New Life for the 3.5mm Jack?

Just bumped into this patent from Microsoft for an ultra-thin 3.5mm headphone jack. Basically it uses elastic panels to allow the jack to expand around the plug as it's inserted. Actually seems like a good idea to me as it may give a little and prevent strain induced failure of the jack. Maybe there's hope for 3.5mm jacks on future smartphones.

Look, I have no desire to get all schmoopy about the it often used to be called. When I worked as an audio repair technician at a Santa Cruz stereo store, the most common failure of Walkmans was the jack itself—followed closely by sand in the's a beach town. Anybody out there who never had a 3.5mm jack go bad on them?


None the less, I have a hard time thinking of a world without a 3.5mm TRS plug. The installed base is huge. My iPhone7 has pissed me off numerous times when I didn't have the jack adapter handy. OTOH, wireless headphones are outselling wired ones. I'm conflicted; I really wonder what's going to happen. What do you think?

New Life for the 3.5mm Jack?
Nobody will pay Microsoft the royalties. Wireless will kill it. Gone in 10 years. Get over it.
34% (12 votes)
It'll exist in cheap stuff, and expensive stuff with improved mechanics. But it'll be wireless as far as the eye can see between
11% (4 votes)
Too much momentum; no analog replacement in sight. It'll fade but won't go away. Wires will be with us for a long time to come.
54% (19 votes)
Total votes: 35

Sedusia Sound's picture

I have NEVER had a 3.5mm jack go bad!

I've owned and used portable devices since high school in the mid 80's - various "Walkman" type cassette players/recorders (never had a Sony); Sony Discmans (or is it Discmen?); Sharp Mini-Disc recorders/players; iPods; and now a FIIO X5; plus numerous others and have never had the jack go bad, despite constantly plugging/unplugging.

Any issues I have had were usually the wire on the headphones, either on the plug end or the end entering the earcup (thank goodness for Koss' lifetime warranty!).

Other issues were motor/gear issues and eject mechanisms.

lafaard's picture

This thing was the worst $200 I have ever spent in my life. The sound would cut ever minute because the headphone jack was garbage. It's a shame because I kinda liked everything else about it. And I was expecting so much more from Apple!

Now I just use my Chinese phone. It gets the job done and I don't have to deal with iTunes.

Did anyone else have the same problem with the iPod Nano 7th gen?

coastman25's picture

My computer keyboard & mouse are wireless yet I have a headphone amp that has only a 3.5mm input & output. To help reduce the possible strain I have made converter cables, which remain, attached so the 3.5mm socket & plug are not stressed. For convenience, wireless is good for sound quality cables seem better. Therefore, for the moment I am sure the 3.5mm will be around but for how long etc hard to tell.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I guess I'just a ham-fisted galoot.
coastman25's picture

If you are ham-fisted you make up for it being a dam fine reviewer. Someone whose words we trust and believe in.
When you can find time please review some more affordable phones now & again
Thanks for your posts always enjoy reading them

zobel's picture

Possibly ham-fisted, but a galoot?.... well, after all.... who here isn't?
Do you remember having the pitch fork to handle all those cans on Peach Street?

coastman25's picture

Sorry don't know what a galoot is, never used a pitch fork and do know where Peach Street is eh!

zobel's picture

Although I think we all exhibit some degree of galootness, that reply was meant for Tyll...He had way too many headsets in his shop in Bozeman Montana..on Peach Street there. He joked that his pile of cans, which were all snagged up together were obviously handled with a pitch fork. Hence the occasional bad jack, perhaps.

coastman25's picture

Many thanks for clarifying.
However haven't you pointed out the difference between a "jack" & a "plug". I am not so sure myself. I find it very confusing because sockets are often referred to as jacks as well as plugs. in fact on eBay nearly everything that has a 3.5mm connector is referred to as a jack.
So this may also be an example of cultural difference ie lost in translation, yet we supposedly speak the same language ie English!

zobel's picture

Plug, though seems male enough, and is self-evident in meaning and the gender which is unmistakenly biologically dude-like. Some sockets have a plug as part of them, they aren't bi-sexual, they are male, in hiding. Some sockets, in fact almost all, are just jacks...not trans, but female, built for accepting plugs.

coastman25's picture

I am just stating how it is, not how it should be or what is self evident. There is no way of allowing for how people use language. The art or science, is to effectively communicate.

zobel's picture

What affordable cans do like now?
Me..My Sennheiser clean, clear, detailed, dynamic, comfortable, rugged, good looking, and very easily driven by anything. Current overall favorite...Yours?

coastman25's picture

I use the HD 600's but have a pair of Creative Aurvana & NoonTec Zoro ll's courtesy of Tyll reviews.
So I wait in hope for Tyll to persuade me to part with the HD 600s in favour of something else within a similar price range. In the meantime the HD600's do it for me.

zobel's picture

Good stuff! For portable, and without an amp though, the Amperior are superior.. me thinks...Tyll also has them up there on the wall of fame..I think they are the cats pajamas. About $300 now.

coastman25's picture

Not looking for more portable options. Looking for more at home type phones which out do the HD600s.
I am more of a speaker listening gu,y neighbours permitting!
Phones are great and getting greater.

tony's picture

Galoot is just a 1800s nautical way of say'n clumsy. It's N.American Scottish ( Appalachian ), it probably never found usage in any of the British Colonies.

