Lamps Double As Secret Surround Sound Speakers

Combined with today’s massive flat panel displays, a nice surround sound system can provide an extremely immersive environment for watching movies or gaming. But a stumbling block many run into is speaker placement. The front speakers generally just go on either side of the TV, but finding a spot for the rear speakers that’s both visually and acoustically pleasing can be tricky.

Which is why [Peter Waldraff] decided to take a rather unconventional approach and hide his rear surround sound speakers in a pair of functioning table lamps. This not only looks better than leaving the speakers out, but raises them up off the floor and into a better listening position. The whole thing looks very sleek thanks to some clever wiring, to the point that you’d never suspect they were anything other than ordinary lamps.

The trick here is the wooden box located at the apex of the three copper pipes that make up the body of the lamp. [Peter] mounted rows of LEDs to the sides of the box that can be controlled with a switch on the bottom, which provides light in the absence of a traditional light bulb. The unmodified speaker goes inside the box, and connects to the audio wires that were run up one of the pipes.

In the base, the speaker and power wires are bundled together so it appears to be one cable. Since running the power and audio wires together like this could potentially have resulted in an audible hum, [Peter] only ran 12 VDC up through the lamp to the LEDs and used an external “wall wart” transformer. For convenience, he also put a USB charging port in the center of the base.

When speakers or surround sound systems pass our way, it’s usually because some hacker has either made  a set from scratch, or has added some new and improved capabilities to their existing gear. This project may be a bit low-tech compared to some that have graced these pages, but it’s undoubtedly a clever and unexpected solution to the problem, and that’s a hack in our book.

23 thoughts on “Lamps Double As Secret Surround Sound Speakers

  1. While AC could induce a 60hz hum, a wall wart usually has extremely dirty power with lots of high frequency harmonics. It’d be better to run power up 1 pole and audio up another, to run AC to the speaker and put a highpass filter at the speaker to filter the AC noise, or use balanced cables.

    1. How does this noise compare to the noise introduced by running long cables to the speakers? In a surround sound setup you are gonna have some relatively long speaker cables.

      The lamp shades will probably cause more sound distortion than the wiring. Heck, the speaker placement will have far more effect.

      1. Speaker cables tend be relatively insensitive given that they aren’t small signal.

        But that doesn’t mean running them parallel to a noisy switching supply is a good idea.

        If you’ve got multiple copper pipes why not use them? Your speaker cables likely come in from a different place to your power supply anyways.

    2. I agree, it’s not the best practice to run signal wires next to power lines, however the odds are very low that a low voltage(12 volts, 179 mA) would induce any kind of noise into the speaker wire, (assuming the power supply is putting out a pulsating dc) compared to 120 volts. Magnetic flux is proportion to the current and voltage running through the wire. My solution is turn the lights off during the movie, which is the case for most of my movies. No flow to the lights no way for interference. I agree with your thinking, and your right I should have run the power up a different pipe, don’t know why I didn’t🙂. Next one I will.

  2. Very clever! This could very well be productized if you found a handful of different style lamps you could port this concept over to, with a huge market that currently doesn’t know they need these only because they haven’t seen them.

    I like that they are at viewer level and can be rotated to whatever angle is best for the environment. Can’t do that with flushmount in-wall/in-ceiling speakers, not to mention that not really being an option for most renters. Plus these are even stealthier than even the slickest flushmount speakers.

    HAD needs more of these types of hacks – projects that actually solve real world issues with creativity, projects that people will actually be likely to recreate in some form or another due to their usefulness. I get kinda bored of all these retro-computer updates, arduino clocks, making a mini laptop out of a Pi. Theyre cool and all, and have plenty of learning opportunity, but the projects I bookmark are the ones I see myself doing – usually because they serve an actual purpose.

    1. sometimes, these types of projects are easily deemed ‘too simple’ to merit any sort of discussion.

      i built something similar out of $8 walmart floor lamps and some thrift store $10 rear surround speakers. it was a fun little project for a couple hours, but nothing more than just mashing parts together until they fit. many would simply say it wasn’t much of a hack. there was almost no measuring, and there was zero programming…

      1. Oh don’t be such a negative nelly. I think this project has some merit. I would never have thought of doing this because I like big, thick speakers, even for surround stuff. But I really like the look of Pete’s version and now I’m inspired to make one!

        Plus, your version seems to be niether hidden nor a lamp. It looks like a speaker on a stick. In which case, yeah, it wouldn’t warrant a HAD article.

    2. Thanks, I truly appreciate your comments.
      This was a fun project and something I thought of for years before doing it.
      I was surprised when researching , I could not find anything like it. I think I found a person who built a speaker into the base and another where the lightbulb was the speaker.

      Thanks, Pete

  3. I’d dump the binding post connections and use Wago lever nuts instead. They work for a wide range of wire gauges, stranded or solid, and make connecting and disconnecting very easy and tool free.

    1. You´re German aren´t you ? Sssh, don´t tell Amis that Lever nuts exist, they´ll tell you it can work for real, it´s crap, it won´t work, they don´t trust such devices. Let them screw terminal, and get some loose on the way.

        1. Ayy is that you Dr. Rehorst?

          Wago still seems weird for audio stuff. For passive stuff it’s usually binding posts, banana connectors, or those awful cheap black and red plastic things which always break.

  4. Nice! I like the tripod design for this, keep it good and heavy and firmly planted so the stand itself doesn’t want to ‘sing’. My surround sound speakers are old and big, I might take one for a walk to a homewares store this weekend.

  5. Fantastic idea to hide speakers and still have a practical use as lamps well! Definitely could commercialize these. Are the shade made of acoustical material? While the sound would be affected from the shade, I think it may create a more diverse sound like dipole speaker tricks that give the impression of harder to place sounds. You may have created a new surround audio trick!

    1. No, the shades are not. I tried that but the look was ugly. I need to find Someone who makes lamp shades. Despite the fact they are regular lampshades, it still sounds vey good. My ultimate goal is to find or make a good looking acoustical transparent lampshade.


  6. Very nice trick. It is so satisfying when people clearly hear the surround speakers but cannot identify where they are hidden.
    My surround speakers are hidden in the sofa, under the wide armrests in each side. So, they are not directly to each side, but they work about the same as the sound bounce in the wall a few feet from the sofa.

  7. It’s been done. By IKEA and Sonos. Still, I didn’t know that til I’d shared this article on my social media, and doing it the Hackaday way I can use better speakers than a silly little Sonos.

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