How to get all 8 speakers working in a 7.1 creative inspire set without a creative sound card : Solved

Oh Creative.
I got all excited because I received a Creative Inspire P7800 set of 7.1 surround speakers as a gift yesterday. However when I got everything plugged in, two of the speakers wouldn’t work even though my sound card was 7.1 and the speakers were 7.1 and have a ‘direct 7.1′ setting. My sound card has four outs and the subwoofer has 4 ins, but the cable that comes with the speakers, it turns out, is a proprietary cable designed for Creative sound cards such as the Audigy2. It has four 1/8th inch minijack plugs that go into the subwoofer, and three combined minijack plugs that go into your computer.

Here is a diagram of the cable that comes with the speakers:

Creative 4-3 Cable

It’s not even accurate though; it’s drawn with each plug having three poles (two lines), when really two of them have four poles. Here is what the cable really looks like:

Creative 4-3 Cable Photo

“All I need is a fourth connection,” I thought, and tried hooking up a line-to-line stereo audio cable for the side speakers into the subwoofer. A line-to-line cable is a standard audio cable with a 1/8th inch minijack plug on each end:

Minijack

But no luck, the side speakers apparently needed a 4-pole connector (three lines on it) and the stereo audio cable didn’t do it.

I sent my poor girlfriend on a trip to best buy looking for “7.1 surround sound cables”, telling her “don’t let them sell you stereo minijack or RCA cables”. She called with a befuddled best buy employee next to her, and neither of them could find one.

A trip to radio shack was also in vein. “That’s a proprietary connector. Try Best Buy,” they suggested. “I just did.” (Well, my girlfriend just did.)

A call to creative sales was useless. I had a part number for another creative cable, hoping that would help, but they said the cable I needed didn’t exist. Doesn’t exist?? In the setup guide that comes with the speakers, there’s a diagram with such a cable, and no one would sell it but Creative!

Creative Supposed 4-4 Cable

That’s sure a tease to have a mythical cable in your setup guide instructions!

“Well what if I just bought another one of these cables, and only used one of them?” I asked. I knew one of the plugs was 4-pole and even though it would be ugly and a waste of most of the cable, at least I could get it to work. “I don’t know,” he said, unhelpfully. They must get asked this question a lot — marketing wants you to think the speakers will work with any system, and design created the cable so it wouldn’t. They must leave it up to their lower-paid support staff to deal with the backlash.

An internet search was more infuriating. Not only does creative offer no help on this issue, other people have run into the same problem—they want to use this speaker system without having to buy a creative sound card! We have perfectly capable 7.1 sound cards; mine has SP/DIF and optical as well. It’s a realtek sound card that came with my MSI Neo3 PE motherboard. “I guess I’ll just go buy another sound card,” wrote one frustrated customer. “That is one of the reasons that I do not like Creative that much anymore. They sell sound cards with weird non-standard outputs so that you buy their speaker systems that have the appropriate cables included with them,” wrote another. What a racket!

Well, by experimenting, I figured it out. The standard line-to-line miniplug audio cable didn’t work for the side speakers, but it did work for the rear speakers. So I unplugged the grey rear speaker plug on both ends, and replaced it with the audio cable, leaving the grey plug on the subwoofer just hanging. Then I used the rear speaker cable for the side speaker channel. It worked! 7.1 8 channel audio without having to buy anything more from Creative!

Here is a thumbnail diagram of my solution, click on it for a larger version:

My 7.1 audio cable solution

It’s such a racket that companies these days try to make their products proprietary but market them as otherwise. On the creative product web page the only requirements say “PC or Mac (desktop or notebook) with 5.1, 6.1 or 7.1 audio outputs”. Then they pretend there’s no solution when in fact there is one with a standard audio cable!

For those of you with a similar MSI mobo, here’s how to set up your software:

It’s a good idea to set your speaker setup in XP’s sounds and audio devices control panel to 8 speakers, 7.1 sound, but the real MSI configuration utility is a control panel called “Sound Effect Manager.”

MSI's speaker configuration utility

I know, it’s not the best name for it. I set my motherboard to “8CH + S/PDIF (Optical & Coaxial), and the speaker dropdown to “8CH Speaker”. For SPDIF, I set it to No output. The diagram on the speaker configuration page is helpful, but on my actual computer it is ROTATED CLOCKWISE 90°, so bear that in mind when you’re connecting.

MSI configuration screenshot

Lastly, set the speaker setting on the p7800 to “7.1 direct” and you should be good to go! Try the “3D audio demo” for full surround effect bliss!

10 Responses to “How to get all 8 speakers working in a 7.1 creative inspire set without a creative sound card : Solved”

  1. on 24 Aug 2006 at 6:28 am DJS

    Hi, I have a similar problem, but the opposite way round. I got a creative sound card with my pc, which has 3x 3.5mm outputs for 7.1 sound (i.e. 2x 4pole and 1x 3pole). My speakers however have 4x 3poles. So i am looking for the cable you have, but am unable to buy it anywhere.

