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!


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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..

Ziaius5 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
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