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TRRS Cable

TRRS Cable

Long-time audiophiles and novice listeners may be curious to know what a TRRS cable is, the purpose of this cable, and the functionality of cables to enhance your listening experience.  We perform a deep dive into TRRS cable periphery along with the TS cable and TRS cable to provide you with optimal coverage and insight.

TLDR Summary: TRRS Cable

TS, TRS and TRRS are abbreviations for Tip/Sleeve, Tip/Ring/Sleeve, and Tip/Ring/Ring/Sleeve. These are often abbreviations for the number of contacts at the end of an Auxiliary or Quarter Inch cable. The easiest way to determine which of these three cables is which is to simply count how many black rings (occasionally red, green, or white) are on the head: one ring is for TS, two for TRS, and three for TRRS. The colored bands are insulating material to separate conductors on the plug from shorting out.

  • TS Cable: Mono is the most common term for a TS cable. A TS cable only has one contact point and will only give one sound signal.
  • TRS Cable: Because the ring adds two contacts, allowing for left and right audio channels, a TRS cable is often referred to as stereo.
  • TRRS Cable: A TRRS cable will usually include both a left channel and a right channel, as well as a microphone channel. These TRRS cables can be found at the ends of headsets or earbud sets with an inline controller. They allow you to use a small built-in microphone to communicate with others.

How is a TRRS Cable Different from TRS and TS Cables?

Below we will tackle the variety of ways the cables are different from one another.  On a high level, you will find each type of cable is designed for a specific purpose.  From a physical standpoint, you will find the cables look different.  There are a variety of sizes for TS, TRS and TRRS plugs. They are measured by the diameter of their body:

  • 1/4-inch (or 6.5mm) which can be utilized for a guitar
  • 1/8-inch (or 3.5mm) is a common size used for your “aux” cable
  • 5mm is a minijack connector used on older headsets, TTY devices, and other similar devices

Comparing TS, TRS, and TRRS

TS Cables

Tip/Sleeve cables are made with two poles or two conductors. The Tip is for carrying a mono sound signal and the Sleeve for Ground/Shield. They are separated by a single black band.

This connector is mono-unbalanced and can be used to connect ¼” speaker cables, ¼” guitar cables, and ¼” patch cables. They can also work with the mono 1/8″ cables that are used for patching modular synth rigs.

Pro Tip: Unbalanced TS cables can cause unwanted interference and noise. To keep noise down, keep your TS cables under 20 feet.

TRS Cables

Three conductors, or three poles compose the TRS cables: Tip/Ring/Sleeve. This configuration is widely used to carry mono balanced audio or commonly called stereo. A balanced TRS cable has Tip and Ring carrying a mono audio signal and the Sleeve as Ground. TRS plugs can also be found on insert cables for send/return.

TRS is the industry standard for stereo unbalanced audio. A typical set of stereo headphones or stereo earbuds will have the following audio symbols:

  • Tip is Left audio
  • Ring and Right audio
  • Sleeve is Ground

If you plug a pair of stereo headphones into a socket halfway, it’s likely that audio will be heard in one ear only, as only one conductor is making contact.

A TRS cable can be used as a guitar cable; however, using a TRS cable will provide an unbalanced signal as guitar stock output in not in balance. Net-net, a TRS cable is not advisable for guitars as signals are out of balance and extra noise is likely to provide unwanted feedback when the middle ring makes contact.

TRRS Cables

TRRS cables have 4 conductors or 4 poles: Tip/Ring/Ring/Sleeve. The TRRS standard headphone sockets can be found on most smartphones, tablets Mac computers, and a variety of PCs.

TRRS plugs can be found on headphones/headsets that are compatible with computers and gaming consoles. These headsets have 4 conductors that conform to the AHJ/CTIA standards. This standard uses Tip and two Rings for stereo audio left/right, ground and sleeves for the microphone.

TRRS plugs can also be found on certain smartphones microphones and proprietary camcorder audio cables, where one of the four conductors is carrying a video signal.

TRRRS Cables

TRRRS Cable

While rare, the 5-conductor TRRRS connector allows balanced stereo audio to be supported — positive and negative Left, positive and negative Right, and a common ground. The Pentaconn connector is a TRRRS connector made by NDICS for specific applications but is not frequently utilized outside compatible products like Sony MDR-Z1R Headphones, Sennheiser HD 660 S Headphones, TEAC UD-505 USB DAC Headphone Amplifier, FIIO X7 Mark II, and the Accoustune HS1655CU IEM.

Will TRS Headphones Work with My TRRS Device?

A set of TRS headphones will generally work on a TRRS device.  More often than not, your tablet or smartphone has a stereo headphone jack (3.5mm stereo).  When you plug in your TRS headphones into a TRRS socket you will effectively create an electrical short between Ground conductors and Microphone conductors. In most cases, the short created between the mic and ground is safe and normal.

Some smartphones can even detect when the TRS cable is plugged in and turn off the internal speaker. However, the built-in microphone will remain active so that you can still hear the conversation clearly through your phone.

The TRRS socket on your smartphone will accept many wired headphones on the market today.  Below is a quick hit of compatible headphones:

  • Headphones and earbuds with a mic/communication cable and use a 1/8″ TRRS plug like the Shure SE215-UNI.
  • Headphones with a 1/8″ TRS plug similar to the AudioTechnica M50X or 280Pro by Sennheiser.
  • Conferencing or gaming headsets with a mic and a TRRS 1/8″ plug akin to the PG1 by AudioTechnica.

Will a TRS Microphone Work with My TRRS Device?

