Xbox 360 Wireless Arcade Controller – Do It Yourself
(only for the brave and somewhat knowledgeable)
By Erik M.
To begin, the reason I went through this crazy adventure and put so much work into this is because there is absolutely no suitable arcade controller for the Xbox 360 (the MadCatz one stinks). With over 50 games in the Xbox live arcade, I feel there should be one. And, since everything is now proprietary on the Xbox 360, there was no choice but to hack a 360 controller and make one myself. I saw that others had done this and I was hooked. I initially made a wired version, but wireless is the way to go. My thanks go out to RDC from Xbox-Scene forums for the technical info, advice, and board schematics. Also, thanks to BountyHunterInc for the inspiration to make a wireless version (and proof it could be done).
My Wireless Arcade Controller – Finished and Working Great
List of Materials needed:
• One Xbox 360 wireless controller (you will use the guts (PCB) in the new controller)
• T8 Torx Security driver (or small jewelers flat head) for taking 360 controller apart
• Soldering Iron or Cold Solder tool (I used cold solder for this, works better in tight spaces, in my opinion) and solder
• 22 to 24 gauge speaker wire – or any wire that is very flexible and small, but will still solder okay
• Arcade Box and Parts (this is up to you, build a box or buy one and then you will need the arcade joystick and 9 arcade buttons)
• One 2 AA battery holder from Radio Shack with wire leads ($2)
• Assorted tools – razor blade or exacto, needle nose pliers, soldering vice, good wire cutters/strippers, etc.
Step 1: Initial Preparation
This section will cover everything you need to do in the initial preparation for the project. Careful preparation and planning are key to not redoing the project and/or avoiding pitfalls. Also, do not attempt this project unless you have at least medium to advanced soldering skills.
• Arcade Box and Controls
This section is mostly up to the person making the controller. For my first unit (a wired one), I used a pre-made box (X-arcade) that had the joystick and buttons already installed in the box. I just removed the guts from the X-arcade and put the wired 360 controller guts into it. Now, if you want to go cheap and custom, just make your own box. Then buy a joystick and nine buttons (I recommend Happ competition joystick/buttons all the way, but its all user choice and preference).
Photo showing my wired arcade controller setup using the X-Arcade Box.
Photo showing my custom made box for the wireless arcade controller.
You will end up using 9 buttons on the finished arcade controller plus the joystick. A, B, X, Y, LB, RB, Start, Guide, and Wireless Synch Button (if you desire, for convenience).
• Xbox 360 Controller Disassembly
This section will give a link and short description on how to disassemble the Xbox 360 Wireless Controller. I did it all myself, as it is pretty self explanatory, but here is a good starting guide on Xbox-Scene. On a side note, the wired controller is super easy to take apart since it only has phillips head screws (hmm, I wonder why).
Using a T8 Torx bit to take the controller apart
Also, I found it easier to use a small jeweler’s flat head screw driver to break the security post in the middle of the torx screw. Then, you can either use the regular T8 bit to remove the screws, or sometimes, while trying to break the post, the screw just came out using the small flat head. After you remove the visible screws, don’t forget about the screw hidden underneath the sticker in the battery compartment. Then, you should feel the two halves of the controller break apart. You then have to slightly depress the triggers and work other things around until you can get everything all the way apart. BE CAREFUL HERE. Remove the rumble motors and you should have a 360 wireless controller PCB that looks like Figure 1 (except the below picture has the triggers and analog sticks removed).
Figure 1 - Photo by RDC, from Xbox-Scene Forums.
Step 2: Xbox 360 Wireless Controller PCB Preparation
This section will discuss the prep work that now needs to be done on the Xbox 360 Wireless Controller PCB (the PCB work is the bulk of the project, trust me). So, here is the crux of the whole project, if you can get the PCB side of things working then hooking everything up to the arcade controls is cake.
Below, in Figure 2, is a rudimentary diagram I made up for the 360 wireless controller. Excuse the poor artwork, but I didn’t feel like using a CAD program or anything like that. It lays out the basic button design and has “ground” and “signal” labeled for each button. Throughout this tutorial, you will see me reference “ground” and “signal” in quotes. This is because, in truth, the controller PCB uses a matrix design. But, since we are hooking up to arcade switches, it is easier for me to use and think in this terminology.
Figure 2 – Wireless Board Diagram
Once you have the guts removed from the wireless controller case, you will need to do a couple more things before you are ready for soldering.
First, remove the triggers. Here is a link on how to do it without destroying the triggers (however, we really don’t care since I doubt you plan on using the controller for anything else now).
