Improving terrible computer speakers

[Victor] likes to watch movies on his laptop, but the tiny speakers in his machine don’t do [John Williams] and other perfectly fine soundtracks justice. To pump up the jams a little bit, [Victor] got a pair of Trust Mila 2.0 speakers for Sinterklaas. Unfortunately, these speakers were terrible – noise everywhere, tinny output and a brighter-than-the-sun blue LED. These problems were fixed once [Victor] replaced the amplifier in both speakers.

After shopping around for a new power amp to go in each speaker, [Vic] hit upon the MAX9575 3.2 Watt amplifier. This little guy met all of [Victor]‘s requirements. The only problem is that the MAX9575 is only available in a TQFN package.

After a deep breath and much sweat of the brow, both amps found a new home in their respective speakers, deadbug style. It probably would have been easier to etch a PCB, but we’ll give a tip of the hat to [Victor]‘s fine motor skills anyway.

Because of the insane soldering skill demonstrated in the title pic, [Vic] now has a really nice pair of speakers. Check out the demo of the improved speakers after the break.

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Drill holes in your tablet for better sound quality

diy_tablet_speaker_grilles

As devices get smaller and smaller, it becomes a bigger challenge for engineers to squeeze a product’s components into an ever shrinking footprint. [Bulgarien] certainly found this to be the case with his Asus Eee Pad Transformer. He was not impressed with the volume or clarity of the tablet’s audio, so he disassembled it to see if he could somehow improve its performance.

Once he got the Eee Pad apart, he noticed that the tiny speakers were mounted directly against the back of the tablet’s LCD screen, muffling the audio. He flipped the speaker over to face the back side of the tablet in hopes that it might improve the sound just a bit, but he didn’t think that was a sufficient solution. Using an old speaker as a template, he drilled through the Eee Pad’s case to create his own speaker grilles, lining the inside with a fine cloth to prevent dust from getting inside the case.

He says that the tablet’s audio is far clearer than it was originally, which makes this a pretty compelling modification for anyone that uses their Transformer on a daily basis.

Stream music anywhere in your house with these WiFi speakers

wifi_speakers

[Rui] needed an easy way to play music in several different zones from one centralized location, but he didn’t want to run any new wiring in the process.

He figured that the best way to do this would be to stream his music directly to his speakers over Ethernet. Earlier this year, he put together a handful of Ethernet-connected speaker nodes using a few Arduinos equipped with both Ethernet and MP3 shields. To interface with these speaker nodes, he wrote an application utilizing VLC’s network streaming engine. This software monitors his network for newly attached speakers, adding them to his inventory automatically. He can choose to play music on any set of speakers using a multicast audio stream.

The setup was pretty slick, but what about locations that didn’t already have Ethernet drops? He thought of that too, revising his design just recently. The newest set of speakers he constructed ditches the Ethernet board for a Wifly shield, all of which he crammed inside the speaker cabinets. Now, he has the ability to stream music anywhere he’d like, no matter what sort of infrastructure is in place.

If you have a need to do this in your home, [Rui] has made his software available for free on his site, so be sure to grab a copy.

Continue reading to see a short video of the speakers in action.

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Adding Ethernet control for a 5.1 speaker set

[HuB's] set of 5.1 surround sound speakers was gobbling up a bunch of electricity when in standby as evidenced by the 50 Hz hum coming from the sub-woofer and the burning hot heat sink on the power supply. He wanted to add a way to automatically control the systems and offer the new feature of disconnecting the power from the mains.

The first part was not too hard, although he used a roundabout method of prototyping. He planned to use the IR receiver on the speakers to control them. At the time, [HuB] didn’t have an oscilloscope on hand that he could use to capture the IR protocol so he ended up using Audacity (the open source audio editing suite) to capture signals connected to the input of a sound card. He used this to establish the timing and encoding that he needed for all eight buttons on the original remote control.

Next, he grabbed a board that he built using an ATmega168 and an ENC28J60 Ethernet chip. This allows you to send commands via the Internet which are then translated into the appropriate IR signals to control the speakers and a few other devices in the room. The last piece of the puzzle was to wrap an RF controlled outlet into the project with lets him cut mains power to the speakers when not in use. You can see the video demonstration embedded after the break.

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DIY hidden bookshelf speakers

hidden_speakers

[Steve] was tired of looking at the speakers in his workshop and began searching around for something a little more aesthetically pleasing. Having recently received a set of hollowed out books used for hiding things as a gift, he thought that he might be able to solve his speaker issue in a similar fashion.

He grabbed a couple of books from a local thrift store and promptly removed the pages. They were replaced with cloth-covered plywood to make the device more sturdy while simulating the look of pages.

He mounted his speaker inside one of the books, and in a second installed a small 7W Class A amplifier. A third book houses a padded compartment to hold his iPod, completing the set.

[Steve] reports that the speakers are pretty much undetectable, and the sound quality is decent too. In fact, we’ve started looking for some old books to re-purpose in our workshop as well.

Solar-powered MP3 playing speaker

solar_speakers

[Valentin] bought a small battery-powered cube speaker with a built-in amp some time ago, but didn’t have much patience for replacing or recharging the batteries. It sat on the shelf for awhile until he decided to revive an old MP3 player he had sitting around.

He gutted a pair of solar garden lamps, retaining the solar panels, the built-in charging circuits, as well as the included rechargeable batteries. The MP3 player was disassembled, and its components were built into the speaker enclosure. The player’s buttons were relocated to the outer shell of the speaker box with a few pieces of wire, allowing him to easily control his music without having to build in a method for opening the case. Both the speaker and the MP3 player are powered by the batteries salvaged from the solar lamps, which is why he opted to mount both of the solar panels on the the side of the speaker enclosure rather than just one.

We like it even though the speaker looks a bit rough at the moment, especially where the MP3 player’s buttons were transplanted. After a few minutes of touch-up work however, it’ll look great.

If you’re interested in some more solar hacks, check out this solar-powered junkbot, these solar toys for kids, and this solar-powered WiFi repeater we featured in the past.

Don’t buy an amp, build one to suit

In need of an amplifier for his home entertainment system [Afroman] decided to build an amp rather than buying one. If nothing else, doing it himself allowed for a form factor that can’t just go out and buy.

He designed the project on two separate boards, one for the power supply and the other for the amplifier circuit. Both are of his own design, and although he doesn’t share the schematic, we know he’s based his work on a National Semiconductor reference design for the LM4780 audio amplifier chip. There’s a few other clues, like his mention of the toroidal transformer seen at the left in the image above and hi-res photos of the unpopulated board that has component values printed in the silk screen.

The final design allows him to get great performance out of his speakers with a very clean look. You’ll need to be logged to the forum linked above to view all of the images, but we’ve embedded three more of them after the break to whet your appetite.

Oh, and cost? This gets up there, just sneaking past the $500 mark.

[Read more...]

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