The most commonly used cables for audio devices like mics, headphones, and headsets are the TRS and TRRS cables. They connect audio devices to your laptop (or smartphone), having a compatible audio jack.
The letters are acronyms that stand for Tip, Ring, and Sleeve that serve as contact points for different signals such as audio, ground, and in TRRS microphone or video signals.
It is easy to identify your plug type by simple visual observation. This article tells you all you need to know about TRS and TRRS plugs and how they work with your laptop.
Is laptop TRS or TRRS?
Most laptops come with a TRRS single audio jack compatible with headphones and microphones. Most wired headphones have the 3.5mm TRRS plug for integrated audio jacks. The audio ports on laptops are usually located on the side or front of the casing.
To know if your laptop uses the 3.5mm jack, right-click the sound icon at the bottom right of your laptop screen, then select “sounds.” Click on “playback,” then unplug and re-plug the headphone into the jack, then click “OK.”
What Is a TRS plug?
TRS is an abbreviation for the Tip, the Ring, and Sleeve. These three components are the contact points, with the sleeve serving as the ground. The three types of TRS cable are:
Quarter-inch cables are mostly used for balanced signals, the tip and ring carry the audio signals, and the sleeve serves as the ground.
3.5mm cables carry unbalanced stereo signals, using the tip and ring for the left and right speakers, respectively, and the sleeve as the ground. Since the tip and ring of 3.5mm cables transmit audio to the left and right sides of the audio device, it can only send unbalanced signals, and the common rejection technique does not apply.
2.5mm cables are an older model found in mini-jack connectors, old phones, and TTY devices (text-telephone devices).
TRS cables are not so common with modern laptops, but you can still find some that make use of it.
What is a TRRS plug?
A TRRS cable is a modified version of the TRS cable. It is a TRS cable with an additional ring on it. The extra ring suffices for the ground and the sleeve for the microphone, while the tip and first ring are for the right and left ears.
With a TRRS cable, you can listen and speak into the built-in microphone or the headset or earpiece. TRRS cables are very common with modern laptops and other devices like smartphones and game consoles.
TRRS cables also come in quarter-inch, 3.5mm, and 2.5mm like the TRS cable. They carry stereo and unbalanced signals, and the extra contact point carries microphone or video signals.
The most common TRRS type is the 3.5mm; it is rare to find a quarter-inch TRRS type.
How Can I Tell TRS Apart From TRRS?
TRS cables have three poles. It will have a rounded, almost pointed tip and two markers demarcating the ring and the sleeve. You can tell by observing the end of your headphones that go into the audio port of your laptop.
Since the tip is the left audio channel, and the ring is the right audio channel, if you plug in the cable halfway, you will only hear sounds from one ear because only one contact point is connected.
TRRS cables have 4 poles. You will notice three markers separating the tip, the two rings, and the sleeve. The tip and ring are for the left and right ear, the extra ring serves as ground, and the sleeve is for the microphone.
How To Fix Faulty TRRS Laptop Jack
If your laptop jack suddenly stops working, there are some fixes you can do to get it working again.
Ensure you have the right plug in the right jack
Your laptop jack may appear not to work because the jack and plug-in are incompatible. For example, a 3.5mm jack is almost twice as large as a 2.5mm jack; plugging a 2.5mm cable into a 3.5mm jack will result in a loose connection.
Check for the volume level
You may have muted your laptop by mistake, so double-check the volume level to ensure.
Test the headphones on another device like another laptop or a smartphone
The headphones could be faulty, not the jack. You can also test other headphones on the laptop to be very sure. If the previous headphone works fine on another device, it is time to troubleshoot the laptop.
Set the headphones to default
Although your pc should automatically set headphones as the default device when you plug it in, there are cases where you have to do it manually.
To set it, right-click on the sound icon and select “sounds,” click on the playback option and check “headphones”. Click OK, and your headphones should work now.
Clean your headphone jack
The headphone jack may be clogged with debris, preventing proper contact with the conductors. To clean the jack, insert a cotton swab that can loosely fit into it and swirl it around. Do this carefully so you do not poke too hard. Test the headphones after cleaning to see if it works.
If the problem persists after changing the default playback device to headphones, you may have to change the audio format to match up. Switch the audio format. Right-click on the “headphones” tab in the “playback” options and click on ‘properties”. Then select “advanced”- this should bring a list of formats that you can test one after the other till you find the right one. Click “ok” and test the headphones again.
Are All 3.5mm TRRS Plugs The Same?
3.5mm plugs typically look like a rounded tip bullet, with a sleeve and rings around it. However, some plugs do not have rings, while some have up to three. The universal type of audio jack found in most devices (smartphones, tablets, pcs) is the 3.5mm TRRS- 3.5mm plugs that can go into almost any matching audio jack.
Other devices like camcorders, DVD players, digital cameras, and speakers also use 3.5mm TRRS.
It is more common to have a 3.5mm TRRS on your laptop, especially for microphone use, as most devices today require. You can find 2.5mm TRRS on older laptop models, but it is quite rare nowadays.
The quarter-inch type is the least common of the three types. You should be able to pick up an external audio device around you, observe the plug, and identify what type of plug it is. That should be easy now.