Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Crowdsourcing a TV

The sheer number of projects on the boat is sometimes overwhelming, and project work is punctuated by training, which is even more exhausting.  That said, we are getting a lot done on both fronts.  I have come to a point, though, where I need to appeal to our readers for help, with one of the more minor projects.  To wit:  we need a television.

Louise watches almost no television, and I don't watch much myself, but sometimes I like to turn it on at the end of a long day, when my brain is so numb that even surfing the internet is more work than I want to do.  But I can't watch television on the boat, because the TV that came with it has no headphone jack.  In fact, there does not seem to be any way to get the audio out of the TV, even if I had an external amplifier, without the speakers blaring.  If I want to watch TV but Louise does not (which is the norm), she, understandably, does not want to have to listen to it, whether she's here in the saloon with me, or below, trying to sleep.

There are other issues with the TV, too, such as it is blocking part of one of our view out the windows, and it's much smaller (27") than the one we had on Odyssey (32").  We knew that part early on, and it was a "distant future" project to replace the set.  Now that we've discovered the lack of headphone capability, it's moved up the list rapidly.  Among other things, we are paying monthly for a DirecTV subscription that is all but useless at the moment.

We've identified a spot for a larger screen, above the forward end of the saloon settee, and I thought it would be a slam-dunk to just order a decent 37" model, a size that would fit nicely there.  When we were in California, I helped install a 37" set for my mother-in-law which was just 2" thick, a perfect fit for us, and I nearly ordered the same model for myself.  At the last yawning instant I learned that it had no headphone jack, even though the manufacturer's web site says it does (just before the "specifications subject to change" disclaimer).

I've spent several hours already, time that might have been more productively used, looking for a TV that will meet our needs.  Alas, headphone jacks seem to be going the way of the vinyl record.  So if any of our readers can point me at a set that will meet our needs, I am all ears.  I'd love to have something that is highly rated with great picture quality, but it's so hard to find anything at all that at this point, I am not picky.  The requirements are straightforward -- the set can be no larger than 37" x 23" x 3", must have a headphone jack with a way to shut off the speakers, and a minimum of 32" (diagonal) screen.  I found exactly one TV on the market that meets these criteria, but it is a "3D" model costing north of a grand, at least twice what I am willing to spend on this project.

The set we have on Odyssey is 4" thick, common for that era, which is just a bit too thick for the intended location (more than about 3" will interfere with the headroom for anyone seated at that end of the settee).  Nevertheless I am considering moving it aboard, and replacing it with the 27" unit from the boat, just so I can have a working TV aboard until we solve this problem.  Then I can stop thinking about it until much later, when I have more bandwidth.

In other news, we spent the day training yesterday, and I am happy to report that we did not hit anything else with the boat, unless you count the mud at the bottom of our marina. This despite the fact that halfway through the session, Captain Gary informed me that, for training purposes, our bow thruster had just gone out and I would have to complete all remaining maneuvers without it.  We were able to get back to our own dock on more or less the first try, but coming to a windward dock across from the marina fuel dock was more of a challenge.  It took me four or five tries to get alongside the first time, and after we tied up, Gary suggested I try again. (Louise adds: Gary only smiled when I said, "Hey, if the bow thruster had really failed, the LAST thing we would do is move from this successfully docked position." Gary is a taskmaster.)

The second pass was even more of a challenge, but we managed to get a breast line onto the dock.  Then I struggled mightily to bring the boat alongside, backing, filling, and trying to use the rudder and prop wash to thrust us onto the dock as Louise tried again and again to throw the lines to the distant cleat.  Nothing I tried was working, and even Gary was perplexed, until we finally realized the port side of the boat was on the bottom.  It was low tide, and in the spring tides yesterday that was negative three-quarters of a foot.  As soon as we realized it, I shut down the engine, as I did not want to suck any more mud through the heat exchangers.  We declared a one-hour hiatus, to allow the tide to come back in and give us a bit more clearance before heading back to our own dock.

We had finally managed to put the lines on while I was motoring the boat against the dock, so we had a good list to port when I shut her down.  Shortly after I snapped the photo at the top of this post, I slacked the lines and we came more or less level, but it was still a good leap from the boat to the dock and vice versa.  Once we had a little water under the boat we called it a day and went back to our own slip, once again with an audience.  They seemed appreciative; I'm thinking of leaving a hat upside-down on the dock so we can collect some tips next time.

I spent part of today listing the recent take-outs (step lights, table pedestal) on eBay, and the rest of the day installing new items that have been delivered over the last couple of days.  We now have a pedestal system for the table in the saloon that can actually raise it to dining height (the previous pedestal topped out a good bit too low for comfortable eating, with barely enough room to squeeze one's legs underneath), as well as allow the table to slide several inches toward the settee, so that it's out of the way of the aisle when not in use.  The last of the parts for the pilothouse table also arrived today, so we'll be able to mock that up on our next day off, probably Thursday.

Tomorrow we have another training session scheduled, and the person who might touch up our paint will be coming by after we return to the dock.  All this week there is a food festival going on at the restaurants around the marina; we attended the kickoff this evening involving tapas from multiple venues, served around the massive statue of Neptune not far from us.  We can still hear the live entertainment as I am typing.


