A ZipDX Guide to Connecting an Analog Headset to a Computer

While a telephone may be the traditional way to join a conference call, there are are times when it is preferable, or even necessary, to use a soft phone and a computer to join a call.

For example, professional interpreters who wish to offer their services via ZipDX multilingual calling MUST use our ZipLine 3 soft phone (aka Web Phone) to join multilingual calls.

The ZipLine 3 web phone has been used in service of multilingual calls for over a year. More recently it’s been made available to all ZipDX conference calls.

Completely web-based, the web phone requires no installation or configuration. Just connect a headset to the computer and log into the ZipDX web portal using either Firefox or Chrome.

The broad availability of the web phone provides even more reason to become familiar with using the combination of a headset and computer.

Many people may already have a headset on-hand. It may have been something that they used once or twice, then was filed away in a drawer.

This article is aimed at helping you to use an existing analog headset with a computer. This is principally about ensuring that you can correctly connect the headset to your computer, which is a purely mechanical issue.

Step #1: Determine Type of Connector on the Headset

To use your existing headset you first need to determine the type of connector(s) it features. The type of connector used varies by the intended use of the headset.

Analog Computer Headset

Analog Computer Headset

An analog headset designed for use with a computer typically has a cable that ends in a pair of 3.5mm (1/8”) 3-conductor mini plugs; one for the microphone and a second for the headphones.

Analog PC headset

The connectors may be color coded and/or marked with descriptive symbols. The microphone plug is usually pink, while the headphone plug is green.

In many cases you don’t need any kind of adapter to connect this type of headset to your computer.

Analog Headset for use with a Cordless Phone

Analog Headset for use with a Cordless Phone

Cordless phones have become extremely common in the home. As a consequence, headsets designed for use with cordless phones are readily available in stores and often quite inexpensive.

Headset for cordless phone

These types of devices typically have a single, 2.5mm 3-conductor headset connector. This is also known as a “sub-mini” connector.

Since computers don’t use this type of audio connector you will need to acquire the correct adapter to use this headset with your computer.

Analog Headset for use with a Mobile Phone

Analog Headset for use with a Mobile Phone

Beginning in 2007, the Smart Phone revolution changed the way mobile phones are used. Most mobile phones since then can be used to play stereo music as well as make phone calls. As a consequence they now use a 3.5mm 4-conductor headset connector.

Sony mobile phone headset

It’s also true that headsets for use with a mobile phone have trended towards what we now describe as “ear-buds”, with a microphone housed in a lump along the cord. Since they can be stuffed into a pocket these are certainly convenient. However, they often deliver less than satisfactory sound quality. This is especially troubling if you intend to be leading or actively participating meetings.

Step #2: Determine Type of Connector on the Computer

There are also a range of different audio connectors used in various types of computers.

Windows Desktop Computers

Windows Desktop Computers

Desktop computers almost always have some kind of on-board “sound card.”  A full suite of analog connections are offered on the rear panel of the computer. These are 3.5mm 3-conductor connectors. They use a standard method of color coding and symbolic labels, making is quite easy to determine where to connect the headset.

Audio Connector Apron Simple

The microphone connector is usually pink while the headphone connector is usually green. This color code may well match the color of the connectors on the headset itself.

The set of connections on the back of the computer may not be convenient if the cable on the headset is not very long. Fortunately, there are often dedicated microphone and headphone connections on the front or top of the case.

font panel audio connectors on an HP desktop

While rarely color coded like the rear panel connections, these are clearly marked with the symbols for microphone and headphones.

Windows Laptops

Windows Laptops

In recent years laptops have come to dominate the world of computing. Given their smaller size they have less room for an assortment of audio connectors. Most laptops have a simple pair of 3.5mm 3-conductor jacks for microphone and headphone connections.

audio connectors on a Toshiba laptop

Once again, the connectors are not color coded, but are labeled with clearly understandable symbols.

Ultrabooks & Apple Computers

Ultrabooks & Apple Computers

While Windows desktops and larger laptops usually have separate microphone and headphone connections, very thin and light computers known as “Ultrabooks,” may have them combined into a single 3.5mm 4-conductor connector. Sometimes this connector is labeled with just a “headphones” symbol, as shown on the MacBook Air pictured below. Other times it is labeled with a “headset” symbol that shows a boom microphone, as in the Lenovo Ultrabook shown.


In fact, all computers made by Apple, including the iMac, Mac Mini and MacPro, use this type of connector. Apple calls it an “iPhone compatible” headset connector.

Step #3: Connect the Headset or Acquire the Necessary Adapter

If you’re lucky enough that your headset and computer have compatible connectors you can simply plug-in and get to work. Otherwise, you will need to acquire an adapter that will allow you to connect the two devices.

Given the connector types described above there are only a few possible combinations;

Computer Headset & Mac or Windows Ultrabook

To use a traditional computer headset with an ultrabook you need to adapt dual 3.5mm 3-conductor connectors to a single 3.5mm 4-conductor plug.

PC Headset - adapter - ultrabooks

Here’s a link to a suitable adapter offered on Amazon.

Cordless Phone Headset & Desktop or Laptop

To use a cordless phone headset with a desktop or laptop computer you need to adapt the 2.5mm 3-conductor connector to dual 3.5mm 3-conductor connectors.

Cordless Headset - adapter - laptop

Here’s a link to a suitable adapter offered on Amazon.

Cordless Phone Headset & Mac or Windows Ultrabook

To use a cordless phone headset with an Ultrabook you need to adapt the 2.5mm 3-conductor connector to a 3.5mm 4-conductor connector.

Cordless Headset - adapter - ultrabook

Here’s a link to a suitable adapter offered on Amazon.

Mobile Phone Headset & Windows Desktop or Laptop

To use a mobile phone headset with a desktop to laptop you need to adapt the 3.5mm 4-conductor connector to dual 3.5mm 3-conductor connectors.

Mobile Headset - adapter - laptop

Here’s a link to a suitable adapter offered on Amazon.

Hopefully this guidance will help you to start to make good use of that analog headset that’s been hanging around your office.

If you’d like help with selecting a new headset please send us a note to support@zipdx.com. We’ve tried many different models over the years.

We’re happy to share our experience and recommend something that fits your needs.

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