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Chances are, if you’ve got a good set of headphones, they weren’t cheap. So if you’re in need of a wired extension for them, it doesn’t make sense to get a poorly constructed cable to go along with it. While it may save a bit of cash, an inferior extension cable can also greatly reduce the quality of sound from your device as the audio signal travels up to your ears.
And with hundreds, if not thousands, of options to choose from, it’s what’s inside your cable that counts.
What Are the Best Headphone Extension Cables?
Even the cheapest extension cable out there will still carry sound, but the inner components will most likely consist of brittle wiring, thin shielding and insulation that doesn’t do much in the way of protection or longevity. Once the inner wiring gets exposed or damaged, audio signals can become faded, crackling, or cut out completely. That’s where you’ll need to pick up a new headphone extension cable.
Here are some things to look for when shopping for the best headphone extension cables online.
Internal Components and Materials: In terms of inner materials, oxygen-free copper is most common. It’s one of the best conductors, and also the most affordable. Silver is a step up, in quality as well as price, and does produce a different sound result, but unless you’re a dedicated audiophile, it can be difficult to tell the difference.
Gold plated connectors may sound like the next logical step up after silver, but they’re more about being built to last rather than conducting better sound quality. Gold resists corrosion, and serves more of a purpose on the exterior of a connector or plug.
Low capacitance, inductance, resistance to electromagnetic interference (foil shielding helps with this), and a high signal-to-noise ratio are advisable too. But outside of sound quality, there are other things to consider
Length: Length is near the top, since this is most likely the reason you’re looking for an extension cable in the first place. Most will be a minimum of a few feet, providing plenty of slack from your pocket to your ears. But if you’re using this for a studio or home entertainment setup, you’re going to need a lot more to move around comfortably. It’s easy to find options that are eight to 16 feet, and some stretch to 100 feet or more.
Compatibility: The compatibility of the cables with your current headphones is pretty crucial too, as you’ll still want to use the mic and volume controls, and getting an extension cable that doesn’t support it can be a huge letdown.
The majority of headphone cables use 3.5mm input and output jacks, but not all of them. If you’ve also got a 1/4″ plug, there’s no need to buy two separate cables, as some feature dual inputs/outputs for both types. A right-angled plug can also help prevent wear and tear on your cable’s input, as it holds steady and reduces the chance of yanking it out by mistake.
External Materials: Tangle-free wiring is great for avoiding the headaches of cables somehow tying themselves into a Gordian knot while in your pocket or purse. Material like nylon braiding keeps the cable more rigid, as well as resistant to water, being crushed, and less likely to become an intertwined mess.
Aesthetics: For a product that’s designed to carry sound, looks are a factor to consider as well. After all, you’ll be wearing these daily as an extension of your current headphones, so make sure it matches the color and aesthetic before buying (if that matters to you).
1. GE Universal Audio Extension Kit
GE has been making this type of cable for decades, and you may even remember it from your parents’ (or even grandparent’s) HiFi setup.
There’s a reason it’s lasted this long though. This coiled cable is thickly insulated, stretches up to 18 feet, and keeps tangling to a minimum. The tension is just taut enough that it’s easy enough to stretch out and not jerk you back if you stray too far, or violently pull your laptop off the desk when you leave your workstation and forget to take your headphones off.
It lacks gold plating on the connectors, but includes a 3.5mm Y splitter and 1/4 inch adapter in the kit.
Note that this won’t work with mics, but for purely music or home entertainment, it retains sonic quality. In our experience after using this cable for years, it is still a great-sounding option.
2. Pig Hog Headphone Extension Cable
The extra thick-PVC sleeve on this 10-footer is super tough, and can stand up to tangles, twists, and accidentally yanking it out. Audio comes through from the source loud and clear, with minimal to no distortion or interference.
The Pig Hog PHX35-10 extension cables are deigned for stage performance needs like ear monitors, but they’re also ideal for the recording studio too, providing the length to move around the room and hear yourself clearly the whole session.
3. DuKabel Headphone Extension Cable
The nylon braided covering on these DuKabels is nicely strong, and can stand up to some seriously rough handling, including bending, crushing, and even water, all while still being flexible enough to not feel constrained while using them.
Triple-layered shielding does a solid job of keeping out unwanted interference, and 24K gold inputs are corrosion resistant. The DuKabel works with most mics too, without cutting sound quality or making your voice sound tinny and distant.
This comes in four different sizes, ranging up to 26 feet, and are also a good option for game consoles and media setups at home.
4. Kabel Direct Headphone Extension Cable
With this coated cable, audio remains clear even with the lengthier models, thanks to three oxygen-free copper wires inside, and double-shielding that protects your sound from interference – while still being flexible. Connectors are 24K gold-plated, long-lasting, and fit tightly into any 3.5″ jack (including a phone, even with a case on it).
The PVC jacket keeps the cable from knotting itself up, and the build quality rivals some of the more expensive models at a fraction of the cost.