Antique Geek Chic
Retrofit a vintage radio with new innards to make an amplified speaker for your iPod
Revive A Retro Radio
Easy | | | | |Hard
1. Find a radio. Try flea markets or eBay. For $25, I picked up a 1947 Art Deco&8212;style mahogany tabletop set with a grille wide enough to fit two PC speakers.
2. Remove the chassis. The inner workings of these radios are usually a single assembly you can pull out at once.
3. Restore the cabinet. I did some light sanding and used a single coat of oil-based stain. If the grille cloth is falling apart, visit grillecloth.com to find replacement fabric, searchable by radio model.
4. install speakers. Remove the
drivers and circuitry from a set of PC speakers, and mount both on a piece of particle board. Affix the board inside the radio with wood screws. Use spray adhesive to glue the new grille cloth to the other side. Plug the speakers´ power supply and audio cable into the circuit board.
5. Listen up. Connect the audio cable to your MP3 player´s headphone jack, and cue up some Flash Gordon.
With a local radio station that broadcasts “old-time radio” late at night, I´ve developed an addiction to the great crime and sci-fi programs of the 1940s and ´50s, like Dragnet and Buck Rogers. I´ve also found online archives that offer thousands of episodes of these shows as downloadable MP3s (try rusc.com and radiolovers.com). Rather than listen to them on my iPod, I wanted to use a radio that was around when they first played.
There are plenty of gadgets available for transmitting audio from a portable MP3 player to an FM receiver. The radios I had in mind, however, were built in the AM era. I considered modifying the original circuitry so that I could plug my iPod directly into one, but this conjured visions of blown fuses and burning wires.
So I decided to simply remove the antique innards completely and put in their place the guts from a set of desktop PC speakers, which are self-powered and make great iPod amplifiers. I even wired the original volume knob to work. Now if I could just figure out how to add in some static.