Instructables

3.5mm 5.1 Surround Sound Switch / Splitter Box

Picture of 3.5mm 5.1 Surround Sound Switch / Splitter Box
I had a problem which needed solving.

I've just bought a Dell 2709w Monitor which takes DVI and has 5.1 output using the standard PC solution of three 3.5mm jacks, coloured Green, Orange and Black. I had hooked up my Xbox 360 via HDMI to the monitor, and the sound comes out of these (unfortunately only in Stereo since it's in Dolby Digital, but that's another story). This would be great, however there is no similar input, meaning that I have the issue that I had to keep swapping the jacks on my subwoofer if I wanted to get any sound from my PC or the Monitor. Having carried out much searching on the internet, I was unable to find a box that does this, and while many people seem to have similar problems, very few people have a solution.

My first test was to simply try a headphone splitter in reverse on each individual subwoofer channel. This didnt work, since the computer's output always took presedence over the monitor's output. It was then that I came across the following article on Bl3nd.com - 5.1 Audio Switch. It's at this point that I decided to contact Joey Hazlett, the owner of the site to get some information and increase my knowledge on building such a device, with a mind to do it myself. I have to say that Joey was masses of help and the following guide wouldn't be possible without him.

So, I was going to build a splitter box which takes two 3 x 3.5mm Inputs and allows you to switch between them to one similar output.
This would be suitable for connecting two 5.1 surround sound PC cards / PC's to the same subwoofer.
 
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Step 1: Tools and Parts

To complete this project you will need the following tools:

Soldering Iron
Insulating tape
Drill and various sized bits
Stanley knife
Ruler

You will also need the following parts:
Speaker Wire (I already had this)
1 x Box
9 x 3.5mm Sockets
3 x DPDT Switches

Thanks to Rapidonline.com for the parts - I really struggled to find these in the UK!
vaderag (author) 2 years ago
Glad I've helped some people. Incidentally, I no longer have need for my device, so if anybody would like to buy it, pm me and we can arrange something reasonable...
_Helios_2 years ago
Hi Guys,
i'm really happy that i found this site.
I was looking for various days fpr a solution to switch from 2 5.1 sources ( i have a tv box with a 5.1 adapter and my pc as input sources and my 5.1 speakers as the one output)
i would have been happier if i would have found this splitter (http://www.hardwareluxx.de/akaspar/reviews/creative_ddts100/connector_s.jpg) , but no chance there!

so what really confuses me about your switch is that you have 3 on/off switches...why that? i thougt you would need only 1 on/on switch (for source 1 or 2)

thanks and please excuse my english ;)
Okay after trying to understand your circuit i think i understood why the 3 switches, when you switch all 3 on ist source 1 and when you switch all 3 off it is source 2 right?
greetz
emPUR32 years ago
Hi there,

I wanted to try using Y splitters first to connect my 2 computers. Would I run the risk of damaging my sound cards or the speakers if I had both systems on at the same time? Would this setup work only if only 1 system was powered at a time? Any help is appreciated. Thanks.
vaderag (author)  emPUR32 years ago
This was my first attempt, but one system always too prescience, so it didnt work. You may be luckier, but for me it was a no go...
violetdream2 years ago
Hi, thanks so much for this instructable. I have a media center with a small media PC hooked up, and I'm thinking of getting some 5.1 speakers. However, I also have several devices that take the old Phono switch as well as a larger computer for more serious gaming. At first I was going to ask you what modifications I would have to make to have a 3 in 1 out. I was going to do that with this little connector: http://www.amazon.com/Logitech-Console-Adapter-Convert-Single-Pc/dp/B0006U3ACY/

However now that I see your optional step, am I to believe that this does the same thing?? So it takes 2 real 5.1 inputs and one RCA input that just gets cloned to the other speakers? Or are you saying that it just takes over input 2? I wouldn't ever be using two of these devices at once, however what signal takes precedence? The two computers would almost always be hooked up and on and I'm afraid that would take over the phono input.

