USB Headphones Vs. Audio Jack Headphones

When buying a new headset it can be difficult to decide whether to purchase pair of headphones that plug into the computer via the Universal Serial Bus (USB) port or whether to go with the traditional audio jack headphones. This guide is intended to deliver information on what is the difference between USB headphones and normal headphones by exploring the positives and negatives of going with one or the other.

Benefits of USB Headphones:

The primary and greatest benefit of a USB headset is that it has its own soundcard, usually installed as a dongle along the cord connecting it to the PC. While this could be seen as a negative, the benefit is that the soundcard is already configured for the speakers and microphone. As such, the sound quality can be superior to higher quality speakers due to the compatibility of the two.

The second positive of USB headphones is that Windows allows easy switching between them and the standard audio jack. What this means is that it is possible to have both the USB headset and speakers plugged in at the same time. It is also possible to choose between your USB headphones or audio jack speakers, without mucking about with wires or connections.

Negatives of USB Headphones:

The main negative of USB headphones is that they can be finicky in regards to being bumped or unplugged. If you unplug a standard audio jack headset, it can be plugged back in and immediately be receiving sound. However, due to the USB headset being an actual device that is technically installed, it is not so immediate. The second part of this problem is that sometimes it can be difficult to get sound back in a program that is already operating, forcing a restart.

The second negative of USB headphones is that they take up a USB slot. This problem is generally easily solved, but for those with a large amount of USB related equipment it may become an issue.

Benefits of Audio Jack Headphones:

Audio jack headsets represent the clearest audio solution by utilizing a standard that has existed for a long period of time and as such has its technology fairly down pat. As such, very little mucking around or problems occur when installing audio jack headphones.

The second benefit of audio jack headphones is that they can be used on other appliances. This ranges from the standard Walkman, ipod and other such common uses to less common ones such as television sets.

Negatives of Audio Jack Headphones:

The first negative of using the standard audio jack when connecting headphones to a computer is that you must configure the sound. This is especially relevant with the microphone, as it is difficult to tell the sound quality until listening to a recording played back. Furthermore, a weird psychological affect occurs when configuring sound in which it never feels quite right compared to pre-configured sound settings. This is not so much a true negative of the audio jack, but it is worth mentioning.

The secondary negative of audio jack headsets is that any other audio devices must be unplugged in order for them to be connected, meaning more fiddling. This is no big deal for most standard set ups, but for those with a hidden PC, or a confusing sound system set up, it can become a real pain to deal with.


Standard Audio Jack headphones are superior to USB in almost all cases. I personally use the Sennheiser HD201 alongside a cheap clip on microphone and it works fine. While I cannot recommend the microphone for someone using it for serious stuff, I often sound better than most people I play online games against. Total cost is about $25 on Amazon, listed to the right.

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