Instructables
Picture of Modify Your USB Headphones
Anyone who has ever played video games or watched movies using 5.1 surround sound knows, its pretty darn amazing. However, since those set-ups cost so much money, there are some other solutions to get surround sound on your PC.

5.1 surround sound headphones have been available for several years. Some of them are "USB" so you don't even technically need a sound card to use them. Now, you're probably wondering how you can output sound through USB? Well, you can't. These USB headphones (and all other USB headsets and phones) use a integrated USB sound card that communicates with your PC like an internal sound card would, just through the USB interface.

Sometimes the sound cards are integrated right into the headphones, but sometimes the circuitry is encased in a box that is along the headphone cable. This was the case for the $30 headphones that I bought from Tigerdirect.

What am I getting at? I will show you how you can turn these cheap headphones into two separate devices: a very functional 6-channel USB sound card, and a pair of surround sound headphones you can use with any sound card.

I hope you enjoy reading.
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: How Do Surround-Sound Headphones Work?

Surround sound headphones use three speakers per ear: a Front, a Rear and a Center channel. The center channel is a normal, large headphone speaker. The Front and Rear speakers are more like earbud-style speakers, and are connected to small tubes that guide the sound in front and behind your ear.

The concept is simple, but it requires a 6-channel sound card for it to be true surround sound that is correctly supported by games and DVDs.


Step 2: Materials and Tools

For this project, we need:

Materials:

- USB headphones with in-line amplifier (sound card)
- Project box
- 3x 3.5mm headphone jacks
- 3x 3.5mm headphone plugs
- Red and Black wire
- Small solderable breadboard (optional)

Safety Gear:

- Eye protection
- Ventilated area for soldering


Tools:

- Soldering Iron
- Multimeter
- Drill and appropriate sized bits
- Screwdriver
- Hot glue
- Wire stripper
- needle-nose pliers
- Wire cutter
another way to test the wires is continuity. most meters have a audible beep when the connection is made
techinally you do not have a center channel. that would be a 7 channel system. 6 channel systems do not have a center. its Front(L,R) Side(L,R) Rear(L,R). this is still surround sound. in case anyone is wondering, when you see .1 at the end it means there is a dedicated sub channel
Chowmix124 years ago
 very interesting I'ble... I might try this my self.. our i might just get a USB 5.1 surround sound card... not too interested with the headphones...
RelaxedSoup4 years ago
Just out of curiosity, what's the brand/model of the headphones you used?
mattthegamer463 (author)  RelaxedSoup4 years ago
I wish I could tell you specifically, but they were only branded as "Mentor" and I have seen a few identical models around the nets since, but never exactly the same brand.  Really though, with a touch of know-how, you can do this with any pair that has an in-line unit like that.

Its just a case of using an ohmmeter to identify the different wires going to each speaker.
Yeah, I wouldn't imagine it'd be very hard to do the same thing with a different pair of headphones.  I was asking because a lot of USB headphones have poor sound quality, but since you've verified that those sound pretty good, they would be a good pair of cans to buy.
Zolmeister5 years ago
Wow, nice instructable. the only thing is that isnt the sound card low quality?
mattthegamer463 (author)  Zolmeister5 years ago
Being outside the PC, its relatively free from stray EMI and other signals that interfere with on-board sound cards. Other than less static when using headphones (because of that lesser interference) it sounds just as good as my Realtek on-board sound, if not better.