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Headsets - Microphone not working - Smartphone vs PC compatibility

Posted: Tue Sep 10, 2019 7:08 am
by superphool
One of the commonest problems we see online relating to headsets (and to some extent microphones) is people saying a headset or mic that works perfectly with one device does not work with another.

That is usually relating to compatibility when trying to swap the same headset between such as a smartphone or xbox and a PC or laptop.

The problem:

While the connectors for either type physically fit the sockets for the opposite type, the electrical contacts are very different and only the earphone connection positions are the same between the two different systems.

PC Audio connections use two separate three-contact "stereo" 3.5mm jack plugs - one for speakers or headphones, another for microphone.
[Plus, on desktop machines, various other audio sockets for extra connections such as line audio in or out and sometimes pairs of surround channels, on machines that have those or that have switchable functions for the audio sockets].

Smartphones & XBox etc. use a single, four-contact plug which combines earphone and microphone connections.

(Some very recent laptops may have an option to work with a single-plug headset - but this is still the exception rather than the rule).

These are the two different plug types:


The first three contacts from the tip are the same as for a three contact or four contact plug - but the fourth contact is for the microphone.

If a three contact plug is put in a four contact socket, or a four contact plug in a three contact socket, that fourth connection does nothing so the microphone does not work either way, with a plug mis-match.

Trivia: Plugging a smartphone-type headset in to a PC microphone socket connects the earpieces to the microphone input - the earpieces then work as rather inefficient microphones and will pick up some sounds, even if only handling noises or tapping them.

The solution:-

To use either type of headset in the opposite type of device, it needs an adapter cable which re-arranges the connections in the appropriate way, separating the microphone out to its own plug to use a phone/xbox headset with a PC, or combining the two sets of connections to a single plug to use a PC type headset (or microphone alone) with a smartphone, xbox or tablet.

Search ebay for "PC Headset adapter" to find suitable adapter cables.

Look for ones with a single socket and two colour coded or labelled three-contact plugs, to use a smartphone/xbox headset with a pc, eg.

PCAudio-6_2.jpg (21.42 KiB) Viewed 497 times

Or to use a PC headset with a smartphone or xbox, look for one with two colour coded or labelled sockets and a single four-contact plug:

PCAudio-5_2.jpg (19.31 KiB) Viewed 497 times