Posted on March 06 2017
Let’s get connected, with connectors. What are the different kinds of audio jacks you can use to build your guitar pedal? Good question…
There are two main kinds of audio jacks: mono and stereo. The most common of these jacks are open and closed style ¼ inch audio jacks. They are connected by wiring them to the circuit board or on/off switch. There are also PCB style (mounted and soldered directly to the circuit board) ¼ inch audio jacks. You will see these in almost every guitar, guitar pedal, amplifier—you name it.
There are a few advantages to each:
- Open style audio jack: Very sturdy, usually pretty affordable, and if the prongs get worn out and loose, you can easily bend them a little bit and they are good as new again
- Closed style audio jack: good for fitting into tighter spaces, covered to have less chance of wires or other debris getting into the jack
- PCB style: if the circuit board is designed for it they can be soldered directly to the circuit board and therefore will have no wiring. That speeds things up a lot! They can be connected via wiring as well but most will only have legs to solder to, not lugs. These audio jacks are also closed to protect the connection.
The difference between mono and stereo jacks is the number of connection points they have. A mono jack will have two, a ground which is connected to the “sleeve” of the plug and a signal or “tip” connection. A stereo jack will have a ground, a signal or tip, and then a secondary connection point called the “ring”.
PCB style mono and stereo jacks and some closed style jacks will have usually have “shunts”. These are used to ground out the lug they are connected to when a plug is not in the jack. Don’t worry though, if you don’t connect anything to these points, it won’t hurt anything.
The wiring of the jacks is pretty straight forward. Most guitar pedals come with one stereo and one mono jack. The input jack is normally the stereo jack because it has the extra connection point that you can use for your battery ground.
This wiring method is good because when you unplug the cable from the input jack, it breaks the connection between the battery ground and the main ground which disconnects the battery. That way you preserve the battery’s power. If you aren’t planning on using a battery you can just use two mono jacks for your ground and signal connections. Check out the pictures below for more info.
How do you attach the wires, you ask? It’s pretty easy. The correct way (or the way I was taught) is to wrap the wire around the lug, clamp it down, and then solder it—thus creating a mechanical and soldered connection. The faster way is to just lay the wire in the lug hole and solder it in. It’s up to you. On some soldering irons you will need to turn the heat up a bit when connecting to a lug on a input or output jack as the piece of metal is bigger than a PCB wire connection or DC jack/pot connection.