A Guide to Portable 2-Way Radio Accessory Slang

If you’re in an industry that uses 2-way radio communication equipment, you may have heard some unfamiliar lingo and aren’t sure what it all means. Here, we will demystify common slang terms used when talking about 2-way radios.

PBM-1 (Close up of PTT)(Front)
PBM-1 (Close up of PTT)

1. PTT (Push-to-Talk)

Refers to a switch or button on an earpiece (or other audio accessory) for cell phones and/or 2-way radios. Engaging the switch activates the microphone and allows for instant communication with other users.

2. 1-Wire

Refers to the style or configuration of an earpiece cable, commonly used on portable 2-way radios. 1-wire earpieces can either be with PTT (push-to-talk) or listen only, which has no microphone and is used only for monitoring or listening in on radio communications. In the case of a 1-wire equipped with PTT, the cable comes out of the radio connector, up to the push-to-talk switch and microphone, then out of the PTT and up to the earpiece. View Impact’s 1-wire earpieces and surveillance kits.

Listen Only

With a 1-wire listen only, there is no PTT and the cable goes directly from the radio connector all the way up to the earpiece. 1-wire earpieces are commonly used by hotel and hospitality staff, in the school and educational environment, event staff and in commercial applications.

The diagram below outlines some of the various wire configurations available. From left to right: 1-Wire with PTT, 2-Wire, Listen only to the radio, and Listen only to the speaker microphone.

3. 2-Wire

G2W 2-Wire Surveillance Kit
G2W 2-Wire Surveillance Kit

2-Wire is another style or configuration of an earpiece cable, commonly used on portable 2-way radios.

A 2-wire earpiece has one cable that goes from the radio connector up to the earpiece, while the second cable also comes from the radio connector and goes to a PTT/microphone.

The 2-wire configuration gives the user the option of wearing the PTT/microphone on their shirt collar or running it down their sleeve and holding it in the palm of their hand. They are commonly used by police and security personnel. View Impact’s 2-wire earpieces.

4. 3-Wire


Similarly to 1-wire and 2-wire, this also refers to the style or configuration of an earpiece cable. 3-wire earpieces have 3 cables, all coming from the radio connector.

The first cable is for the earpiece, the second cable is for the microphone that typically clips or pins to the users’ shirt collar or lapel, and the third wire is a handheld PTT switch.

3-wire earpieces are most often used in police departments for undercover or surveillance applications. View all our 3-wire earpieces.

GLO Gold Series 1-Wire Listen-Only Surveillance Kit (Directly to Two-Way Radio)
GLO Gold Series 1-Wire Listen-Only Surveillance Kit (Directly to Two-Way Radio)

5. Listen Only

These include two types of earpieces: The first is to listen to the radio, while the second is to listen to a speaker microphone. The functionality is the same, with the main difference being cable length.

1. A ‘listen only to the radio’ earpiece typically has a longer cable ranging from 25-35 inches in length as radios are commonly worn on the users belt and may or may not include a coil for greater flexibility.

2. ‘Speaker mic listen only’ cables are shorter as they are only meant to connect to the speaker microphone, which is commonly worn on the user’s shoulder or shirt collar. A ‘speaker microphone listen only’ allows the user to keep radio communications private.

6. Lapel Microphone

Commonly refers to an earpiece, usually a 1-wire earpiece with PTT (push-to-talk switch) with a microphone that clips to one’s shirt collar, lapel, or chest pocket. See 1-Wire above for more detail.

7. Palm / Shoulder Microphone

Can describe two types of audio accessories for 2-way radios including:

PRSM-HD2-NC Speaker Mic
PRSM-HD2-NC Speaker Mic
  1. Speaker microphone – Speaker mics are the most commonly used audio accessories for portable 2-way radios across most industries and applications. They tend to clip to the user’s chest or shoulder epaulette.
  2. 2-wire earpiece (see 2-Wire above) – The microphone and PTT (push-to-talk) switch is run down the user’s sleeve and held in the palm of the hand. 2-wire earpieces are more covert and unobtrusive than 1-wire earpieces, and are commonly used by police, security, and personal protection applications.

8. Covert Kit / Surveillance Kit

Another term for earpieces – most commonly 2-wire earpieces as they tend to be more covert and unobtrusive compared to a 1-wire earpiece with PTT or other audio accessories like headsets and speaker microphones.

9. Quick Disconnect

Black Ear Buds With WE-1 Quick Disconnect
Black Ear Buds With WE-1 Quick Disconnect

Is a broad term used to describe many different points of connection. Quick disconnect commonly refers to a male/female connection that can be quickly and easily disconnected and reconnected.

Quick disconnect can refer to the following connections:

  • Between the audio accessory cable and the radio connection point or adapter on a radio connection point.
  • Between the earpiece cable and the actual earpiece. Some earpieces disconnect from the cable to allow for different style earpieces for different user applications.
  • The most common earpiece style is a clear coiled acoustic tube and, in some cases, clear coiled acoustic tubes can quick disconnect from the transducer (speaker).

10. Transducer

Black Transducer (RC-1)(closeup)
Black Transducer (RC-1)(closeup)

Typically refers to the speaker in an earpiece. Transducers can be made of different materials including brass, metal alloys, and plastic. Brass provides higher audio quality, followed by other metals and plastics.

Transducers can be a variety of different shapes and sizes, but typically are circular and approximately the size of a dime or nickel.

Replacement Ear Buds

11. Mushroom Tips & Ear Buds

A term used to describe the removable protective part of an earpiece that fits in your ear. They are typically available in different sizes, colors and shapes to improve comfort for long periods of use.

Ear tips are commonly made of medical grade silica gel. Always be sure to check with the manufacturer, as some lower quality ear tips can be made from Latex or Silicone. View all our replacement parts.

12. Gang Charger & Bank Charger

AC/DC6-USB two way radio charger with radios and AC and DC cables

Both terms refer to radio battery chargers for portable 2-way radios—specifically, chargers that can accommodate and charge more than one radio battery at a time.

Impact offers 3 types of gang or bank chargers:

  • AC/DC-3 – charges 3 different radio batteries on or off the radio at once.
  • AC/DC-6-USB – charges 6 radio batteries on or off the radio with USB device support
  • AC/DC-6-LC – the same as the above, but with plastic polycarbonate casing instead of aluminum casing.

Alternative, if you just need to charge one radio battery at a time, a DC-1-USB is also available.

Quick Tip: How to Extend the Life of Your 2-Way Radio Battery and Save Money


These are some of the more common terms you may have heard in reference to radio communications equipment. Now that you have a basic understanding of the industry lingo, you’ll be better equipped to choose the right accessories for your needs.

Like this? You might also like:

Impact Radio Accessories is your #1 source for two-way radio accessories. We are a world leader in the design and manufacture of communication products including surveillance kits, speaker mics, radio battery chargers, headsets and adapters. Impact’s accessories are trusted by demanding industries and applications such as public safety, security, construction, healthcare, manufacturing, transportation, hospitality and beyond. OEM quality radio accessories at aftermarket prices.

Category: Earpieces, Education Industry, LEARNING CENTRE


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