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Why won't my microphone work with my device?

So, you've bought a microphone, or a headset with a built in microphone, and plugged it into your device, but it's not working. What is wrong with it!!

To be honest, there are many reasons that it may not be working, so the best thing to do is to get in touch with an expert and ask for some help!

Over the years of dealing with microphone issues with many different pieces of equipment, there is one issue that comes back to haunt us over and over again. This is to do with the wiring used for the connection of the microphone or headset into your device.

A very common connector is the 4 pole jack, this is a simple 3.5mm jack plug that looks like a normal headphone connector, but it has an extra connection. For years this connector has been used to get audio from your device to the loudspeakers built into your headphones or earbuds. This was a simple 3 terminal setup that consisted of a common ground connection and then a connection for the left ear, and one for the right ear.

As devices started to become more capable, the 3 pole, or TRS (Tip/Ring/Sleeve), connection was modified to squeeze in a fourth connection. The 4 pole version, known as the TRRS connector, consists of a tip connection, a ring connection, a second ring connection, and a sleeve connection. This extra bit could now allow for a connection to be made for a microphone too.

It all sounds great so far, but just like VHS vs Betamax, the world never decided on a common standard. Two main standards did come out on top, these being OMTP and CTIA, with OMTP being used on older devices and CTIA being utilised on more modern devices. So what's the difference?

The best way to show you this is to use a simple image:

As you can see, both the CTIA and OMTP standards use the tip of the connector for the left loudspeaker connection, with the first ring connection being used for the right loudspeaker connection. Then they change! The OMTP standard had the second ring connection for the microphone signal, and used the final sleeve connection as a common ground. The CTIA method, swapped these around and used the second ring for the common ground, and the sleeve connection for the microphone signal.

This little difference is all you need to throw your headset and microphone into all sorts of problems. Sometimes, if you're lucky, it just won't work. Other scenarios could be that the microphone works, but the volume is low or distorted, there could be volume issues with the headphones, and sometimes you may get stereo reproduction and other times you'll get mono out of both ears.

Ideally, the manufacturers of both the device and the peripheral would let you know what the wiring is in their device, but with a lot of imports hitting the market, this can sometimes be an impossible task! There are even some large modern manufacturers that use the same connector for control of their devices and employ proprietary wiring to the same TRRS connector which leads to a whole new set of problems.

.Lots of solutions have been found through trial and error, and you can't beat the experience and knowledge of an expert to steer you in the right direction. There's always a way, but a lot of patience is called for.

Created On  24 Nov 2021 17:03  -  Permalink


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