The 3.5-millimeter phone connectors for audio output and composite video are typically used by consumer electronics such as portable DVD players, camcorders, and digital cameras. They’re typical of the TS, TRS, or TRRS connector variety. TS or Tip Sleeve is the most basic of phone connectors. TRS or Tip, Ring, and Sleeve connectors are used for mono unbalanced audio as well as video. Meanwhile, its TRRS counterpart or Tip, Ring, Ring, and Sleeve is used for stereo unbalanced audio as well as a video instead.
Further reading: TS vs. TRS: What’s The Deal with These Cables?
Cables designed for this connector format are often terminated with RCA connectors on the other end of their connection. The Sony Company also utilized this connection style as a TV-out in some Sony VAIO laptop models. With that said, in the debate of TRS vs TRRS, which is better?
What Is a TRS Connector?
A TRS or Tip, Ring, Sleeve connector is often used for stereos, as the additional ring gives the two contacts a way to get a left and right audio channel. You can also use it for balanced audio wherein the audio signal is carried from the top while the ground is on the sleeve. The ¼” or ¼-inch TRS cables have three sections that indicate the three pathways that run through its cable. The sleeve is ground, the tip is the positive leg, and the ring is the negative leg.
- TRS ¼” Balanced Line Cables: of the ¼-inch variety are often used for balanced signals and thusly could go at cable runs over 25 feet. They consist of a shield and two signal wires or ground and two legs. One of the best examples of quality ¼” TRS balanced line cables we recommend is the RapcoHorizon¼” TRS balanced line cable. It’s an excellent male-to-male TRS stereo cable that allows you to link a device to an auxiliary input as needed.
- TRS 3.5 Millimeter TRS Cables: Stereo signals are what the 3.5 mm TRS cables are usually used for. This means that they can carry both left and right signals because TRS cables have left and right polarized legs plus ground as balanced signal cables. Actually, the ring and tip carry the left and right signals while the sleeve connects to a third conductor, which then offers a common path that completes the circuit from both the right and left wires.
- Unbalanced Signal vs. Balanced Signal: A TRS cable can carry balanced mono signals but when it comes to a stereo signal, it becomes unbalanced because instead of using the Common Mode Rejection technique to reject noise from the same signal traveling through the left and right legs of the cable, they’re instead used to transmit the two stereo signals for left and right earpieces or cups of your audio listening device.
What Is a TRRS Connector?
A TRRS connector is a connector used in TRRS cables. Its name refers to Tip, Ring, Ring, and Sleeve. Compared to the TRS connector, it has an extra R or ring on it, hence it also being known as TRRS. The left and right channels are covered along with the microphone channel when using the TRRS cable. The connector has four sections that allow devices to have four connections or channels.
- ¼-Inch and 3.5-Millimeter TRRS Cables: The ¼” TRRS cable is quite rare. They exist but good luck finding them. In contrast, the 3.5mm TRRS cable is quite a common item. They’re typically used for headphones with their own built-in microphone. The extra R carries the microphone signal while normal TRS headphones and microphones are much more limited. If you have a ¼” port, it’s likely a TRS port instead of a TRRS one.
- TRRS Advantages and The Common Pathway: A TRRS connector is basically a TRS connector with an extra R as an upgrade to allow for four-channel connections, like stereo sound headphones with a microphone attachment on one cable versus headphones-only setups. The circuits are completed by the fourth channel serving as the common pathway. For the sake of extending TRRS headphones, you can use the 3.5 millimeter TRSS headphone (with mic) extension cable.
- TRS and TRRS Interoperability: TRRS connectors are sometimes interoperable with connectors of the TRS variety when used for additional microphone input purposes added to the stereo output, but this depends on how the contacts are applied. Sometimes they’re not, as in the case of TRS microphones linking up to the TRRS socket of a smartphone. In such cases, a Rode SC4 or similar TRS-to-TRRS adapter is called for.
TRS to TRRS Connections and Vice-Versa
Can you connect your TRS headphones to your TRRS device? Yeah, sometimes. If your tablet or smartphone has a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack, it’s more than likely a TRRS socket. When linking a TRS headphone to a TRS socket, an electrical short is created between the ground and microphone conductors, but this is expected, safe, and normal. You just lose some of the advantages and connections possible from a TRRS connection by going with a TRS connection instead.
It’s also possible vice-versa with the same downgrades in certain circumstances. You can’t upgrade from TS to TRS to TRRS. You typically downgrade to the lowest common connection, like only getting headphone audio for your TRS headphone and mic device on a TRS port. However, for connections like a TRS microphone to a TRRS device, you’ll need an adapter because TRS smartphones aren’t advanced enough to deal with TRS microphones. You’ll need an adapter like the Rode SC4 to connect your TRS microphone to your TRRS-socket smartphone.
TRS to TRRS Cable: Alilong 3.5mm TRS to TRRS Adapter
TRRS to TRS Cable: 3.5mm TRRS to TRS Cable Adaptor
The Lowdown for Phone Connectors for TS, TRS, and TRRS
Headsets and hands-free sets typically use 2.5-millimeter to 3.5-millimeter phone connectors that are either TS (Tip Sleeve), TRS (Tip Ring Sleeve), or TRRS (Tip, Ring, Ring Sleeve) connector varieties. TS is two channels, TRS is three channels, and TRRS is four channels.
Phone connectors are utilized for mono audio outputs as well as unbalanced microphone connections with a shared ground. If you want an extra audio channel for the microphone input on top of the stereo output, then going fro a 4-conductor TRRS phone connection makes sense. Furthermore, dual-pin 3.5 millimeter TS connectors were mostly used on the microphone inputs of monaural cassette and tape recorders. As for the 2.5 millimeter TS connector, they’re used on the remote control that switches the power supply of the recorder.
- “TS vs. TRS vs. TRRS Cables“, ZZounds Blog, May 29, 2020
- Kyle Mathias, “TS vs TRS vs TRRS AUDIO CABLES: What Is the Difference?“, Audio University Online, September 27, 2020
- “Phone Connector (Audio)“, Wikipedia, November 5, 2020