Laptop audio woes!
December 25, 2005 8:41 PM   Subscribe

Help me figure out what is wrong with my laptop speakers.

Happy Holidays Mefi! Not even Christmas can slow the onslaught of questions. Mine is this: my husband plugged some old speakers into my laptop this afternoon, and ever since they were removed, the speakers on the laptop won't work at all! If you plug any external device (headphones, speakers) into the ports, no problem. As soon as you unplug them, the computer refuses to make a sound. I have had this problem before using headphones, but simply plugging them back in, then swiftly removing them will correct the problem. This seems more serious. Any suggestions, or have I simply thrashed my laptop speakers?
posted by msali to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
Sounds like a possibility is that the through-connect metal strip switch thingy in the speaker socket has ceased making contact with the plate it rests against when a plug is not in the socket. If you know how the sockets are wired, you might be able to confirm this by poking around in the socket hole, (but if you don't, you could momentarily short the sound output which probably isn't healthy).

If this is the case, replacing the socket would fix it, and sockets are cheap, and not too difficult to replace if you can solder (though if you can't DIY, the labour costs might hurt, I wouldn't know).
posted by -harlequin- at 8:52 PM on December 25, 2005

"might be able to confirm this by poking around in the socket hole" with a metal probe or bit of wire, I meant to say, however, a non-conductive probe has no risk (if you're gentle) and might jostle the switch into making a connection (confirming the problem is mechanical), but then again might not, since you really want to pull the strip, not push it.
posted by -harlequin- at 9:13 PM on December 25, 2005

Here is a surface mount version of the 3.5mm stereo mini plug on your laptop. You can see what -harlequin- is talking about in the schematic. There are two spring loaded contacts which connect the audio out to the speakers (pin 2 and pin 3 for the left channel, pin 4 and pin 5 for the right channel). When a plug is inserted the springs are bent back and the internal speakers are disconnected. In yours, the spring is worn out, or there is some gunk in between the contacts. Either way the the connection that is supposed to happen automatically when you remove the plug isn't happening.

You might be able to repair the plug with contact cleaner, or you might open up the laptop, pop the cover off the plug, and play with the spring and such. Replacing the plug works too of course, but it might be a bit of a touchy solder job depending on exactly what style part they used (surface mount is harder than through hole, at least for me). It might not be an option, but it would be pretty easy to eliminate the plug altogether.
posted by Chuckles at 9:25 PM on December 25, 2005

You should be able to use a paperclip to do the playing, just make sure you mute the output before inserting the paperclip! If the sound output is silent then there won't be any voltage difference between the pins anyway. There are still some risks, if you create a static spark at the same time you might have a problem...
posted by Chuckles at 9:28 PM on December 25, 2005

Canned air and a nozzle tube. Insert the nozzle tube in such a way that it opens the contact and give the canned air a light tap.

Contact cleaner used the same way (Blue Shower or equiv. - NOT contact cleaner for automobiles!) is good, too, but TURN THE LAPTOP OFF AND REMOVE THE BATTERY. Muting the output/turning down the volume is nowhere near enough protection. Leave it off/disconnected for a few hours for the contact cleaner to dry out before starting it up again.
posted by Orb2069 at 8:32 AM on December 26, 2005

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