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Recently my Mid 2009 15 Inch (2.66 GHz) MacBook Pro's audio-out headphone port has gotten physically "loose". When I plugin anything it easily slips out changing the audio output from "Headphones" to "Built-in speakers".

My audio-in port has not been used very much, and the same mini-jack plugged in there sits tight.

I might be wrong, but I always thought that the audio-in/out ports did not differ much from each other hardware wise, so I was wondering if it is somehow possible to configure my MacBook Pro (software wise) to reverse these ports.

If I could output audio through the audio-in port I would be happy. It would be ideal, but not a necessity and that the Mac would then accept audio through the headphone port.

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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Every Mac with two headphone sized jacks has one for in and one for out as the hardware is specialized for one direction. You don't need to repair the computer to remedy this if you are OK with an external DAC such as the Griffin iMic.

The Mid 2009 MBP have identical physical connectors soldered on to the logic board, so even if the jack parts themselves are physically identical, they are wired to different parts of the sound in/out circuitry for both analog and digital and replacing that mounted part that would require a high level of soldering skill. The cheapest repair for this issue is the flat rate repair from Apple but even that is pricey when you could use tape or some other physical aid to keep the headphone in the jack as the metal latch no longer holds the pin properly.

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I was hoping that I would not need an external soundcard. Are you sure that the hardware is not identical on the in/out ports? –  Bart Arondson Nov 27 '12 at 23:53
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It very unlikely I'm wrong, but if you add your model by looking up Apple's model name at support.apple.com/manuals I might have access to a service manual or other document to make sure I'm right about your exact situation. –  bmike Nov 28 '12 at 0:00
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Microphones and headphones are not much different, no, but there are many other fundamental differences.

The Speaker/Headphone Output supports the third ring which is used for microphone in (seriously) and the button on Apple and some third party headsets.

Line In only supports two rings at best.

Both of these ports support optical (I think), but bmike is in the right ballpark given that these ports will be connected to very specific parts of the audio driver chip.

It's not purely software routing at play in order to drive these ports.

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Fun trivia related to this answer: Plug your headphones into a microphone port, and talk into them. Yes, it works. Bart's claim that the ports are fairly identical is not wrong, but due to the hardware used further down the line, it's not possible to simply switch the ports. This is the same on any mixer, or other dedicated input/output audio hardware you have. The inputs/outputs are dedicated to the task, and cannot simply be switched by software, firmware, or otherwise. –  Jason Salaz Nov 29 '12 at 0:46
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