What Is an Audio Socket?

C. Mitchell

An audio socket is a small jack or port through which sounds are transmitted. They are most common on electronic devices, such as computers and portable music players. Any headphone jack, for instance, is an audio socket. Amplifiers and some cars also have such sockets. An audio socket is used to play sound from one device in or through another medium.

Audio sockets require specialized audio cables.
Audio sockets require specialized audio cables.

There are several different types of audio sockets, and they range in size as well as location. All are more or less used for the same thing, however, which is the porting of sound. Audio sockets require specialized audio cables. Headphone cords are some of the most simplistic audio cables; more complex varieties include the coaxial cables used to hook up surround sound entertainment systems, the cords used to amplify electric guitar music, and cables used to record sounds from a microphone.

Most guitar amplifiers use cables with a 1/4-inch input jack.
Most guitar amplifiers use cables with a 1/4-inch input jack.

While cables may be responsible for carrying the sound waves, the sockets are what allow those waves to be translated and correctly transmitted. Cables usually have metal tips which act as conductors. When they fit into the receivers, they establish a positive connection.

Once a cable is plugged in, sound waves can be read, received, and translated by the host. This allows sound from one device — say, a portable music player — to be played through a different device, such as a car’s radio. Two audio sockets are required in such a case: an audio socket on the music player into which one end of the cable is inserted and a corresponding audio socket in the car for the cable's opposite end.

Most appliances have only one audio socket, and can accept sounds from only a certain kind of cable. The most familiar types of sockets are small, and fit plugs with a rounded tip. How the audio socket is composed is more or less a function of what sort of cable it is designed to receive. Audio sockets on amplifiers, musical instruments, and professional recording devices are usually more complex than a simple headphone jack, often involving numerous prongs and sometimes even locking receivers. Using an audio socket of this sort usually requires a bit more precision than simply plugging in a cord.

Audio sockets are usually only present on devices that are specifically designed with sound transmission in mind. Just the same, the quality of a socket in many respects mirrors the quality of the overall device, as well as the quality of cable used with it. Replacing an audio socket is usually very difficult. Depending on the device, it is usually better to start fresh than worry with the micro-electronics involved in repairing a faulty audio socket.

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