The world is full of misnomers - names for things that are inaccurate or misleading. Examples include starfish and Guinea pigs, white chocolate and French fries, and - closer to home for us guitar players - tremolo bars and input jacks.

It’s that last one that I aim to talk about today.

The reason an electric guitar’s cable connection is so often referred to as an input jack probably has to do with the fact that the cable plugs into it. As most of us know however, the guitar’s electric signal is actually traveling out of the guitar via the jack, making it more accurate to call it an output jack. Nevertheless (and to the dismay of electricians and pedants everywhere) “input jack” remains the parlance for many.

This misnomer is easy to understand. What’s more difficult are the myriad jack, jack rout, and jack plate options, and which combination you should choose for your project. Let’s dive into the output jack and see if we can’t uncoil a few mysteries.

Get Jacked

First let’s talk about the jack itself; the part that actually makes contact with the end of the guitar cable. The ¼” mono jack is the Grand Poobah of guitar jacks. It’s what gets used in the vast majority of guitars and basses. But it’s not the only one. Some active or piezo pickup configurations require a ¼” stereo jack.

In addition to both the these jacks, Warmoth also carries the Planet Waves stereo jack, and ironically we sell many to people who simply wire them for mono use. Why? Because it’s the only ¼” jack available in gold, making it the only choice when you want it to match your guitar’s gold hardware.

Because ¼” is the standard dimension, all these jacks can be used with virtually any jack plate.

Serve it on a Plate

The jack plate is a part, usually metal, that mounts to the body of the guitar or bass and holds the jack in place. In other words, the jack plate mounts to the guitar, and the jack attaches to the jack plate. They come in a few different shapes and sizes, and seem fairly self-explanatory. However, it’s worth exploring a few of the small details that can make one work better than another on a given body style.

Let’s run them down.

Strat® Top Jack Plate

If you have been on planet Earth at any point since 1954 you’ve probably seen the Strat® Top Jack plate. It is easily recognized by its long oval shape and recessed jack access, and is nearly always mounted to the top of a guitar’s body.

The ubiquitous Strat® Top Mount Jack Plate.

It’s worth mentioning that a few ambitious builders have also come up with unique ways to attach the Strat® Top Jack to the side or back of a guitar. Warmoth doesn’t offer any such rout. However, one unusual approach that does work with Warmoth’s Strat® Top Jack Rout is mounting the jack plate upside down, so that it stands out from the body rather that recessing into it. This can be useful if you prefer cables with a right-angle plug.

The Strat® Top Mount Jack Plate mounted upside down. It looks a little dorky, but it's functional!

The Strat® Top Jack Plate only fits one Warmoth rout: the appropriately named Strat® Top Jack Rout, which we offer on our Strat® and Jazzmaster® replacement bodies, among others.

Pros: Nearly always mounted to the top of a body. Works best with straight cables.

Cons: It’s awkward with right angle cables (unless you mount it upside down, which looks kind of dorky).

Square and Football Jack Plates

These two jacks are easily identified by their names (which in this case describe them perfectly). They are both meant to be mounted along the edge of the body. However, the difference between them is more than just aesthetic, as we shall see.

The Football Jack Plate is perfectly named....if you live in the United States.

The Square Jack Plate on a body with binding.

If the body of your instrument has the smaller and squarer 3/8” edge radius (Tele® or Carved Top bodies with binding, e.g.), it is safe to choose either the square or football jack plate.

On the other hand, if the body has the larger and rounder ½” edge radius (Strat®, Jazzmaster®, or J Bass® bodies, e.g.), be sure to choose the football jack. The round-overs along the top and bottom edges of these bodies start earlier, which may leave the sides of a Square plate hanging into space slightly. Because the Football plate only reaches its maximum width for a short section, this effect is minimized.

The Square Jack Plate hanging over the edge ever-so-slightly.

When in doubt, the safe choice is always the football jack. It will work on bodies with any edge radius.

Picking the correct Warmoth rout for these jack plates is a bit tricky. Both will work with either the ¾” or 7/8” side jack routs, but trust me… yourself a headache and get the larger 7/8” hole. Otherwise you run the risk of there not being enough room inside for the ¼” jack to fully open and accept the cable.

Pros: Work great with both straight and right-angle cables. They are associated with smart people who know what’s up.

Cons: Square plate can overhang on certain bodies.

The Tele Input Cup and Electrosocket

If you dig vintage-accurate details, the Tele Input Cup might be what you’re after. This jack plate was featured on Fender’s earliest guitars, and like the Square and Football plates is mounted on the side of the guitar. However, rather than being flush with the surface it is inset (hence the name “cup”). It is held in place by a spring clip, which unfortunately tends to loosen over time.

The Electrosocket fixes this problem via two mounting screws located within its concave surface, and as a result it feels more sturdy.

The Electrosocket has the coolest name of the bunch!

However, both share common flaw: due to their inset design they are for the most part unworkable with right-angle cables. Being locked into using a straight cable is the trade-off required for vintage accuracy.

Both these plates require Warmoth’s 7/8” side jack rout.

Pros: Vintage appeal and a cool name.

Cons: Only work with straight cables.

Deep Panel Jacks

The Deep Panel Jack combines a ¼” jack and a jack plate into a single unit, and comes in both mono and stereo versions. They are mounted on the side of a guitar, and were originally intended for use on body designs where the distance from the edge to the control cavity was longer than normal.

However, some people prefer them for their small footprint, and use them even when they aren’t strictly necessary. Once installed there is neither jack plate nor mounting screws visible; only a small circular lip.

Deep Panel Jacks require Warmoth’s ½” side jack rout.

Pros: Low-profile appearance.

Cons: The contacts are internal, so if there’s a problem you have to replace the entire unit.

Winding it Up

And that about does it for input, err…..output jacks.

If you have any more questions about jacks, jack plates, or jack routs, don’t hesitate to contact Warmoth customer service department.