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1/8 inch audio cable plug is loose in 3.5 mm socket

Posted on 2004-08-08
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Last Modified: 2010-04-29
Where can I buy a true 3.5 mm audio cable? My Audigy 2 sound card asks for a 3.5 mm cable, but I've only been able to buy 1/8 inch. I've been having trouble with my audio. After much troubleshooting, including 2-1/2 hours on the phone with tech support, I've come to the conclusion the plug is loose in the socket. When I wiggle it, I can make it work for awhile. Sometimes it gives me both channels, sometimes only one. Alternately, is there a way to
make a tighter fit, preferably without having to take the card out?  
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Question by:frustrationtoo
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by:Solaron
ID: 11746965
A small jack is usually really easy to find. When you buy a small jack (3.5mm) they say what devices they are suited to. if it is coated with gold and came in a packet say from Comet, or PC World, then chances are it is meant for Mini Disk Players - the gold coating means you never get a full insert for sound cards. So all i can suggest is if you dont have one already, try and find a cheapy small jack cable that does NOT have gold coating and you may get a better fit. I know that's not a solution, but i've had these problems before and it worked for me!
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by:frustrationtoo
ID: 11747275
1/8 inch American = 3.175 mm European, so obviously it's too small for a 3.5 mm port. I can't believe all the audio freaks out there are putting up with that kind of fit. What I have are speakers that worked fine with my old PC, but are having a problem with the new one. Luckily, the cable is not permanently attached to the speaker, but I can't find a replacement cable that is any better than the old one.
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Burbble earned 125 total points
ID: 11748980
>> if it is coated with gold and came in a packet say from Comet, or PC World, then chances are
>> it is meant for Mini Disk Players - the gold coating means you never get a full insert for
>> sound cards. So all i can suggest is if you dont have one already, try and find a cheapy small
>> jack cable that does NOT have gold coating and you may get a better fit.

I think you may be confusing the gold color of the plug with something else. The material used does not effect the size of the plug; the reason for gold coatings on audio and video connectors is that it supposedly has less resistance to electrical flow, which help prevent signal loss. Personally, I have never seen any difference between the gold-plated and non-gold connectors in terms of signal quality. I also read somewhere that the gold-plated connectors are not suitable for suitations where you are constantly unplugging and reattaching the cable, because the gold is malleable and tends to rub off. But, whatever...

I am pretty sure that the "small stereo" plug is a standard size, regardless of the length measurement given. This has been something that haspurplexed me for years: why do they call 1/8" and 3.5mm the same thing?? A Google search reveals this interchangeability of the two unequal lengths... http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=3.5mm+1/8+inch

Here's another thread on the topic, although with less than satisfactory answers... http://www.tech-forums.net/computer/topic/8820.html

Now, on to your audio problem...

From what you describe, it does seem like something is not making contact. Do you hear static or something, or is there just an absence of sound?

I think it is very unlikely that the diameter of the cable is too small, however. Can you rotate it at all within the sound card? By rotate, I don't mean twist it, I mean, sort of, like "press" it against the rim of the audio port, while it's in there... does that make sense? Just to see whether there is any empty space, which would indicate if it is actually undersized. You shouldn't be able to move it around any while it is connected.

Also, look at the connector on the cable itself. I have seen this *exact* problem you describe, in three situations:

1) There is a piece of dirt literally stuck onto it. Take a moist paper towel and wipe the connector off with a spinning motion. Then dry it really well.

2) One of the rubber insulators is popping out. This would be very noticeable... Is the surface of the plug smooth, or is a piece of one of the black rings protruding? If it is, you should be able to smush it back into place.

3) The tip of the plug is bent. I do not have a reasonable explanation for why or how this would happen, but I have seen it. Look horizontally at the connector; is it perfectly straight, or does the very tip of it bent to one side? If it is bent, bend it back. It won't take much effort, just "pop" it back into place by pressing it against a hard object (like a tile floor or hard wood desk).

Can't think of anything else right now... Let me know if anything here fixes it.

-Burbble
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by:Callandor
ID: 11749459
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by:Burbble
ID: 11749754
Well, I researched the topic a little more and found this thread:

http://www.techzonez.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-6291.html

He does say that the difference in the size exists, but is insignificant.

I am still puzzled by this 1/8" = 3.5mm phenomena... Hmm...

Here's a theory: The actual size of the hole is different, but the "click-in" mechanism is tight enough to handle either sized plug. I know that the sizes are _supposed_ to be compatible...

-Burbble
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Author Comment

by:frustrationtoo
ID: 11753618
Burbble - You confuse me because you seem to think the measurements refer to length. I am speaking of the diameter of the plug. Yes, they are supposed to be compatible, but I suspect if you get a plug on the low side of the manufacturing tolerance along with a socket on the high side of the manufacturing tolerance, you get a poor fit. There is either sound or no sound - no noise. If I wiggle the plug in the socket, I can make it go on and off. If I get it just right, I can make just one speaker work suggesting I'm touching the socket wall with only one ring of the plug.

I was hoping, if I can't find the correct size, someone would know a way to adjust the socket. If it didn't have to separate the 2 channels, I would try putting a bit of copper wire in there alongside the plug. There is no sense of any "click-in." Struggling to get the front drive door open is enough to dislodge the plug and turn off the sound.

I guess I have to move the furniture and get back there again to look harder at the plug, but I think I would have seen such as you describe if the plug were damaged. It seemed normal enough, but I didn't put a sguare on it.