I guess the two questions I have are: Does this step eliminate the need for the gaming adapter? And: If I have two switching inputs that are always on, how do I make sure I can use the phono in as well?

If this requires 3 inputs do you have any ideas on how to modify this instructable to do that?
vaderag (author)  violetdream2 years ago
The optional extra step means it takes 2 5.1 and 2 RCA, yes, effectively taking over input two. Regarding precedence, I havent really tested it - one is my xbox and one is my Wii, so these was never any chance they would both be on at the same time (because my monitor turns the sound off from the xbox channel if it's not set to that video channel...
So, yes, i would say the extra step eliminated the need for the gaming adaptor, in theory. In practice, it's been a little temperamental - it works 100% fine if i just have it going to the front two channels - trying to get it to the rear channels hasn't really worked, although i suspect this may be due to my bad wiring!

3 inputs would be an extension of this, but you'd need a three way switch, making it significantly more complicated in wiring, and I suspect you'd need a bigger box... (since mine is crammed as it is!)
Love this instructable, and I'm having a crack at one myself using a single 6PDT switch. Two things to clarify if I may impose:

Firstly, you say "just bunch all the ground wires together". Do they actually need to go anywhere, or just solder all the ground ends into a single point?

Second, I see your switches are rated for 3A - is that required, or just what the switches can handle? I've not found a 6PDT switch yet that goes above 1A (most of them are about 500mA), so I didn't want to go ahead and burn the switch out or something!

Thanks in advance.
vaderag (author)  rclutterbuck3 years ago
Hi there.

To answer your questions - nope, the grounds dont need to go anywhere at all - just bunch them up and tape over them for insulation.

As for the switches, the rating just happens to be what mine were - as far as i'm aware it shouldnt really matter what the rating is - would have thought 500mA would be fine!

Hope that helps,
Andy
Thanks dude.

I don't need any special speaker wire do I. I've found some cheap lengths that have polarity marks on them, but I assume that'll just be for a reference to ensure you wire things up properly - in our instance, I'd just need to make sure the "marked" wire connects both (for example) the left channels.

I ask because my sound card can do polarity checks on the speakers to ensure they're wired properly, but short of miswiring something I can see how I could reverse the polarity on the speaker output.

Thanks again
vaderag (author)  rclutterbuck3 years ago
I used the cheapest wire possible and it's still holding up. I suspect better wire may = better sound quality, but to be honest my ears aren't good enough to pick it up!!
Jimmacle3 years ago
This is a great Instructable! I'm going to build a slightly modified version to switch between my computer speakers and headphones, so there's less wear from plugging in and unplugging. (I have a laptop, but I'm using better external speakers)
zack2473 years ago
this is really cool, im making something like this right now so i don't have to unplug my speakers to plug in headphones.
(the front panel audio doesn't work right on my computer)
gehrehmee3 years ago
What would be involved in making this into an actual mixer, so you could get sound from each simultaneously? That's the thing I'd *really* like to have.

Why did the PC dominate? Is it just because it was louder? Or is sound transmitted from the monitor dumped because the PC's sucking it to ground or something?
vaderag (author)  gehrehmee3 years ago
I wish I could help, but I really don't know! I think it's probably simply a power issue, but I actually don't know, and since it could be fixed for what I wanted, I just didnt look into it further! Sorry!
DIYGuy9773 years ago
First off, I really like this idea, thanks for posting it! I've been trying to find a way to switch audio from my 5.1 Logitech speaker system between my computer and my iPod for when I want to listen to music but don't feel like having my computer on. I'm trying to make something after your model, but since one input is my 2-channel iPod, I don't really need another set of 3x3.5mm jacks. Would I be safe just splitting the wires from each channel of the iPod input itself and running them to each switch? Also, have you stumbled upon a single switch since you first posted this? I'd like to avoid having three separate switches if possible.
vaderag (author)  DIYGuy9773 years ago
Fraid I havent run across a single switch, no! What you'd need to do for your iPod is exactly what I did with my Wii - just run the wires to the switches for front (and rear if you need...)
hellofraz14 years ago
I have just made something like this, that has one input and two outputs so i can have both my 5.1 surround speakers and my 5.1 headset plugged into the switch box to pc and switch between the two. Someone rly needs to make these comercially they could make a killing, its so simple. Nice instructable btw because splitters suck! switch boxes are the way forward.
kungfucorey5 years ago
Awesome, I was using 3 y splitters, and thought about making something like this myself, because the splitters ruin the audio on both. Its funny i drew up almost the exact same diagram on a napkin. Though you think someone would make a commercial product like this already...
There is something similar that's commercially available, designed for all RCA and S-Video jacks for connecting multiple devices to your TV/amplifier...
vaderag (author)  kungfucorey5 years ago
Too right, although it was nice to have another little project to hack away at!
Retratserif5 years ago
http://www.turtlebeach.com/products/cables.aspx

