Can You Use a Headphone Jack as an AUX Out?

At some point in your home recording, you may want to record directly from an instrument to your computer. You may have heard that you can use a headphone jack as an aux out from some fellow home recorders online. But is that a good idea?

You can use a headphone jack as an aux output (assuming you are using a standard 3.5mm headphone). However, an impedance mismatch between the headphone jack and the aux port can cause sound quality issues. To avoid these issues, you must increase the volume until you get your desired result.

In this article, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know on using a headphone jack as an aux out. I’ll talk a little bit about the basics of using a headphone jack as an aux out, and try to answer some questions you may have on the subject.

Can You Use a Headphone Jack as an AUX Out?

Table of Contents

Can I Use Headphone Jack as Aux Out?

The answer is yes, with some caveats. Let’s talk about how to use the headphone jack as an aux out.

How To Use Headphone Output Jacks as an Aux Out

You can use a headphone jack as an aux out by connecting it to the audio input of your sound card.

This will allow you to record the analog audio from your headphones to your computer. You’ll need a 3.5mm cable long enough to connect your headphones to your sound card. 

Once you have the cable, follow these steps:

  1. Plug one end into the headphone jack of your audio device and the other end into the audio input of your sound card. 
  2. Open your recording software and set the input source to line-in. 
  3. Start recording and adjusting the volume levels until you get the desired sound.

Are Aux Connectors and Headphone Jacks the Same?

Aux connectors and headphone jacks are not the same. An aux jack is usually found on portable music players, and allows you to connect the player to another audio device like a car stereo. On the other hand, a headphone jack is designed for use with headphones. 

While you can technically use a headphone jack as an aux out, it’s not ideal because the sound quality will be lower than if you used an aux out. They may look similar, but they serve different purposes

Aux connectors are typically used to connect external speakers to a device. In contrast, headphone jacks are used to connect headphones or earbuds to a device.

Differences Between an Aux and Headphone Outputs Jack

Both an aux and headphone jack allow you to connect headphones or speakers to your device, but there are some key differences between them.

Aux Input

  • An auxiliary input is a 3.5mm (1/8) stereo jack found on many portable radios, stereos, audio devices, and other devices. Aux cable inputs are used to input audio from an external source, such as a smartphone or MP3 player to play music from an audio source. On the other hand, a headphone jack is a 3.5mm (1/8) mono jack found on many headphones and portable speakers. It’s used to output audio to headphones or speakers. 
  • Headphones also typically have a lower output level, which means they’re not as good for use with powered speakers. Aux jacks, on the other hand, have a higher output level, which makes them more suitable for powered speakers.

In a nutshell, if you’re just using basic headphones, a headphone jack will suffice. But if you’re looking to connect to powered speakers, an aux jack (auxiliary input) is a better option if you have an aux cable.

Can You Record Out of a Headphone Jack?

You can record out of a headphone jack. It is a viable and relatively cost-effective option if you are recording in a home studio. However, you need to consider factors such as quality, levels, and the type of headphones. 

Here’s what you need to keep in mind when you’re recording out of a headphone jack.

  • Quality: The quality of your recordings will be lower than if you used a proper audio interface. 
  • Levels: You’ll need to ensure the levels are set correctly, or you risk clipping and distorting your recordings. 
  • Headphone Type: Not all headphone jacks are created equal. Some will work better than others. 

With that said, if you’re just starting with home recording, using a headphone jack is a perfectly acceptable way to get started.

Can a Microphone Jack Be Used as an Aux?

A microphone jack can be used as an aux out. However, you should keep in mind that the impedance of your audio devices may not match, unwanted noise may be picked up if you are recording close to your speakers, and a pre-amplifier may be necessary. 

Can Aux In Be Used as Aux Out?

Aux in cannot be used as an aux out. Aux input is meant for inputting audio signals, while aux out is intended for outputting audio signals. If you try to use aux in as aux out, you will probably damage one or more of the audio devices you are connecting.

Audio Signal

The main difference between aux in and aux out is the direction of the audio signal flow. Aux in receives an audio signal from an external source, while aux out sends an alert to an external device. 

As such, it’s not possible to use aux in as aux out. 

If you need to send an audio signal from your computer to an external device, you’ll need to use a separate aux out port.

How To Use an iPhone Headphone Jack as a Line-In Recording

Despite the removal of the common headphone jack on new iPhone models, you can still use the 3.5mm headphone jack as a line-in recording device on older models.

This is a handy feature if you want to record lectures, meetings, or phone calls directly onto your iPhone.

Here’s how to use your iPhone headphone jack as a line-in recording device:

  1. Plug a 3.5mm headphone jack into the headphone port on your iPhone.
  2. Tap the “Voice Memos” icon on your iPhone.
  3. Tap the red “Record” button to start recording.
  4. Tap the “Stop” button when you’re finished recording.

Your recording will now be saved in your iPhone’s “Voice Memos” app.

Final Thoughts on Headphone Outputs Aux Connections

While you can technically use the most common headphone jack as an aux out, it’s not recommended.

The audio quality will be lower, and you may experience signal degradation. Plus, using a headphone jack puts extra strain on your device’s battery. It’s better to invest in a dedicated aux out or a wireless solution.

Juan Louder
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Juan Louder

I started SoundStudioMagic to learn how to record my own audiobook at home, and now I'm addicted to all the latest techniques and gear.

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