Headphone Jack Adaptors

One of my pet hates is bad quality audio products. This can be related to cars, home theatre, headphones, etc. and there is really no excuse for bad quality audio products. To me, I would much rather invest in something small which produces good quality audio than something really big that emits mediocre or worse, poor quality audio. Quality trumps quantity in my books every single time.

Being someone who travels a lot, this issue has been a pet hate of mine for a while. I have invested a lot of money into decent noise cancelling headphones that make life on the move much better and quieter but I struggled with airlines as the ports are different from standard headphone ports.

So in response to this problem, I decided to write this article for anyone planning on travelling on an aircraft and who is tired of the rubbish quality 50c red or yellow earphones that are supplied for use on the aircraft.

The Problem

As with all technology, the installed equipment on aircraft develops and ages with the aircraft. In newer aircraft, this issue of headphone port compatibility has been somewhat resolved however in older aircraft, a 2 port headphone system is used to access the entertainment system.

A typical headphone port is approx. 3.5 mm (1/8″) which produces the stereo sound in your headset. On older aircraft, a dual port system is used where the left and right side of the headset are individually connected to the main system. This has become a real inconvenience in that all headsets, other than those provided by airlines, are manufactured with a single male 3.5 mm connection.

The second problem that has become a serious inconvenience is that airline entertainment systems do not allow for Bluetooth connectivity. So that means goodbye wireless connectivity and welcome back the solid cable connection that inevitably gets wrapped around the arm rests and caught on everything possible around you. But there is a solution and help is at hand….

Solution to Loose Connections/Split Ports

I have found on some aircraft that there is not only an issue with split ports, but if the port is manufactured as a 1/8″ and you have purchased a 3.5mm connection, the fit is loose and does not make a solid connection. I purchased an adapter for my headphones that is specifically manufactured for high-end headphones like Sennheiser or Bose to ensure that the input quality to my headphones was not reduced resulting in poor audio quality.

It has solved the issue with the loose connection in that it is specifically manufactured for the 1/8″ connection with a 3.5 mm female port that perfectly fits both the aircraft and the headphones. What I really liked about this specific model is that it has the ability to fit both single and double aircraft connection ports by having a folding male connection. This allows customization to the aircraft without carrying multiple adapters for every possibility.

Bluetooth Connectivity

I’m not sure how this happens, but no matter how carefully I lay my cables when sitting in my seat, they always find a way to get caught on something and rip out of my ears. It drives me crazy as it hurts and is super annoying as it tends to happen at crucial times in the films that I am watching.

There are 2 main types of Bluetooth transmitters that one can choose from:

Fixed type:

This type of transmitter is an integrated connection/transmitter system that can be plugged directly into the ports located on the seat. I found that this type was not a great option as the aircraft ports are usually installed in such a way that the transmitter is 90deg to where you sit. This caught on my leg every time I moved and was pulled out of the port a few times as well. Its potential to get damaged in these situations is quite high and it would be best suited in a less confined application such as a home entertainment system.

Flexible type:

This I found was much better suited for the confined spaces of an aircraft. The connection is located at the end of a short cable that connects the transmitter unit to the outlet port. This flexibility allowed it to move when I adjusted my seating position and was not easily dislodged from the port itself. There is little chance that this unit will be damaged during normal use and is also suitable for use on other devices that lack a BlueTooth function. The unit displayed has an on board rechargeable batter capable of 14 hours transmission.

The Verdict

There is absolutely nothing wrong with deciding to stick with the airline issued headphones if that is your preference, however there are so many options available to enable you to use your own equipment so the question it then, why would you settle for inferior quality audio?

There are many manufactures that provide options and it can be overwhelming and confusing which one should you choose. Here are 3 keys to buying and travelling with good quality equipment:

1. Price does not always determine quality.

2. Try to purchase gold-plated connections. These do not tarnish over time which is the cause of reduced audio quality.

3. Protect your connections in either a travel case or pouch. 3.5 mm is not big and can be damaged by bending.

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4 Responses

  1. Kisumu says:

    We travel quite much with my family and have always suffered of bad quality audio. So, I started to look for anything that can possibly help (among other useful gadgets). I have a few questions though 🙂 Do you have a brand and maybe type that you could recommend? And if possible, I would also see a list or the items that you have tried but did not like for any reason. It would be a really big help in deciding which one to choose next.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Richard says:

      Hello Kisumu,

      Thanks very much for your questions. I have tried all the products in this article and I have a few points to share related to your questions. 

      The Aircraft adaptor I purchased was one manufactured from Bose. It is such a simple device that it performed to expectations, the fit was solid in the socket and was relatively flat against the arm rest. The only negative comment is that anything sticking out from the arm rest will post a potential snag point and one needs to be careful of that as these connections can be damaged by being unintentionally ripped out. 

      The integrated bluetooth transmitter I bought was one manufactured by Mpow. This brand has impressed me in that the prices are reasonable and the quality has been surprisingly good. I found the system better suited to a home theater system rather than a travel accessory as there it does protrude quite a bit and does pose a real risk of being damaged.

      The last one that I bought to test was the Golvery Flexible transmitter and I found it easy to use, transmission quality great and the battery life as described, being in excess of 14 hours. The drawback of this unit is that it does not draw its power from the primary source. This is a good point when the primary source has a battery power source as this prolongs the battery life of both the source and the transmitter but in the case of the airline, it would have been much better if the power was drawn from the socket. While this is an inconvenience, it is possible to charge the unit while still transmitting to a receiver. Modern airlines have USB ports that will allow you to charge the unit while transmitting. So while this is an inconvenience, it is possible to solve this relatively easily. 

      I hope this provided some useful feedback and let me know should you have further questions about these products.

      Best regards

      Richard Hoffmann

  2. Ngonidzashe Manzwangani says:

    I have to admit, your article has a wealth of information, sometimes these small electrical gadgets are hard to decide between the best and the worst. You cleared the air.I have the older Mpow Bluetooth transmitter-headphones, not that one in your article, is their much difference?

    Thank you so much for a well elaborated review

    • Richard says:

      Hello Ngonidzashe,

      I’m not sure which set you have but from what I have seen with technology, while the exterior may look only slightly different, the major technological developments are being made in the battery development area. The battery life is being substantially increased with charge times being correspondingly reduced. This might be the major difference between the older and newer units.

      Perhaps you could clarify your questions slightly so that I might provide a more specific answer.

      Best regards


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