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    Way back in the dark ages of March I set myself a goal to build a full-size virtual pinball cabinet for $500. You can read all about it here.

    For $500 I knew there was no way I was going to be able to include SSF (or DOF or LED strips for that matter). But I knew it was going to be one of the first upgrades I made. In the same spirit as the original build, I tried to do this within a fairly reasonable budget. I’ll share that with you as well a tip or two about how you could do it a little cheaper.

    Total: $95

    This was not nearly as thrifty as my cabinet build was, but still not too bad. I could have done it a little more cheaply. I’ll get to that in a bit.

    Here are the exciters:


    I don’t have anything to compare this to, but I have to say I’m really pleased with these exciters. I was skeptical because of the price, size, and low power handling. But they deliver.

    And here’s my subwoofer:


    I bought this on eBay as a powered sub. I think I paid $15 for it. When it arrived it was fried. Plug it in and all you got was a low frequency loud hum. I got a full refund and then had a perfectly good passive mini subwoofer. I removed the amp and replaced it with a back plate from some scrap 1/4″ plywood. There was a hole in the back plate for the port tube. It’s facing down in this picture and is right above a hole I drilled in the bottom of my cabinet.

    And here are the power amps.


    I mounted these at the front of the cabinet so I can pull up the lock down bar and adjust the knobs. I’m really happy with both the PAM8610 and the TPA3118, but this is where you could save a couple bucks.

    Instead of using a 2.1 amp to drive the back box and sub, I kind of wish I’d gotten another pair of the little 8610 stereo amps. I could have used one to drive my back glass speakers and the other to turn that passive sub back into an active sub. Or you could start with an active sub and just use three of the PAM8610 amps.

    Either way there are instructions here for sharing the sub between the table and back glass via a 2.1 amp or your soundcard’s sub out.

    I hadn’t read Rob’s post about sharing the sub where he shows both methods (2.1 amp or sub out). Anyway, that would have saved about $12.

    But still, SSF for $95 isn’t too shabby. And I have to say, I’m really impressed with SSF. I don’t see any need for me to install DOF (except for some LED strips).

    One more note/lesson learned. On my cab build, I powered everything off the computer’s PSU. Except I used the amps built into my back glass monitor for those speakers. I thought I’d be able to use the PSU the same way with the surround sound. That did NOT work. When I tried, there was so much noise in the amps that I almost sent them all back. I don’t know if it’s just the PSU in the old DELL computer running my cab or if this would happen anytime you tried to share a power supply between a computer and audio devices. I ordered the 12v power supply linked above and it’s working like a charm.

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    A member of the SSF Facebook group had a great suggestion for a budget SSF setup.

    He pointed out that you could do it with just two exciters.

    I think he’s right. The fact that sounds are coming from the table and are in stereo is probably enough to create the illusion. At one point when setting my table up, I discovered I had my front/rear exciters backwards. I barely noticed. It’s amazing how well our brains will fool us if we let it.

    That would mean you could put together a passable SSF setup for less than $30, assuming you’ve already got back glass speakers. A little more if you want a sub. And a sub is arguably not 100% necessary (though it is pretty nice).

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    Good post – your buzz when using the same PSU may have been a ground loop – i.e. somehow current deciding to use the audio lines.
    That can be solved, as you did, with separate power supplies, its also possible to insert isolating transformers/gizmos on the audio out which electrically isolates but still lets sound through.



    I know you already solved your problem, but this may help as a cheap option to try too, it would sit between the audio source and the amp.


    Thanks for the tip RL. I recently heard that this noise is caused by the case fans dirtying up the power. I have no idea if that’s true.


    Could well be the fans – I had an old HDMI cable dropping its signal due to fans revving up.
    I guess if they happen to PWM 12v at the frequency of another signal then instant interference.

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