Now many have used computer power supplies to run various devices in the past, car stereo equipment included.  I wanted to do one that had a little style to it, yet didn’t break the bank.  It had to be able to fit in with a variety of décor, as I wanted it to be portable.  One could easily take my design further and equip it with ability to also run off a battery back, maybe finish the panels in brushed aluminum or even do away with my humble folding antenna and take advantage of the stereos built in relay to power on/off a motorized antenna, adding some nice visual movement to the unit.

  • I started with an MP3 CD player unit that also had USB and standard input jacks to play music off every thing from a thumb drive to your average Ipod.  The beauty of this unit is that it has a remote, something I used to mock, but now appreciate. It used to be housed in my poor 80’s Tercel, before it bit the dust with a blown head gasket this fall.  30 bucks new with free shipping, love that ebay!
  • The case came from a book shelving unit, made of MDF and finished in a red satin finish that my loving wife was willing to let me use, even though it broke up a set of 4.  The front and rear panels were completed in pine, with a neutral satin varnish.  Normally I am not a fan of mixed finishes, but I think it works in this case. 
  • Speakers came from various sources, The center 20watt sub-woofer and resonating port came from a el-cheapo computer sound system.  The two 10watt side speakers came from Sony battery powered auxiliary speakers.  I didn’t bother with an amp, as the radio is all ready pushing out 50 watts per channel, and my low rated speakers don’t need it.  Surprisingly the sound coming out of the unit is amazing, clear tight highs, resonating mid-tones and some decent base.
  • Grill for the front was found in a box of odds and ends, the two chrome side grills are actually trim rings off ceiling mounted fire extinguishing sprinkler heads.  With the backs cuts down a little the look awesome.
  • The handle came off an old defunct sewing machine box.
  • The antenna was a cheap after market product purchased to go on the Tercel and then promptly misplaced.  Its recent re-discovery initiated this instructable.  Oddly enough it lends a nice military look to the unit regardless of the colour scheme.

Note – “This is one of those creations conceived and constructed during a single night of insomnia.  Not thinking, I did not take any photos initially so this instructable will be a little reverse engineered.  Any gaps have been made up with drawings of the construction and careful labeling of detailed photos.  I recently added an antenna, and this was fully documented.”

The video below kinda sucks, waiting for my daughter to open her Christmas present, so I can borrow it!  For now this will have to do, by the way its State radio playing - So Bohemian  Grove.  Saw them last year at the Commodore in Vancouver, awesome!


snyluc134 years ago
awesome work!!! saw this mentioned on engadget which is awesome!!

iminthebathroom (author)  snyluc134 years ago
Thank you very much for posting this, I would not have know otherwise that it is being featured on other sites now. Makes me wonder if any of my other instructables have made it onto other sites, hmm, wonder how one could check this easily. Anyway, thanks for the positive feed back.
Arghus3 months ago

nice project but it look a bit too messy, at least inside..

Ziaius6 months ago

Nice job! :) Especially the box! ech my setup doesn't have one yet. At the moment I have PSU connected to car stereo. And there is an issue already. Through the speakers there is loud noise - audio volume doesn't affect it. Noise is there when I play music from my laptop using 3.5 audio cable And laptop is connected to the mains for charging.
I think that's what's called ground loop noise. And people suggest buying ground loop isolators for audio cables (typically RCA). Or one can build it with two 600 Ohms transformers with 1:1 ratio.
But! People also say that it reduces audio quality. Which I would like to avoid if I can.

SO. I wonder could I break my ground loop where I connect PSU to Car Stereo (12v and ground)?

Any suggestions?

russ_hensel7 months ago

Just a note to let you know I have added this instructable to the collection:
Encyclopedia of ATX to Bench Power Supply Conversion
>> http://www.instructables.com/id/Encyclopedia-of-ATX-to-Bench-Power-Supply-Conversi/
Take a look at about 70 different approaches to the power supply part of the project.

didone made it!1 year ago

Nice instructable! I gave a second life to my first car stereo and last pc power supply :-)

car stereo 2nd life.jpg
iminthebathroom (author)  didone1 year ago

NICE! Your interior is so much cleaner then mine. I tend to run out of time and I end up reaching for my glue gun which leaves a lot to desire...

Thank You!
sfletcher61 year ago
Have a memory problem fix.