Callandor - I hesitate to order what Tiger says is 3.5 mm because it may very well turn out to be the same 1/8 inch I already bought from local Radio Shack from a guy who assured me it was interchangeable.

I'm probably off the air until tomorrow.
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Expert Comment

by:Burbble
ID: 11754831
Sorry -- I realize that I said "length" in some places where I meant "width". I realize that it is a measurement of the diameter, sorry about that confusion.

Do you have a pair of headphones? Try them in the sound card and see if the problem still exists.

There is also a chance that the cable you purchased was manufactured incorrectly. I have seen connectors and such in their packaging that were obviously not symmetrical, which I would not trust to actually use for anything. Perhaps the cable is "defective"?

Did you any of the 3 suggestions I gave to try and repair the cable? A brand-new audio cable I purchased from Radio Shack gave me days of trouble (i.e. no sound/only one channel depending on how you rotated it in the socket), until I noticed that there was a spec of dirt on it. I cleaned it off, and voila! It worked. Radio Shack cables are not of the topmost quality...

-Burbble
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Expert Comment

by:steve_gro
ID: 11759428
I personally have found Radio Shack to carry bottom-of-the-barrel stuff.  It'll work a lot of the time, but I find higher quality elsewhere, usually with a commensurate price tag.  Try Monster cables if you can.
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Author Comment

by:frustrationtoo
ID: 11762640
Burbble - I'm probably easy to confuse.

I did the scrambling necessary to get to the back of the box. The plug looks fine to the eye - no dirt, insulators in place, and plug straight as far as I could see, even with a magnifier. While I was there, I got the bright idea to swap end for end  and that didn't work, put it back the way it was and it's not working that way either now. I'm beginning to think the problem is a bad wire in the cable that has gone from intermitant to total now after being handled so much. I had tested for that earlier by moving the cable without disturbing the plug, but that's not exactly proof. I guess I need to search for another cable.

I went to Radio Shack because I also wanted an RCA to 3.5mm cable. They carry a full line of stuff, are well organized, well staffed, and blessedly quiet. And I have the habit from the days when there was nothing else. I haven't done the rounds of the audio shops here recently, but last time I did they still hadn't caught on to the need for computer connections. Maybe, by now they have. The computer stores are hit and miss for any little stuff. And the noise level at Best Buy is intolerable.
 
I have a Bose headset that works just fine, but that's a different jack, of course. Only thing is, I'm going to have to get an extension cable for it because I don't sit that close to the box. It's normally used with my living room system. Somewhere around here, there's a headset that came with my OCR software that I've never tried to use.
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Expert Comment

by:Burbble
ID: 11763863
>> I'm beginning to think the problem is a bad wire in the cable that has gone from intermitant
>> to total now after being handled so much. I had tested for that earlier by moving the cable
>> without disturbing the plug, but that's not exactly proof. I guess I need to search for another
>> cable.

Ick, that's not good. Is the cable in total disrepair now (like beyond the point of being able to exchange it)? :/

>> I have a Bose headset that works just fine, but that's a different jack, of course.

Why different jack? Check if it works in the line out jack of the sound card, there could be something broken within.

I don't really have a problem with the quality of Radio Shack's cables, when they are working. They just don't seem to be manufactured to the highest standards. If that's all you can get, then it's fine, especially for (consumer) computer audio.

One of those centimeter-thick Monster cables is a tad excessive for a sound card, in my opinion ;-)

-Burbble
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Author Comment

by:frustrationtoo
ID: 11766784
Burbble - You're absolutely right! Why have I been thinking I need to plug the headset in the front? Because I forgot the cable that snakes around my sofa to my chair has an adapter at the amplifier end to accept the Bose miniplug so I was thinking of the Bose headset as being non-computer. Because the tech support guy I was on the phone with, who made me bring the Bose headset to the computer, seemed concerned to be sure I was using the headset jack, not the speaker jack. Because the darned cable from the headset is so short, I can't stand up if I plug in the back of the box. You'd think for what that headset cost, they could have provided two sets of wires with connectors. Because I can be stupid sometimes.

That said, I plugged the headset in the back and Voilà! It works. That leaves the cable or conceivably the speaker, though the bit with the wiggling suggests the cable. Yeah, I have monster cables behind my sound system and they are not only huge, they're stiff. And yes, this is strictly consumer computer audio. I really never listen to music on the computer. I finally got on the shtick about this because I wanted to listen to a speech from the Democratic convention on CNN and couldn't.

I guess I need to buy another cable. They will probably exchange it.  Let you know how that turns out, but probably not until Thursday. Thanks.

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Author Comment

by:frustrationtoo
ID: 11788797
Burbble - So I bought a new cable and it works great. And I picked up an extension for that headset while I was there.

I'm still messing around, though, because I dredged up a meter and checked continuity of the old wire. I can't find anything wrong with it. All three segments peg the meter. I cross checked for shorts and found nothing. Couldn't find the packaging for the old wire, so didn't even try to return it.

The new wire does have a nice positive feel when I plug it in. If you recall, the old one didn't. Darned if I see anything wrong with the plug.

I'm going to close out this question. Thanks very much for your help.

We'll probably meet again because this sound card sounds so nice, I'll want to use it more than I had expected.
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Expert Comment

by:Burbble
ID: 11792630
Glad you got it working, thanks for the points ;-)

Is the new cable from Radio Shack or somewhere else?

-Burbble
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Author Comment

by:frustrationtoo
ID: 11803891
Radio Shack and it's still working. The other one worked for a while before the problem started though. Right now it's on my list of great mysteries of the universe.
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