Tag Archives: gadgets

Eight channels of sonic goodness

After a frustrating couple of days trying to get my Vantec USB Dolby 7.1 unit working, I gave up and sent it back to Amazon. Who, I must say, in their vast, impersonal way, really did a good job. The new replacement unit was on its way and arrived the day I sent the old unit back on their dime. Pretty impressive.

After letting the device sit in its box for a while as I worked up the energy to try something that I suspected would not work, I finally tried it this morning, and it works like a charm. Yay! Now I noticed something different, so it’s possible that the old unit worked fine.

When I plugged in the new controller, I happened to notice that there was a new icon in my system tray:

And what does this do?

And what does this do?

Clicking the icon brought up a tool that I hadn’t seen before:

2 Channel Config

2 Channel Config

Note that the System input seems to default to 2 CH, though 8 are available. More importantly, on the right side of the screen note that the “DSP Effect” seems to be getting 2CH data that it then sends to all the speakers. This was the behavior that I was getting that I couldn’t seem to fix.

Selecting “8 CH” in the combobox has the following effect:

8 channel configuration

8 channel configuration

After making that change, I clicked on each of the speaker icons in the lower right image and was rewarded by a synthetic voice coming out of the appropriate helmet speaker. Hooray!

Now this configuration tool must have been installed with the device, but it wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the documentation and didn’t pop up in the install procedure. It looks like you just have to know that it’s there. I guess that’s not surprizing, in that all these USB systems use the same chipset, made by C-Media, and they wrote the driver.

Anyway, I now have a functioning system. I need to play around with the best way to have the actuators contact the user’s head, but I think that’s the last remaining hardware task.

I’ve also finished getting the correct speaker lead to go to the correct amplifier, and cleaned up the wiring harness. Here’s a picture of the leads coming off the helmet:

The latest style in HCC

The latest style in HCC

I’m sure that no one would look twice at me walking down the street wearing that and four glowing amplifiers strapped to my back…

Now with more wires

I managed to get all of the components hooked up around the amps today. Now I have the USB Dolby 7.1 decoder on top of the amp stack, with all four amps bolted together. I’m waiting to get a power strip that I can hook up all the power supplies too. But everything should have a nice blue glow when it’s plugged in. Tomorrow, I’ll hook up the speakers and see how it all sounds/feels.

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