  1. I have a cheap Insignia tv from Best Buy and it has an earphone jack on the back... Also it has a logic on off for the speaker under its audio settings.... I just purchased this set last summer so there should still be some around.. Mine is a 32 inch but I think they made several sizes...

  2. Some samsung LCD's (specifically their 26" we use in our motorhome) have a 1/8" mini jack on the rear. It's not a true headphone jack but instead is a line out jack and it's output is not controlled based on the tv volume. Still you can combine this with something like a Bose Companion 3 and get a true headphone jack out of the tv (and a nice sound system for when you don't want headphones).

  3. Take a look at the Jensen HD sets as offered by Camping World. 19" thru 32". I purchased their 19" for use on my bus conversion as I specifically wanted 12v as an optional source. Also has DVD player. Left and Right audio outputs plus RCA as well. Also jacked for computer monitor.

    Reviews mentioned weak volume from speakers, and they are correct. I easily solved this by imput to a FM modulator (less than $30), then to a quality portable radio. Now TONS of volume, plus I can just use the radio headphone jack if I wish.

  4. I have a vizio which has a true headphone jack on the side under the on/off buttons and a sanyo (currently used as a puter monitor) that has the same jack as anonymous up higher...my grandson has a huge 52" samsung which has jacks also, he plays games with cousins. I am deaf, so I use the CC. I noticed as I looked around, that they are not always where you think they are, the Vizio surprised me, wasn't expecting it there

  5. Most tuner/receivers have a headphone jack on the front. Any TV should accept a receiver component. We have this type of system in our motorhome.

  6. I've used Bose wireless headphones. Not sure how they would work in your situation.

  7. C'mon now. You're the electronics guy. Soldering iron and 1/4" drill bit - you're good to go.

  8. I wasn't going to go down this path, but since Jorgito broached the topic above...

    It'd be a bit more than a soldering iron and a hole - but it should be fairly straightforward to create a headphone output if you're willing to open the television's case (of course, losing warranty support) and poke around. The real challenge isn't adding the headphone - but creating a proper internal load so that the built-in speakers can be safely disconnected. I'd need to research a bit, but it seems that a basic resistor network circuit would do the trick.

  9. Thanks for all the responses. I should clarify that I am looking for an off-the-shelf solution involving a single device.

    Yes, of course I know how to connect a TV to a receiver and then plug headphones into that. For a long time, this was exactly what I had to do on Odyssey, as the first LCD screen we had was basically just an HDTV-compatible video monitor (remember, this was in 2003). Having to power up two devices every time and use two or three different remotes for different functions was annoying, and it was a great relief when we finally replaced that screen (unfortunately, because it died an untimely death) with a Sony Bravia that had many more features, including internal speakers and a headphone jack. For most TV-watching I used the headphones, and only when we rented a DVD did we fire up the fancy Technics surround-sound receiver and direct the audio through that.

    That surround sound system cost a pretty penny back in the day -- I guess I was not ready to let go of my geeky inner audiophile. I had sold off all my other audio equipment in the big pre-bus purge. But Louise does not care for music in the house, and in nearly nine years, we only ever had it on for a couple of weeks each year around Christmas, when nostalgia got the better of us. Add to that perhaps two DVD movies a year -- the other handful each year I watched solo, with the headphones on. As a side benefit, not having to power up the receiver every time I watched TV was easier on the batteries.

    The fancy receiver and Bose surround-sound system, therefore, is staying with the bus. Here on the boat we've decided to have just the TV, the Blu-Ray player, and the DirecTV receiver. On the rare occasions when we want to listed to audio, such as Christmastime, we'll live with whatever stereo speakers are built-in to the TV. As the TV thus will contain the only audio amplifier on the boat (not counting the marine radios), the headphones need to connect to it directly.

    As far as modifying a TV, don't think for a second that I have not considered it. And with a used model, for example if we wanted to keep the one already on the boat, or something inexpensive, I would not hesitate. But my experience with large LCD screens and this type of consumer electronics is that there is a fairly high early mortality rate. So, no, I am not willing to void the warranty on a ~$400 television.

    BTW, I do know where to tap into the audio, and there is no need for an internal load so long as the headphone impedance is the same as that of the speakers and the disconnecting jack is the make-before-break type. If I was ambitious, I would make this mod on the current TV, but it's a good couple of hours by the time I get the TV out, opened up, and back again, and we know we want to replace it anyway.

  10. Just buy Sennhiser cordless headphones, connect the L and R audio jacks to the audio out on your Direct TV box.Picks up the audio before it get to the TV. Works for me.

  11. You see now that's why I love reading smart people's weblogs. I'd have butchered the case open, scabbed in a jack and it would have either worked or not worked. And I'd have never given 5 seconds thought to these internal loads or make/break connections. There's a word for the kind of work I do but its not a very nice one & I won't use it here.

  12. If your TV has a optical output, this might work.

  13. It seems like a very interesting adventure.You make the best of your time!


Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!