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What is wrong with my audio plug?

How to fix an audio jack on a laptop? / What's your diagnosis
If somebody could help me out...I'm pretty sure I blew something up when I plugged the output of a guitar amplifier to the headphone jack of the laptop because since then, when something is plugged in that jack, (speakers or headphones) nothing comes out. When nothing is plugged in, the sound correctly comes out of the two internal laptop speakers. Does anybody understand what happened

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  • owen kardon Jan 19, 2009

    Thanks a lot pgh_pa_guy for your help. So you are saying that I need to purchase a whole new system mother board simply because of this problem? How is it that the internal speakers work then? thx

  • owen kardon Jan 27, 2009

    pgh_pa_guy,

    thanks a lot for the external USB sound card that was a great idea. Surely a lot cheaper than trying to get my motherboard fixed.

    Does that "small amplifier" that i have burnt have a name?

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Yep, you blew it up, all right.

The headphone jack in the laptop is a low-level OUTPUT which goes TO a set of headphones or the INPUT of an amplifier. You went the wrong way and fed a high-level signal (the guitar amplifier OUTPUT) INTO the laptop.

The electronics inside the laptop are not made to deal with the high level you fed in, so it's been damaged. Ever blow out a set of speakers with too high a volume? That's basically what has happened here.

To fix the problem and get your sound back would require a new system board.

Posted on Jan 19, 2009

  • Jan 20, 2009

    The internal speakers and headphone output are driven by a small amplifier which is part of the main board's audio circuitry, and that is what you've toasted. The part of the audio circuit (called a codec) which converts digital audio data (from programs, a CD you might be playing, etc.) into the analog signal to the speakers is probably still functional, but there's now no way to get that signal out. Hope this clears it up a little for you.

    Actually, I just had a thought. You can purchase an external USB sound card which would allow you to get sound. It would mean an extra piece you'd need to plug in, but you'd be salvaging the system. I don't know the specific model, but some friends got one by Creative, and I think it's USB powered (meaning no extra adapter).


  • Jan 27, 2009

    Actually I'm embarrassed to say that after all I said, I found I'd misread your problem even though I'd looked it over several times before posting a solution. I thought you were saying nothing came out at all. But after re-re-re-reading it I saw it worked with the internal speakers but not when something was plugged in. (Another senior moment, I think.) These jacks are usually wired like the headphone jacks on boomboxes: when you plug headphones in, the internal circuit to the speakers is broken so they are shut off. The signal that goes to the speaker amplifier (and that's what it's called - it's just a small audio amp circuit designed to run the speakers) is sent out the jack only.

    But not all laptops are made the same, so yours may have a second audio signal path from the main board to the headphone jack, and the parts driving that path were damaged by the amplified signal you fed into it. So the internal speakers continue to work, but there's no signal now available from the headphone jack.

    It's possible you might be able to see the damaged parts if you open the computer and look at the main board. Sometimes when a part gets hit with a much larger signal than it was meant to take it literally blows up and you can see cracks, burned spots, or such. But repairing the board is usually beyond most servicers (special tools and techniques are needed).

    Sorry for any confusion I've caused you. But if you want to hook external speakers or another output cable to this laptop, the USB device is still the best idea.


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