Did you know that there are many different types of output jacks? These include mono, stereo, TRS, barrel, and power types. Even though they are different, they carry out the same job.
What Is a Guitar Output Jack? A guitar output jack is the component that attaches into the electric guitar pickups to transfer the signal from your guitar through the instrument cable into the amplifier.
In this article, we will discuss the output jack in more detail, and learn when it is we are ready for a new one.
1. What is a Guitar Output Jack?
A guitar output jack (also known as a ¼” jack) is an aluminium unit that fixes onto the side of the guitar (usually towards the rear) and is the bridge between the guitar cable and signal that is captured from the pickups.
2. Why Are Guitar Output Jacks Important?
Guitar jacks are important because they are the connection between the lead and the pickups. Without a guitar jack, the output picked up by the pickup would not be able to send the audio signal to an amplifier where it is transposed into sound.
3. Types of Output Jack Configurations
The jack configurations are the method by which the jacks are wired to ensure compatibility to the electronics of the guitar. There are FOUR types of wiring found on guitars. These are important to understand to ensure that the jack functions as it is supposed to when installed; below we discuss them in more detail:
- Mono jacks – The most common output jack for electric guitars is the mono jack. You will find that mono jacks are commonly found in both acoustic and electric guitars with passive pickups. The mono jack only has two lugs. One lug is for the ground, whilst the other lug is where the audio signal travels. This lug is part of the long, bent flange that connects to your guitar cable.
- Stereo jack – You will find stereo jacks in both acoustic and electric guitars. These have stereo outputs or active electronics that carry two signals that are carried to two speakers. A Stereo jack is similar to a mono jack, but it is equipped with a third lug. This now includes two a second (shorter) bent flange and a common ground lug. The extra bent flange is used to for carrying the second signal to the amplifier (whilst sharing a lug for common ground to complete the circuit).
- TRS (tip-ring-sleeve) – You will find that TRS jacks are used with Active pickup systems with either under-saddle transducer or on-board microphone. The TRS jack functions like a stereo jack. However, it allows you to add a second pickup source by containing a fourth lug. This is so you can independent control the stereo signals by sending each to its own preamp, direct box, or amplifier. You will find these systems on acoustic guitars with both a under-saddle pickup, as well as an on-board microphone or a body sensor.
- Power Jack – The power jack is a stereo or TRS jack, which attaches directly to a preamp. Because most power jacks are soldered to a printed circuit board, they are difficult to replace without damaging the electronics. This means the whole unit will need replacing if there is a failure.
4. Types Of Output Jack Units
The output jack units are mainly the housing of the jack. There are various types of jack units that can also have the above-mentioned configurations. Each type of the output jack units can come in different forms as well. Common examples will be:
- Open jack / skeleton jack – Electric guitars with passive pickups typically have open jacks. These are called open jacks, as they do not contain any protective housing. However, the protection comes from the seal of the guitar slot. If you install these properly, they can be heavy-duty in construction.
- Enclosed / panel jack – Low budget guitars that are made in china will usually come with enclosed or panel jacks. Often encased in cheap plastic, these jacks are inexpensive and tend to wear out faster than a well-made open jack does.
- Barrel jack – Barrel jacks are known to replace a guitars endpin (this is where the guitar strap attaches to the bottom end of the body). This is common for Acoustic-electric guitars as the electrics passes from the pickups to the guitars tail block/endpin. Barrel jacks can have mono, stereo, or TRS configurations, whereby some preamps are housed within the cylindrical barrel jack.
- Flange jack – Takamine acoustic-electrics, as well as some other acoustic-electrics, use flange jacks. Just like barrel jacks, they have integrated endpins, and come in mono, stereo, and TRS configurations.
As you can see, you get a variety jack units that cover all types of wiring configuration. So it is important to ensure both the jack unit and configuration setting are taken into account when looking to replace you jack socket.