Came across this instructable last night. Then today searched forever to find it again. Found a solution to fixing memory issues. Could be possible to figure out battery back up but then always charging or replacing batts. This is not a free diy solution but could be if you have one laying around. Most all jenson marine/boat radio decks have built in non volitile memory chips or whatever you call it. Get one of those instead of regular car deck and problem solved. Going to be using one myself for large portable radio build.
iminthebathroom (author)  sfletcher61 year ago
Smart and simple. Rather then starting with the problematic unit, go straight for the marine type. Plus the marine type might be better from the start as they usually have more robust circuitry for a slight marine environment. Bonus = The usual white faceplate will add a nice touch.
Also found jenson makes same type of decks but black color if you really want it black. Geared for truckers,tractors and harsher environments.
trying to make or build simple cap circuit to adapt to any radio though like jenson uses.
jarrod_931 year ago
Hi, I hooked up 2 car speakers and a sub to a car amp using a PSU. There's a constant interference emitting from the speakers when the laptop (which I'm using as a source for music) is plugged in and charging as well as the PSU. This stops when I unplug the laptop.
Any suggestions about what can be done?

Thanks very much!
iminthebathroom (author)  jarrod_931 year ago
oh, not sure. Off the top of my head I'd say wrong ohms. I would copy/paste a link to this page into the Instructable question section. People compete just to get you an answer, those guys are spot on! Helped me numerous times!
jules152 years ago
i have the same radio!!! lol this was an awesome project. looks like something you would buy in a music store for $500.
iminthebathroom (author)  jules152 years ago
Yes, very cool how a low budget radio can be dressed up to sound and look good
el_duderino3 years ago
Any updates to using a battery to keep the memory intact? I thought I read somewhere that the memory function only requires 7v in which case a 9v battery should suffice. However, i'm not sure how to wire it.
iminthebathroom (author)  el_duderino3 years ago
That is a tricky one, though I'm sure others on this site would know. the problem being that your ground on the head unit is shared, in that its going to the power supply. You need to utilize the ground off of the battery in addition to the positive lead. Now in everything from computers to alarm clocks this is resolved as most are plug in and battery. i would ask this question on the instructables question section with a link to this instructable. It would save a lot of explaining to someone else. By the way, the stereo is what i'm listening to the radio on right now, still going strong and its on almost 24/7 since it was built
Thanks for the reply. Maybe the easier answer is to just leave my power supply (pyramid 13.8v, 14amp dc to ac converter) on 24/7 to keep the memory intact. Mine is a marine head unit, slated to live outside in my pool cabana.
DIY Dave3 years ago
How would you wire both front speaker outputs into one speaker?
iminthebathroom (author)  DIY Dave3 years ago
oh, thats an easy one, you go mono by using one positive from one speaker out put and the negative from the other speaker output. Some are also designed to utilize both positives. Usually your radio wiring diagram will include steps for wiring it mono.
Thanks, that is easy
Davvik3 years ago
How did you get around the 60 Hz noise with this project? I found that a lot of computer power supplies aren't filtered well to eliminate the noise in the background.
iminthebathroom (author)  Davvik3 years ago
To be honest, i never had an issue with it - crystal clear sound. I know what your talking about though. i have found that most car stereos I have done this with have never had an issue. Perhaps its the radios own internal shielding, seeing how it is in such close proximity to other automotive goodies that put out lots of interference all ready. Or... I got lucky. I have done this 4 other time though with modern car stereos and havn't had an issue. Did this once along time ago with an old casette tape player, that was a different issue. However that was resolved with careful wire placement
rbutler83 years ago
Love the three oranges just chilling there :)
iminthebathroom (author)  rbutler83 years ago
yeah, turned out. wasn't intentional though
pedroSB4 years ago
I have one too...but mine is a box of three bottles of wine, with a sound system of a computer connected to it ... 5.1 pc system of "creative"
iminthebathroom (author)  pedroSB4 years ago
Cool, its amazing what a little car unit will power
ya...A lot of Power...when i put the radio on 20 all start a vibrate...
mdshann pedroSB3 years ago
I understand how you would use the front left and right and rear left and right for the front stereo and back surround speakers, and I am assuming you used the sub out on the head unit for the sub, but what did you do for the center channel? Where does the sound for that come from, did you just combine the two front signals into it? Thanks!
I am powering my head unit and a 500W amp off of a 500W power supply. Mind you it has 2x12V rails with a combined output of 34A. The amp is drawing a max of 20A but I don't know exactly how many Amps the head unit is drawing. I would guess around 5A.
