Headphone Wire Color Code – A General Guide

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Headphone Wire Color Code

Key Takeaways

  • Color coding differs with brands
  • To identify a wire, you can test them or run a quick search of the brand
  • The four wires include the left, right, ground, and microphone channels
  • Red, blue, and green are the most common colors

The following guide explores color coding in headphone wires and everything you need to know about them.

What Are the Four Wires in Headphones?

Most headphones will have four wires. All these have their unique functions.

These are the four wires in a headphone:

  • There is one wire for the right audio
  • Another wire goes to the left audio
  • A third wire is for Ground
  • And the fourth is for the microphone

Brands have different color codes. However, the colors will often come in red, blue, and green. The ground wire can come in a copper color.

The Four-Pole Headphone Jack

A four-pole audio jack is on the four-wire audio cables. Additionally, it is referred to as the TRRS jack terminal. The name comes from having the Tip, two Rings, and a Sleeve.

The tip communicates with the left audio channel, while the top ring is linked to the right audio channel. The bottom ring is associated with the microphone, while the sleeve is for the ground channel.

Although the color codes could differ with various brands and manufacturers, red is for the right audio wire, while blue is for the left. The microphone wire is in yellow, while green is for the ground channel.

Related: How Headphones are Made? (Simple Answer)

What Color Wires Are in Headphones?

Audio cables have three standard colors. These include red, blue, and green. However, copper color is used for the ground wire. 

These colors have different connotations across brands. You should run a quick google search to determine how a specific brand codes wires in its audio cables. Alternatively, you could test the wires to determine which color was assigned to what cable.

What Are the Three Wires in a Headphone Jack?

The three-pole headphone jack has three components: the Tip, Ring, and Sleeve. It is common for the jack to be referred to as the TRS jack.

These are the functions of the three wires in a headphone jack:

  • The tip of the jack carries signals for the left audio wire
  • The Ring that follows it carries signals for the right audio wire
  • The Sleeve that follows carries the ground signals for the right and left wires

The three-pole jack is typical in older audio cables. It conspicuously lacks the microphone feature.

Although color codes differ with brands, the green cable is typically associated with the Ground wire, red with the right audio wire, and blue with the left. But, these are not standard colors for the wire, with manufacturers choosing how to code them.

Balanced vs. Unbalanced Audio

Balanced audio entails transmitting signals in a “balanced” fashion. You require an amplifier, the source of the audio, and an audio cable to carry the produced balanced output.

Each channel in a balanced output has hot and cold signals, giving each phase an equal resistance relative to the ground – thus, the term balanced.

A mono cable for balanced audio must be at least a TRS so that two channels transmit to the right and left and one to the ground. 

A balanced sound has the advantage of noise cancellation. Noise interference is distributed equally between the two phases of a balanced audio cable. The interference can only be heard when there is a difference between the phases.

When the balanced audio requirements are not met, it is considered unbalanced. Therefore, you will likely get quality sound from a balanced audio cable or headphones.

Related: Bone Conduction Headphones: Everything You Need to Know

How Do You Identify Headphone Wires?

You can tell a lot about headphone wires by the cable plug. Usually, the jacks come in different sizes: 3.5 mm, 2.5 mm, or 6.3 mm. The 3.5 mm can be used in various devices and is considered a standard.

The measurements do not refer to the length of the plugs but their diameters.

The 3.5 mm can come as a TRS or a TRRS. It is found on headphones for various devices ranging from smartphones to portable media players. 

The 2 mm is also similar to the 3.5 mm, except that it is smaller. Usually, it is used on headphones that have a microphone. 

Headphone wires have unique functions. The four-wired audio cable will have a left, right, ground, and microphone channel. You can contact your headphone brand to determine the color code.

The copper-colored wire is often the innermost, and it is for grounding. The rest of the colored wires have a plastic coating. You can read a manual or find more details online to determine the wires and their colors on specific headphones.

If you need to fix broken headphones, you need to solder them using a soldering iron. You might then need electrical tape to wrap them. You might also find a crimping tool necessary when fixing broken headphones.

Related: Best Headphone Stands – 5 Options from Budget to High-end


Headphone wires come in different colors. The colors might refer to specific cables, but this differs between brands. You could search online or read a manufacturer’s manual to determine what the colors mean.

Typical headphones have three or four wires in their headphone jack. These can be TRS or TRRS. These include the tip, one or two rings, and a sleeve.

The microphone wire is sometimes coated in yellow, while green or copper is used for the ground channel. The right and left channels sometimes come in red and blue colors.

However, these color codes are not standard and can differ with different brands or manufacturers.

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