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4 types of wired headset connectors
Headsets can connect to phones, computers, and other audio devices in many different ways. This is a good thing, since you can always find a headset for any connection type you can think of. This is also a “bad” thing, since you have to keep track of these connections. Below, I’ll give you a short look at the most common ones.
To state something rather obvious, there are two broad ways to connect a headset to a phone or a computer: wired and wireless. We’ve already looked at the two main wireless standards in our earlier “DECT vs. Bluetooth” post.
But what are the major types of wired headset connectors? Well, let’s take a look…
Wires used to be the standard way to connect headsets to other devices, until Bluetooth headsets and other wireless technologies came about. Wired connections rely on a physical cord between devices, but the connectors, plugs, and jacks involved can be quite different. Here are the ones you’re likely to come across:
RJ9 (aka RJ10, aka RJ22)
RJ9 Headset Connector
What is it?
This one’s a bit tricky. “RJ” stands for “Registered Jack,” so now you know that piece of trivia. You may come across headset vendors that use one of the following terms: RJ9, RJ10, or RJ22. So, these are three different types of connectors, right?
The short answer is: No. The terms are used interchangeably to talk about a headset that plugs into a desk phone’s standard handset port (potentially via an amplifier). The headset then essentially replaces the handset.
The longer, more technical, and pedantic answer is: These headset connectors all refer to the same, four-contact 4P4C handset plug, and they shouldn’t even use the “RJ” terminology, because they’re not connecting directly to a public telephone network and zZZZzZZzzzzzz. You can read more here, if you so choose.
The main takeaway here is: RJ9 = RJ10 = RJ22
Most older, fixed-line desk phones have a square, modular handset port. Headsets with RJ9 connectors can use this port to take over the handset’s function. Some newer desk phones have a dedicated “headset” port, which can be used with RJ9 headsets without taking up the “handset” spot.
To make things even more confusing, it’s not always guaranteed that a certain headset will work with a certain desk phone, even if both of them use RJ9. That’s due to fun things like pin alignment, and there are adapters and amplifiers that help bridge these connections.
USB Headset Connector
What is it?
You know what USB is, but for the sake of anyone stumbling into the 21st century without any prior knowledge of personal computers:
USB is short for “Universal Serial Bus,” and it’s the most commonly used computer port – one could even say it’s universal. It’s used to connect all sorts of stuff to your computer, from functional things like a keyboard or a mouse to weird things like USB-powered miniature lava lamps. Some smartphones also use USB/mini-USB/micro-USB connections to transfer data. USB headsets are made to take advantage of this universal connectivity.
USB headsets plug into the computer’s USB port and usually automatically take over all audio, including Skype conversations and the like. This procedure is typically plug-and-play, so you can be up and running within seconds. Many USB headsets also have control units with buttons that let you do things like change volume and mute calls directly.
3.5 millimeter plug
3.5mm Headset Connector
What is it?
The 3.5 mm plug should also be familiar to you. It’s a widely used way to connect music gadgets to audio output like headphones and headsets. A headset’s 3.5 mm plug goes into the corresponding 3.5 mm jack on whatever audio device you’re using.
Computers, portable music players, and newer mobile phones.
The 3.5 mm jack is pretty versatile and used in a lot of different audio appliances. By far the majority of new smartphones have a 3.5 mm jack that lets you plug in a 3.5 mm headset. You can then listen to music and use the headset for calls. The same goes for tablets and music players (except music players aren’t usually built for phone calls).
New computers work in a similar way, but some of the older ones actually have two separate 3.5 mm jacks – one for the microphone and one for the headphones. That’s why some headsets actually come with two separate 3.5 mm plugs – one for the microphone input jack (red or pink) and one for the audio output jack (black, blue, or green). You can also buy special conversion cables that let you use headsets with these older computers.
2.5 millimeter plug
2.5mm Headset Connector
What is it?
The 2.5 mm plug is the older yet smaller brother of the 3.5 mm plug. It’s quite outdated nowadays, but it works in pretty much the same way as the more modern 3.5 mm version.
Typically older mobile phones and some desk phones
The 3.5 mm plug is quickly becoming the go-to standard, but older mobile phones have a 2.5 mm jack for connecting headsets. You can find equally outdated headsets with 2.5 mm plugs, but even then, some of them may need an adapter to work with a 2.5 mm mobile phone. Confused? Don’t worry, so am I.
