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Old Nov 7, 2012, 03:06 AM   #1
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Question 2012 Mac mini - headphone jack issues?

Tonight I discovered that my headphone jack isn't working as expected: the machine always uses the internal speaker, no matter what I plug into the jack. System Preferences only ever shows "Internal Speakers" in the sound output device list. The line-in jack does work as expected.

HOWEVER, in the course of testing I discovered a little twist: if I reboot with something plugged into the headphone jack, the computer recognizes it and uses it. System Preferences correctly lists "Headphone port" as the output device. As soon as I unplug the headphones or speakers from the jack, it goes back to the internal speaker as expected. But then it will no longer recognize anything new plugged into the jack.

Is anyone else seeing this behavior? I don't know if this also happened on my 2007 mini because I had external speakers connected 100% of the time, including at startup (and I guess that could be a workaround for this one). But I can't imagine that's the standard, expected behavior?

I currently have an appointment at the "Genius" Bar tomorrow morning. Assuming this is a defect, it'll be a hassle to be without the machine as I just got it all setup and everything moved over. Ugh. I already dismantled it to remove my 3rd-party SSD for warranty service, which was a pain. Should have tested this before installing the SSD last week!
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Old Nov 7, 2012, 01:06 PM   #2
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Well, since I have a workaround and it seems like this may not be hardware after all, I went ahead and canceled my "genius" reservation for now. But for ultimate confirmation, I'd love to know if anyone else is seeing the same thing: if you plug in headphones/speakers after bootup, does the Mac mini recognize and use them? Can you unplug and plug things into the headphone jack at will, with the computer properly switching between internal speaker and headphone jack?

If others are seeing this issue, I wonder if it's just a software bug? Hopefully someone can test this, and thanks.
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Old Nov 7, 2012, 01:27 PM   #3
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I just 'hot-plugged' an optical cable into the audio out jack and the mini automatically selected it. Works like a charm and I'm now listening to a 24/96 flac file in VLC, through an external DAC. I haven't tried headphones or an analog cable yet.
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Old Nov 7, 2012, 01:33 PM   #4
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Just plugged my headphones into my 2012 mini and they worked as expected.
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Old Nov 7, 2012, 01:48 PM   #5
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Awesome, thanks both of you for testing.

So it's definitely a hardware defect on mine. Weird that it does work when plugged in at boot. I'd think that'd be more likely a software issue.

Guess I'll have to send it in, but maybe next week since it's not an urgent thing...
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Old Nov 7, 2012, 03:26 PM   #6
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Hmmmmm. I never would have thought about this situation if I hadn't read your post; will give it a test tonight and post; probably (I hope) just a matter of yours being the unlucky lemon....

*** tested it and it works as it should ;-)

Last edited by sunandsurf; Nov 8, 2012 at 03:34 AM.
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Old Nov 7, 2012, 04:00 PM   #7
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I've used my headphone jack since day 1 with no issues.
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Old Nov 7, 2012, 06:28 PM   #8
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No issues with my headphones.
2012 2.6GHz quad-core i7 Mac mini
16 GB Crucial DDR3 1600
256 GB Samsung 830 SSD / 1 TB Seagate
24" Dell U2410
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Old Sep 26, 2013, 04:07 PM   #9
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Hi Bankshot ... if you're still watching this thread, here's some new info. If you have anything new to share, I'd love to know.

My 2008 mini started exhibiting the exact same symptoms yesterday morning ... out of the blue. I googled "mac mini headphone jack not working"; you were the top hit. I performed the following tests:

1) Unplugged external speakers (high-end Logitech) from the mini headphone jack and plugged in a set of headphones. No joy. Unplugged from the headphone jack and rebooted, then tried various combinations of headphones and external speakers. No joy. Mini system sound pref never sees the headphone jack and only lists Internal Speakers / Built-in Output.

2) Reboot, restart doesn't seem to matter. The mini uses internal speakers no matter what. All other Macs at my studio share the same speaker setup and DO see the system prefs headphone jack.

3) Just for giggles, I replaced the cable running from the mini headphone jack to the Logitech input jack. No joy. No surprise, either ... since a pair of headphones plugged in to that jack are ignored.

So. My best guess is a hardware failure on my mini headphone jack. Bummer. This mini has generally been a trouble-free workhorse. It may be approaching the end of its service life.
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Old Sep 28, 2013, 06:47 PM   #10
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UPDATE: Headphone jack now working

For no reason I can divine, the headphone jack on my Mac Mini started working again this afternoon ... as mysteriously as it stopped working a few days ago (see my previous post). I didn't change anything and have no idea why. My best guess: Ghost in the machine.
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Old Sep 29, 2013, 10:04 AM   #11
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I believe that the Mini (like the MacBook Pro I have) has a "dual-function" audio-out jack.

That is, the jack supports both analog and digital-optical output.

BUT -- the jack can get "stuck" in digital out mode. When it does, there is no analog signal present. Thus, ordinary headphones or speakers won't "work".

I recall reading that when the port is in digital mode, one can look directly into it and see a red light (the "optical" output itself). Not sure if you can pick up the Mini and see, but a small mirror might help to diagnose this.

I'm not sure how to "un-stick" the port, so that it defaults to analog output. Perhaps several insertions/removals of an optical plug might do the trick (I think these are slightly longer than a regular stereo 1/8" plug)...
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Old Sep 29, 2013, 02:48 PM   #12
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Thanks, Fisherrman! This helps solve the mystery on my mini. While fiddling with it, I did indeed insert an optical cable (no joy at the time). I also ran OnyX - a terrific, free, OSX maintenance and cleaning utility I've used on all my Macs for years ... http://www.titanium.free.fr (no joy at the time).

Still not sure why the headphone jack might have become "stuck" and magically "unstuck" out of the blue, but hey! It's working again; your post provides a clue about the sort of pesky issues that occasionally crop up and make me go bonkers.

Some (off-topic) backstory: This mini is primarily dedicated to an ongoing project; converting ancient (1970's - 1990's) analog tapes to digital for several well-known recording artists. The project is very special to me and the artists involved; historical documentation of their work. A good set of speakers with clean flat response is crucial for scrubbing off analog tape hiss and expanding dynamic range as needed. We've actually mastered a few retrospective albums using this little mini.

The prospect of having to replace it or rearrange the studio gear was - um - rather annoying. Here's hoping this thread helps others who run into a headphone jack bog.
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