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I am looking to take a 3.5mm microphone line, insert a press button switch (a foot pedal in my use case) between the headset and the computer. I would like the switch to mute the mic connection when not pressed, and allow the mic sound when pressed. I am no electrical engineer, so something super simple would be great!

Anyone have ideas on how to accomplish this? What switches to use?

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A Normally Closed Momentary Switch (NKK) - Very cheap and tiny, on Amazon: XLX 50pcs Red Cap 7mm Mini Lockless SPST Momentary Micro OFF Switch 2 Pin Push Button ( AC 120V/6A or AC 250V/3A ) Assortment Kit -- less than $13 for 50 of them. Small enough to hide near the mic end and depress with your off hand, or create a pedal version by mounting the switch inside a wooden block or rigid project box. You don't want to mount the switch in such a way that you would break it with your foot weight, so make sure it sits slightly below the box at the right height such that the box would take the brunt of the weight.

Alternatively, for a few dollars each, SPST Momentary Foot Switch - Normally Closed - Soft Touch - Short Shaft - Pre-Wired -- this is available and designed for using your foot. I found it on "Love my Switches"

In an XLR cable, you simply pick a wire that is not ground. In an XLR cable there are three wires, ending in 3 pins. In a female XLR, the top right is ground, and the other two are signal. In some cables, the red wire and black wire carry signal, white is ground, in others red and white carry signal and black is ground, since it was up to the cable manufacturer. you can test this at one end. In a male XLR everything is swapped left for right, so the top right is ground. Video of someone doing it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rS1gZ7zbvsM

In a 3.5mm, you have 3 or 4 wires depending on the plug. For example, this one has wires for both a mic and a headphone: https://www.digikey.com/product-detail/en/tensility-international-corp/CA-354S/CP-354S-ND/382910

It is possible to test resistance to determine what wires your microphone is using. The speakers are usually between 80 ohms and the mic is around 1k ohm and apply very light current to determine which is left and which is right channel.

The common assignment of the tip is:

  • Tip = blue (left audio)
  • Ring 1 (closest to tip) = right audio (red)
  • Ring 2 = ground (black/copper)
  • Sleeve = microphone (white)

So you would put your NC switch inline in the White wire (usually).

If there is only left/right (for a stereo mic) there are some tricks using a small circuit to get one switch to control two channels, or you can use two switches (one for left and one for right) and either glue something to them so they get depressed at the same time, or hold both buttons to do both L/R. Or, you can get a two-pole (dipole) switch. (The ones I mentioned are single pole).

An example of a multi-pole foot switch is DeMont / Guyatone 3PDT Smooth-Click Foot Switch, Highest Quality Stomp Box Switch

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for the advice! Which terminals would you wire up to using this type of connector? jameco.com/z/… \$\endgroup\$ – GroundSpyder Oct 30 '19 at 16:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ hiya, yeah i was refining my answer when you asked! \$\endgroup\$ – Head Wizard Locke Oct 30 '19 at 17:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for all the help!!! \$\endgroup\$ – GroundSpyder Oct 30 '19 at 17:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ no problem -- hey guess what, you could do BOTH types on the same cable :) \$\endgroup\$ – Head Wizard Locke Oct 30 '19 at 17:03
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The key issue in this situation is the fact that the microphone wire carries both AC (the sound) and a DC bias (to power the microphone). You need a solution that will pass or block the AC without any effect on the DC — otherwise, you'll get loud pops and clicks when you operate the switch.

The simplest way to do that is to shunt the AC to ground through a capacitor, like this:

schematic

simulate this circuit – Schematic created using CircuitLab

You need a switch that is "normally closed" or N.C. This means that the contacts are shorted together when the switch is not pressed, and open when it's pressed.

When the switch is closed, C1 shunts the AC signal from the microphone to ground, while maintaining a DC charge that is equal to the bias voltage. When the switch is open, R1 is now in series with the capacitor, blocking the AC from going through the capacitor while still maintaining the same DC bias voltage.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Dave, Thank you for the answer! I know the 3.5MM connector has tip, ring and sleeve terminals, which of these is the AC signal, and which is the DC bias voltage? \$\endgroup\$ – GroundSpyder Oct 30 '19 at 15:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ As I said, they're both on the same terminal. As for which terminal that is, it would depend on the exact headset you're using. What is it? \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Tweed Oct 30 '19 at 15:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ amazon.com/gp/product/B00BJ17WKK/… \$\endgroup\$ – GroundSpyder Oct 30 '19 at 15:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ That microphone already has a mute switch -- you just need to wire your footswitch in parallel with the one that's already there. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Tweed Oct 30 '19 at 15:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm sorry that I must be dense, but I thought I would just set this mute to open, and have a separate one, not sure what you meant about making it parallel. I was looking at parts like this one: jameco.com/z/… \$\endgroup\$ – GroundSpyder Oct 30 '19 at 16:01

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