ESP8266 Unlocks Hidden Features In Sound Bar

It’s no secret that the hardware devices we buy are often more capable than their manufacturer leads on. Features hidden behind firmware locks are a common trick, as it allows companies to sell the same piece of gear as a different model by turning off certain capabilities. Luckily for us, these types of arbitrary limitations are often easy to circumvent.

As a perfect example, [Acuario] recently discovered that the LG SJ2 sound bar has quite a few features that aren’t advertised on the box. Whether it’s due to greed or just laziness, it turns out LG isn’t using many of the capabilities offered by the ESMT AD83586B IC inside the amplifier. The chip gets its configuration via I2C, so thanks to the addition of an ESP8266, the expanded capabilities can now be easily enabled through a web interface.

[Acuario] has already found out how to turn on things like simulated surround sound, or per-channel volume controls; all functions which aren’t even exposed through the normal controls on the sound bar. But it goes deeper than that. The LG SJ2 is a 2.1 channel system, with a wireless speaker providing the right and left channels. But the AD83586B inside the subwoofer is actually capable of driving two locally connected speakers, though you obviously need to do a little rewiring.

There are still even more capabilities to unlock, though [Acuario] is currently struggling with some incomplete documentation. The datasheet says there’s support for user-defined equalizer settings, but no examples are given for how to actually do it. If anyone’s got a particular affinity for these sort of amplifier chips, now could be your time to shine.

For hackers, there’s perhaps no better example of feature-locked products than Rigol’s line of oscilloscopes. From the 2000 series of scopes in 2013 up to their higher-end MSO5000 just last year, there’s a long history of unlocking hidden features on these popular tools.

This MDF Sound Bar Sounds Great

Everyone should build a speaker cabinet at least once in their life, if only so they can realize how much thought goes into building a simple box. [John] of ibuildit.ca wanted a sound bar for his home theater setup, and that means building a sound bar. The result is beautiful, and a demonstration of how much you can do with just a router and a table saw.

[John] built this sound bar almost entirely out of MDF, which isn’t the best material but it works well enough for a speaker cab that’s meant to be mounted to a wall. The sides were constructed first, with a rabbet holding the front and back on. Both the woofer and tweeter are inset into the front, and a standard piece of plumbing pipe serves as the bass port. Slap a round over bit into the router and do some light sanding, and everything looks great with a coat of black paint.

As with any speaker enclosure, the design is effectively parametric, designed entirely around the drivers being used. In this case, [John] is using a spreadsheet named ‘Unibox’ that gives you all the formulas and graphs for designing a speaker enclosure.

With the box built and the speakers installed, the only matter left were a few aesthetic choices. [John] went with a standard black finish with a very nice wooden grille held onto the front with magnets. It’s a design that pops, but the true test of a speaker is how it sounds. That’s a bit hard to convey over the Internet, but [John] included a few sound samples at the end of the build video, available below.

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