For example on a soundcard, which have two from three connectors.

If you would for example using a headset as microphone, what should be changed in the cable or connector, maybe just plus and minus of the headset-cable ?

Here a possible wire connection of a microphone:

enter image description here

Here a possible wire connection of earphones:

enter image description here


  • I don't think there's any physical difference between audio input or output ports. The only difference is that the computer accepts input from one of them, while sending output to the other. – cascer1 May 12 '17 at 15:48
  • Okay, I tried to use the headset as micorphone, but it didn't work. Maybe the plug of the headset is different. – Tech-IO May 12 '17 at 16:04
  • Do you mean that you have a headset with built-in microphone? If so, they usually have another layer on the connector (how many little rings of insulation do you see). Your computer will need support for this or it won't be able to support the built-in mic. – cascer1 May 12 '17 at 16:29
  • No the headset isn't a headphone with microphone built-in. On the headset-plug I use on the pc, it have two isolaters. I tested already to turn a speaker into a microphone on an other device(just connect plus and minus). I just don't know how the wires are connected into the pink-connector on a pc, so to turn a headset-speaker into a microphone. Maybe I have to use pc-microphone-cable with the right plug. – Tech-IO May 12 '17 at 17:03
  • Go and take a picture of what you got. It's going to make things easier. You can't simply turn a speaker (an output) into a microphone (input). Even if in theory it would be possible as far as I know. – Seth May 12 '17 at 17:19

You are fortunate if you have separate jacks for each. If you have a gaming headset with just one plug for both you will need an adapter to split them apart. They are easy to find.

To directly answer your question: The difference is how the software works with them.

In Windows, if you right-click on the speaker icon you will find that there are both "Recording Devices" and "Playback devices" there. When you go into one or the other you are presented with whatever the computer thinks is connected so you can set a default, set levels, etc.

There are alternatives that can be considered, also. For less than $10 you can get a universal USB sound adapter. They work on PCs and Android Tablets with no extra software. They give you two jacks. The green one is always for speakers or headphones. I always keep a few of them around for situations where I want to know for sure how things are going to act. Most computers are smart enough to switch over to them when they are inserted then back to defaults when they are removed. And with that adapter I mentioned above they work fine with gaming headsets that have one plug for both. They're available from the usual sources.


As it was pointed out a microphone is an input device. Hence you need to connect it to a input port (red microphone on most soundcards). While you would connect the ear pieces (usually green to an output port). Most common for PC is a 3.5mm jack for this.

This applies to standard PC headsets. Another kind of headset would be the ones found on gaming consoles like the XBox and Playstation which usually only have a single cable and a 4-pole adapter. For those you will need a suitable jack on your sound card. I'm not entirely sure about the compatibility in regards to standard jacks.

  • 1
    Upvote. Standard jacks are all over the map, when there is only a single one. I usually assume they are ready for both microphone and headset. . – SDsolar May 12 '17 at 17:19

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