    I also had another sound card from creative the Audiology 2 NX with which came the mysical 4x 3pole to 4x 3pole cable that your looking for.

    So how bout we swap?

    Dave.

  2. on 30 Mar 2008 at 1:23 pm LanceMan

    I spent a little over a week dealing with the Creative support people trying to find out why the 4/4 cables in their diagram are not in the box and asking for help setting up my speakers – all to no avail. I also did a bunch of searching on the net trying to find and answer and could only come up with a few hints which pointed to “no hope unless you have a creative sound card”. I found your excellent how-to article complete with better diagrams than those from Creative abount an hour ago. I now have all the 8 speakers I paid for working nicely. No new sound card, only an $8.00 cable I bought last week. Thank you very much for an excellent article – well done!!

  3. on 14 Jul 2008 at 4:38 am phill

    I have an x-fi with 3 3.5mm plugs and tried to use a standard 3.5mm Plug (4 Pole) To 3 RCA A/V Cable for 7.1 speaker hookup. This does not allow he side channels to work.

    So after a little checking all they have done is reverse the polarity of the side channels! OMG very sneaky …

    I have made a quick fix by making two female to male rca cables which reverse the polarity of the input rca signal.

    All you do next is get a standard 3.5mm Plug (4 Pole) To 3 RCA A/V Cable, connect the left and right (red and white) channels as normal to your amp, then connect the yellow (side channel) cable to the converter cable then connect the converter cable to your left or right side channel input on your amp and it works fine :D

    This is HEAPS cheaper than buying a “special” cable :)

  4. on 14 Jul 2008 at 4:55 am phill

    Opps! I meant to say the left and right channels are actually the white and yellow cables while the red is for the side channel (More trickery). You can check the polarity using a multimeter anyway :D

  5. on 06 Oct 2008 at 4:01 pm hellmind

    Phill I’m having the same problem , I tried to make my own 3-4 cable but isn’t work!,
    Can you upload a diagram to see what you did?
    (my msn is hellmind a t gmail.com)

  6. on 07 Oct 2008 at 12:23 am jordan314

    I don’t think making your own cable will work, I don’t know how to make a four-pole AV cable.

  7. on 20 Feb 2009 at 8:02 am Hyperlord

    Hi there,

    awessome, I love the internet.
    I bought the Insprire T7xxx 7.1 System with the the Audigy 2 ZX Platinium a couple of years ago. Today I upgraded my system and use the onboard solution. I ran in exactly that described problem and thought, I just need a fourth cable.

    Your very good article solved the problem for me, but I want to add, that you might check that switch on the subwoofer, too. No upmixing and stuff, straight 7.1

    Again, thank you for sharing this.

  8. on 07 Mar 2011 at 7:43 pm kellyanne

    Thanks for the post. I found it quite useful!

    Creative support states you can connect the their 7.1 Analog speakers with 4 separate 3-pole connectors.
    http://support.creative.com/kb/showarticle.aspx?sid=4699

    I have the T7700 speakers and was using the Audigy 2 ZX soundcard. I loved it, I used it for many years. But,the Win7 drivers are incomplete and the Alchemy Lab solution Creative put out was not satisfactory.
    I bought a HI I Omega Striker 7.1. It has the 7.1 speaker out jacks on 4 separate channels. I just ran a 3 pole mini jack from the side speaker out on the card to the the side speaker in on the subwoofer/amp, and let the grey one on the original cable dangle. This works fine. I tried replacing the other two 4-pole to 3-pole jacks to see if it made a difference. I could not detect a difference with a quick sound check.
    I think the extra poles on the center/sub and rear jacks on the old cable just carry the right and left side output.

  9. on 20 Apr 2013 at 3:29 am Net Nerd

    Just an FYI:
    This also works with the T7700 speakers and ASRock FM2A85X mobo.

    This mobo uses the blue connector as a combo line-in/side out. Upon insertion of the replacement cable into the blue connector, the mobo detects an input device. Disregard this and it works fine as side out; verify with the Realtek HD Audio Manager and remember to make sure all speakers are checked and set to 7.1 mode.

    Of course, the user will probably want to disconnect the side outs and monitor stereo input via front speakers when recording, so it’s a minor annoyance to have to swap cables if one also does a lot of audio capture via the mobo.
    I haven’t tried it, but I suppose a simple splitter could be used to avoid swaps, but then the user would have to monitor the input via side speakers with no volume control (unless mixer line-in level control also adjusts side speaker volume). Regardless, any user alterations between source and final monitor output would be lost.
    Splitting may not work anyway, since impedance mismatching could become an issue.
    At any rate, I’d rather monitor the stereo input signal via better/wider-range front speakers (or phones) and just live with the minor swapping hassle.

  10. on 28 Nov 2014 at 8:44 pm Spyder Z

    Heh, I wonder why the default WordPress Token didn’t allow me to post here… but that’s beside the point. Thanks a ridiculous volume for posting this! I’ve had these speakers for 5ish years… and this is the first time I’ve ever had them ‘Actually’ working. Many <3's, and you're Awesome. That is all. ;P

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