iMac : using internal speakers without unplugging headphones

Discussion in 'iMac' started by Palad1, Mar 28, 2010.

  1. Palad1 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 24, 2004
    London, UK
    Hi there!

    I'm still in love with my iMac, now entering the phase where I have to fight with SWMBO* to get access to my main machine ;)

    I have plugged a pair of headphones in the iMac but I would like to be able to find a software solution that would let me switch between headphones and the internal speakers of the iMac (which are quite good actually!)

    Plugging / Unplugging is not really ideal and I swear I thought I could do this on my powerbook...


    * She Who Must Be Obeyed
  2. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    System Preferences -> Sound -> Sound output -> Select internal speakers or headphones
  3. mickbab macrumors 65816


    Sep 13, 2008
    Sydney, Australia
    That's what I thought too, and I was about to post what I thought was an obvious solution, but upon searching my MacBook Pro I discover I am wrong :eek:.

    I thought that in SysPref > Sound > Output you would be able to choose whether to use speakers or headphones but it appears that as soon as you plug earphones in, the speaker option disappears. This happens with external speakers too.


    EDIT: just tested this on my iMac as well, getting the same problem.
  4. macchiato2009 macrumors 65816

    Aug 14, 2009
    i'm glad you posted about this issue

    i just got my mac mini and it's connected to the Apple Cinema Display 24

    the sound is coming from the ACD as it is slightly better than the internal speaker of the mini

    but when i really want good sound, i plug external speakers to the jack

    as i don't want to plug and unplug it all the time, i would love to have it connected all the time and the select the output on the fly

    i installed soundsource but i have the same problem as the the preference panel, cannot select the output once the external speakers connected

    the only solution that worked when i tried once on my former macbook pro is to use griffin imic and plug the external speaker on the usb port thanks to the imic

    then with soundsource, i could be able to select the output on the fly

    i was wondering if i have buy an imic again to have this issue solved on the mac mini

    unless there is trick to be done with a script or another soft
  5. Zortrium macrumors 6502

    Jun 23, 2003
    I actually wrote a blog post on setting up the most convenient solution to this issue. The bad news is that I'm pretty sure you need an iMic to do away with plugging or unplugging because it's a hardware port switch. If you do get an iMic to do that, though (and a $25 one-time investment isn't too bad), you can get set up quite nicely -- in my case, it's three keystrokes from anywhere (using LaunchBar) to switch between my speakers and headphones.
  6. macchiato2009 macrumors 65816

    Aug 14, 2009

    i wrote your post, does it mean that soundsource only works with leopard and not SL ?

    audiosource seems great but i would prefer to have a GUI to switch outputs

    i guess that buying an imic is a good investment considering the price

    and i would be able to use soundsource with it
  7. Zortrium macrumors 6502

    Jun 23, 2003
    I think SoundSource works just fine on Snow Leopard -- the thing is that I don't think you actually need it on SL because the GUI already has an easy way to switch built-in. Just option-click the volume control in the menubar and you'll get a dropdown menu in which you can switch the output device. That's basically what SoundSource lets you do, but it was added to Snow Leopard so there's no real need for SS there (on Leopard, option-clicking the volume menubar item doesn't do anything).
  8. Palad1 thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Feb 24, 2004
    London, UK
    Thanks for the tips, sadly the driver seem to be the culprit here :

    Screen shot 2010-09-07 at 19.51.49.jpg
  9. macchiato2009 macrumors 65816

    Aug 14, 2009

    my problem is that the GUI doesn't give me the choice to select the output

    external speakers and monitor audio appear

    external speakers are already selected and when i try to click on monitor audio, it goes back to external speakers again

    so that's why i asked about the external speakers having the priority over other outputs when they are plugged to the jack

    i cannot switch on the fly

    is the griffin imic the only solution ?
  10. Zortrium macrumors 6502

    Jun 23, 2003
    As I said, I'm pretty sure what you want to do is impossible without an iMic because of the way the headphone jack electronics work. I don't think software has anything to do with it.

    I'm a little unclear as to the external/internal speaker setup you're going for. But again, to basically sum up what I think is the case:

    1. Plugging anything into the headphone jack (headphones or external speakers) overrides internal speakers. If you want your internal speakers to play, you can't be using your headphone jack.
    2. If you want to be able to switch between output devices in software, you need an iMic. This will let you switch between whatever is plugged into the iMic and EITHER internal speakers or whatever's plugged into the headphone jack (the first point still stands, you still won't be able to switch to your internal speakers if something is plugged into the headphone jack).

    I imagine there are other USB devices similar to the iMic that would accomplish the same task of giving you a switchable output jack, but the iMic is definitely the most well known and probably the cheapest you'll find.
  11. macchiato2009 macrumors 65816

    Aug 14, 2009

    I want to have external speakers plugged all the time in the jack and I want to switch with the speaker of the ACD 24" on the fly

    that's what i thought...

    I guessed that imic was necessary
  12. ScottR macrumors member

    May 11, 2007

    If it's a hardware switch, then why does the iMac's speakers sound on bootup even when there's something plugged into the headphone jack? (I just double-checked)
  13. iraebrasil macrumors newbie

    Mar 29, 2011
    Many hardware has a little software in it, when they do we often call them firmware. Computers boards have many firmwares, apples firmware responsible for the sound apparently ignores the "plugged status" from the headphone jack and plays the startup sound regardless. They do respect the volume chosen on Mac OS. This is possible since both Mac OS and the mainboard firmware have access to a special memory called PRAM. One of the info stored there is the volume status.

