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