How to Properly Install an Output Jack on your Guitar

Last Updated: March 21st, 2020

Installing an Output Jack is an essential skill to have under your belt. Installing it wrong, however, can give you a literal headache. At Fralin Pickups, we wire Switchcraft® Output Jacks on our Telecaster Control Plates all the time. This guide will teach you how an output jack actually works, so you never need to Google a diagram again.


To understand how an Output Jack works, it’s best to start with the guitar cable. The cable sends your pickups’ signal through your amp and speaker, and part of the signal to Ground. Let’s take a look at a guitar cord and dive in:

How to Install an Output Jack

  On a cable, the Tip is the “Hot” signal – your music. The Sleeve is the Ground signal that contains unwanted noise from your guitar. Also, there’s a black plastic piece separating the two. Wiring the Output Jack backwards would reverse these – not what you want to do! Follow the following diagram to show you how to install this effectively:


HOW DOES IT WORK?

When you insert your guitar cable, the guitar cord is slid through a metal tube. This tube is the Sleeve, or the Ground connection. Also, when you insert your cord, you should notice a “snap”, securing the cord in place. That “snapping” feeling is the tip of the guitar cord locking in to the Tip Arm (pictured below). The Tip Arm is completely separate from the rest of the Jack, being sandwiched between two layers of Phenolic.

There are a few things going on when you insert your guitar cord. The Sleeve is coming in contact with the Metal Tubing, and the Tip is locked in to the Tip Arm. Now that you know how it works, you can easily identify the correct way to install the wires.


INSTALL:

Installing the jack is very simple, but there’s a few important steps to perform before you begin. Before you install, it’s important to do two things: 1.) pre-tin your terminals, and your wire. 2.) put a kink in the tip of your wire to create a mechanical connection. Creating a mechanical connection will ensure a strong connection.

TO INSTALL:

  1. Install your White wire on your Tip terminal.
  2. Install your Black wire on your Sleeve Terminal
  3. Give yourself a pat on the back!

We hope that this guide is useful to you. As always, more to come! Thanks for reading.

Written By:

Tyler Delsack (Manager, Fralin Pickups)

👋 I'm Tyler Delsack, the Manager of Fralin Pickups. Along with managing the shop and working on this Website, I run my own website to provide free Jazz Guitar lessons.


35 Comments

  1. Matthew Fostersays

    Very helpful resource. My son’s output jack wiring came undone, and this helped me figure out where the wires needed to go. Much appreciated!

  2. I had to replace the guitar output 1/4 plug on my grandsons guitar but I get a buzz unless I touch the metal plug going into the guitar. Is there a ground inside the guitar that I’m missing? Bob

    1. Hey Bob,

      The simple answer is Yes. Finding it is a bit more difficult. I would suggest reading our article on how to diagnose grounding issues. Essentially, you need to work backward from the Output Jack (ground connection) using a multimeter set to Ohms. Using the free terminal on the multimeter, touch each metal part and observe the reading. “0.00” means that there’s zero resistance from the output jack ground connection to whatever you are touching – this is a good ground connection. Getting a reading of “O.L” means that there is a short, or a broken connection, and this is where you need to ground.

  3. Jack Gardinersays

    Thanks for this, super helpful. I’m just wondering what is pre tining?

    1. Pre-tinning is the process of adding solder to the wire and the point where you want to connect. Essentially, applying solder to both connection points before we connect them. Then, when we’re ready to connect them, both places already have solder so the heat from the soldering pencil simply joins them. Pre-tinning also cooks off any oils or residues making a cleaner solder joint.

  4. Janakisays

    My guitar don’t have the facility to give an output….. So.. Is it possible to fit an output jack to my guitar if I want?… Will it’s sound quality affects?

    1. Hey Janaki,

      Not sure what you’re referring to here. Can you provide more information?

  5. Peter DPsays

    This is really helpful. It’s great to have someone sharing their knowledge like this, so thank you very much. Now, if I could just go back in time and get rid of boat sockets on strats…

  6. Alberto Garciasays

    Hello Tyler, once again have to say thanks for this very useful web site.

    With your explanation the connection is very clear now. Just a copuple of questions. Does both cables (white and black) need to be shielded? The gauge of this cables from Volume pot to output jack you recommend to be same gauge of the pickups cables?

    1. Tyler Delsacksays

      Hey Alberto,

      The wire doesn’t need to be shielded at all. We use 7-stranded cloth leads (Fender-Style) to hook up our output jacks. The multiple strands help prevent the wire from breaking.

  7. Jeromesays

    Hi. I want to wire an extra output on my acoustic that is a direct signal from the piezo pick up so I can route this to an external pre amp. Can I just connect to the input jack of the acoustic pre amp and run the output straight from there or will this cause an unwanted feedback loop? Could these 2 outputs then be used simultaneously to different amps?

    1. Tyler Delsacksays

      Hey Jerome,

      Piezo pickups are not really our thing…but it should work as I believe they are active, meaning they have a preamp to boost the signal. I could be wrong about that point. If your guitar takes a 9V battery, you should be able to run both output jacks in parallel off of the volume pot.. I think. Don’t quote me on that.

  8. Frank Reedsays

    Hi Tyler, I’m getting confused, I have an Aria silent guitar and the output jack needs replacing, as it switches the guitar on when you put in the male jack plug , what type of output socket do I buy? I presume it’s a mono but also articles say I can use a stereo and wire the extra terminal to switch on the battery. My existing ( not working well) output jack has 4 cables and a very obvious contact switch at the tip end. Thanks in advance for any info.

    1. Tyler Delsacksays

      Hey Frank!

      You’d need a Stereo Jack, as shown here: Stereo Jack. Your Ring would connect to the power source.

  9. So my guitar has a red wire and a black wire, can the red wire be substituted for the white?

    1. Tyler @ Fralin Pickupssays

      It depends – examine the drawings above, and trace which lead connects to the Sleeve part of the chassis – that’s the foolproof way to do it.

  10. You really know someone knows their stuff when they can make it simple. This was a huge help and you’re a great teacher. Thanks a bunch.

    1. Tyler @ Fralin Pickupssays

      Thanks for that compliment, Jeremy!

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