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Is there any reason why a perfectly good pair of headphones (Sennheiser Momentum) will be seemingly fine when plugged into a 3.5mm jack (for instance, my iPhone), but completely bomb when plugged in to a 1/4" adapter for use with Hi Fi or (more importantly) my Focusrite Saffire monitor output?

When I use the 1/4" adapter with the Momentum headphones everything is tinny, quiet and crackles/spikes intermittently. I'm not just talking about a steady stream of poor audio quality - I mean a very unstable connection.

As I said, without the 1/4" adapter (into an iPhone) everything is dandy. I've tested the 1/4" adapter on other headphones with no problems. For instance, I tried a pair of Sennheiser HD25's with the same 1/4" adapter which sounds fine.

Is it possible that the extra functionality on the Momentum (a volume control which I presume sends commands down the wire to mp3 devices) is the bad apple? For example, as per this article on Wikipedia, it suggests that compatibility between 3.5mm connectors is not as straight forward as I originally thought.

Any insight on this would be great.

  • Are you using the 1/4" adapter that came with the cans? – JoshP Feb 6 '14 at 20:29
  • An adapter didn't come with the cans. – shennan Feb 7 '14 at 0:37
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I can confirm that my suspicions about the TRRS (4 conductor) 3.5mm jack are correct. I went back to the Sennheiser Momentum box and found a different connecting cable within, a TRRS to TRS (without the added volume functionality). When pairing this with the 1/4" adapter, everything worked as expected.

For anyone stitching a cheap home studio together, make sure your cans haven't been optimised for mp3 players. A quick/easy way to tell is to inspect the 3.5mm head. Note the difference between TRS and TRRS in this image pulled from Wikipedia:

enter image description here

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You can also try to plug them in only up to the second/middle barrel of the ring.

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    While this is a helpful piece of information, it could be made in to a better answer if you also explain why this makes a difference in fixing the problem. Right now it feels a bit like a comment that just barely squeaks in to being an answer. Also, Welcome! – AJ Henderson Feb 11 '14 at 20:14
  • I agree with @AJHenderson - this would have been great as a comment, but it feels a bit limp as an answer. Maybe add it as a comment to the accepted answer? – shennan Feb 11 '14 at 22:57
  • noob to the whole answering questions thing. Thanks for the advice guys. – awhitson Feb 12 '14 at 14:31
  • half the explanation -> i.imgur.com/dFQyxMh.jpg - which may also be useful to guys historically ignoring the TRRS design – georgi Feb 15 '14 at 14:15

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