I have headphones that appear to have some kind of built-in mic, as well as a volume control and small button that may or may not control said mic. My machine has a headphone jack and a mic jack. When I plug the headphones in to the headphone jack, the mic doesn't work, and pressing the button while speaking into the mic doesn't help. When I plug them in to the mic jack, the headphones don't work.

The onboard audio card I'm using is simple but modern:

$ sudo lshw -c sound
       description: Audio device
       product: Juniper HDMI Audio [Radeon HD 5700 Series]
       vendor: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD/ATI]
       physical id: 0.1
       bus info: pci@0000:01:00.1
       version: 00
       width: 64 bits
       clock: 33MHz
       capabilities: pm pciexpress msi bus_master cap_list
       configuration: driver=snd_hda_intel latency=0
       resources: irq:83 memory:fea40000-fea43fff
       description: Audio device
       product: SBx00 Azalia (Intel HDA)
       vendor: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD/ATI]
       physical id: 14.2
       bus info: pci@0000:00:14.2
       version: 40
       width: 64 bits
       clock: 33MHz
       capabilities: pm bus_master cap_list
       configuration: driver=snd_hda_intel latency=32
       resources: irq:16 memory:feb00000-feb03fff

PulseAudio is set to use the latter device, which is otherwise 100% working. Any ideas on how I would use the headphones' built-in mic?


It sounds like your headphones have a single jack that includes both the headphone and mic connections. This is called a "4-position" or "4-pin" connector. As you have discovered, unless your computer has a plug designed to use one of those connectors, only one or the other will work.

The 4-pin jacks are more common on smaller devices that benefit more from combining the two audio jacks into one. To find out if your computer has one of these 4-pin jacks, you could:

  • Look at the marking on the jack to see if it has both headphone and mic icons, or an icon of a headset that shows both.
  • Look up your computer/motherboard module, or info from sudo lshw -c sound, to see if the specs or discussions mention anything about this hardware having a 4-pin jack

If your computer doesn't have a 4-pin jack, a workaround would be an adapter that will plug into your headset, and then provide separate headphone and mic plugs for your computer. This will be something like a 3.5mm combo jack splitter, headset to PC.

  • Thanks! This answer is great and confirms a few of my suspicions but it would be even better if it also told me how to find out if my PC has one of these 4 pin connectors. – Richard Jul 3 '14 at 19:57
  • @Richard thanks for the feedback, I don't have a computer with a 4 pin connector, but I will try to update if I find more info about that. – Nattgew Jul 3 '14 at 20:23
  • They may be also be a issue in that is using the wrong TRRS standard, so does not electrically connect - however some headphones come with adapters to get round this. – Wilf Apr 7 '16 at 17:09

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