Odd occurence when listening to CD player

I remember finding this out on a long car trip. I still use the same CD player by the way. It’s from 1995. :confused: On to the actual topic…

Why is it I can hear different parts of a song when I don’t fully plug the headphone jack into the hole? For example, I’m listening to Tool’s “Aenima” and on the first song the drums will come in loud and everything else will come in alot fainter.

I’ve heard alot of things I would’ve never heard otherwise.

So…can anyone explain this?


I would venture to suggest that when you only partially insert the plug, you are only hearing one of the stereo channels.

I would venture to concur with Mangetout. Stereo headphones have two separate areas of contact, and when you plug them in only partway, the first contact point is touching the connector in the jack that is intended for the second contact point. So, not only are you only hearing one track of the stereo mix, you are hearing it out of the wrong side of the headphones.

WAG quotient of this answer: 5%

The above answers are essentially right. I experienced this quite often when I used to repair consumer audio, usually the problem was cold solder joints on the headphone jack but the end result is the same. One of the most dramatic effects is obtained when the ground becomes unsoldered (resulting in a floating ground & a balanced output to headphone coils, which now appear to be in series with each other). This causes almost total cancelation in signals which appear in both channels with equal amplitude… usually the vocals. The result it an instrumental version of your favorite songs.

Except for those damned Beatles tracks. :wink:

      • Agreed: partially inserting the jack causes the two channels to short to each other, and so depending on their stereo phasing, many of the sounds may be reduced or canceled out. ~ You get a wide range of odd effects if you take a sound recorded in stereo and digitally mess with the stereo phasing. - DougC

A lot of times the drums will sound extremely echoey when you try this trick, as a consequence of how the drums are recorded. A lot of studio engineers will close-mic the drums and pan them front and center, so they get canceled, immediate overhead mics will have some stereo seperation, but not much, so they mostly get cancelled out too, and all you’re left with are the microphones which are placed 30’-40’ away from the kit to catch the ambience of the room. Engineers/producers/mixers usually pan these microphones to the extreme left and extreme right, because that’s pretty much the best way to get the live room effect.

Or, on most of the earlier Smashing Pumpkins recordings you’ll hear guitars, and only guitars. This is because Butch Vig and Billy Corgan loved to record 20 different guitar tracks all playing the same part and then spread them across the stereo spectrum, and keep everything else more or less front and center.

My final note on this is that I usually find the trick is the coolest with recordings that are very complex; Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead’s Ok Computer, and Smashing Pumpkin’s Adore all sound absolutely fantastic doing the stereo cancellation thing.