There are also a few select desk phones that come with a 2.5 mm headset port instead of the more commonly used RJ9. But you can find conversion cables that let you connect any wired headset to these phones.
Special mention: Quick Disconnect
Quick-Disconnect Headset Connector
What is it?
The Quick Disconnect (QD) concept isn’t quite like the rest of the above connections. There’s no dedicated “QD” port on your computer or phone. You can go check, I’ll wait.
Instead, a QD cable consists of two modular parts – one that plugs into the computer or phone, and one on the headset itself. Together, they form a QD connection between them. This lets you quickly unplug the headset without dropping the call you’re on. Then you can walk away and pretend your headset is wireless (except you won’t be able to actually hear or say anything).
This is useful if you have to move around and look for things while talking to someone but don’t want to take off the headset to do so. Once you come back to the desk, you just plug the headset back in and continue the call. Neat!
Desk phones (via RJ9) or computers (via USB or 3.5 mm)
Because of the modular design, you can have a QD headset that connects to either RJ9 or USB or 3.5 mm ports. All you need is to exchange the part that connects to the desk phone or computer, and you’re ready to go. You can buy separate cables that have whatever type of connector you need and then use them with your existing QD headset. Just make sure they’re compatible, as each vendor tends to have its own set of QD cables.
Because USB and QD connectors look quite similar, you’ll be forgiven for trying to cram a QD plug directly into your laptop’s USB port. But you’ll need a QD-to-USB adapter to actually make it work.
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A Simple Guide to Headset Technology
As telecommunications technology keeps changing and spawning exciting new product lines in headsets, how do you keep up? Is an over-the-head or earbud design right for you? We have a quick solution. Just take a minute to scan the list of commonly used terms and trademarks below, and we can give you a jumpstart on determining which Plantronics headset solution best suits you!
Abbreviation for "Advanced Audio Distribution Profile". A2DP is a Bluetooth profile that transmits stereo sounds. Also referred to as the AV profile, it is designed to transfer a stereo audio stream (such as music) from an mp3 player to a headset or car radio. Plantronics products such as Voyager Legend and the BackBeat family support the A2DP profile.
The unit that provides electrical power to the system and charges stationary batteries; usually plugs into a wall outlet.
Active Noise Cancellation
Also known as active noise control (ANC) or active noise reduction (ANR), it is a method for reducing unwanted sound by the addition of a second sound ("anti-noise" specifically designed to cancel the first.
A device used for connecting two or more apparatus.
Amplifiers make sound louder. This technology enables headsets to be used with corded phones and phone systems. Plantronics manufactures and markets a wide selection of corded, stand-alone amplifiers, such as the M12 and DA82. In addition to amplifying sound, Plantronics amplifiers and audio processors usually include additional features to enhance communication, including mute and volume controls.
In regards to Plantronics products, it refers to computer headsets that plug directly into a computer's sound card with two round 3.5 mm plugs.
A special feature supported by Plantronics wireless devices that can detect audio signal at the USB port and automatically establish a PC radio link between the base and wireless headset without the user having to press the PC call control button.
AudioIQ makes wireless conversations effortless and pleasant, regardless of the environment. For incoming calls, AudioIQ automatically adapts to background noise levels and intelligently improves the receive quality, clarity and volume level. For outgoing calls, AudioIQ reduces background noise for listeners up to 7-8 decibels, or by approximately 50 percent. It also minimizes interference from artifacts such as speech distortions to maintain exceptionally clear voice intelligibility.
A switch which allows calls to be automatically answered by putting on the headset.
AVCRCP (Audio/Video remote control profile)
A type of Bluetooth profile included in some Plantronics headsets. AVRCP (Audio/Video Remote Control Profile): Enables you to play, pause, and stop music, as well as track forward and backward.
A headset's charging base or amplifier.
A headset wearing style where the band goes behind the head and around the neck to provide stability and comfort.
Sound to both ears. Binaural headsets cover both ears, while monaural headsets cover only one.
A wireless communications system that uses standard short-range radio technology instead of physical cables to connect many different types of communications and computing devices.
A boom microphone is a directional microphone mounted or attached to a pole or arm.
Abbreviation for Bluetooth.
The button on the headset used to answer or terminate calls.
A proprietary Plantronics technology that uses electronic signal processing to enhance transmission and reception through innovative noise reduction techniques.
