Apple's PowerBook laptops use a standard headphone jack. However, problems have been reported with the standard 1/8-inch headphone plug. The most common problem that PowerBook users have encountered is that the headphone jack does not hold the plug snugly, leading to noncontinuous sound. So although the PowerBook comes with a standard jack that would normally be compatible with all headphones, the loose connection creates difficulties for some users.
Standard Headphone Jacks
Standard headphone jacks on a laptop fit a plug that is 1/8 inch in diameter and 35 mm in length. This makes headphone jacks nearly universally standard. Most headphones are "plug and play": A PowerBook typically detects that a headphone has been plugged into the jack and redirects all sound output to that jack. If it fails to automatically detect the headphones, it may be necessary to set the "sound output" to the headphone jack within the computer's system preferences.
PowerBook Headphone Jack Problem
The headphone jack on a laptop contains a "gripper," a small metal piece that holds the headphone plug when it is connected to the computer. On a number of PowerBook models, a defect in this piece leads to the headphone plug failing to be held snugly by the jack. On these models, the headphones behave as if they were not detected by the computer or only play out of one channel. The basis of the problem is that the headphone plug is failing to make a complete connection to the jack.
Recognizing a Bad Jack
A number of problems could indicate that your particular PowerBook has a faulty headphone jack. Before testing for these problems, ensure that your headphones have been tested and are working properly.
If the PowerBook fails to recognize working headphones, this indicates a poor connection. Another sign of a faulty jack is that sound only comes out of one channel, or one earpiece. Lastly, if sound problems can be temporarily fixed by wiggling the headphone plug, then the jack is failing to hold the plug in place and is faulty.
Dealing With a Faulty Jack
There are a number of ways to deal with a faulty headphone jack. The most effective solution may be to send the computer back to Apple for repair. If you do not wish to send in the computer, there are a few workarounds. If you find a position in which the headphones work, you can tape the headphone plug in place. Another solution is to use a different set of headphones that connects in a different manner. Some headphones use USB or FireWire connectors, both of which can be connected to a PowerBook. These need to be set up through system preferences.
Ultimately, most standard headphones are compatible with PowerBooks. The PowerBook can use standard 1/8-inch, FireWire, or USB headphones. However, due to the jack problem with the PowerBook, it could be said that USB and FireWire headphones are more compatible with the PowerBook. To be sure that a headphone set is compatible with your computer, it may be best to simply take your laptop with you when you go to buy headphones and test them to be sure they plug in correctly and can be set up to run with the computer.
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images