Gaming – especially with the popularity of multiplayer communication – often requires a headphone or headset, but wireless connectivity issues or encumbering wires can interrupt and distract gameplay. Many players prefer to plug their headsets directly into their gaming keyboards for more freedom of positioning and movement without the sketchy connectivity of wireless devices.
There are keyboards available with headphone jacks for gamers who would prefer wired headphones and headsets. Not all gaming keyboards have this feature, and traditional headphone connectors are becoming less common, so finding the right solution may require making some tradeoffs.
Here are some factors to consider when choosing a gaming keyboard with a jack for wired headphones.
Why go wired?
Modern gamers want the best visual and audio experience, both to give them an edge and to immerse them into their digital worlds. They also may be using multiple large displays, requiring frequent head movement and un-cluttered desk space. This often means having to keep a laptop or desktop machine out of the way.
Wireless keyboards, mice, and headsets keep the gamer unfettered by the location of their CPU, but they require recharging and battery changes. While keyboards and mice can last weeks without charging, audio devices are typically power hogs and run down quickly.
Since most computers have audio jacks, wired headphones can be used, but if the cord isn’t long enough or must be inconveniently routed, it can hamper gaming. Furthermore, wireless headphones can drop audio at inopportune moments due to power, interference, or connectivity issues.
Having an audio jack on the keyboard itself – the gamer’s control center – can solve many of these problems by allowing headphones to be plugged in uninterrupted right where the action is.
Headphone connector type
When it comes to wired audio devices, including headphones and headsets, it’s important to consider the type of connector it uses before choosing a keyboard. Traditionally, the term “headphone jack” refers to a cylindrical metal receptacle designed to accommodate a matching audio plug.
There have been different sized plugs over the years for different applications, but the most common, standard audio plug for computers and portable electronics currently is the 3.5mm size. This is the size audio jack most commonly found on laptop and desktop computers as well as on phones and tablets (although many portable devices are no longer featuring a 3.5mm jack.)
Many wired headsets don’t use a traditional cylindrical audio plug (which is a passive analog device), but rather a USB connector. USB plugs provide the additional benefits of digital sound and more powerful audio for greater volume.
Some gaming keyboards will feature both 3.5mm jacks and USB ports, while others may have one or the other (or neither!), so if you’re seeking a gaming keyboard to accommodate your wired headphone, be sure you’re looking for exactly what you need.
USB and analog plug adaptors
It may be the case that you’ve found the perfect gaming keyboard except for one problem – it doesn’t have a jack for your preferred 3.5mm headphones. That’s not necessarily a deal-breaker. If the keyboard has a USB port, which many do, you can simply purchase an inexpensive male USB to female 3.5mm adapter.
Also, headphones and headsets do exist with plugs that are not the standard 3.5mm size (like the larger 6.35mm stereo plugs) although they are rare for computer and gaming use.
If you prefer to use headphones that require a non-standard jack size, some adapters exists that allow you to plug them into a 3.5mm jack. Like the USB adapter mentioned above, you will need a male-to-female adapter – in this case, a male 3.5mm plug to a female jack that the style plug of your headphones.
Understand the tradeoffs
Analog wired headphones don’t generally have the same audio power and quality as their digital counterparts, but some users still prefer them for their simplicity, connection stability, lower power consumption, and cheaper cost.
Ultimately you know better than anyone what type of headphones work best for your gaming or multimedia experience. If you need a gaming keyboard that will accommodate your preferred wired analog headphones they are still out there to find, even if they are becoming less common.
If you’re worried about giving up other desired gaming keyboard features just on account of the headphone jack, you may still be able to accomplish your goal by getting a keyboard that features a USB port instead, which may be easier to find, and using an inexpensive adapter.