711 words · 3–4 min

The Output Jack

It’s an output jack!

Please, for the love of all that is holy, DON’T call it an “input jack”.

Your guitar is outputting signal. If you input signal into a guitar, nothing will happen. Your amp has an input jack. Your guitar has an output jack.

A nice, “bare” Switchcraft jack.

There is… very little reason to ever swap out your jack, unless it’s broken.

Having said that, I hate barrel jacks with a passion — they just feel bad to plug into, and fail regularly - and I will always happily replace them with a nice non-barrel (“bare”) Switchcraft. If you have active electronics, make sure to use a stereo (TRS) jack — the third contact is used to turn the electronics off to stop your battery from dying when the guitar is unplugged.

Common output jack mounts

On the other hand, you may very well find yourself wanting to swap out the jack panel. There are a few different kinds of these, but they’re mostly standard:

  • Barrel jacks will sit in a 1/2“ hole and be mounted flush with the wood, or sometimes even countersunk or counterbored (as Ibanez often does); these have no jack panel to speak of and there’s nothing you can do with them except rue being stuck with a barrel jack.
  • A lot of guitars, especially superstrats, use standard “football” style jack plates. You can get these in a variety of colors and with a recessed or flush jack mount. These generally cover a hole between 3/4“ and 7/8“ in diameter.
  • Thicker body styles (Les Pauls, some Telecasters) may opt for a square plate. Les Pauls use a perfectly square one, most other brands will use a rectangular plate. Measure before ordering! These, again, are available in a variety of colors and with a recess for the jack or flat, and will cover a hole between 3/4“ and 7/8“.
  • Stratocasters use a funky “ferrule” to mount a standard “bare” jack. These are standard across strats and available in many colors, but be careful when ordering a ferrule for similar but non-Fender guitars — e.g. the Ibanez Talman line, although it looks like it uses a very similar ferrule, will not fit a Strat jack ferrule.
  • Telecaster jack cups

    Telecasters, especially the vintage ones, use an abysmal “cup” for mounting the jack. That thing is a disaster, and a mistake on every level. Get rid of it as soon as you can. It sucks.

    Why does it suck so much? As is usually the case with Fender, because of aggressive cost-cutting at every corner. The tele “cup” is a flimsy piece of the cheapest scrap “metal” Fender had available held in place with a tiny clip with about the same strength and durability as the spring in a ball-point pen.

    These universally start rattling around and eventually come loose after a couple plugs–unplugs. They’re also a pain to remove. It’s like they were invented by Satan just to be the biggest pain in the ass imaginable. They’re so bad StewMac suggests periodically replacing the clip and rebuilding the inner wall of the jack hole with epoxy and sawdust as a way of preserving the original look while fixing the wobble. Nope.

    Luckily, as is also usually the case with Fender, someone else fixed their mistakes! You can drop in an Electrosocket-style jack plate, a much more substantial piece of metal that mounts with two screws rather than a flimsy clip. These are inexpensive and work flawlessly. There is a bit of an art to removing the vintage “cup“s, so I would recommend looking up a video on how to do it.