In this guide, I want to talk about the different audio connectors that you should take into account when you start working with your recording devices.
I’m going to do it by giving you as an example the different accessories that the brand Rode sells, since they are the ones I use, and the ones that cause more problems because they are very similar.
The 3.5 mm jack connector
The classic one, the one you’ve been plugging into your mp3 player, smartphone or laptop for years.
Surely you are sick of seeing it, the problem is that until you look a little more closely, you do not realize that there are 3 different types (although to simplify the guide I am only going to explain two)
- Those with “3 black stripes” (TRRS), like the one in the picture above.
- The ones with “2 black stripes” (TRS).
- The one that would be missing in the guide would be the one with “only one stripe” (TS).
To speak properly we should not be speaking about “stripes”, but of the space between them, so that:
- The “3-stripes” connector actually has 4 “rings” (T, R, R and S).
- And the “2-stripes” connector actually has 3 “rings” (T, R, and S).
You can see this better in the following image.
“Ring” is not the appropriate term either, but is the best way to understand the difference between these auxiliary cables
And as it always happens when we talk about connectors/adapters, we have the male version (“stick”) and the female version (“hole”).
What is each one good for? Well, now we will see.
TRS Cable (2 stripes)
You can find the male version of this connector on all non-microphone headsets on the market.
You can go to Amazon, BestBuy, or whatever store you like, if the headset does not have a microphone you will see that the cable is of this type.
In addition to headsets without a microphone, you will also see this type of connector on professional shotgun microphones, such as the Rode VideoMic Rycote.
And that’s why the female version of this connector is found on DSLR cameras.
TRRS (3 stripes)
You will find the male version in all headsets with a built-in microphone. These are usually the classic ones that come with your smartphone (to be used for calls).
Although you will also see them on lavalier microphones such as the Rode SmartLav+.
The female version can be found in all types of multimedia devices, such as smartphones, game consoles, laptops… As they are ready to be used with headsets with a built-in microphone.
What device and microphone are you going to record with?
Knowing this, the solution to your problems is very simple.
- If you are going to record with your smartphone you will need:
- A microphone with TRRS connection (like the Rode SmartLav+),
- Or a microphone with TRS connection (like the Rode VideoMic Rycote) plus a TRS to TRRS adapter.
- On the other hand, if you are going to record with a DSLR camera you will need:
- A microphone with TRRS connection (such as the Rode SmartLav+) plus a TRRS to TRS adapter,
- Or a microphone with TRS connection (like the Rode VideoMic Rycote) and nothing else.
Rode has solved these needs very well with two types of adapters and following a very basic color code:
- Black adapters = TRS ~ DSLR camera.
- Grey adapters = TRRS ~ Smartphone
These are the ones I explain below.
RODE SC4 – TRS to TRRS Adapter
The “2 to 3 stripes” adapter will be useful if you want to record on a smartphone with a professional microphone. Most often you will need it for example to connect something like Rode VideoMic Rycote to your iPhone or any other smartphone.
Notice how the female connection is black (TRS), while the male connection is gray (TRRS).
RODE SC3 – TRRS to TRS Adapter
The opposite of the previous one, from “3 to 2 stripes”. As you can see the colors are just the opposite of the previous model.
Most commonly you will need it to connect a Rode SmartLav+ type lavalier microphone to your DSRL camera.
TRS and TRRS extension cables
Microphones usually have the disadvantage of having short cables, after all, if for example, you are going to connect one to your camera, you do not need to have 3 or 4 meters around hanging.
So when you need more freedom (to put the microphone for example on a pole) you will need an extension or extender, and if you are not aware of the TRS and TRRS connections you will end up buying something that you do not need.
Rode also has 2 types of extenders depending on what you need.
Extension Cord RODE VC1
The Rode VC1 extension cord is 3 meters long and is a 100% TRS cable, i.e. it doesn’t convert anything.
Note that it follows the Rode color code, and that’s why it’s totally black, it’s a simple TRS female cable (2 stripes) to a TRS male (2 stripes).
Extension Cord RODE SC1
The Rode SC1 extension cord measures 6 meters and is just the opposite of the previous one, i.e. 100% TRRS (3 stripes).
As you can see, having clear the difference between TRS and TRRS is very easy to choose which cable you need for which devices.
If you use Rode microphones the trick to know which extension cable to buy is very simple, just look at the colors as these have to match.
BONUS: Use RODE SC6 for monitoring your audio recordings
Most smartphones, and other devices such as MacBook Pro for example, only have one jack port.
This means that if you plug in the Rode SmartLav+ lavalier microphone for recording, for example, you won’t be able to “hear” what the microphone is picking up (unless you have a wireless headset).
To solve this problem, Rode has designed a small adapter called the Rode SC6.
What this device does is to split the TRRS input of for example an iPhone, into 3: two inputs for lavalier microphones (in case you would like to record an interview) and a headphone output so you can monitor what is happening.