Macbook Intermittent Audio Output: A Widespread Problem With A Solution?

Well, let’s not get excited and say “solved” just yet. But I have a hunch.

After much googling around, few people seem to want to pursue introducing a soldering iron to the logic board to replace a damaged or worn-out jack. Yeah if you don’t know what you’re doing it’s risky, but with proper tools it looks like this might be easier than we thought.

Looking at the shields and shape of the audio jacks

Here we can see the shape of the jacks. They are surrounded by a metal shield. There is a good chance we'll be able to find the jacks without the shield.

Still more googling scored me an eBay auction for a MacBook A1181 Logic board with some superb hi-resolution photos, which offer some good insight into the form factor and the PCB footprint of the combo optical/analog audio jack.

Click on any of the images in this article for a closer look. I cropped, then resolution-doubled them in GIMP so that WordPress can get them blowed up real good!

A front-on view of the Macbook's audio jacks

Here we can see that the jacks are actually made of a white, or naturally-coloured plastic.

In the remarks I have read so far, the jack itself seems to be pretty elusive.  A combo 3.5 mm stereo jack / TOSlink audio port isn’t exactly a standard Amphenol or Switchcraft item I can just order up from Digi-Key (although I’ll admit I didn’t check Mouser or Newark).  I did however find references to “combo optical headphone jacks” on a couple of chinese trading sites.  I think this might be an excellent lead!

In particular, I think my new favourite web page might be “Audio Jack – Shop Cheap —–Audio Jack from China —–Audio Jack Suppliers at WONDERFUL WHOLESALE [^(oo)^] Welcome inquiry us on Aliexpress.com”.

Closeup of the side of a Macbook audio jack shield

Closeup of the side of a Macbook audio jack shield

There are a couple of jacks on there with footprints close to the Mac jack. The problem is that these cheap parts are all about $2 to $5 each, and they all seem to have about a 10-piece minimum. So that’s $20 to $50 for every part I want to try to fit into the Mac Logic board, then throw away when it doesn’t work.

I think my next course of action is to request datasheets on the products that look close. Most electronic component manufacturers offer downloadable engineering drawings of product outlines and lead placement.

Underneath MacBook Logic Board

Let's look underneath the jacks. I have added the yellow outlines to show the footprints of the thru-hole jacks, visible as solder lumps.

Once I get a line on the jacks I’ll share my results. For that matter I think I’ll report on all my progress in this endeavour. If I could get a bag of a hundred of these jacks, I could probably repair Macs with intermittent audio jacks for a $50 flat rate. Don’t worry, if I find that holy grail audio jack, I’ll let everybody know what it is, so that the skilled can effect their own repairs too. I’m not a total asshole.

The truth is out there.

Cheap China Jacks - Maybe they fit the MacBook?

(From Ye Olde Cheap China Audio Jack Web Shoppe) Could it be this simple?


Update: After a couple hours, I found similar 3.5 mm headphone/optical jacks on eBay!

3.5mm combo TRS stereo / mini TOSlink optical jacks on eBay

3.5mm TRS stereo / mini TOSlink optical jacks on eBay

OK now this looks promising.
“10Pcs 3.5mm 1/8 Female Audio Connector DIP Stereo Headphone Jack PJ306B” for $4.99, shipping included. Looks like this product has more pins than what Apple’s using … Check out the ebay listing!

Drawing of eBay combo 3.5 mm TRS / Mini-TOSlink Optical jacks

The promising drawing. We're on the right path.

Suyin Optical/Analog 1/8″ Audio Jacks Found

Oh and by the way: according to this page there is a product, Suyin p/n 010189FR008GX01ZL, but I haven’t found a drawing. Suyin’s European web site only seems to talk about their custom fabrication/design services.

The page does point out that the connector has an integrated LED IC. I’m not really sure what an LED IC is, but it makes sense that optics would need to be inside the connector.

And the hunt continues …

3 thoughts on “Macbook Intermittent Audio Output: A Widespread Problem With A Solution?

  1. Very interesting! Keep up the good work man. We defenitely need a solution to this annoying problem. I have thought about doing something similar to what you are doing, just haven’t had the time. If I come across something I will share with you.

    Obed

    • Unfortunately not yet, but I haven’t thrown in the towel. Shortly after I wrote this article I moved out of my house, and I just haven’t picked up where I left off. I’ll probably reopen this debacle in late summer.

      There is an answer out there! Somebody, somewhere, must have replaced an audio/optical jack on a MacBook!

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