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  1. #1

    madwolfe's Avatar
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    Audio Out Stuck On Optical Digital-Out Port
    Hi guys, just joined so don't be too hard on me.

    Now, onto my problem: a while ago there was a thunderstorm and my computer (10.5 at this stage) lost power, while outputting audio to amplified speakers. When I turned back on the computer I got this image while trying to change the volume:

    You have probably seen it before, it seems to be a regular topic on the 'net.
    I have searched for many hours regarding the problem, don't worry, and have tried all the solutions available. Regarding the hardware one (Toothpick/wire in jack or repeatedly putting in headphones), I have tried these. To be honest, I never even had a red light in the first place but none-the-less I tried and it didn't work.

    I also attempted the software solutions (Deleting prefs/.plists, PRAM resets, Audio MIDI Setup and others). None of these worked and then I did the supreme - reformatting. Now before you cry wolf, I really did need a new, clean slate. The computer was clogged and I got a new OS (10.6.8 to be precise). So if was a software problem, it should be fixed right? (Please correct me if I'm wrong).
    But it's not fixed. I now have the message that the Audio Output is "Optical Digital-Out Port" and I get no sound.

    Does anyone have any more suggestions? Perhaps a full explanation as to the toothpick trick? (Incase I did it wrong).
    Or should I take it to an Apple Store?

    Thanks in advance,
    madwolfe
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  2. #2

    Lifeisabeach's Avatar
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    If I am interpreting this correctly, your Mac thinks that something is plugged in to the optical out jack, whether or not something is plugged in. I assume you are not getting any audio from your internal speakers no matter what? Do you get any audio out if something is plugged in?

    While the problem you are having "could" be due to some dirt or corrosion inside the jack that is fooling the Mac into thinking something is plugged in, I think it's distinctly more likely that something has shorted out on your Mac due to the timing with the thunderstorm. I had a similar issue with an AV unit that "thought"' headphones were plugged in, even though I had never used that port. A circuit simply had to be re-soldered, as it turned out, due to a faulty solder that failed over time. In any event, short of a more aggressive attempt to ensure the jack is clean, you are likely looking at needing service. You can do a Google search for tips on how to clean a headphone jack, but be aware of any potential risks in doing so.

  3. #3

    madwolfe's Avatar
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    I do get the dong (?) sound on startup so I know there is nothing wrong with the internal speakers. I would agree with the optical-out sentiment except there is no red light. Is this red light merely an indicator and if so, when was it introduced?
    When I plug in my amped speakers, I get a loud interference-like buzzing where as when I plug it into my iPod, there is no sound. That is the only noise the computer makes (Apart from startup). :S

    I honestly would prefer not to be soldering anything inside my Mac, I can solder OK but that would be tempting fate. I will however look up on how to clean the jack but, as you said, the timing seems to be against this.

    I have never gotten my Mac serviced, could you give me an idea as to the cost/what is done? The audio jack is connected to the Logic board so if I will need a replacement for that (Expensive as I understand) I will survive without my precious music.

    Thanks for the help so far.

  4. #4

    Lifeisabeach's Avatar
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    I wasn't clear on what the red light thing is you are talking about, but I just did some digging around and it's something that emits from the jack when the port is in use, right? And the light is NOT on for you, right? Given that, it doesn't sound like there is a short that is making the Mac "think" the port is in use. Do the internal speakers work as normal with nothing plugged in, besides startup? Have you tried a different set of speakers or headphones? I'm beginning to think the amp on your external speakers is what's blown.

    EDIT: if it comes to a repair to your Mac, I couldn't say what it'd be. A motherboard replacement can run a grand or so, but what you may need may not be so extreme. The audio jack may itself simply be loose where it connects inside.

  5. #5

    madwolfe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lifeisabeach View Post
    I wasn't clear on what the red light thing is you are talking about, but I just did some digging around and it's something that emits from the jack when the port is in use, right? And the light is NOT on for you, right? Given that, it doesn't sound like there is a short that is making the Mac "think" the port is in use. Do the internal speakers work as normal with nothing plugged in, besides startup? Have you tried a different set of speakers or headphones? I'm beginning to think the amp on your external speakers is what's blown.

    EDIT: if it comes to a repair to your Mac, I couldn't say what it'd be. A motherboard replacement can run a grand or so, but what you may need may not be so extreme. The audio jack may itself simply be loose where it connects inside.
    Sorry for not making that clear. As I understand it, there is meant to be a red light inside the port and I am not getting this.
    The internal speakers do not make a noise unless at startup which suggests to me that the mobo is able to connect to the speakers fine but something is stopping the OS. Could someone check for me where the sound comes from when you start up with speakers/headphones plugged in and the jack is working?
    As for my amp/speakers being blown, I know that this is definitely not the case as I use them with my laptop and iPod daily.

    If I cannot find a solution I'll bring it into the apple store and see what they can do/how much it will cost.

    Thanks for your help so far, madwolfe.

  6. #6

    dtravis7's Avatar
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    I have the same iMac 2007 2.4Ghz 20". First the Startup Sound on pretty much all Intel Macs comes from the Internal speakers even if an external is plugged in. The Jack does not work until you are in OSX. Even my iMac G5 iSight was that was as is my 1.5Ghz G4 Mini. No sound through the external speakers till OSX is booted.

    The Red Light is the Optical Digital output. If you are getting no red light, it's NOT in optical mode.

    Have you checked System Preferences and sound and the Output Tab? Are there any options there? What does it say there? Mine says Headphone Port when my external speakers are plugged in.

    Did you do a Clean or Upgrade install of 10.6.8 Snow Leopard?