Removing the Triggers the Easy Way
Then, you need to use small wire cutters or something similar to cut the trigger “frame” plastic. You need to solder to a couple points underneath that plastic. Basically, the potentiometer for the triggers is soldered on top of this plastic frame and will not allow you to simply pull that plastic frame off the board. You must cut the plastic trigger frame in two areas on both sides where it is thin and exposed. This should allow you to remove the top half of the plastic frame (the half that is not pinned down by the potentiometer). This will allow access to all the solder points needed. Also, to make it easier, if you have good hot air tools or something, you can remove everything that you don’t need (trigger pots, analog sticks, etc.) However, note, if you remove any of the pots you may need to solder a resistor into place or the controller can get confused if there is no resistance there.
Second, it’s time to scrape away all that silver-infused epoxy on the button contacts and prepare some vias (little holes on the board). There are ways to solder without scraping and prepping anything (see RDC’s tutorial referenced later). But, on the buttons for A, B, X, Y, Start and Guide, it’s really easy to scrape the epoxy away and solder right to a nice big gold contact. Also, since it’s about impossible to solder to the D-pad surface contacts, I solder to vias for these. RDC recommends soldering to the feet of diodes, but I just don’t like doing that. I feel much more confident going to vias. The via connection is always REALLY physically strong and I haven’t had any issues with them. In fact, on my test board, I actually hung the PCB from a soldered via connection. I was impressed. But, either connection is fine, whatever you feel more comfortable with. Here is RDC’s tutorial. It contains every solder point he has used to duplicate buttons and I can verify they work.
RDC’s Wireless Button Duplication Tutorial – BOOKMARK THIS NOW
So, like I said, use his connection points or use mine, they will work either way. You may even be creative and use a combination of different connection points (like I did); however, I can not guarantee that it will work. I know mine work and RDC’s work.
Here is how I prepared everything:
A, B, X, Y, Start and Guide Buttons: Scrape a good sized area on both sides of the surface contact pad down to the gold contact. Leave some epoxy on the edges of each pad to help make sure the gold contact pad stays mounted to the board during soldering.
Left Shoulder and Right Shoulder Buttons: I used RDC’s recommended connection points on the bottom of the board. The LB and RB contacts stick out from the bottom of the board and you don’t need to prep anything. Later, you will just solder right to the existing solder.
Directional Pad “Signal” Lines (UP, DOWN, RIGHT and LEFT): Here is where it gets a little tricky. You are welcome to try soldering to the existing surface contacts on either side of a d-pad button, but I can tell you from much experience that it will eventually fail. It is better to solder to a via or a diode from RDC’s tutorial. If you go with the diode, no prepping is necessary. Again, just solder right on to the foot of the diode in his diagrams. If you decide to solder into vias, you need to use an exacto knife or razor blade and prep them VERY CAREFULLY. Once a via is prepped properly, the soldering is super easy. Carefully scrape around the edges of the via until you can see the metal ring most of the way around the via. Then, using the point of the exacto, CAREFULLY remove all the resin and junk that is down inside the via. Be careful not to break the tip of the exacto off in the hole. For most of the vias, you can do this from the top and bottom of the board to clean out the hole really well. Then, all you have to do is make the wire fit in the via (after some exacto work inside the via, a 24 to 26 gauge wire should be do-able). I took 22 gauge speaker wire from Radio Shack and stripped a few strands of copper from one end. It worked great. Now, the wire will pretty much stay in the hole on its own while soldering. Send me a message if you need any help with prepping vias. For actual via locations on the board, follow the trace in RDC’s diagrams from the suggested diode connection point to where it hits the first via on the BOTTOM of the board. Below is the picture from RDC’s tutorial to help in explaining (Figure 3).
Figure 3 - Photo by RDC, Xbox-Scene Forums
So, for example, in Figure 3 (go to RDC’s tutorial for bigger and better pictures), you can see RDC has DD1 labeled on the foot of the diode (or DOWN “signal”). This is where he recommends connecting. If you want to connect to the via, just follow the trace back about 2mm to the via (it’s under the arrow for DD1). I recommend connecting DOWN and LEFT signal lines to vias on the bottom of the board since they are accessible and a better place to connect. For RIGHT and UP signal lines, you must go to the top of the board due to the processor and power connectors covering up the vias on the bottom of the board.
Direction Pad “Ground” Lines: The LB and RB ground lines are shared ground lines with other buttons. DOWN, UP, and LEFT can be tied in to these grounds (see RDC’s diagrams for details on which). RIGHT is the only directional where you need a separate ground wire. See RDC’s tutorial for this connection point on the bottom of the board under where the trigger frame plastic used to be (remember removing that earlier).
