My smarthome is smarter than me
May 23, 2019 4:42 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to cast movies to my older projector, which has a VGA port. I bought a Chromecast, and a HDMI-to-VGA adapter, and am able to cast moving pictures without a hitch, but can't figure out how to get the sound to work without plugging my wired speakers directly into the adapter's 3.5mm audio jack. There must be another way, yes?

The VGA-to-HDMI adapter doesn't support audio transfer, but it does have a 3.5mm audio jack and a micro-USB port (and came with a micro-USB-to-USB cable). On the other side of the room, I have a pair of wired speakers which are hooked up to a not-smart bluetooth adaptor. Casting Netflix on the projector + connecting my phone to the bluetooth speakers doesn't result in sound. What are my options here for talkies, not just silent films?

I suspect I can plug my speakers directly into the adapter, but I'd rather not have to do that each time I want to project a movie with sound. I'm absolutely open to buying a different adapter or returning the Chromecast, but not to spending $$$ on a much pricier setup. Is there a splitter I could use to wire the speakers to the projector and the bluetooth receiver? Would that be the simplest approach, or am I missing the A/V forest for the trees?

An inchoate bonus question: I'm obviously not super-savvy with smart devices and A/V setups, and I sort of think I could be benefitting a lot more from the simple things I already own (or with a few fairly inexpensive additional purchases); if there's anything that stands out to you about this particular setup that could be simplified or improved upon, feel free to say so.

If it helps to know, and I think it probably doesn't, I have a Google Pixel 2xl, and a MacBook Air. (I also have a Google Home Mini in storage, but refuse to make peace with its always-listening microphone, and it seems basically useless without that. I use free Spotify, and with Google Home it inserts so many incredibly banal ads that I couldn't stand listening to it, whereas Spotify played through non-smart bluetooth speakers is just fine paired with good Little Snitch rules). Finally, I have a single Eufy smartbulb, which doesn't work with Google Home, and which I sometimes set to turn on at 7AM for a simulated sunrise, but mostly use as a regular bulb. I think this is irrelevant but for anyone who wants to recommend me a whole entire juryrigged smarthome setup out of the goodness of their consumer-facing technophile heart.
posted by tapir-whorf to Technology (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Trying to go from a Chromecast to a VGA adapter and sending the audio via Bluetooth is probably not going to be ideal for you. Bluetooth is going to add latency, such that the audio is going to be out of sync with the picture.
posted by Candleman at 5:02 PM on May 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

A mixer should work, if you don't mind an extra wire. You'd wire the Bluetooth adapter and the VGA-HDMI adapter audio connector into to the mixer inputs, and the speakers into the mixer output. Set the levels appropriately and then never look at it again. This looks suitable (but I haven't actually tried it).
posted by doomsey at 5:45 PM on May 23, 2019

You need an HDMI audio extractor. Your HDMI will pass through this box which can then go on to your VGA adapter.

This one lets you connect up to 3 HDMI inputs to one HDMI output, and has a 3.5mm audio jack output. The cable it comes with goes from 3.5mm male to left/right RCA connectors if you want to go directly to stereo speakers. Or you can go from this extractor to the audio jack using a 3.5mm male to 3.5mm male cable, sold separately. You can get those in 3' length. At $23 plus maybe a cable, this should not break the bank.

And since that extractor has multiple inputs (I presume only one at a time is used), you can leave your chromecast connected, but also potentially use your MacBook as an input to the projector if you are so inspired. The Macbook may not be happy about it, because it expects feedback from any HDMI device it's plugged into that gives it basic info about supported video modes and such, and this device won't provide any such feedback. So, basic function and you'll have to tune the output to the projector in the Macbook's display settings, if you do this at all.
posted by Sunburnt at 5:58 PM on May 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Other than running a cable from your HDMI->VGA adapter to the speakers, I don't think you're going to find what you're looking for at a budget price. Anything cheap for sending the audio wirelessly is going to degrade the sound and/or add latency. If the speakers have an FM radio, you could theoretically try one of the low power FM transmitters.
posted by Candleman at 6:58 AM on May 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Are you sure the sound is not being sent to something else? Bluetooth headphones or some other device it's paired with?
posted by dobbs at 10:34 AM on May 24, 2019

Response by poster: Dobbs, now that you mention it, I think the audio isn't being sent somewhere else, but I'm not sure of it. I just assumed that the Chromecast itself prevented the audio and video from being split like that. I'll troubleshoot when I get home from work today.

Wait, but: I wanted to ask about using a wired speaker cable splitter. Can I do this, hardwiring my speakers both to the projector and to the bluetooth receiver?
posted by tapir-whorf at 12:24 PM on May 24, 2019

Response by poster: Missed the edit window, but in fact I'd need a splitter cable like this one..
posted by tapir-whorf at 1:16 PM on May 24, 2019

tapir-whorf, you can’t just use a splitter cable to mix signals, i.e., two outputs to one input; it is dangerous in the may-let-the-magic-smoke-out sense. They can only be used to split outputs, i.e., one output to two inputs. (Generally outputs are protected and won’t actually fail, but at best you’ll get poor audio quality.)

The mixer suggested above will allow you to safely combine the two input signals.
posted by doomsey at 7:36 PM on May 24, 2019

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