When I was younger I did the same thing and never had an issue, mind you the amp was 500 watts. It should be fine, but... Try to find a higher out-put computer power supply if you can. Think I used a 300 watt PS. These days that is quite weak, minimums these days start at 4-500 watt and many are much higher. My stereo has been running perpetually in the shop now for almost 6 months 24-7 and hasn't had an issue yet. The only thing is being a cassette player, it will consume slightly more power then a CD player, but really only when rewinding or fast-forwarding. You may also want to think about ventilation and resonance. Building it into a PC case, the reverberations of a "tin" case may not sound great, find something to stiffen it or deaden it a little
tstarner4 years ago
Has anybody out there tried building one of these units using a 12v motorcycle battery for power?
iminthebathroom (author)  tstarner4 years ago
Should work just fine, the only caveat being are motorcycle batteries good at being drained and recharged like deep cycle batteries? Small tractor batteries should work as well. What might really shine are the small deep cycle batteries that come with electric pocket bikes. i won for my daughter at a carnival and it is tiny. Or the 12v batteries out of wall mounted industrial emergency lights. In the end, as long as its around 12 volts and gives enough amps it should work fine
Maybe a 12v battery from a power wheels vehicle would work well. I'd bet a trip to the local Interstate Battery store would be a good idea as well. That place has a lot of batteries!!
dnutman4 years ago
Great pictures and a beautiful end-product. I'm thinking of doing something similar, but hopefully with a battery (or batteries) to power the whole system. Do you happen to know how many amps your head unit draws?
iminthebathroom (author)  dnutman4 years ago
Hmm... Not sure. I still have the manual I'm sure lying around. I'll see what it says, it should be listed in the specifications. You might be better off looking at the spec' s for your particular radio being used though.
static4 years ago
A nice looking compact unit, and a good instructable detailing the build. For my tastes the unit is too compact , not enough separation defeats the effort of constructing a stereo.
arocse4 years ago
Great stuff. I've bought a 2nd-hand busker's amp & will use this as my box. One question though, do you have to reset your station presets if the unit is unpowered?
iminthebathroom (author)  arocse4 years ago
look 4-5 posts down, somebody is all ready updating schematics
iminthebathroom (author)  arocse4 years ago
sadly yes, but only for now. If you read down through the comments this is being addressed by several people. I will be working on the issue myself when I get a chance. The simplest idea would be to just hook up a tiny 12 volt battery to the "memory wire" In theory the memory circuit will be the only draw.... but in theory is a dangerous word sometimes. It does need some thought, but should be simple to rectify with all the people on this site!
3366carlos4 years ago
All you designers and builders are awesome! I have plans for my tool box now!
how you connected the radio with the computer power
tblo1634 years ago
I've built the unit and it works good,with good quality speakers,the sound quality is perfect.I have even added rainbow LEDS running off the 5volt supply of the PSU to the speakers to give it a great visual effect.However,I have a problem that you may be able to help with.The constant of the radio is connected to the 12v supply,but when the power is turned off I have to re-tune the stations and also re-enter the radio code.I am a bit reluctant to leave the PSU on all of the time.I was thinking maybe a back-up battery just for the memory might work.Does anyone know the minimum voltage the memory requires?
pedroSB tblo1634 years ago
yes...you have to add a batery to the radio memory...and the memory its 12v
iminthebathroom (author)  pedroSB4 years ago
Hey thanks, I'll say it again, having people comment on this site helps everyone. I always tell anyone doing any of these builds to read through the comments as there is always a wealth of info
iminthebathroom (author)  tblo1634 years ago
OH, totally know what you mean! Think about alarm clocks that have the 9volt battery for memory, that is what the orange wire is usually reserved for. The only problem I could think of is the negative ground. If when you powered up the unit would it multiply as feedback? Have to post this in the question section of instructables. Give me a couple day to work on it. Of course you could just add a small 12 volt battery and that should work fine, in theory...
I think the 9volt battery idea would work,it's worth a try.Also the installation of diodes should solve any feedback issues.I will experiment,and post the result.
iminthebathroom (author)  tblo1634 years ago
you'll have to post some pics when your done!
iminthebathroom (author)  tblo1634 years ago
very cool, this is the sort of thing why I love instructables!!!
I'm getting in the deep end with the memory circuit.The constant supply appears to go all over the board,it supplies the amplifier ic and carries on to virtually every component.These are then turned on by the ACC circuit.
LS1Proud4 years ago
In Regards to guds777 comment below: "Dec 26, 2010. 3:30 PMguds777 says:
nice. but i think 600-1000 w are necessary, but if you build capacitor bank then your machine will get the power. At least you can crank it up a little.
But cool thou."