    The next layer is the driver, witch is a little software between the sound firmware and the Mac OS. The driver is probably where Apple chose to switch the input/output based on the "plugged status". And is Apples choice to expose both internal and headphone jack outputs as one or multiple devices. If this is the case, it explain how the firmware is able to play trough the speakers and after the boot the driver takes control and neglects any sound while something is plugged.

    I am also looking for a solution to that. I want Skype to ring on the iMac external speaker regardless of anything plugged on the headphone jack and found nothing so far. I hope someone wrote an alternative driver or an alternative firmware with this intention. But this is very hard to do and it's not approved by Apple in their software agreement.
  14. PorterRocks macrumors 6502


    Jan 31, 2010
    I, also, would like to have this option. I have a pair of headphones that I would like to keep plugged in since it's kind of a pain to reach behind the iMac to plug/unplug it whenever I want to use the iMac speakers.

    The solution I've up with would be to get some kind of headphone jack extension cable. I'd still have to plug/unplug the headphones, but it wouldn't be nearly as annoying since it could be placed right in front of me.
  15. robzr macrumors member

    May 4, 2006
    I don't think the analog extension cable would work, the switch in the audio-out jack would probably detect something is plugged in and act as if headphones were plugged in. The Griffin solution is really just using a USB audio device; theres a lot of USB headphone amplifiers that would do the job well, I use a Matrix-I:

    Works great, sounds great and has a nice volume knob right on it. The finish even matches the aluminum iMac very nicely.

    Here's a nice looking one that has analog inputs as well:

    You can even plug speakers into this one:

    This one is bus powered, inexpensive, and has a remote:

    If you don't want a physical volume control, you can use any USB audio adapter, there are probably on deal extreme in the $2-5 range, or you can use something like this:

    But you pretty much get what you pay for, if you care about sound quality you might want to do some research and splurge a little... The low end ones will not sound as good as the built in iMac audio out.

  16. curtisinoc macrumors 6502

    Mar 13, 2011
    Southern California
    ^^ this ^^ seems like such an easy solution to toggle between internal speakers and plugged in headphones (without having to unplug the headphones) . . . would be nice
  17. EricT43 macrumors regular

    Oct 5, 2011
    Easy solution - use USB headphones!

    I do that on my iMac, leave them plugged in all the time, and I can change between those and the speakers using System Preferences/Sound.

    The analog headphone jack seems to shunt the speakers, which explains why you can't switch it from the OS.

    EDIT - the other thing you could do is get a 3.5mm extension cable (1m should do the trick), that way you can leave the extension plugged in, and plug/unplug your headphones without having to reach around the back.
  18. curtisinoc macrumors 6502

    Mar 13, 2011
    Southern California
    I have studio headphones that I use - not USB, so this wouldn't be an option for me

    This may be my best option for now. Thanks
  19. dstroy macrumors newbie

    Oct 20, 2011
    It's all harware

    I have the same issue and found this thread.

    Soundsource is just a shortcut to System Preferences - Sound

    I used to build PCs and I have to say... Everything is hardware controlled by firmware and software. So there needs to be a software solution and it is very possible. If anyone has a software solution I would love to hear it.
  20. John T macrumors 68020

    John T

    Mar 18, 2006
    This really is an old chestnut (and old thread!).

    The answer is so simple. As with iPhones and the majority of audio equipment, the 'phone jack socket incorporates a switch so that, when the 'phones are plugged in, the internal speakers are switched out of circuit. Obviously, when one is listening via 'phones, the external speakers are not required.

    Therefore, the logical way to enable the user to switch between speakers and 'phones whilst the 'phones are connected to the iMac is not to use the headphone jack socket. As has already been said, use the USB socket instead.
  21. 88 King macrumors 6502

    88 King

    Jun 18, 2011
    London, UK
    Like others have said, a usb output is the easiest way. You can buy a cheap usb DAC/Amp to connect between the imac and headphones.

    The problem is definitely related to OSX and not hardware, since you can switch between internal speakers and headphones when imac is running Windows.
  22. curtisinoc, Nov 29, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2011

    curtisinoc macrumors 6502

    Mar 13, 2011
    Southern California
    Just ordered the FiiO E10 usb amp/dac. I've read great reviews on this product and it's relatively inexpensive (about $80 on amazon). Just plug device onto iMac usb and headphones into the amp/dac. Should sound much better (drive headphones better) than plugging directly into 3.5mm headphone jack on the iMac and able to switch between internal iMac speakers on the fly.

    review from "":

    Edit (11/29): Received FiiO E10 amp/dac today. Huge improvement over simply plugging directly into imac's headphone jack. Sounds great and easily able to switch between headphones and iMac internal speakers without plugging/unplugging
  23. BrantleyIV, Jan 12, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2012

    BrantleyIV macrumors newbie

    Jan 12, 2012
    Very Simple Solution for you

    I've got a solution for you guys. Apple Stores sell an adapter called "iMic"
    It's made by Griffin.Essentially, it's a secondary output and input that plugs in Via USB. If you plug your speakers into that you WILL get both options under your sound preferences (Built in Audio & USB iMic) Literally, with just one simple click, I go back and forth from my studio speakers to my internals.I wanna say it was like $20. I'm sure they sell other things like this other places. Hope this helped!
  24. ScottR macrumors member

    May 11, 2007
    Unfortunately, the iMic does not support the one thing I was looking for: optical digital audio output.
  25. BrantleyIV macrumors newbie

    Jan 12, 2012

    Awe man. Well, I hope it solves the more basic issues for the rest of you guys.

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