There are 2 options already created for this.
vaderag (author)  Retratserif5 years ago
Yes, and no.

Initially, i tried to use 3 headphone splitters to do the same job. The trouble is, there is clearly a more powerful signal coming from the PC even when not in use, as it always took precedence - when connected via the splitter, whichever way, i couldnt get the monitor sound to output, even with the soundcard disabled!
Hey, I just had this problem and got a Surround Sound Splitter Cable and I too had the same problem you had (One channel stronger than the other) I just put a switch inline on each of one lot of the 3 inputs so it basically shuts it off
cons114 years ago
what is the optional extra step for?
vaderag (author)  cons114 years ago
It's to allow my Wii (or any phono output) to also connect via the same box, and be expanded onto all 4 speakers, rather than just the front ones.
jrod925 years ago
First of all, thank you for the instructable, now for my question. You weren't very clear about what to do with the ground leads, i was just planning on leaving them empty, but it would appear from your drawing that they are all connected. Is that right? I will only be making one with 2 stereo inputs, so basically just 1/3 or yours, if that matters at all. Jarrod
vaderag (author)  jrod925 years ago
Just bunch all the grounds together. That's all you need to do - just make sure they are touching! I just wrapped them in some insulating tape :)
jrod92 vaderag5 years ago
ok, thanks Jarrod
milans5 years ago
wow wonderful tutorial ! Thank You. Actually who is best LCD TV or LCD monitor ? What all advantages and disadvantages for both of them ?
tcwong5 years ago
Wow, this is the exact project I have been working on. I did a review on the 2709W monitor in Dell's website a few weeks back (BTW, what do you think of the monitor :p). I just had to signup on this website to leave a comment, nicely done. I also came across Joey Hazlett's website with his 6PDT design and feel your solution yield greater application when stereo audio is all you need.
vaderag (author)  tcwong5 years ago
Hey mate, glad you liked the Instructable! I really like the monitor on the whole - there are a few little niggles - mostly that it doesn't decode dolby digital 5.1, so can only get stereo out of my xbox, and that it doesn't auto switch between inputs when one is turned off. Other than that, I'm very happy with it! How about you? Have you built your audio box yet?
tcwong vaderag5 years ago
I have a new niggles with my whole setup with the 2709W as well. I use a monoprice 4x2 matrix to hook everything up, and I always run into a little problem here and there to get everything startup correctly. Overall though, I am happy with the screen and intend on keeping it. I am in the process of getting some PCB made to complete the audio box, slowly but surely I will complete the project.
(removed by author or community request)
vaderag (author)  DELETED_bikedude8805 years ago
That's not quite right - it'll work if you want to turn the phono's totally off or totally on, but wont if you only want to be able to turn the back speaker off. I'm just off to bed, but i'll try post the schematic tomorrow...
(removed by author or community request)
vaderag (author)  DELETED_bikedude8805 years ago
Again, not quite right - you have nothing going from the phono's to the front channel. Also, you don't want the standard inputs going into that switch. I'll do a sketch of it this evening and scan it in...
vaderag (author)  vaderag5 years ago
Bad news... my scanner seems to have packed in :( If i ever get it running i'll do this for you!
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