Most newer car stereos are rated at 200W of Peak Output. 50Wx4

These all have fuses to protect them rated at 10/15 amps.

The supply being rated for 11 amps on the 12V rail should supply plenty of power to crank a car stereo up beyond distortion. Just a little electronic theory, not bashing by any means.
iminthebathroom (author)  LS1Proud4 years ago
exactly, I think guds777 response was to my slighlty confusing idea when I brought up using a High rated amp as well. Its all good, and thanks. Adds clarity to the issue. : )
Chico4 years ago
Nice job! I made a LOW budget, git-r-done radio with parts from cars that I've chopped. It uses my battery charger for power, or it can use my jump-start battery pack. I was just thinking, this could be done with an old computer case...since the power source is already in there...the speakers could just be external pc speakers...
iminthebathroom (author)  Chico4 years ago
Totally, rip out the dead components except the power supply, and just zip-cut or use tin snips to make openings for the speakers and head unit. easy enough for quick and dirty, all though with a little care it would actually look kinda nice!
tblo1634 years ago
Check out this little circuit,it may be usefull
iminthebathroom (author)  tblo1634 years ago
gonna have to try it myself!
coasterboy4 years ago
Very nicely done...a definate asset to the site. Well done. And you are right, the color scheme fits perfectly...
nesiory4 years ago
Awsome finish. :D been planing on doing the same think for ages :P going to do it soon tho. :D but this was great work :_D
Beergnome4 years ago
I dont know If ive seen any of YOUR instructables before on other sites, But I know a lot of tech sites like to raid this place for content!

the technology is pretty basic folks, Ive been using old ATX power supplies for years as bench test supplies. a trip to Wiki will give you a pinout for your needs.

this 'able actually has me a bit inspired for a nice wood working project as i have all the guts lying around. but I would like to make mine long and low with stereo speakers instead of long and high.
as for an automatic extending antenna? most of those things have a long internal body that's at least as long as this unit is tall.

but yeah... I think I may need to build my own boom box

think about a gel cell 12v battery and charging circuit for pure portability... as in instead of using a old ATX power supply for the backbone power.. how about one of those 3-1 jump start boxes instead? you can usually pick up one of those at the big box stores for $20 and up and will give all the break out points plus the battery...

hmmmm... ideas, ideas

iminthebathroom (author)  Beergnome4 years ago
For sure! I've thought of those booster packs. A couple years ago a buddy of mine and I built fighting robots, basically big 300lb tethered go-karts with killing attachments on them. They were wheelchair motors run off 12v car batteries from the dump. When his got low on juice in battle he borrowed one of his buddies boost pack and it totally worked, he still lost though! Course It wasn't because of my superior firepower, he just hadn't thought threw the implications of the flame thrower he built on his, set his own power cord and robot on fire... good times. And yeah, so far i have seen this instructable re-written and posted on over 40 different tech sites, and translated to Japanese, Chinese, Cyrillic some Arabian language. Things get around... people have been using computer power supplies forever, look on this site alone, dozens of various projects and conversions. Thought about building it in the traditional horizontal state, but wanted something to stick out, plus it fits better on a shelf, less real estate used.
oh I understand the form factor completly! and would work great with a self acuating antenna!
And I personally have a ATX fully pined out for control voltage experiments. in my little "lab"

one of these days I'm going to get around to making my instructable, but as it is, all my crazy ideas are basicly jump offs of other fol;ks ideas.
what I realy like about this one is the wood work as I have been modernizing old school HiFi consoles for a number of years with new technology. and most of those things were designed as nice furniture that have audio stuff installed in them.
what i wold do to hijack this idea would be to take this idea, is lay it on its side, go true HiFi stereo with it and make a fine wood cabinet for it, use a jumper box as the PS for portability.
OH! Ideas are SWIRLING!!!!

