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1/4 inch vs. 3.5 mm Jack Difference?

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 

What is the difference in sound quality when using a 1/4in. jack as opposed to a 3.5mm one? I know that some of the most popular headphones on Head-Fi, most notably the ATH M50, have a 3.5mm jack as the default but comes with a 1/4in adapter. If it defaults to the smaller of the two, then what's the benefit in sound quality of using the adapter in that type of headphone?

post #2 of 28

I don't believe there is a benefit other than the fact that a lot amps have a 1/4 output. I usually prefer a 1/8' jack since it is easier to use a 1/4 adapter than the other way around a 1/4 to 1/8.

post #3 of 28

no difference in sound quality, its just that some amps and sources use a 1/4 instead of the standard 3.5.
i heard that the 1/4 breaks less easily than the 3.5

post #4 of 28
In principle, the fewer connections the better. In actual practice many would say that during a blind A/B comparison few could tell the difference. It also might matter how resolving your system was as to whether you noticed a difference.

The only headphones that I leave that way are my IEMs which are used 95% of the time as airplane/travel headphone. I use the 3.5 mm to 1/4" connector that came with my AKGs on the few occasions I listen to them amped.
post #5 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by theBjrd View Post

What is the difference in sound quality when using a 1/4in. jack as opposed to a 3.5mm one? I know that some of the most popular headphones on Head-Fi, most notably the ATH M50, have a 3.5mm jack as the default but comes with a 1/4in adapter. If it defaults to the smaller of the two, then what's the benefit in sound quality of using the adapter in that type of headphone?

I guess originally the 1/4" (6.35mm) jack was the standard jack, then Sony came out with the 1/8" (3.5mm, mini-jack) for the first "Walkman". As the 1/4" was not practical for portable audio.

I believe studios and "professional audio stuff" sticks to 1/4".

I would guess the 1/4 is designed to be a little more rugged.

 

I would think sound quality is equal between the 1/8" & 1/4"

post #6 of 28

On the 1/4 in jack, it is larger, can be studier and less prone to breaking.  With the larger size, you have more options wrt to wiring it up, can make better connections etc.  Plus there is a much larger surface area for connections between the plug and the jack. Since I'm not really into portable audio, I would take phones or amps with 1/8 connections as a negative.

post #7 of 28
Personally I like the 1/8" native + 1/4" adapter idea, because its more versatile, but in terms of SQ or similar it's nothing I've ever noted when switching adapters or not (for example using my MDR-F1 native 1/8" or with the 1/4" adapter, it doesn't seem to change at all). 1/4" is usually more common on mains powered equipment, and is usually a more robust plug and jack. For example look at the Neutrik 1/4" plug that Ultrasone and others use - it's kind of a brute of a plug. But I don't think for at home use it really matters, as long as you can plug-up correctly (and I'd hate that big plug as a mobile component).

In terms of power conduction - the values headphones see are so low that I don't think it's a problem. I'm not sure, however, what the exact differences are; in theory a 1/4" should be able to carry "more" but I don't know exactly what "more" would be. In both cases remember that we're talking about a VERY short/small piece of metal, so it can carry comparatively more power than a similar bit of metal drawn out into a long wire.
Edited by obobskivich - 10/24/12 at 12:10pm
post #8 of 28

With some extremely juice sucking cans like the HE-6 you probably want to stick with the 1/4 d-t the larger surface area. Of course - xlr is even better.

 

Can't imagine hearing any difference on most normal cans though.

 

But I have to admit I'm partial to the 1/4.

 

1/8 just feels and looks wrong on a pair of high-end headphones.

post #9 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by TwoEars View Post

With some extremely juice sucking cans like the HE-6 you probably want to stick with the 1/4 d-t the larger surface area. Of course - xlr is even better.

 

Can't imagine hearing any difference on most normal cans though.

 

But I have to admit I'm partial to the 1/4.

 

1/8 just feels and looks wrong on a pair of high-end headphones.

but still it looks odd on a pair of HD518,558 and 598.
looks ok on the 600 series but why start from the 500 series...? kinda bit too early i feel

post #10 of 28

There is no difference in sound quality.  The only difference is the connection on the device.   Portable devices always have the smaller jack.   Home or studio devices usually have the larger more rugged jack(the larger 1/4 inch jack is harder to pull out, making it more stable when recording in a studio).  Even on ultra high end portable players & amps they use the smaller 1/8 inch. 

post #11 of 28

Sorry to bump a dying thread, but i have the HD 558's which has the 1/4" jack for it's primary, then it has the 1/4" to 3.5mm adapter. I'm just wondering does that degrade music quality by using an adapter? It has to go through more connections so i'm guessing that it does, but probably nothing a normal human can detect.. especially on a mid-fi pair of headphones.

 

...i still have to make my own cable that's shorter then this plus with a 3.5mm termination because i never use the 1/4" jack by itself.

post #12 of 28

Nah, it would probably degrade it as much as another inch of cablewink.gif 
Imo it is rediculous to place a 6.3 on them.
The most damage it could do to your music is.... breaking your amp/source 3.5 mmjack.

post #13 of 28
Yeah - should be no problem whatsoever. Just watch out that you don't overload the jack of your component, as previously noted, and ensure that the adapter is making good contact (some of the cheap ones don't, and you can have a channel cut in and out).
post #14 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by streetdragon View Post

Nah, it would probably degrade it as much as another inch of cablewink.gif 
Imo it is rediculous to place a 6.3 on them.
The most damage it could do to your music is.... breaking your amp/source 3.5 mmjack.

 

Yeah i made something "special" on my e10 so that big ass adapter doesn't put any weight on the headphone out jack. I thought i've read somewhere on a reputable site that the more connections the music has to go through, it degrades little by little... then again they might have only been talking about DAC's and amps, not connectors/adapters.

 

Yeah most people that buy these headphones use them on mainstream stuff which is mostly 3.5mm jacks. Should have had the 3.5mm termination with the 3.5mm to 1/4" adapter... but then the "professionals" would complain lol 

post #15 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by joshwalnut View Post

I thought i've read somewhere on a reputable site that the more connections the music has to go through, it degrades little by little...

That's more vague than anything else - what is meant by "music," "degrades," and how much is "little by little" - redface.gif.
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