Wireless Synch Button: The “ground” line for the synch button is shared with the LB ground line. So, no preparation needed there. For the “signal” line, follow RDC’s tutorial and you will have to solder one wire onto a diode on the top side of the board near the synch switch. No preparation needed there either.
Battery Contacts: There are two spiral AA battery contacts on the bottom of the board. These needed to be bent up, in my case, so I could have access to them when the board was mounted facing up. They are really solid and literally I just took some needle nose pliers and bent the crap out of them until they were facing up. Bend them to where you need them to be or leave them if it’s okay in your setup.
Step 3: Xbox 360 Wireless Controller PCB Soldering
Alright, if you are still with me, I am impressed. Now it’s time to get down to actual soldering.
For the regular buttons (A, B, X, Y, Start, and Guide), just solder one wire to each side of the scraped contact on the PCB (two total wires for each button). Then, run those two wires to your new arcade button and voila, button duplication.
For the shoulder buttons (LB and RB), just tin the end of your wires and then tack them onto the existing solder joints on the bottom of the board. “Tinning” simply means to melt some solder onto the end of the wire FIRST. Then just heat up the target joint and join them. EASY!!
Directional pad “signal” solder joints. If you are using the vias, just stick the wire into the hole and if you have prepared them well, it should stay in there real snug. Make sure you get good contact between the wire/solder and the metal via ring. This is key to making a good via solder connection. This is why you must scrape all the excess material away from the via ring and get down to the bare metal.
Directional pad “ground” solders. Again, most of these are already taken care of because they will share a “ground” line with the LB or RB. You will just daisy chain the ground line from the first arcade button to the next arcade button. The RIGHT directional “ground”, however, has its own connection in the RDC tutorial. Use this connection point since it is really easy to hit (on the bottom of the board). Just tin the wire and join to the existing solder.
Synch button solders. The synch button “ground” line is already connected at this point (shared with LB “ground”). The synch button “signal” line needs to be connected as per RDC’s tutorial. There is a diode on the top side of the board right near the synch button. Use his tutorial diagrams to locate this diode and the correct foot on which to solder. Once you know where you are soldering, the best way to solder to the diode is to tin the end of the wire. Then, just position the wire and GENTLY heat up the joint until the solder from both sides melts together. Just be careful not to overheat this kind of joint. It will result in the diode foot pulling off the board.
After all of this is done, you will be ready to connect the wires coming from the 360 wireless controller PCB to the arcade buttons and joystick.
However, at this point, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND testing everything on the controller to make sure it works before putting everything together. In fact, testing as you go along isn’t a bad idea either. A good way to do this is to use the play and charge kit. That way, you don’t need the battery pack connected yet. Also, if you have the wireless receiver for PC, you can test everything on your PC in a nice little test window. Just power up the board and connect the ends of the wires necessary to duplicate a button press. If you have any problems at this point, the first thing to check is bad connections. It’s the most likely cause of a problem. If problems persist, send me a message and I will help in any way I can.
Step 4: Final Assembly
So, after getting all the soldering done on the 360 wireless PCB and preparing the arcade box with buttons and joystick installed, you will be ready for the final assembly. One other item that needs to be done at this point is to install the 2 AA battery holder from Radio Shack (or wherever you got one from). I used gorilla glue to secure the battery holder to the outside of my box for easy replacement of the batteries (see picture of finished controller at top of tutorial). Then, I drilled a small hole through the side of the box, near the mounted battery holder, and ran the wire leads into the interior for soldering. Now, everything is ready to go together. Solder away to the appropriate arcade buttons!!! Figure 4, below, shows how the inside of my controller looked after mounting the PCB, soldering everything to the arcade buttons and hooking up the battery pack.
Figure 4 – Finished Wireless Guts Mounted in the Box. Note the battery wires on the far left side coming into the box and soldered up to the AA contacts on the bottom of the board.
So, from Figure 4, you may be able to see (probably not) that each arcade button and joystick micro switch ends up having two wires connected to it. Again, once you have the PCB side of things done, this part is really easy. I also labeled all my wires on the arcade button end so I didn’t have to search and trace wires. It helps a lot. Once everything is soldered into place on the arcade buttons and joystick, put some batteries in there and test it out. Hopefully, if you are crazy enough to attempt this, everything works okay and you aren’t cursing me right now.
Believe me, a couple friends thought I was crazy and you will probably get some weird looks too. But, once it is done, all is good and then everyone wants to come over and play!!! Good luck to anyone that attempts an arcade stick and send me a message if you need any help.
Yahoo email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Go to my Fickr page for more pictures of my project.
Edited by RDC, 22 August 2008 - 08:03 PM.