if and when I do something like that I would link back to this one as the inspiration of course!
iminthebathroom (author)  Beergnome4 years ago
Awesome, if you do something with vacuum tubes that would rock, I have always wanted to go that route. When I lived in Vancouver years ago, i used to cut through China town on my way to work. What caught my eye were these receivers in a electronics store window. They looked like monoliths of wood with 2 or 3 vacuum tubes mounted in the top and one single knob to control it all. Amazing sound and the visual appeal blew me away, one day i will try to replicate what I remember. The kicker, asking price was over grand, and yes people were actively buying them!!! One thing though, I love seeing my stuff being bounced around the world, the re-author of the story gave my instructable name and said it was from instructables, so thats cool.
reoozeit4 years ago
Nice job! I love it. I made something like that about ten years ago, but it was very crude looking. it was made in a 5 gal bucket, intended for use at work on construction sites. Very ugly for sure, but it got me music from some things I had laying around. I used an old DeWalt charger that had gone bad(just a blown fuse inside it I think, but was discarded) . I used the existing battery contacts in it to get power from 12v Dewalt batteries. worked fine. took me 2 batteries to get through the day though. next attempt was intended to use relays and a computer power supply, so when I had ac it would power the stereo and charge the battery. I would have the battery for when I lost power.Relay(s) to do auto transfer. never made that version yet.Still hope to! Yes, I could just buy a Dewalt radio. but where's the fun in that?!
iminthebathroom (author)  reoozeit4 years ago
Cool, I have used buckets like that in my car as a portable sub-woofer box. a 10" sub woofer fits perfect in the bottom. I could see how the bucket would be perfect for the work site. Originally I had built for the garage, but it turned out so nice I can't bring myself to just plunking it on the shop floor. I do use it at work, as Friday nights I moonlight as a guest chef and bring it in to the kitchen.
guds7774 years ago
how many watts are the power suppply.
iminthebathroom (author)  guds7774 years ago
300 watts and 11amps at 12 volts. This power supply is ancient, I think base models these days are 450 watts, my sons is 1000 watts in his gaming rig. I have run a similar set up with the addition of an old 200 watt radio shack amp/equalizer and it played awesome loud. I think if you started using some crazy 1500 watt rockford fosgate and amp and matching sub woofers you may want to upgrade the power supply, other wise hello "clipping!"
nice. but i think 600-1000 w are necessary, but if you build capacitor bank then your machine will get the power. At least you can crank it up a little.
But cool thou.
iminthebathroom (author)  guds7774 years ago
oh, I hope your not estimating the volume from the video. That was a rinky-dink digital camera, that if you turned up the volume on the stereo, the camera's mic would go all, well... wonky? Upon playback any loud noise on the camera would sound like feed back. The car stereo above powered by the computer power supply gets very very loud, and remains more crisp then my "real" Sony ghetto-blaster. This is just using the 300 watt power supply. I was thinking if you added a high powered amp to the unit as well you would need a higher rated power supply, but for just the original head unit running 50 watts per channel, the 300 watt supply is just fine.
starlored4 years ago
Nice, I made something like this about 10 years ago using a Scalectrix Transformer, I made it dual power 240v and 110v so I could use it on site.
amuzed064 years ago
Where did you get that bookcase? It is awesome, and i have been searching all over the internet for something similar.
iminthebathroom (author)  amuzed064 years ago
here is something similar that I found.

and here is an example of the exact set we bought, only in turquoise

try this search under google, this is the exact name of the shelving unit
4-piece set Azar Display Designer Cube shelf

I paid 30$ for the set at a store that was just open for Christmas, but I have seen them at other liquidation type home stores. usually the smaller boutique type ones. Think one was called x-wares, hope this helps
perfect I have an extra car stereo sitting in the garage
I think I will add a switch so my kid can take it to his tree house and run it off the car battery he uses for lighting
polyeric4 years ago
Looks Great! Any idea where I can find a small bookshelf like the one you used? I could build a small box but like the rounded corners that yours has...
redpillftw4 years ago
Good idea! I think I am going to have to make one of these with my old radio. But I have to ask... What happened to that PSU?
iminthebathroom (author)  redpillftw4 years ago
It was one of my last power supplies I had on hand at the time of the build. the computer was on an industrial shop floor for close to ten years, little rusty but still worked great with a little cleaning
Darwinfish4 years ago
That's pretty nice. :-) Good work.
CrLz4 years ago
Beautiful work, great make.
greenleaf354 years ago
that is awesome
iminthebathroom (author)  greenleaf354 years ago
Thanks, just embedded the video code properly now, firefox glitch. Check it out, kinda sad sound recording but the video gives you a size perspective.