What are the Different Types of Headphone Cables?


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Headphone cables or wires are of different types, and for people who are unfamiliar with the words, some of the terms might sound confusing. Headphone cables are commonly classified based on size and device compatibility, but there is also the issue of getting headphones with round or flat cables. Headphone cables could also be classified based on the material used in their production. Let’s examine the types of headphone cables and the devices that are commonly used with each one.

Read about Noise canceling vs. noise isolating headphones ‘ here.

Classification of Headphone Cables According to Size and Thickness

If you have been shopping for headphone cables, you might have come across words such as 2.5mm, 3.5mm, or 6.3mm. These words refer to the sizes of headphones or audio cables. Before the advent of smartphones, mobile phones used 2.5mm headphone cables. The cables are smaller and less thick when compared to 3.5mm cables. 3.5mm cables are more popular these days.

2.5mm Headphones Cables

These headphone cables are the smallest on the list. They are not as thick as the 3.5mm headphone cables and require smaller connectors. As stated earlier, they are old designs though there are still some devices that require 2.5mm headphone cables. Unlike 3.5mm cables with straight insulating bands, the insulating bands of 2.5mm headphone cables are usually angular.

2.5mm headphones are compatible with devices such as older phone models, including land phones, two-way radios, and other small devices. 2.5mm enabled devices are, however, slowly fading away as a result of more advanced technologies such as the Apple Lightning Connector.

Read about Open back vs. closed back headphones ‘ here.

3.5mm Headphone Cables

If you have a smartphone or one of the trendy headphones on the market, you have most likely seen a 3.5mm headphone cable. They are about 1.8 inches thick and are compatible with most Android phones and the older generation of iPhones. Unlike 2.5mm headphones, many devices use 3.5mm cables. Boomboxes, CD players, MP3 players, and many computer speakers use 3.5mm cables.

Some headphones with 3.5mm cables do not have angular insulating bands. The cables go straight into the insulating band without the angular design available in 2.5mm headphones. Many users have argued that this is one of the disadvantages of the 3.5mm cables, as angle designs make headphone cables more resistant to wear and tear.

6.3mm Headphone Cables

These cables are also known as 1.4 inches cables. They are the thickest headphone cables on our list. These cables are used in more giant audio gadgets such as electric guitars, amplifiers, and others. The headphone jacks that these cables fit into are bigger and require big plugs like the ones available in 6.3mm headphone cables.

Being the biggest in the lot, 6.3mm headphone cables are easier to handle as they do not tangle as much as the other two. This advantage is also a downside as their big diameters make organizing difficult. Most of the time, trying to fold them into a roll can be challenging.

Flat/Round Headphone Cables

This article would be incomplete without adequate information about flat headphone cables and their round counterpart. Round headphone cables are the regular ones. Their penchant for getting tangled gave birth to the age of flat headphone cables. Flat headphone cables are flat, giving room for better organization.

Many users complain that flat headphone cables are more susceptible to microphonics or outside noise than round headphone cables because they easily rub against clothing. However, this is not true for all headphones with flat cables. Most cheap and low-quality headphone cables will have a lot of outside interference because of the material used in their production. Whichever you choose to buy, ensure you have made your purchase from a trusted source.

See How to choose headphones for travel

Analogue and Digital Audio Cables

Some high-end products such as iPhones no longer use the standard 3.5mm jack. Audio is transmitted through the use of lightning connectors and cables. These cables are different from analog cables in the sense that they transmit digital data. Manufactures sold the idea of digital audio cables by stating that the cables transmit digital data which are not open to interference, unlike analog data transmitted with analog lines.

They argue that when digital audio files are played through analog cables, the files go through a lot of conversions before the end product is played through speakers and earbuds. The conversion is done through Digital to Analog Converters (DACs), which are located on smartphones and other audio devices.

Digital audio cables have inbuilt DACs, so if a device has a faulty converter, the user can still enjoy high-quality audio with the help of the converters in the digital cables. However, the converters in digital cables can also become faulty, and for now, many audio devices are still analog.

Both analog and digital audio cables are excellent in their way. The first is more popular and, therefore, compatible with many devices. The other is less popular but comes with an inbuilt converter. For people who have very sensitive hearing, digital audio cables are advisable. This is because people in this category can identify even the tiniest drop in the quality of an audio file.

See History of headphones

Headphones Cables and Tangling

One of the most annoying things about headphone cables is their annoying proneness to getting all tangled up with other wires and strings. Placing a headphone cable in a drawer with other lines will begin a difficult process of trying to pry one end from the other. In some extreme circumstances, people are forced to angrily yank at the cable, usually until it is damaged.

Is there a solution to the problem? Yes, storing headphones properly will help keep the cables untangled; subsequently, they will last for a longer time. To keep your headphone cable untangled, you should:

– Hang them on hooks or doorknobs instead of throwing them in a bag or drawer where they can easily become tangled.

– Roll the cables of headphones when not in use.

– Keep them in special cases that house no other string or cables.

Read about History of noise cancelling headphones


The major classification of headphones is done based on the sizes of the cables. There are 2.5mm headphone cables that are smaller in diameter and used in old phones and two-way radios. 3.5mm headphone cables are thicker and the most popular headphone cables. They are used in smartphones, MP3 players, boomboxes, and CD players. The thickest, 6.3mm headphones cables are used in bigger audio devices such as electronic guitars.