Using Digital Joysticks As Analog With The XBOX Adaptive Controller (XBOX AC)

A viewer recently asked about connecting a digital arcade joystick (ex. a Sanwa with the 5 pin Dupont type connector) to the X1 or X2 jacks on the XBOX Adaptive Controller.

What he was seeing was odd values — the XBOX AC would show “full left” and “full down” (or visa versa). This is because the X1 and X2 jacks require Analog input — in other words, potentiometers. (Or an equivalent.)

I provided him some technical details on why this is, and why it can’t be (easily) done with discrete resistors. I’m working on possible solutions. In the meantime, here’s the info. I hope it helps others.

I’ve been experimenting with the digital joystick for use with the XBOX AC X1/X2 analog ports. Due to the limitations of the joystick you have, I’m not sure if it will be possible.

The Technical Details:

The X1/X2 jacks on the XBOX AC are expecting analog (potentiometer) input. This means a resistance between VCC and X/Y and another resistance between X/Y and GND. In electronics, this is a voltage divider, which the XBOX AC uses to determine position. A simple On/Off will not work — it needs the proper values for both connections (VCC/GND), and both directions (X/Y).

The easiest solution is to use an analog joystick. One that has potentiometers (one for X, another for Y).

When you plug in the TRRS jack without the proper resistance values, the XBOX AC will see that as “all low” or “all high”. In other words, you’ll see the joystick go full upper-right, or full-lower-left, etc. That’s why you are seeing that strange behavior.

If you have the parts on hand, you can experiment with how this works. You would need a 10K potentiometer and a selection of resistors. In one of the photos I’ve attached, I use the potentiometer to control the X axis. 

In another photo, you can see two 4.7K resistors hard-wired to the jack. One is connected VCC to X, the other GND to X. This creates a voltage divider with equal values on each side. The result is that the “stick” appears centered.

To make a digital stick simulate analog, it should be possible to connect resistors in such a way that the XBOX AC thinks there is a potentiometer in the circuit. There would be three states for each axis (values are examples):

Centered X : GND — 4.7K — X — 4.7K — VCC

Negative X: GND — 10K — X — 0K — VCC

Positive X: GND — 0K — X — 10K — VCC

It’s more complicated, but possible. But — here is the problem with the 5 conductor SANWA type joystick: it uses a common ground for all four switches. In other words, all four aren’t completely independent. Resistance on one switch would affect the others, throwing them all off.

Normally, I would go one of two routes with this:

* Use a microcontroller (ex. Arduino) to convert the digital signals to pseudo analog and pass via the USB connector.

* Use a DAC (Digital to Analc og Converter) to convert digital signals to analog and pass via the X1/X2 connectors.

Both of those solutions require additional electronics skill and/or programming to accomplish. If you want to follow one of those paths, I can help you through it. But, it won’t be as simple as “wire up and go”. The easiest wiring would be to purchase an analog joystick.