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I have a MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015), and I constantly wear a pair of headphones while using it, and have for the past several years I've had it. The machine is starting to show its age, and now my headphones cut in and out sparodically when I move slightly:

  • sometimes the sound disappears altogether
  • sometimes the left/right audio levels become unbalanced or one side gets silenced entirely.
  • Often when this happens, my laptop doesn't let me adjust the audio to be louder or softer (instead of the intensity bar when I press the increase/decrease volume buttons, I get a "No" symbol) until I unplug and re-plug the headphones.

To fix the problems I have to wiggle the cord back and forth until the computer is satisfied.

I'm almost completely sure that this is a physical issue with the computer's headphones port. I've had this sort of problem before where it was caused by the headphones' audio jack (which I solved by getting new headphones), but I'm sure that that isn't the case here, because I experience no such problems when using the same headphones with my iPhone or my work computer. I'm also pretty sure it's not a software issue, as I have bluetooth headphones that I use occasionally (and don't like as much), and they don't experience similar problems.

So far I'm afraid to break anything further, so all I've really done is try to clean out the headphone port with a can of compressed air. Is there more I can do to repair the jack?

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The headphone jack has a connection problem - loose/broken solder joints, corroded connectors, and/or worn contacts.

This sentence confirms the diagnosis:

To fix the problems I have to wiggle the cord back and forth until the computer is satisfied.

If you have to take a physical action to solve a problem, it's a physical problem. By wiggling it back and forth, you're making sure there's a good connection, but after a while it will lose it's connection again.

To fix this, you need to replace the headphone jack and this means electronics rework. There are shops that specialize in this type of work and even though it's an Apple, it can be done and the shop doesn't need to be "authorized."

If you decide not to fix it, you can use a Bluetooth headset or get a USB DAC that will allow you to connect your analog sound devices to a USB interface.

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  • Right, but I was hoping to get clarification on what to actually do to fix the issue. Is there anything I can do non-destructively, or without opening the computer up and/or bringing it to a repair shop? – Green Cloak Guy Nov 6 '20 at 15:41
  • "Non destructively?" What's destructive about opening a computer and repairing it? You either have to fix it or you go around it. This is like saying the radio in your car stopped working and you are looking to get it working again without removing it from the dash. Unless you take it out and put a new or fixed on in it's place, your only other option is to bring in a different device and use that. – Allan Nov 6 '20 at 15:47
  • Mostly that I don't especially have the tools on hand to open the computer. That clears up my question, I think, thanks. – Green Cloak Guy Nov 6 '20 at 15:50
  • I found this $60 USB audio DAC much less expensive than multiple hundreds of dollars for a fix to a broken 3.5mm jack on an iMac. Disclaimer: satisfied user of Behringer products: no financial or other ties. – IconDaemon Nov 6 '20 at 17:13
  • Some folks like to get things fixed just because - I'm sorta like that. I use a Behringer USB DAC with my iMac and a Bose Wave Radio because the 3.5mm jack on it sucks - so much noise and popping. I liked the DAC so much, I bought a couple more for my other machines (Dell boxes) with built in audio and it solved the pops and scratches you'd hear when trying to adjust the volume. I never liked the onboard audio any mfg put on their motherboards (including Apple). – Allan Nov 6 '20 at 17:31

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