I am convinced that everything Apple develops fits in to one of two categories: awesome or suck. In the awesome category you have stuff like the iPod, iPhone, and OS X. In the suck category, iTunes, iPhotos, and *ahem* their font management. Many years ago, when Apple started putting an ‘i’ in front of anything to make it the future, you could get an iMac. This was a neat little machine, underpowered but fun, that my wife bought to handle some graphic design. This little machine came with a pair of speakers that only sounded alright, but were appropriately labeled ‘Apple Pro Speakers’. It was only recently that I realized which category they fit in.
A while ago I decided I’d use these speakers in the workshop so I would have some tunes while I’m working on stuff. I have an old computer down there, so I hooked them up and pressed play. Nothin’. I tried them on a few devices, and realized they only worked on the iMac. Had Apple really made proprietary speakers. I did some research and sure enough, the Apple Pro Speakers will only work on a Mac. This is unacceptable.
I figured at the end of the day, a speaker is a speaker, so with the right kind of modifications these should work anywhere. I looked at the jack and found that it had three sleeves instead of the standard two. The third ring must carry a signal of some kind, meaning somewhere between the jack and the speakers there had to be logic device to prevent sound if this signal wasn’t present. This is the offending piece:
Where the speakers meet there is a tiny round enclosure, if you cut the speakers off at this point, and rewire them to a two ring stereo jack, you have salvaged your Apple Pro Speakers. You could take it a but further though…
I had broken the head band on a pair of noise canceling headphones a while back, and they were just sitting around taking up space. The noise canceling circuit of these headphones contains an amplifier, so I figured why not use the broken headphones to power the speakers, then I can just plug my iPod in and go.
I didn’t get real fancy with this, just pulled the speakers out of the headphones, and wired up the Apple Pro speakers directly to those now unused outputs. Cheapest iPod speakers ever (as long as you don’t count the price of the iMac or the headphones that were previously broken).
So if you have a pair of old Apple Pro Speakers, don’t just throw them away because they suck, put them to good use.