Now, before you go and toss them, let's examine some of the more common failure points that you might experience, and some methods of repair that we can employ to keep your Monsoons up and running for years to come. I should also note that while I am specifically addressing the MH-505 speaker set, much of what follows applies to any and all Monsoon multimedia speaker sets.
The single most common failure point of the MH-505s is the Sub-woofer. For reasons that I haven't yet seen an adequate explanation for, the construction of the sub-woofer is abysmally bad. Even when compared against inexpensive speaker sets from other manufacturers it just doesn't measure up. The speaker cone itself is actually good (VERY large magnet on that baby) but the power and control systems on the board are just plain bad.
I would personally be amazed to see a fully functional Monsoon sub-woofer. I suspect the only way anyone might see one at this point would be from an unboxed set discovered at the back of an electronics warehouse somewhere.
So what do you do when your Sub is dead or dying? At this point it is usually wise to take a step back and get some perspective on the situation. As I noted in my earlier review of the MH-505s, the real value in this speaker set is NOT the sub-woofer, but the flat panel surround speakers. So we want to keep these functional, even if it means we have to give up other parts. Trust me when I tell you this: The great sound these speakers have is NOT due to anything in the sub-woofer, it's the speakers alone that are giving you that great sound.
So, what do we need to get the speakers going again if the Sub is dead? Simple; We replace it. Now, you cannot get another Monsoon sub-woofer and frankly you don't want one. You need to find another, similar sub-woofer that will adequately replace the Monsoon one. How do we do this? We simply buy ANOTHER 5.1 speaker system and harvest the sub-woofer and controller from it and attach our existing speakers to it.
This is where it can get tricky fast. Not only do you have to ensure that the replacement sub-woofer has the correct connectors (both number and type) on it, but it's output has to be in the proper power band for the Monsoon speakers or you will either end up severely under driving them or you (even worse) will overpower and damage/destroy them.
So what is the current wattage of the existing MH-505 sub-woofer? If you refer back to my previous article, you will see the power rating as follows:
Amplifier power: 120 Wmax 85Wrms
The rating that we are really interested in the the RMS (Root Mean Square) rating, which is 85W for the MH-505s. Now, this does NOT mean that each individual satellite speak runs on 85 watts of power! The Monsoon PFTs actually use about 8 watts rms each, with the remaining 53 split between the center channel (13 watts) and the sub-woofer (40 watts). What we need to do is look for a replacement system that puts out similar power levels for the speakers and still has a respectable sub-woofer punch.
Right now there aren't many players left in the 5.1 PC speaker arena as more and more people are moving to laptops for their primary systems. However there are a few players left, and they make a couple systems that land right in the power band we need. (Although none are a perfect match.)
For right now I think the best option for harvesting a replacement sub-woofer are the Logitech X-540 speakers. As a whole this system puts out a bit less than the original Monsoon system with 7.4 watts RMS into each of the 4 satellite speakers, 15.2 watts center channel, and 25 watts into the sub-woofer. But of all the available systems it puts out the most power without going over the target number. This system also uses a separate control pot much like the MH-505's do. Some of the other mid-range 5.1 systems have the control pod merged into one of the speakers, which is not ideal.
The X-540's are currently running at a price point well under $100 USD and are carried by several major store chains including online computer sales powerhouse Newegg.com.
Once you have your X-540's home, unbox the power system, sub-woofer and control pot and leave the other 5 speakers in the box. (Or use them for other projects.) Then just remove your old Monsoon sub-woofer and control pot and replace them with the Logitech ones and voila! You are ready to rock and roll!
Damaged/Malfunctioning Control Pot
One of the other VERY common problems is the control pot. For reasons I don't understand Monsoon chose to use an 8 pin mini-DIN connector for the MH-505s. The issues with the 8 pin mini-DIN are the same as those in an old keyboard/mouse PS2 connector; Poor grounding and a weak connection point.
As such the DIN connector often develops problems entirely separate from the sub-woofer even if the sub-woofer is still functioning normally. Often it is simply the internal connections in the connector head that are weak, and replacing the connector head will fix these issues. Here follows basic info on the 8 pin mini-DIN connector:
Looking at the pin connector end-on with the two lone connectors at the bottom we see the following arrangement :
The pinout is as follows, starting at top left:
3 4 5
The wires are coded as follows:
You can purchase replacement 8 pin mini-din connectors online or at a local electronics parts supplier, although be aware it may be difficult to find.
Once you have your replacement connector, cut off the connector head from the control pot and strip the primary casing. Then identify and strip the appropriate wires and solder or crimp on the connections (depending on the connector type you bought) in the appropriate arrangement.
Also you can buy cables with the connector already on them. You then just have to splice the wires together and with a little luck and trial and error you should be able to get the pot working again.
Separated PFT Membrane.
Although less common, occasionally one or more of the PFT speaker membranes will separate from the rest of the speaker assembly causing either buzzing/unwanted sound or no sound at all. At this point you have two choices; You can either search craigslist and ebay for a replacement PFT speaker, or you can repair your PFT! The instructions to repair the PFT are rather involved and NOT for the faint-of-heart, but it CAN be done!
I should note that the instructions below are actually for the 2.1 Monsoon systems with exposed connectors. The MH-505s have no exposed connector rivets or screws, you have to pop the front cover off first to gain access to them.Here is a post from ATPM.com by "shmoke" with an excellent step-by-step on repairing your PFT.(With minor spelling and grammatical corrections by myself.)
And there you have it, full instructions on repairing a PFT. As always, follow instructions "At Your Own Risk". I cannot be held responsible if your fumblefinger the instructions and destroy your PFT in the process.
This is probably the cheapest and easiest fix of all, however it can be tricky. If your wire is broken well down the cord then just grab some wire crimp connectors from your local hardware/electronics store and attach them, done.
If the break is near the speaker or the wires are pulled out of the speaker you have a trickier problem on your hands. If you follow the instructions above you will find how to open the speakers up. Once inside determine if there is any wire left inside or if it has been pulled free of the speaker entirely. If there is any wire left attempt the same repair as you would with a normal cord break. If however the wire is entirely torn free there is no repair possible as the wire is attached directly to the delicate PFT membrane and the tearing has likely destroyed it. If this is what has happened that speaker is dead, start searching ebay for another. (If anyone has a repair option for this type of damage please let me know and I will amend this post.)
That covers most of the common repairs that you may have to perform on your MH-505s. If anyone has anything else to add that may make this article more complete, please feel free to comment or email me and I will update as needed.