Introduction: Reviving the Creature
I was browsing around my favorite thrift store and found this quite interesting sub-woofer. It was lacking the satellites and cords and had a couple of scoff marks, but had the power adapter with it and it turned on. Given it is a JBL sub I got it home with the expectation to add it to my existing $5 speaker setup.
After doing some research on the Creature I had come up with a plan to bring it back to life and not only utilize the sub-woofer but to re-incorporate the satellite speakers it used to have altogether. Searching for the original satellites quickly became impractical, the only "pair" I found online we're going for about $30 each plus shipping and were 2 left speakers in 2 different colors (none silver) from 2 different vendors in 2 separate websites.
After fiddling around with how to wire the satellites and the LEDs (yes I wanted the LEDs on the original satellites), I settled upon the amazon-basics V620 USB speakers (in silver of course, they need to match the sub). Being the kind of guy I am, I don't like breaking something working to fix something broken, so I got a broken set of v620 speakers (audio connector snapped in half) for $3.
Bear in mind, this is a JBL Creature 1, based upon pictures and my online research Creature 2 seems to have the same electronics except the power LEDs are blue, so it should work on those too. Version 3 has completely different electronics, I can't determine if this modification works or not on the Creature 3, but I think it wont.
Here is what I used to make this work:
- JBL Creature Sub-woofer (version 1 or 2) and power adapter.
- amazonBasics V620 USB Speakers
- 2 1000uF 16V polarized capacitors (one for each satellite)
- 3 stereo cables (one for each satellite and one for source input)
- Solder Iron
- Wire stripper
- Phillips screw driver
- Needle nose pliers
- Hot glue gun and glue
- Guitar Pick or similar prying tool
- Precision flat head screwdriver
- Multi-meter (optional)
Step 1: Opening the Sub - Remove the Knobs
The original Creature system had a volume control on the right satellite speaker. Since the original satellites are not present the sub will need to be hardwired to override the volume control (set volume to max). By doing this the volume will be controlled by the audio source (computer, phone, etc).
To open the sub we must first remove the (bass and treble) control knobs in the front. To do this pull the knobs straight up, the pots shafts are plastic so be careful when pulling. If you seem to loose the grip while pulling on the knobs using a latex or similar type glove will help with the grip.
After the knobs have come off remove the plastic spacer from both shafts. Using the pliers unscrew the nuts holding both pots (you could use a socket if you have one) these nuts are not very tight.
Step 2: Opening the Sub - Separate the Casing
Flip the sub so you can access its underside.
Now unscrew the (8) Phillip head screws holding the top and lower halves of the sub enclosure together. There is a gasket between both halves that might make pulling both halves apart a bit more complicated.
Using a guitar pick (you can use any small plastic prying tool or an old credit card) slide it all around along the groove where both halves meet to force the halves apart.
Step 3: Deactivate the Volume Control - Set Volume to Max
After separating both halves you'll see the internals of the sub. which has 2 PCBs one for the input connector and the main PCB which is standing up vertically in the shape of the upper half of the sub.
Turn the sub so you're facing the component side of the main PCB (this is the side with the heat sink).
On the upper left side you'll locate the digital volume control chip. Its a 16 pin chip oriented horizontally. The model on my Creature sub is TOSHIBA TC9235P. Different manufacture dates might have different brands/models but the pinout should be the same (I've validated this with at least 2 other chips from online pictures).
We need to jumper pins 2 & 3 (left channel) and pins 14 & 15 (right channel). I accomplished this by rotating over to the solder side of the PCB and using a small tinned wire to jumper both pair of pins.
Optional: To test the soldering was successful power on the sub-woofer and connect an audio source to the input (Audio In) connector. Raise the volume on the audio source slowly and watch the woofer begin to move. The higher the volume the more movement. Keep in mind it will sound bad because the case is open. If it lacks movement or seems too weak make sure the bass pot is all the way up (full clockwise) or recheck the soldering (I had to redo one of my jumpers).
After both pair of pins are joined together successfully the volume control chip will be bypassed. Now the volume of any sound going into the sub will be controlled by the source.
At this point you can close up the sub as there is nothing else to modify inside of it. Re-assembly is the reverse of removal.
Step 4: Add Companion Satellites
Now that the modifications to the sub are completed you have an option to either use the sub as is or to add the satellites to replace the original ones. If you choose to use the sub-woofer by itself all you need is a headphone splitter to send the output from your audio source to both the sub and another set of speakers.
The process for adding the satellites covered here employs the use of the amazonbasics v620 USB speakers. All the disassembly and modifications cover those speakers. The connection diagrams could be used with a different set of speakers.