    It's starting to sound like the lightning strike did damage. Hearing the startup sound through the internal is not the same as through the port. More circuitry is involved for that port after OSX boots up. That buzzing sound really bothers me like something is damaged.

    Let me know on my other two questions.
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  7. #7

    madwolfe's Avatar
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    Thanks for that Dennis, I was pretty sure that was the case, the sound coming from internal on startup, but thanks for clarifying.

    See the attached picture for my Sound System Preferences pane. As I said in my very first post, it states that it is set on "Optical Digital-Out Port". I'm not easily able to take a photo of my jack but your going to have to trust me that there is no red light. So it seems I am getting two conflicting messages here.

    I did a clean upgrade. Put in the DVD, reformatted disk using Disk Utility and have slowly been transferring the essentials over from my Carbon Copy external drive.
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  8. #8

    dtravis7's Avatar
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    There there is either something wrong with that output jack that is both Optical Digital and Analog or the Lightning did something. Not sure at this point which since no red light.

  9. #9

    madwolfe's Avatar
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    OK, well now the toss up. Do I take it into an Apple Store or have a look myself?

  10. #10

    dtravis7's Avatar
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    You tried the toothpick and headphone jack tricks. Not sure what else there is to do.

    One other thing you can try. Do you have more than one user account? If not make one and log out of your main one and into the new one. Still the same?

    I would take it to Apple if you can and see what they say.

  11. #11

    madwolfe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dtravis7 View Post
    You tried the toothpick and headphone jack tricks. Not sure what else there is to do.

    One other thing you can try. Do you have more than one user account? If not make one and log out of your main one and into the new one. Still the same?

    I would take it to Apple if you can and see what they say.
    I did.

    I actually have not tried a different user account however considering the issue has travelled through a reformatting of a disk, I assume not.

    The problem is that it's a trek to the nearest Apple Store .
    Oh well, I'll have to do it.

    EDIT: I suppose reformatting means that I did create a new user and test on it anyway, considering that I have a new one now.

  12. #12

    dtravis7's Avatar
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    Makes sense. I guess I missed that part. Let us know what Apple says. I wish I could say more but as I said before what bothers me is it was working before the lightning. I have seen lightning blow every piece of electronics in a house, even electronics on a UPS. Lightning is quite powerful as I am sure you know!!

  13. #13

    madwolfe's Avatar
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    This is embarrassing.
    I went to a post I made about a year ago regarding this problem (Yes, it has taken that long for me to get my s**t together and figure a solution). It was on the Apple Support Communities (I must comment, you guys are much better than there. Didn't get a single response *thumbs up*).

    Anyway, it seems I didn't get my facts straight. It apparently was not a lightening strike but my own misdeed. While modding my speaker amp, I shorted something and blew the fuses in the house. At this time, the power was on and the amp was connected to my computer.

    Now, in recollection, I can only assume that current flowed through the cable and the audio jack didn't appreciate having 240V flowing through it. Maybe I melted something, who knows?

    Anyway, I don't really wish to open her up (If anyone else can comment on the easiness of this venture) so I'll probably go to an Apple Store and fix this for once and for all.

  14. #14

    Lifeisabeach's Avatar
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    Here's the repair guides from iFixit. Just pick the one that's yours and see what it takes to break it down.
    iMac Intel - iFixit

  15. #15


    Member Since
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    Just want to report that I too, in December of 2012, running 10.6.5 on a MacBook Pro, had the mysterious " Audio Out Stuck On Optical Digital-Out Port" problem whereby I was unable to adjust the volume on my built-in speakers and they were permanently "muted" because the operating system was sending the audio signal to a non-existent device that it falsely thought was plugged in to my unused headphone jack hole. I thought at first the problem must necessarily be software-based because the built-in speakers worked fine when playing the start-up chimes. So I uninstalled something called "Soundflower" which does some mysterious shenanigans with commandeering the internal audio signal so that one can make audio recordings of one's computers' sound effects. But uninstalling Soundflower had no effect. So I uninstalled some other audio-related software, also to no avail. Then I zapped the PRAM, to no avail.

    Then I found this thread and decided I had nothing to lose by trying "the toothpick trick," i.e. poking around in the headphone jack hole to see if something was stuck in there shortcircuiting it.

    Bingo! Success!

    Actually, I did a hyper-sophisticated version of the toothpick trick:

    First, I own a home "otoscope," one of those doohickeys that doctors use to look into your ear. One can now buy amateur versions of otoscopes for home use, to looks for kids' ear infections, etc. (They only cost $30 or so.) Anyway, using the smallest attachment designed for babies' ears, I was able to look (with illumination) into the headphone jack hole and yessiree there was a big bunch of dust stuck way deep in there.

    So then I took not a toothpick but instead a more heavy-duty slender dental prong-pick thingie made of stainless steel, and very delicately was able to snag the clot of dust deep in the hole at the bottom on the first try. Quite a wad!

    Then I took one of those rubber ear-bulbs, used for sloshing out your ears, and used it as a micro-vacuum-cleaner: Squeeze the rubber bulb til it is as empty as can be, then place the tip of the bulb at the entrance to the headphone jack hole, then suddenly release my grip: it sucks air out of the tiniest spaces! After doing this a few times, I then did the reverse and blew blasts of air into the hole.

    After all this, I looked back into the hole with the otoscope, and it was sparkling clean! Not even the tiniest speck of dust in an area that just three minutes earlier was thick with dust.

    I then turned my computer back on and...problem solved! The audio worked again like normal, and it was no longer detecting an imaginary "Optical Digital-Out Port" device. The speakers once again worked as normal, and the volume could be adjusted.

    Thanks for suggesting the solution! I guess it really was dust causing a short-circuit.

    I'm writing this detailed description to help anyone else in the future with a similar problem.

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