didn’t charge for headsets. They just added them to passenger seats, and as a result, they got stolen a lot. Using a dual jack setup made stealing the headphones a lot more difficult. 

This is perhaps most similar to how some hotels weave brand names deep into beddings, making it hard for anyone to take them away from the premises.

Other Ways To Know the Use of the Two Audio Jacks on Your Headphones

If you’re still unsure about the use of the two audio jacks on your headphones, here are a few options available to you:

  • Check the packaging. Two jacks on a set of headphones will most likely get a mention in the product packaging. The user guide will mention the need for the jacks and how they are useful to you.
  • Talk to other owners. If the headphone brand is a popular one, you’re sure to find a community of users you can talk to about the uses of the jacks. A quick search online with the model number of your unit should bring up a few of these communities. You can also look at the comments section on Amazon.com. 
  • Call customer care. As a last resort, you can talk to your headphone brand’s customer service unit and discuss the need for the second audio jack. However, this option might not be practical if the headphones are very old. The company may no longer exist or have staff who can’t offer guidance on the older models.

Most of the responses you’ll get with any of the three approaches will fall into one of the options we’ve covered earlier. The two audio jacks will be there to give you multiple options, or you may be looking at a microphone port.

Connecting Headphones With Separate Audio and Microphone Jacks to Your Computer

If you find out that the two jacks in your headphones are separate audio and microphone jacks, you may be confused about how to make the headphones work. Fortunately, setting the system up is very straightforward.

Here’s a look at what you should do:

  • Shut down the computer. With the system turned off, find the “Speaker Out,” “Headphone Out,” or “Audio Out” around the edges. The labeling will be different across models, and some of them may have no labeling at all in the first place. If you don’t see a label showing the ports, check for a port with a drawing of a pair of headphones or a picture of a sound wave. On some computers, the port will have a green ring around it.
  • Insert the headphone plug into the speaker-out or headphone-out jack on your computer. The right headphone plug to connect to the port will typically be green, black, or yellow.
  • Find the Mic-In or Microphone-In port on your computer. The Mic-In port will feature a pink ring or a small picture of a microphone somewhere above it on most computers. The pink or red plug from the headset should go to this port.
  • Restart the computer. Once you log back in, the sound from the system will now play over your headphones. You can also test the microphone by using a recording app or by just opening an app like Skype to use their microphone test. Your headphones should work as the manufacturer intended if you got the connection right.

Can You Use Single Jack Headphones on a Computer With Different Audio/Mic Channels?

You can use single jack headphones on a computer with different audio and microphone channels. Most modern computers now combine the channels in one spot, which means you only need a single jack on your headphones instead of two.

However, there are scenarios where using single jack headphones makes more sense overall.

Why People Use Single Jack Headphones

People use single jack headsets for a variety of reasons. They include the following:

Increased Convenience

Single jack headphones have a single cable, so they’re easier to manage. They also don’t take up as much desk space since you only have to worry about a single cable. The single cables hold multiple wires, including the designated microphone and audio wires. Having them all in one place reduces the probability of damage as it’s easier to take care of one cable instead of two.

Better Flexibility

Today’s smartphones and modern laptops all feature 3.5 mm (0.14 in) Tip Ring Ring Sleeve (TRRS) ports. These ports allow output and input functionality via a single connection. With the ubiquity of these ports, single jack headphones can now work with a wide range of devices.

Using Single Jack Headphones on a PC Without a Splitter

If your headphones have a single jack and you intend to use the unit on a system with different audio and mic channels, your immediate choice is to get a splitter. However, there are alternative ways to enjoy single jack headphones without using a splitter.

Here’s what you should do.

On Older PCs

Here are the steps on how to use single jack headphones on older PCs:

  1. Navigate to the “Start” menu and open the Control Panel.
  2. Click on “Sound.”
  3. Select the “Recording” tab.
  4. Left-click on your headphones and then click on Set Default.

On Mac OS

Here are the steps on how to use single jack headphones on a MAC OS:

  1. Search for “Sound” using the Spotlight Search tool.
  2. Click the “Input” tab, and then left-click on your headphones to make it your preferred device.

