by Neil Bauman, Ph.D., with Steve Barber
You want to be careful to match mono plugs to mono jacks and stereo plugs to stereo jacks when using music equipment. If you don’t, you can end up with problems. My friend Steve explained,
I’d been happily using my neckloop (a standard Williams neckloop) with my iPod Touch for nearly a year. Mostly I used it for listening to talk radio podcasts, so the fact that the neckloop had a mono plug that I was inserting into a stereo jack didn’t bother me at all. I could understand speech pretty well, as long as there wasn’t a lot of music or cackling banter behind the speech.
As my hearing continued to improve over the last couple of years with my cochlear implant (CI), I’ve started listening to music. It’s not always like I remember it, but I’ve found if I select my songs carefully after previewing them from the iTunes store, some of them are actually enjoyable.
I recently learned one thing that’s improved my enjoyment of some songs. One such song is Ray Charles “What’d I say”. It has a great instrumental lead in with good beat that sounds pretty normal. However, when he started singing, he sounded like he was far away. I immediately realized that my neckloop’s mono plug was only receiving one stereo channel, and he had recorded the vocal on the other stereo channel. Thus, I could only hear it “distantly”. [This recording is a particularly good example of extreme separation between both stereo channels—with the music almost exclusively on one channel and the voice almost exclusively on the other. Normally you get a better mix of voice and music on each channel so it is not as noticeable.]
I rushed out to Radio Shack, and bought a 3.5 mm stereo male to 3.5 mm mono female adaptor (part number 274-374) for less than $3.00, and voila, Ray is out of the barrel! It sure makes a big difference on that song!
If you are listening to a stereo device, you should never plug in a mono neckloop, earbud or headphone. Instead, do what Steve did, and get the proper adapter from Radio Shack. That way you will be able to hear the sounds from both stereo channels via your mono neckloop. Also, and this is important, you will not short out the other stereo channel as you do when you plug a mono device into a stereo jack. Doing so can damage your musical device.