Is the headphone jack in my laptop broken for good?
June 5, 2006 9:01 PM   Subscribe

I broke the audio line-out jack on my laptop! Help!

I recently, in a disastrous combination of clumsiness and bad speaker arrangement, tripped over the cord connecting my speakers to my Sony Vaio laptop. This caused the plug to bend against the inside of the jack with quite a bit of force. Now any speakers or headphones plugged into this jack do not work at all, unless held at a certain angle, and even this only makes sound come out of one speaker, while sound continues to come from the laptop speaker. Is there a way to fix or replace this jack, or pay someone to do it?
posted by mayfly wake to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
Slightly cheaper than a PCMCIA sound card is an iMic, which is a usb audio adapter. I'm afraid I don't know anything much about fixing the jack, though.
posted by advil at 9:24 PM on June 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yeah, my suggestion would be a standard USB audio out like advil's suggested iMic.

Although, that's not as much fun as tearing it open and soldering it yourself. :)
posted by smallerdemon at 9:26 PM on June 5, 2006

Not sure how it is on the Sony Vaio, but on my old Dell the headphone jack (which broke regularly in a similar fashion to your problem) was a $15 piece to replace and it only took one screw. It might be worth looking into how much a replacement part would cost and how much effort it would take.
posted by chndrcks at 9:55 PM on June 5, 2006

When my headphone jack broke I ended up buying one of these. It's USB and it powers itself off the USB bus, so no brick. And it sounded better than the built-in sound of the laptop, because I was able to use its equalizer to tune for my headphones.

However, it does want to draw the full half amp it's permitted to, and the normal USB 1 ports on my laptop wouldn't let it -- so I ended up having to use a PCMCIA USB2 card to interface to it. (sigh)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:14 PM on June 5, 2006

Good luck finding the right service manual for a Sony Vaio laptop. I've never had much luck finding those, and the majority of about 8 years of career IT work under my belt is laptop support and repair.

Also, the Vaios are often glued together in spots. Nice, stylish, full-featured laptops they may be, but they're hell to repair. A lot of private repair shops won't even touch them, warranty or no. I personally won't ever touch a Vaio repair job unless I get to charge triple, and the customer signs a waiver that I'm not responsible for broken cosmetics, or even functionality.


If you can get it open without breaking off too much of the cosmetic plastic they like gluing everywhere, you may not even have to replace any modules or do any soldering.

Find the audio jack and inspect it. If it's an "open" 3.5mm or 1/8" stereo headphone jack, you may be able to look right in the little box-plug and see the contacts inside.

If so, take a very thin machinists screwdriver, awl, or other strong but very thin steel tool and very gently tease and bend the contact back up so it's springy again and in the right place.

If the contacts or broken, or you broke them in the last step from metal fatigue, you can just go down to Radio Shack or Fry's or wherever fine electronic components are sold near you and buy one suitable for soldering. (If you don't know how to solder, check out wikipedia or any number of other sources to learn how.) The pins on 'em are usually standardized in size and placement - but then, it's a Sony, so you never know what the hell they're up to. You can also cannibalize nearly identical stereo headphone jacks from old walkman-style tape decks or CD players or whatnot.

Desolder, wick or solder-pull and clean the old one away, then properly solder the new/used one in it's stead. If's also a good idea to take the old jack out first, then go shopping or scrapping for a replacement so you can compare pin size and layout.

Barring all that, USB audio components are often superior to onboard laptop sound cards. Laptop sound cards are notoriously "noisy" from being packed in with all that other hyperkinetic electronic computer stuff, and they're almost always underpowered.

Plus if you shopped around, you could even upgrade to 5.1 audio via USB.
posted by loquacious at 5:02 AM on June 6, 2006

Thanks everyone, I ended up getting an "Audio Advantage" USB external sound card; it sounds even better than it did before I broke it!
posted by mayfly wake at 2:51 PM on June 6, 2006

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