On Newer PCs

You don’t need to use a splitter on most new PCs because they all feature dual-purpose ports. The ports are compatible with all headsets that have the TRRS jack. So, you can enjoy audio and microphone functions on one connection. You don’t need to tweak any settings, as the headphones should start working after you plug in.

Top Single Jack Headphones You Can Buy Now

With dual jack headphones almost completely phased out, you may be considering moving on from yours but worried about losing the benefits of having quality wired headphones. The good news is that there are so many of these headphones to choose from today. We’ll look at some of the headphones available on Amazon.com below:

Sennheiser HD 280 Pro Closed-Back Dynamic Headphones 

These headphones feature a truly rugged design that guarantees comfort and functionality. The headband portion features thick pillow protection designed to make them super comfortable to wear for long periods without increasing cranial pressure.

The ear cups have a closed-back design, and they’re also cushioned for comfort. They can pivot freely, ensuring easy storage and natural replacement. 

The headphones have large-aperture dynamic drivers designed to serve up highly accurate linear sounds. Combined with the low latency, the result is a pair of headphones that guarantees an excellent listening experience at all times.  

Sony MDR-XB450AP Extra Bass Headphone

The Sony MDR-XB450AP comes with soft-cushioned ear cups, which deliver excellent coverage on both ears. It also features the closed-back design, which we’ve come to expect of headphones in this range.

The sound is sealed off as you listen, reducing outside interference to the barest minimum. It doesn’t offer active noise cancellation, but it does a great job of blocking out most outside noise.

These headphones feature Neodymium dynamic drivers embedded onto each of the ear pads. Therefore, the headphones always deliver the best possible sound outputs overall. You don’t have to worry about distortion even when you turn on the headphones and listen at much higher volumes.

Beats EP Wired On-Ear Headphones

These headphones are some of the best entry-level units you can buy today. The design features reinforced steel, making it super sturdy and comfortable on the ear. The inline microphone also guarantees clarity for your voice calls.

The design won’t fold flat like the others we’ve seen above, but overall, it’s a strong shout for the most valuable Beats headphone you can buy.

Top Factors To Watch For When Choosing a Wired Headphone

With the tons of wired headphone options in the market, settling on the right choice can be a tad confusing. To make the right choice, you should focus on key factors such as the following:

Build Quality

The materials used in the construction of the headphones should be the very best in the price range. While some manufacturers use cheap materials to keep the cost of the headphones at a specific range, others look for alternative ways of reducing production costs without lowering quality excessively. It’s not your business how the companies in the latter group achieve this, but they should always have the edge over the others.

Overall Comfort

Your headphones should have generous cushioning with skin-friendly material. They should also have a good range of adjustment. Otherwise, you could come down with headaches after prolonged use due to cranium pressure. The best headphones feature a flexible headband for this purpose.

Audio Quality

The best headphones have a broad frequency response and accurate tuning. The drivers should at least be neodymium, which has become the industry standard. The drivers should be beryllium or magnetic ceramic if you’re looking at higher-end headphones. If you love deep bass, you should prioritize headphones that offer bass optimization to ensure lower risks of distortion.

Choosing the right set of wired headphones ensures you can enjoy the perfect audio experience with zero latency, and you never have to worry about running out of battery power.

The Cons of Wired Headphones

Whether you have wired headphones with two jacks and two cables or single cable variants, owning them has some downsides. They include the following:

  • Tangling. Wired headphones always get tangled regardless of your best efforts to keep the wires straight. Continued tangling and extrication will gradually wear down the wire and may ultimately lead to breakage. 
  • Poor flexibility. If you’ve ever switched from wireless headphones to wired options, you’ll immediately appreciate the difference in flexibility. During workouts or even gaming, the wires will get in the way, leading to accidental pulls disconnecting the wire from the jack. 

Final Thoughts

Headphones with two jacks are typically wired variants designed to provide redundancy to users. Some are designed for use with computers or sound processing systems with split channels for audio and microphones.

However, this design is dated and rarely found on the average-user market. There are dozens of headphone brands offering wired units with single jacks in line with modern sound systems.

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