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With all of the interest in my cassette boombox audio mod I decided to write up a complementary tutorial - reusing computer speakers. Modifying a boombox for an audio input is great for portable applications, but reusing a pair of computer speakers is more suitable for more permanent installations and cases where you need some physical separation between the left and right channels.
Used powered computer speakers are extremely inexpensive. They’re generally sold at yard sales and thrift stores for $5 or less, including their “wall-wart” power supplies. These speakers generally have permanent audio input cables with a 3.5 mm stereo (mini) plug which plugs into your computer’s line out port (typically color coded lime green).
These aren’t fantastic state-of-the-art speakers you’d want to use for a high end home theater system, but they’re decent, and certainly worth the price. Occasionally I’ll come across computer speakers with a subwoofer (a large speaker designed to replicate bass sounds) very inexpensively too. They’re called 2.1 (pronounced two dot one) because they have two main speakers plus one subwoofer.
There are many ways computers speakers can be reused – add stereo speakers to a DVD player, inexpensive amplified speakers for an MP3 player, a high quality speakerphone for your cell phone, and to add surround speakers to your computer to name just a few possibilities. Basically any piece of electronics with a standard 3.5 mm (mini) audio output jack can be used.
Step 1: How to hook up a DVD player
Almost all DVD players, Blu-Ray players, and stereo VCRs have a trio of color-coded output jacks. They’re typically colored yellow, white, and red and correspond to Video, Left audio, and Right audio. The good news is different hardware and cable manufacturers all use the same color coding scheme. (It was much more challenging to hook up early VCRs and audio equipment before color coded standards became popular.) Red is also used on red/green/blue colored cables for component cable setups and yellow is also often used for digital audio (SPDIF) so you’ve got to be careful not to confuse them. Other than that all you have to do is match colors to avoid confusion when hooking up cables.
An inexpensive Y-adapter cable with white and red RCA plugs on one side and a female 3.5 mm stereo plug on the other end is all you need to hook up most computer speakers to your DVD or Blu-Ray player or stereo VCR.
Some mini stereo plugs and jacks are color coded lime green, but this isn’t always the case. In most cases, including most adapter cables, the 3.5 mm plug is the same color as the cable (beige, black, and white are common).
In a typical setup your TV set is hooked up to the DVD player with either a direct cable from the DVD’s video out to the TV’s video in jack or through an R-F modulator to the television’s antenna jack. If a mono TV has input jacks they will be color coded yellow (video) and audio (white).
If the red and white audio out jacks on your DVD player are not in use then hook up the Y-adapter cable and plug in the speakers. Presto, you’ve got the equivalent of a stereo TV and added a new dimension of experience to your DVD watching enjoyment.