The satellite outputs from the Creature sub are on a TRS (Tip-Ring-Sleeve) 3.5mm type connector. These cables carry 2 signals the DC offset to power the electronics in the original satellites (LED and volume control) and the audio signal to be played on the speakers. On the original satellites the right cable also carried the volume control signal.
Step 5: Crack Them Open
Before we can rewire the new satellites we must remove the existing amp and wires. So lets start by opening up the speakers. Both speakers share the same structure so the procedure applies to both of them.
Turn you speakers to the bottom pad. Using your finger (applying some pressure to the pad) feel where the 2 bottom plate Phillip screws are located. These screws are hidden under the soft padding and you can feel the recess they sit on. You can use a craft knife to cut the padding to reveal the screws or (as I did) just push the screwdriver trough the soft padding and start to undo the screws.
After both screws are removed the bottom base and diffuser can be removed.
Looking at the bottom of the speaker you'll see the passive woofer, the 2 LEDs and 3 more Phillips Screws that need to be removed.
Now using the guitar pick lift and carefully flip open (towards the LED side) the bottom half of the speaker enclosure. Be careful as the LED PCB will be attached to the bottom plate and has 2 wires connecting it.
Step 6: Out With the Old
With the speaker open start by cutting the LED PCB and internal speaker wires and then proceed to remove all wires and amplifier PCB (only one of the speakers has the amplifier PCB). All the components and wires are held in place by an industrial like hot glue adhesive. To remove this adhesive I used a small precision blade screwdriver to help pry off all the glue. Do it carefully to avoid breaking anything, this will take some time (took me about 30 minutes to get everything out cleanly).
There are 2 dabs of this glue on the speaker side of the enclosure, these don't need to be removed as neither the grill or speaker need to be removed.
The main amplifier PCB is held in place by this glue and the PCB slides into 2 small plastic channels inside the speaker assembly, just slide it out after the glue has been removed.
The wires are knot twisted inside the assembly to avoid pulling directly on the solder joints if the glue ever failed. I tried to be as gentle as possible with the components as I might have some use for them later (thinking battery operated pocket headphone amplifier).
I apologize for not having pictures of the inside before component removal, I forgot to take pictures during the removal process.
Step 7: In With the New
Now once all the old stuff is removed from inside the speakers its time to wire up the new satellites.
Now you can use a TRS female panel mount connector on the back of the satellites which will make the cables removable on both ends and replaceable. I decided to embed the actual cables into the speaker enclosures themselves.
Base upon the measurement of my cables (got them at the nearest dollar store) I determined that a 9/32" drill bit would be the perfect fit for this as the end connector fits very snugly in it holding it in place without requiring any glue to hold it. (I can always go back later and add the jacks).
Its been said a picture is worth a 1000 words, so please take a look at the pictures of the schematic and interior of satellite after assembly to get a clear idea on how I wired it all up.
- The tip on the TRS connector will remain unused in both satellites.
- Double check the soldering to avoid shorting the outputs. This was a proof of concept build for me, but you could (should) use shrink wrap on all the exposed wires/connections.
- I used polarized electrolytic capacitors, the values for these came from pictures of actual Creature satellites I found online. Make sure the polarity is correct, negative lead goes to speaker, positive lead goes to ring on TRS connector.
- The LEDs are optional and could be left disconnected it not desired.
- The LEDs and associated resistors used are the original LEDs present in the v620 speakers, I don't know the resistor values (did not measure them).
- The LEDs are 3mm non-SMD (like most older backlit non RGB keyboards), if you don't like the color you can replace these with lower intensity or different color LEDs. You could even add extra circuitry to make them blink, make a small RGB color cycling circuit, sound activated, etc. The DC voltage on the satellites I measured is about 8V so there is enough power for simple circuits and LEDs.
- Optional: you could connect the satellites to the sub power it all up and play some audio to test all connections before closing the satellites back up again.
After you have wired it all up and are sure its operational put a dab of hot glue on the capacitors and glue them to the case of the speaker to avoid rattles.
You can now proceed to close up the satellites. Re-assembly is the reverse of removal.
Step 8: Schematic
Here is a look at the new wiring Schematic.
Step 9: It's Alive!
After all the components have been closed up its time for a real test.
Connect each satellite to each one of the connectors in the sub's Left/Right speaker connectors. Unlike the original satellites these are interchangeable so it does not matter which one is left or right.
Connect the source (Audio In) and power cables. Now turn on the Sub. If you wired the LEDs per the schematic on the satellites, they will come on now.
Connect your Phone MP3,PC and play some music.
And if all went like it should you should now be listening to your music through the Creature.
1. Depending on the quality/power of your audio source the power output will be better/higher.
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