A Plantronics audio technology that helps to reduce common problems with business conversations that stem from poor audio quality, including repeats, errors, and listening fatigue. It is compatible with both traditional phones and headsets as well as wideband VoIP phones and headsets. It provides advanced echo management, delivers consistent and comfortable call volume, reduces background noise, and protects against loud noises.
Configures volume, desk phone, peripherals, etc.
Control Panel is part of the Windows operating system. Going into the "Sound and Audio Devices" section of the Control Panel allows you to change the settings for your computer's sound devices.
A headset that offers the choice of two wearing styles: over-the-head or over-the-ear. These headsets can easily be "converted" from one style to the other in a few simple steps. Plantronics convertible headsets include the DuoPro® (H171/H171N), the DuoSet® (H141/H141N), and the M170/M175 mobile headsets.
These units connect into the phone's hand receiver port and come with a remote that can be used away from the desk; they make the sound louder. Abbreviated as CA.
A set of products that comes with both a cordless amplifier and a headset. Abbreviated as CS.
Unwanted signals in a communication channel (as in a telephone, radio, or computer) caused by transference of energy from another circuit (as by leakage or coupling).
Abbreviation for "Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications". A radio technology for voice data applications (such as cordless telephones, wireless offices and even wireless telephone lines to the home). DECT is designed especially for a smaller area with a large number of users, such as in cities and corporate complexes.
A Windows or Android program. It allows users to view and control the hardware attached to the computer. One feature of Device Manager is its ability to list the drivers installed on your computer system.
A term for headset base, i.e., where the headset is docked for charging. See base.
A momentary loss of audio signal.
Abbreviation for "digital signal processing". Mathematical manipulation of an information signal to actively reduce background noise for improved sound quality. This can include equalization (bass and treble adjustment), AEC, noise reduction and audio leveling. For Plantronics products, DSP refers to computer headsets that connect via the USB port rather than the computer's sound card.
Dynamic noise reduction
Used on many Plantronics products where noise in the environment is detected and noise reduction algorithms are adjusted automatically to address the noise.
A small, discreet earphone that fits in the ear while the microphone is positioned along the cord. Also referred to as in-the-ear style. The BackBeat GO, BackBeat GO 2, and BackBeat GAME are some examples of Plantronics products which use earbuds.
A device with minimum rigidity used to secure over-the-ear style headsets to the ear.
A foam or plastic tip that attaches to a headset and fits snugly inside of your ear.
Full duplex speakerphone
This term pertains to speaker phones that have minimal reduction of gain on the microphone when the far end is talking. This enables better two-way communication.
Firefly® On-Line Indicator
Firefly is the unique in-use indicator light that lets others know you are on the phone. No more interruptions! You can find it on the CT12 cordless headset telephone.
Hand Receiver (Port)
The portion of the telephone that you hold in your hand when talking. It is generally attached to the phone with a coil cord. The hand receiver plugs into the phone's hand receiver port (usually a square, modular plug).
The part of a telephone system you pick up and put to your ear and speak into.
Some, but not all, phones have a headset port. This headset port may be a round, 2.5 mm plug, or a square modular RJ9 plug. However, most Plantronics amplifiers are designed to plug into the telephone's hand receiver port rather than the headset port.
Abbreviation for "hands-free profile". A more advanced version of the HSP Bluetooth profile. It allows voice dialing activation, redial, call transfer, and call answer/end capabilities.
Abbreviation for "headset profile". A Bluetooth® profile used for voice, mono music, and internet chat programs. This is the most commonly used profile, providing support for the popular Bluetooth® headsets to be used with mobile phones.
Manual control device, usually located in the headset cord, for enabling the mute function of the microphone and changing the volume level of the headset.
Link dropping means that the signal between the headset and the telephone periodically disconnects. If you experience link dropping, we recommend that you establish a new signal between the headset and the telephone by re-pairing or resubscribing your headset.
Modular means square and generally refers to modular RJ9 plugs. Most Plantronics amplifiers use modular ports.
Sound reception in one ear. Monaural headsets cover only one ear, whereas binaural headsets cover both.
Multipoint is also known as "multishifting." Although all of our Bluetooth headsets can pair with up to four different devices, multipoint technology allows some Bluetooth headsets to switch active connections between two paired devices. Non-multipoint headsets can be actively connected to only one device at a time.
