USB vs 3.5mm Analog Headset – What’s The Difference?

Do you have a good understanding of how to choose the right headset for your needs? Here, we’ll provide you with some tips and tricks to help you out!

USB vs 3.5mm motherboard

Are you debating whether you should buy a USB vs. 3.5 mm headset? The type of headset you choose generally comes down to personal preference. However, understanding the difference between USB headsets and 3.5 mm analog headsets will make it much easier for you to decide.

The primary difference between a 3.5 mm jack headset and a USB headset is that the 3.5 mm jack can only read and transmit analog signals, not digital signals. Its capability depends on the number of rings in the plug.

3.5 mm headsets have been around for a while, whereas their USB counterparts are much newer. Read on to learn the differences between these headsets.

What Is the Difference Between USB and 3.5mm Jack Headsets?

Your device’s sound processing system, such as the PC’s sound card, will first convert the digital signal into analog before transferring it to the 3.5mm jack. That means you cannot listen to audio on your 3.5mm headset without a sound card.

The 3.5mm has been a standard feature in many portable devices, including transistor radios, laptops, and various makes and models of smartphones.

On the other hand, USB headsets have a sound processing system. They don’t depend on a computer’s sound card.

These headsets process digital sound from your device and pass it through their sound processing system. The system filters out the audio, removing ambient noise and delivering better sound quality than 3.5mm headsets. You can find USB headsets in either wired or wireless models.

3.5mm plug

What Are the Features of USB Headsets?

The main features of a USB headset include:

  • Sound card: USB headsets have a different connection type from the traditional headsets, so they don’t go through the standard audio input and output ports but through your device’s USB port. They bypass your computer’s sound card and use their own sound processing system, allowing them to coexist with other sound devices connected to your computer.
  • Voice recognition: USB headsets have well-positioned microphones to provide high-quality audio signals and make dictation incredibly easy to use.
  • An extra layer of noise cancellation: Some USB headset models have an additional layer of noise cancellation integrated into their sound processing system.

Related article – Best Headsets For Dictation – Reviews And Buying Guide

Black usb headset

What Are the Features of 3.5mm Headsets?

The primary features of a 3.5 mm headset include the following:

  • Relies on an external sound card: Unlike USB headsets, 3.5mm headsets don’t have sound processing systems, so they depend on your device’s sound system. When using a 3.5mm jack with your computer, the analog conversion occurs in the computer’s sound card or a chip integrated into the motherboard. That means that the sound quality will depend on the quality of your PC’s sound card.
  • Audiophile standards: Besides their microphones, the higher-end 3.5mm headsets deliver high-quality audio that rivals audiophile headphones. The audio quality of some models is almost as impressive as the best bass headphones available on the market.
  • Timeless design: 3.5mm headsets feature a three-channel communication interface – two output channels for the right and left stereo channels and one input channel for the microphone. The 3.5mm jack is the most ubiquitous connector, compatible with virtually all portable devices, including many smartphones. However, higher-end audio equipment often user larger 6.2mm connectors and some smartphones no longer have a headphone jack in favor of wireless earbuds.

Related article – What Is The Standard Headphone Jack Size

USB vs 3.5mm Headset: What Are Their Best Applications?

The 3.5mm headsets are simple and usually more affordable than their USB counterparts. You can use them on your phone, PC, or other portable devices. They can maximize the advanced sound hardware on your computer, making them ideal if you are working in an environment where a high quality of sound is essential.

On the other hand, if you are looking for the best gaming headsets, you can’t go wrong with USB headsets. These headsets are also excellent for dictation. Besides having a well-placed microphone to deliver a high-quality signal, USB headsets also offer great comfort during dictation.

Another common use for USB headsets is in VolP telephony and unified communications. If you often use digital telephony, you can find USB headsets designed for more conventional telephones.

Related Article – 15 Best Headsets For Working From Home & Buying Guide

The Advantages Of USB Headsets vs 3.5mm Analog Headsets

Besides providing better sound quality without the help of a sound card, USB headsets have several other features to enhance their functionality, including volume control, music control and call answering. While 3.5 mm headsets can also provide these features, USB headsets are often more responsive and reliable.

USB headsets don’t create noise or distortion, which is common with analog headsets. We’ve also seen that these headsets have excellent dictation and exceptional accuracy when using speech recognition. When you use a USB headset with a microphone, you will get excellent narration.

In addition to promoting an outstanding natural narration, USB headsets are also excellent for effectively producing training videos.

Despite their great attributes, these headsets are not without some downsides. Notably, they are often more expensive than 3.5mm analog headsets, especially wireless USB headsets.

Black headset next to a mac

USB vs 3.5mm Headsets: FAQs

Are USB Headsets Better Than 3.5mm Analog Headsets?

That depends on how you intend to use your headset. USB headsets and 3.5mm analog headsets serve different purposes and have different strengths. While a 3.5mm headset can transmit line-level audio, a USB can transmit signals digitally.

Does a USB Headset Use a Computer’s Sound Card?

A USB headset doesn’t use the sound card on the computer. Instead, it has a sound processing system that functions as a sound card. This system is highly compatible with your PC’s operating system.

Which Is Better for Gaming – a USB Headset or a 3.5mm Headset?

If you are a gamer who wants a rich audio experience devoid of noise and other distractions, consider going for a USB headset. For casual use, such as listening to music, a 3.5mm headset will work fine. However, consider getting a USB headset if you hear hissing when you plug your 3.5mm headset into the audio jack.

A USB headset uses its sound processing system rather than the computer’s sound card. This system allows for better sound quality and coexistence with other audio devices connected to your computer.

Does a USB to 3.5mm Audio Adapter Affect Sound Quality?

A USB to 3.5mm audio adapter or Digital to Analog Converter (DAC) can convert digital signals to analog signals, creating sound from your headset. Like the headset amplifiers, standalone DACs are excellent for enhancing sound quality.

That means the quality of analog audio that reaches your ears will depend on your DAC. The better the DAC, the better the audio quality.


Choosing an appropriate headset ensures you’ll get a great audio experience when listening to music, playing games, or working. When choosing between a USB vs. 3.5mm headset, there’s no one right answer – it depends on your needs. Understanding the differences between 3.5mm headsets and USB headsets will make your decision a lot easier.

3.5mm headsets rely on the sound card in the computer, so they are ideal if your computer or device has an advanced sound card. With a decent sound card, you will be able to make good use of all the headset’s sound features. However, newer USB headsets often have better sound quality because they use their own sound processing system. Many people prefer them for gaming, VoIP calls, or dictation.