Headphone Splitter

Introduction: Headphone Splitter

About: An electrical engineer who likes to make things.

So I have these big, over ear headphones, and these little ear buds, and I want to use them both at the same time, but my mp3 player only has room for one audio jack. 
What to do!
Build a headphone splitter, that's what to do.

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Step 1: Parts

-Two Female Headphone Jacks
   I took these off a sound card from and old computer

-A Male Headphone Jack
     I cut one from a broken pair of headphones, it made this easier because the wires were already attacked to the jack

-Soldering Iron and Solder

Step 2: Audio Jacks

A standard 3.5mm audio jack has 3 contacts.
On the male jack, the tip is the left audio signal, the middle is the right signal, and the back is the ground.
(If you don't care about the left channel being on the left, and the right being on the right, just think of them as side channels that are interchangeable)

Step 3: Identifying Your Contacts

I'm sure there's some sort of industry standard here, but I didn't bother to check.

Strip some of the insulation off the ends of both wires attached to the male jack.
You will have four wires, two ground, the left, and the right. Often the two ground wires are the same color, and the left and right are two more colors.

You can identify the ground either by measuring the resistance between each wire and the end of the jack, or by finding the pair of wires that have no resistance between them. Twist these wires together.

If you care about left and right, check the resistance from the remaining wires to the jack.
The front is left, and the middle is right.
Otherwise, you already have your ground and two sides.

Once you have identified the contacts on the male side, plug it into one of your female jacks and measure the resistance between the known wires and the contacts on the female jack.
It's always a good idea to check in order to make sure there are no shorts and no broken contacts. (so check all of your jacks)

Step 4: Finally...

All that's left to do is solder the two ground wires from the male jack to the ground on the female, left to left, right to right, and finally attach the other female connector(s) the same way.

Remember! If you don't care about left and right, the sides are just sides, because I don't care this meant i could attach my two female jacks pin to pin.

Step 5: Again...

I built a triple headphone splitter where the lefts were left and the rights were right.
The packaging made doing so convenient.

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    3 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Unfortunately this project suffers from a basic flaw - the implementation means that any set of headphones can load the other set(s) and therefore introduce distortion to all sets.

    This is because different makes of headphones have different impedances which the output device (phone, amplifier, etc.) sees as a variable load and so ends up providing variable output power which one moment can be too much and the next not enough to drive the different headphones.

    Even the same make and model of headphones can have variations in their specifications - all specifications are nominal i.e. expected with a tolerance of +/-5% usually.

    Decades ago now (1987) I built a few variations on a splitter box based on circuits published in various audio magazines and audio textbooks - the best one had each socket loaded with a 33ohm resistor on each leg containing audio (i.e. the left and right channels for each socket but not the ground line for what is hoped are obvious reasons). All resistors were matched to within 0.5% (i.e. +/-0.165ohms) What this did was ensured that the load seen by the driving device (amplifier, phone, etc.) was constant at all points in the circuit; variations in the impedance of individual headsets became a non-event.


    Reply 3 years ago

    I've definitely experienced this flaw! Especially with a pair of nice low impedance headphones being plugged in at the same time as a pair of cheap ear buds. Luckily, my non-audiophile ears weren't sensitive to any introduced distortion, but the volume difference is huge. For high impedance loads (auxiliary ports and the like) I haven't had any issues.

    The resistor thing is interesting. I'll admit that I don't entirely understand passive audio circuits that work that way; I suppose the 33 Ohm resistor effectively swamps whatever impedance your headphones are, so the differences become negligible?


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I can't help but think the way you did the first one, the left and right on one would be reversed