An audio alert that lets the user know when mute is turned off.
A microphone design that greatly reduces the transmission of background noise, enhancing headset sound quality. noise-cancelling headsets are especially effective for offices with employees in close proximity to one another. In mobile applications, noise-cancelling microphones reduce background noise in cars, airports or on the street. Headset model numbers that end with "N" are noise-cancelling models.
A microphone that will pick up sound from all around it, in all directions. Plantronics uses omnidirectional microphones in a number of products, as well as noise-cancelling mics.
A Plantronics feature that lets you hear the surrounding sound without taking off your headphones. This is a process where one or more of the microphones on a headset are activated to pick up ambient sounds, then feed them into the user's ear. This is also called "open listen" mode.
Over-the-ear is used to describe Plantronics headsets that have over-the-ear earloops or other devices to hold headsets in place. Plantronics CS530, Savi 730, and Savi 430 are some examples.
The most common style of headset, with a headband that goes up and over your head. Typically available in monaural and binaural styles.
Pairing refers to establishing a wireless connection between a headset and a phone. It is often used to describe the initial set up between a Bluetooth headset and phone.
Indicates when a device is discoverable or looking to be discovered. Typical of BT situations. Indicated on Plantronics products by rapidly flashing lights.
Passkey refers to a password needed to connect a Plantronics Bluetooth headset to a Bluetooth device. For most Plantronics products, this passkey is 0000. Sometimes referred to as a passcode.
A two-way radio communication system. An active radio link means that your headset has a live connection with your mobile or VoIP phone. An inactive link means that your headset is not in use.
Your receive volume refers to the volume of what you hear. Increasing your receive volume will make the caller sound louder for you. It will not affect the way that your voice sounds to the caller.
Function of headset which disconnects the call or sends the call to voice mail depending on the device
Resetting your wireless headset can clear static and correct other acoustic issues. See our Knowledge Base on plantronics.com to find reset instructions for your headset.
RJ9 is a standard modular plug on most corded telephones. RJ9 has four positions and four contacts (4P4C). Many Plantronics amplifiers also use this plug size.
A screen lock/unlock capability based on proximity detection of a Plantronics Legend Bluetooth® headset.
Smart sensor technology
These sensors detect whether or not you are the wearing the headset. Sensors are located in the headset body and speaker housing.
A software program for making telephone calls over the Internet using a general-purpose computer rather than dedicated hardware such as a standard desktop telephone.
A sound card is a computer component that processes sound and provides ports for audio devices such as microphones, headsets, and speakers.
An automatic gain control system found in Plantronics adapters that provides natural voice tone and removes loud tones as well as occasional noises and crackles on the line.
A low power mode in a computer. Also called "sleep mode," the screen and hard disks are turned off, but the memory (RAM) chips are continually refreshed in order to retain their contents. In addition, the CPU is throttled down to its lowest power state.
Stereo sound refers to sound that sends different signals to the left and right sides of the headsets, as opposed to mono sound, which sends just one signal. Stereo headsets are headsets that support stereo sound.
Synonym for pair, but used exclusively for enterprise DECT products. See pair.
The number of hours you can talk on your headset before it must be recharged.
Transmit volume refers to the volume of your voice and your headset's microphone. If you increase your transmit volume, your voice will sound louder to the caller. It will not affect the way that the caller's voice sounds for you.
USB stands for "Universal Serial Bus", and refers to a common port on computers. Some mobile phones also use USB or "mini-USB" connections to transfer data.
A USB device that enables UC functionality.
Vechile power charger
Allows a headset to be charged in a vehicle, usually via the vehicle's lighter socket. Abbreviated as VPC.
A recorded notification message that informs the user about a change in the state of the phone or headset (turned on or off, pairing status, incoming call, etc.).
A recorded notification message that asks the user to take action, such as accept or reject an incoming call.
Also called Attitubes or "mic sticks", voice tubes are translucent, plastic tubes which serve as microphones in some Plantronics headsets. Voice tubes are removable and can be replaced.
Abbreviation for "Voice over Internet Protocol". The technology used to send voice signals and phone calls over the Internet.
A protective covering for headset microphones that mitigates wind noise to enhance microphone performance.
Y training cable
A cable that allows two headsets to be connected to one phone, enabling two people to listen to the same call (for training purposes).
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