How to Wire a 3.5 Millimeter Audio Jack

Written by jan benschop
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How to Wire a 3.5 Millimeter Audio Jack
The 3.5 millimetre plug can input or output audio. (jack ingresso audio image by Andrea Riva from Fotolia.com)

The 3.5mm audio jacks and plugs are the predominant stereo connectors for headphones and automotive auxiliary audio equipment. Two kinds of jacks exist: panel mount and in-line. Panel mount connectors fit through a hole in a surface for flush-mounting. In-line jacks are attached to two-conductor shielded cable and have a screw-on or moulded insulator. Using a wired disposable plug to measure for jack tab identification with a volt-ohm meter is the easiest way to wire them.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • 3.5mm jack
  • Soldering iron
  • Liquid solder flux
  • Solder
  • Wire cutter/stripper
  • Volt-ohm meter
  • Unused 3.5mm plug with cable attached
  • Sticky paper labels
  • Pen

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Cut the plug off an old broken pair of headphones, leaving 6 inches of cable attached. If it is twin lead cable, split the leads apart, but don't nick through the insulation. Strip the outer jacket off the shield, 2 inches from the end. Do so on each lead, if a twin-lead cable. Peel the braided shield off the centre insulation and pull it to one side. Twist all shielding together and sticky-label it marked "G."

    How to Wire a 3.5 Millimeter Audio Jack
    Several panel-mount jacks installed in a box (audio and number image by Alfonso d'Agostino from Fotolia.com)
  2. 2

    Strip 1/2-inch of insulation off each centre lead and twist the strands on each lead.

  3. 3

    Switch on the meter and select the resistance (ohm, Ω) setting. Place one meter probe on the tip of the plug. With the other meter probe, find the centre lead on the bare wire that gives you a zero-resistance reading. Label that wire "L" for left. Move the meter probe on the plug to the next ("ring") metal area back from the tip and find the bare wire that measures zero resistance against it. Label that wire "R" for right.

  4. 4

    Insert the plug into the jack. Measure the G-labelled plug shield wire against the solder-tabs on the jack until you get zero resistance.

  5. 5

    Strip 2 inches of jacket off the cable you plan to attach to the jack and pull the shield off to one side. Slide the shield through the jack ground tab or wrap it around the tab and solder it in place. To solder, heat up the iron and soak the connection with liquid flux. When the iron heats up enough to melt solder touched to the tip, place the tip on the connection and hold the solder on the connection until it melts into the connection. Remove iron and solder and let it solidify.

  6. 6

    Identify the left-channel jack tab by measuring each against the L-labelled wire. Attach the left-channel lead of the cable in Step 5 to the left-channel jack tab. Identify the right-channel jack tab against R-labelled wire and attach the right-channel cable lead. Solder all connections.

  7. 7

    Test the device for which you wired the jack.

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