Headphone Jack broken or just dirty? Simple Fix? (MP4 Player Cowon S9)

Hello Experts,

I am having issues with my treasured MP4 player and I hope there is a simple fix for it. I need your opinion on this, I remember it is not the first time I have seen (actually heard) this kind of problem with audio jacks..

My device is a Cowon iAudio S9 MP4 player. It is an expensive high quality player so I would like to repair it. The Service Center for Cowon in Germany no longer exists and the model is past its warranty. The players has also been discontinued, so I guess not even the Service Center in the US would take it.

Problem description:

I fully insert the earplug connector to the headphone audio jack and the sound of music comes out normal on the right earplug and very low on the left earplug. Lets say its about 40% left and 100% right. Moving or rolling the connector does nothing (maybe some static). When pulling the earplug connector half- way out of the audio jack, I hear the full 100% on the left and 100% on the right.

I have already tried multiple headphones and still encounter the same problem. I checked the headphones on other devices and they work fine. I also used the mp3 player via Bluetooth on a Bluetooth speaker and it works as expected. Its jut the audio connector that does not function as expected (unless I hold the connector half way in).

I thought, maybe its a bend pin on the inside? Have you ever had a problem like this and did you determine what was the cause? is it fixable ?
Sven BaehrAsked:
Who is Participating?

[Product update] Infrastructure Analysis Tool is now available with Business Accounts.Learn More

I wear a lot of hats...

"The solutions and answers provided on Experts Exchange have been extremely helpful to me over the last few years. I wear a lot of hats - Developer, Database Administrator, Help Desk, etc., so I know a lot of things but not a lot about one thing. Experts Exchange gives me answers from people who do know a lot about one thing, in a easy to use platform." -Todd S.

Pulling the plug half way out probably causes the plug to make contact with just one channel for both earphones, giving you mono sound.

Pins are unlikely to be broken, but rather a soldering point, or a hair-fracture on the PCB the plug is soldered to. Soldering the plug back on could help if you can take the thing apart, but if it is a fracture, repairs will be difficult. I think the easiest "fix" would be to use a bluetooth headset instead of earplugs.

Experts Exchange Solution brought to you by

Your issues matter to us.

Facing a tech roadblock? Get the help and guidance you need from experienced professionals who care. Ask your question anytime, anywhere, with no hassle.

Start your 7-day free trial
☠ MASQ ☠Commented:
rindi's correct,  as you pull the plug you connect both ear plugs to the right channel (left is the furthest connection on the jack towards the cable and the tip of the jack is common).    This suggests the problem is electrical rather then mechanical.  Have you checked if you device has a balance  control?
Sven BaehrAuthor Commented:
Hello Rindi, hello MASQ

thank you for your helpful reply. The explanation you gave about the mono sound gave me a good picture on how stuff work in the inside of the headphone jack. I do not own a soldering machine but If that can be done "easily" by a  regular technician, I would take it to a shop and try to get it fixed that way. I took the Bluetooth Headphone-set suggestion into consideration but the thing that keeps me overly attached to this device is the great sound quality I get by using HQ earplugs and I am afraid a Bluetooth headset wont provide the same sound experience I get from the wired Sennheissers I already own. Maybe a HQ Bluetooth headset but those must be very expensive.

MASQ: the device has a L/R Balance and I already played with it but did not notice any difference (not on L nor R, which surprised me. I thought R would go mute if I balance the sound to L).

I looked for a Mono Setting and didnt find one yet but if I change from Stereo to Mono I should get the correct sound on both side, correct? as from what I understood, the stereo mixing is in the tip of the earphone jack, right?

Thanks guys!
Virus Depot: Cyber Crime Becomes Big Business

The rising threat of malware-as-a-service is not one to be overlooked. Malware-as-a-service is growing and easily purchased from a full-service cyber-criminal store in a “Virus Depot” fashion. View our webinar recording to learn how to best defend against these attacks!

Changing to mono wouldn't change much, you'd still get 40% sound. But if you are content with mono sound, you could of course use a spacer tube that fits over the jack and prevents the plug from completely fitting into the jack. But of course listening to mono music would negate the need for high quality earplugs...

Bluetooth earphones could be better quality than earplugs, as they often are more like headphones and not plugs, they would generally enclose the ear better and also fit better, making the sound appear to be fuller.
☠ MASQ ☠Commented:
Can you find a stereo track with clear left/right distinction (Beatles/Kraftwerk etc where the studio deliberately moves the sound from one side to another) That will help check if you're actually getting both channels or the reason for left sounding so much quieter is that it's actually noise from the right channel leaking across.  You can also try shifting the balance control completely from one side to the other to see if you really do get no output at 100% right channel.
you can always try to clean the inside of the connector, in case it's a bad contact :
spray ab it of contact cleaner in the connector, and remove/insert a couple of times
you can also try to clean with a small bit of tissue on a toothpick or similar
an example for the contact cleaner is CRC - or WD :  http://wd40specialist.com/products/contact-cleaner/
Sven BaehrAuthor Commented:
Hello Rindi, hi MASQ, howdy' Nobus!

@Rindi: the spacer did not work. The sound (on both sides), only comes out when I insert the tip of the connector and hold it in, with my hands. It will slip out if I don't hold it ...besides... (continue with MASQ)

@MASQ: while I was experimenting with the connector (precise spot for music to play on both sides), I noticed a repetitive cracking sound and static on the left channel. The sound would persist even when the audio file is paused (it would get very loud when hitting the "right spot"), balancing via settings would not change the sound output... so now I am 100% certain there is something wrong with the jack-connector and that there is nothing I can do. Like you said, its not mechanical, its electrical.

Looks like the only thing I still can do, is get myself a good set of Bluetooth Headphones after all. Maybe they do deliver a good sound quality. (Any compatibility issues I should take into consideration? The Bluetooth on the device is version 2.0)

@Nobus: thats what I did first (verify and clean the inside of the connector with contact cleaner) as I was hoping it would be dirt or a piece of lint stuck on the inside. That happened to me a few times with my iphone... something would get stuck in the rear and my phone wouldnt charge properly or display something about using an unauthorized charger.

Thanks for your time guys!
then it looks like a bad soldering on the connector, or a broken wire; you inspected the board yet?
otherwise, install a sound card
☠ MASQ ☠Commented:
A soundcard ???

Sven - you might want to have a go at this
Sven BaehrAuthor Commented:
Hello Nobus,

it most likely is a bad soldering or a "hair-fracture" as rindi stated before and I have no idea how to fix it myself as I have never soldered anything before.

I assume you got confused with a different post when suggesting inspecting / installing a new soundboard(?)

Have a great weekend!
It's more than this solution.Get answers and train to solve all your tech problems - anytime, anywhere.Try it for free Edge Out The Competitionfor your dream job with proven skills and certifications.Get started today Stand Outas the employee with proven skills.Start learning today for free Move Your Career Forwardwith certification training in the latest technologies.Start your trial today

From novice to tech pro — start learning today.