In most cases a TRS to TRRS adapter will be required to work with your TRRS devices, as TRRS smartphones are not equipped to handle TRS microphones. You can connect your smartphone’s TRRS socket to a microphone that has a 1/8″ TRS output, such as the Rode VideoMic Pro Plus or Rode VideoMic Pro Plus.

There are also a wide variety of smartphone-compatible microphones that have a built-in TRRS plug.  Examples of this include the Shure MOTIV MVL lavalier, Rode VideoMic NTG mic, and Rode SmartLav+ lavalier.

Recording to your Smart Device?

You can record to your device via Lightning or USB-C using digital microphones. However, if you are using a digital microphone or digital audio interface, don’t plug a TRRS headset/earphones into your device. Your recording may be compromised if your device detects your earphones’ microphone.

Do not use TRRS headphones or earphones if you are recording to your smart phone from a digital source. It is best to utilize a set of TRS headphones to monitor the recording to minimize conflict.

What if My Device Has No Headphone Jack?

Back in 2016, Apple made a groundbreaking move away from a headphone port in favor of a lightening port.  Since that time, we have seen several other hardware manufacturers follow suit and eliminate the once-ubiquitous headphone jack connector.

For devices that do not have a headphone jack, you have a few options.  First, you can utilize a set of Bluetooth earphones to connect to your device.  Second, you can connect TRS and TRRS plugs to your smartphone with the right tools plus the requisite 3.5mm jack adapter.  Lastly, you can connect wired headphones via a small digital microphone like the Shure MV88+ Video kit or IK Multimedia iRig Mic HD.

Standards for TRRS Headsets: AHJ/CTIA vs. OMTP

The industry is unable to agree on a single cable standard so there are two standards for TRRS headsets: AHJ/CTIA and OMTP.

Most modern smartphones/tablets are based on the American Headset Jack (AHJ/CTIA) standard. This includes the Tip and first Ring to play stereo left/right audio, the second Ring to play ground and the Sleeve to hold the microphone.

The standard was named after CTIA, a wireless industry association that worked with Apple to standardize. The majority of iOS devices are now following the AHJ/CTIA standard because of their popularity and overall functionality.

Contrary to the AHJ/CTIA standards, the less common OMTP pinout reverses these last two conductors. It uses the second Ring as the microphone and the Sleeve as the ground. This pinout may be found on older Nokia phones, the PlayStation, and older Chromebooks.

This is because if you plug an OMTP headset in an AHJ/CTIA jack or vice versa, the microphone’s output will be inaudible. If you have ever encountered this problem, AHJ/CITA converters/adapters can be used to convert OMTP headsets into AHJ/CTIA jacks.

What is a TRRS Cable Used for?

The TRRS cables are used in A/V to carry stereo audio and composite video. These cables can also be used to connect two-way with iOS devices to carry both the microphone input as well as the headphones output. All current iPhones and iPads are equipped to handle this two-way connectivity.

Is Headphone Jack TRS or TRRS?

In short, the TRRS standard is used by most mobile devices that have a headphone socket.  As the current industry standard, you would be best served to have a TRRS cable on hand to increase your odds of compatibility with external devices.

What is TRRS 3.5 mm cable?

The Tip Ring Ring Sleeve or TRRS plug is made up of four conductors. It can be used with either stereo unbalanced or stereo unbalanced with a mono microphone conductor. These are the most common plugs that come with mobile phones and other devices.

What are TRRS devices?

The TRRS (or Tip Ring Ring Sleeve) plug is made up of 4 conductors. It can be used with 3.5mm stereo unbalanced stereo audio with video or with stereo unbalanced stereo audio plus a mono mic conductor. The TRRS connector is very popular on smartphones and tablets as well as computers such Chromebooks and Macs. There are two contradicting standards for its use with stereo-unbalanced audio and a mono microphone conductor.

What happens when you plug a TRS cable into a TRRS jack?

If you plug a TRS cable into a TRRS jack is will create an electrical short between the ground and mic.  In virtually all cases, this is normal and safe to create this sort of electrical short.  That being said, it’s rare that your smartphone or tablet will have a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack.

Do computers use TRS or TRRS?

Virtually all PCs and laptops have a single audio port that can be used for microphones and headphones. The single audio port works well as most wired headphones have the standard 3.5mm TRRS connector compatible with integrated audio jacks.

Is iPhone a TRS or TRRS?

An iPhone device has a TRRS (tip ring ring sleeve) connection.  In addition, most iPads, Android phones, and Android tablets also have a TRRS connection.  However, an iPod has a TRS (tip ring sleeve) connection.

What Does a TRRS cable look like?

TRRS stands for Tip-Ring-Ring-Sleeve. This connector is made up of four sections that allow four connections between connected devices.

What Color is TRRS port?

On a TRRS cable, the Tip is connected by the blue terminal, while the red terminal connects to the upper rings. The yellow terminal connects to the lower rings. The green terminal is connected with the sleeves.  You will find the red terminal represents right audio while the blue indicates left audio. Yellow is for Mic and green is for ground on most TRRS cables. That being said, it is not identical for all manufacturers.  Different manufacturers use different color codes muddling the issue.

FAQ: TRRS Cable

Which is Better TRS or TRRS?

TRRS may offer an additional contact point for a channel, but that does not make it superior to TRS. Each cable serves a unique purpose but easily co-exist for varied audiophile applications.

What does TRRS Jack Look Like?

The easiest way to determine which of these three is to count how many black rings are on the cable’s head. One ring is for TS, two are for TRS, and three are for TRRS.

Is a TRRS Cable an AUX Cable?

The “auxiliary connector” can be used for audio, while TRRS cables are commonly used to transport stereo audio and composite video.

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