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December 05, 2011, 12:37:19 PM - ORIGINAL POST -

UPDATE: This thread is being updated. The process described in the original post (below) is not very good, photo links are broken, and the new process later in the thread is much much much better. The original post is being left up for informational purposes since it can apply to PS2/PS3/Xbox/Xbox360 controllers.

Updated process:


I recently got a Cobalt Flux wood/metal/plexi pad for a steal but it's missing the control box. The CF website is down (presumably forever), there were none on ebay, and none on Craigslist. I considered buying a Blue Shark control box since they share the same 15-pin 3-row d-sub connection, but I was concerned that the pin-out may be different and I didn't want to have to get an additional PS2->USB adapter. This is my solution.

  • Soldering gun [$3 at Harbor Freight or $35 at Radio Shack]
  • Solder [$5-8] (I used .035" wire but you may not need any at all if you're lucky)
  • USB game pad $5-10 (I used the Vakoss GP-3316. Make sure it does not have analog sticks or vibration motors.)
  • Small-ish screwdriver
  • Cat5 cable* [$varies] (I bought a 100' spool of cable for $25. I'm sure you can find a better price, or you might have some laying around the house.)
  • Male 15-pin 3-row d-sub connector [$2.29]
  • D-sub hood [$3.19]
  • Soldering wick [$5?] (this is a copper-colored woven fabric that absorbs solder. Your odds of the Radio Shack employee knowing what it is isn't very good, so just keep a look out. It comes in a translucent white spool 2-3" across.)

Total parts cost will depend on what you already own. If you already own a soldering gun, cat5 cable, etc. you'll just need the game pad and the d-sub parts, which will run you about $10-15. If you don't have a soldering gun you might want to have a friend who's proficient bring one over and help you.

* Cat5 has 4 pairs of wires (8 total). Because one will be used as a ground you only have 7 wires for buttons. Due to the limitations of the Vakoss pad (there are only 4 buttons with solder points) I couldn't wire the UL and UR arrows for use as Enter/Back buttons. If you want to use diagonal arrows as enter and back you'll want a different control board. If you want to use all 9 arrows you'll need to get a different cable as well.

NOTE: I didn't document making the cable. I'll likely end up making the end over again because the first one isn't that amazing. If I do I'll document it and append this post. To make the cable you just need to solder pins 1-5 of the d-sub connector you got to the end of the cat5. Pin 1 is ground, pin 2 up, pin 3 is down, pins 4 and 5 are L and R, though I don't remember which is which right now. Just make sure you write down the colors used and which is pin 1 (ground). The rest of the wires aren't super critical because you have to map the buttons in Stepmania anyway.

Step 1: Testing the controller
If you decide to get the Vakoss pad for this project I would highly, highly, highly suggest testing it before taking it apart. This is a very low quality controller and the factory solder points might be bad. I've bought two of these so far, one was missing the screw that secured the circuit board to the inside of the controller, the other had a bad solder point on the D+ wire for the USB cable.

I know that the Vakoss pad can register at least all triggers and buttons 1-4 at the same time. If you're using a different controller you might want to test this before taking it apart. In Windows 7 (and I assume Vista) open the start menu and type in 'game'. Click the option that says 'Set up USB game controllers'. In XP and earlier this will be somewhere in the control panel. With the controller plugged in you'll see it listed in the window. Double click it or click 'Properties' to open the test window. Hold down as many buttons as you can manage. You'll see them light up on the screen. Check to make sure that all the buttons are triggering.

Step 2: Take that shit the controller apart
For the Vakoss pad there are something like 8 screws holding the controller together. There's no secret sauce to getting it apart, just use a smaller screwdriver and take them out. There's one behind the white sticker. Obviously this voids the warranty.

On the top-right of the board you can see a silver screw securing the board to the front of the case. You may or may not have this due to poor quality control, but if you do, take it out with the same screwdriver.

This is what the Vakoss board looks like. There are 2 smaller boards connected by a ribbon that's soldered into place. We will be using these as the connecting points for the CF pad.

Step 3: Soldering
Strip the ends of the cat5 wires so that about 2mm of copper is showing. It seems like a small amount but once you connect the wires to the solder points you'll understand why. Coat the exposed copper with solder.

On the Vakoss pad there are only 4 solder points for buttons (where the wires from the shoulder boards connects to the main board). Each side has 3 points. The middle one for each is the ground, so you'll want to solder to the outside 4.

NOTE: If you care which arrow corresponds to which button you can solder the ground wire (see below), plug the controller in, and touch the solder points with the wires. With the controller test window open (see above) you should see them light up. This isn't that important for PC controllers, but may be important if you're using this to create a control box for Playstation, Xbox, Dreamcast, whatever. Also note that you'll need to apply pressure to the buttons in order for them to show up on the screen when you touch the corresponding wire to the solder points.

Place the end of the wire on the solder point and apply a small amount of pressure with the soldering gun. The solder point should start to melt and the wire will sink into it. Lift the soldering gun off and give it a few seconds to cool.

The ground wire will be soldered to where the USB cable grounds in the top-center of the pad. On the Vakoss board it's labeled "GRND" and has a black wire on the bottom. You may or may not need to add additional solder here. Use the same method to melt the solder and press the wire into the solder point.

Your connections should look roughly like the first two in the photo below. You can see how ugly the ground wire is. I needed to apply more solder, put too much on, and didn't have a solder wick to remove the excess. This is an example of a bad solder; don't do that.

At this point you should be able to plug in the naked board to the computer. It should be recognized the exact same as it was before you started messing with it. With your board plugged into the CF pad and the computer open the testing window from before, walk around on the pad, and verify the buttons work. If everything is working correctly I would suggest using hot glue to secure the wires to the circuit board, then putting the board into a plastic case like the ones they sell at Radio Shack. I haven't made a box yet (I just built this last night) but I'll add that to the post once I do.

You'll need to assign the buttons in Stepmania but that's pretty straight forward. I did notice that the timing was off, but I don't know if that was from the TV I had the computer plugged into, the controller board, or what. After calibrating the A/V sync in Stepmania (the delay was ~.130 notes off) it seemed to play just like in the arcade, but with a little more sliding around the carpet.

« Last Edit: December 14, 2015, 10:17:05 AM by BLueSS »
Read November 07, 2017, 05:07:50 PM #51

Man, this is so old and so long ago. I hope you can get an answer to this, but it's just not my specialty.

I imagine you can use this method with any standard game controller (PS2, Xbox 360, Wii, etc). It's just a matter of mapping the cobalt flux's inputs to the right spots on the controller board.

I really wish that I could be of more help. I think the key thing is to just really look at the task at hand and break things down into smaller tasks/steps.
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