Tony in Michigan

coastman25's picture

Thanks for the explanation. Never lived in any of the British Colonies only a few Commonwealth countries. I currently reside in Thailand.
Wasnt America once a British Colony?

tony's picture

The original 13 Colonies were the first Colonies ever. America was where the Colonial System was designed and refined. We sometimes refer to those early places as "New England".

How did you come across Stereophile? , I'll presume you are getting the Guardian and Stereophile on an Internet connect.

But, you are following Headphones, not Stereo stuff, how did you discover our Tyll?

Do people have Hi-End Audio in Thailand?

You Brits live interesting lives.

Tony in Michigan

coastman25's picture

Hi Tony
So many questions! I guess I came across Tyll & Inner fidelity by chance merely surfing the internet.

Of course, I am interested in all hifi gear. However, I do not change my gear very often. I am actually pleased with the present set up. I find Tyll’s recommendations useful & accurate so take what he says as being reliable.

There are plenty of shops selling high end audio equipment in Thailand but most that I know of are centered in Bangkok & Chiang Mai. Here out in the sticks it is a very different storey. There is just shop I know of which sells very low end pro audio equipment.

As for us Brits living in interesting places, there are plenty of Americans living here in sunny Thailand. Chiang Mai and a lot of the north of Thailand have lots of christen churches and missionaries of all denominations as well as a large mainly retired American community. The US even has a consulate there. We use to but cannot afford to maintain one. Britain is going 3rd world!

Chris in Thailand

vic20gamer's picture

Whenever possible, I prefer using a wired keyboard and mouse - my system just sounds better with greater low end imapct and the sweetest, most crystalline highs imaginable. The only downside with wired a keyboard and mouse is, there is a very slight muffled/nasally characteristic to the mids, common to closed-backs and a tad-bit of that Sennheiser veil.

coastman25's picture

Yes I get the same sound impression myself. Nice to see people have a sense of humour on this site

zobel's picture

I like my wires too. Can't make toast without them. Analog toaster, analog coffee maker, waffle iron, washing machine, stove, dryer, lights, all wired..all analog.

Martin.'s picture

I have never, and will not in the foreseeable future, buy a wireless mouse or keyboard. No way am I gonna go around charging them. I already have to charge my phone, bluetooth speaker and iPod. Enough for me to remember. I will not be changing to wireless headphones either, for the same reason.

I remember having to reformat my sister's mac and asking her to buy a wired mouse and keyboard because halfway through the process the keyboard went haywire. She insisted on getting a bluetooth keyboard and that wasn't compatible with her mac...

Have never heard of a 3.5mm plug breaking before now. As mentioned above, I have had the end or beginning of the plug of the wire breaking, both in headphones and in computers. I have had to buy a new charger twice for my current laptop. I wish Apple, who claim to be so concerned about quality, could make propper wires.

Tyler Schrank's picture

Did they have to make it flesh colored in that picture?

Tyler Schrank's picture

There will come a time when even this will be too thick for a mobile device in the very near future, and I imagine eventually a point where we no longer use slate-like mobile devices in the far future. But, in the interim, my best guess is that very few to no companies will adopt this because of reasons.

Martin.'s picture

"There will come a time when even this will be too thick for a mobile device in the very near future" You sure about that? I remember the first like, 4 iPhones always getting thinner and that it was a selling point at the keynotes. Since then, I have not really seen the devices getting thinner. I think by this time they have other obstacles that stand in the way of making a phone thinner. But you are probably right about nobody adopting this tech.

BoyBalastog's picture

I think the end of Moore's law is already proving that these kinds of devices can't get any smaller or thinner past a certain point. Computer hardware just can't shrink while increasing performance at the same pace as it could back then. And even if it could, think of all the phones that'll bend in pockets. Build quality and engineering can only get you so far if phones get any thinner.

zobel's picture

I don't have a slate-like mobile device, nor use one, or want one. Flip phones are making a come back..and CD...It is being discovered finally!

zobel's picture

I'm 66 years old. I have used them for as long as they have been around, but not even once has one failed me or even become intermittent, loose, or noisy. I have used the heck out of them, and find that the plugs and jacks are fine, but very rarely, a cable connection to the plug has become strained to the point of breaking.
I think these jacks by Microsoft will be implemented, but only in phones where space requirements dictate them.

Gooberslot's picture

If your iPhone is pissing you off then why don't you ditch it for something that has the connections you want?

As for the headphone jack... I don't ever see myself abandoning it. I hate having to worry about charging batteries and battery wear, and refuse to use wireless if there's a wired alternative.