Picture of Retro Hi-Fi Project
Bought an old Webcor Hi-Fi at a thrift store for 30 bucks . . . it came with a broken record player and a blown out mono tube-amp. I decided out with the old and in with the new! It's now got a Sony 5-disc CD changer and a tripath amp along with a few other goodies. Total project took me about 100 hours over 6-months time. Normally I like to do things with a little more precision, but was too lazy to machine anything, so I just did everything rather crudely in my apartment. Overall sound with the tripath amp is excellent!
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Step 1: Scoring a Nifty Lookin Hi-Fi

I found my Hi-Fi at a thrift store in San Francisco's Mission District, but don't just limit your search to thrift stores. Since starting this project, I've seen a lot of these things at antique stores and garage sales. I guess there's not much "perceived" use for low-quality record players and mono-amplifiers!

When buying your retro-stereo, try to have an idea in mind what you want to do with it, and make sure that the layout of your "antique" won't make your modifications impossible. My Hi-Fi originally had volume and tone knobs and a huge blank panel in-between where I'd eventually put the CD control buttons.

Have a vision . . . it'll make your life easier!

Step 2: Exploratory Surgery

Picture of Exploratory Surgery
Before you get too carried away trying to physically integrate components together, do some electronic layout to make sure cables are long enough . . . and if they're not long enough, make some extensions.

I planned to integrate a Sony 5-disc changer that I no longer used, and spent the better part of an afternoon ripping it apart and figuring out how it worked. The first thing I realized was that I'd need to extend the ribbon cables connecting the display to the main control board. I'd also have to extend the ribbon cable connecting the control board to the changer carousel . . .

Step 3: Eloooongate Cables

I decided to elongate the ribbon cables connecting the display using left over IDE hard drive cabling. Luckily the spacing of the wires were the same (0.100" wire-to-wire). Other common sizes are available . . . check Digikey if you need another spacing.

I tried various ways to strip the ends of the wire, but finally ended up carefully slicing everything with an xacto knife, then pulling. Solder a wire on each end, then do all the wires in between them to help with keeping things aligned. Once everything was soldered up, I encased the connections with a non-conductive epoxy to prevent shorts if the wire were to get kinked.

The second picture shows just how much extension I needed!

Step 4: Extending Control Switches part-1

Picture of Extending Control Switches part-1
The next thing to do is to de-solder those surface-mount control switches (Play, Pause, Stop, FF, etc), and to see if we can extend the wiring for those as well. I intended on mounting the control switches on the front of the Hi-Fi, but keeping the display at the back . . . it's a good thing Sony integrated these things, bleh!

The first picture shows an extension connected to a momentary pushbutton switch. I wanted to make sure the extra wire and crappy switch would still work in controlling the changer (disclaimer, I'm NOT and electrical engineer!)

Step 5: Extending Control Switches part-2

Once the switch extensions seemed to work, it was time to extend all the controls I wished to use. Upon looking at the PCB layout carefully, I noticed that all the surface-mount control switches terminated to a common bus that I'm guessing was Ground? In any case, this meant that I only had to extend one wire per switch, and one Ground wire, thus saving a bunch of time!

I was a little low on hookup wire, but overstocked on ethernet cable now that Wi-Fi is all the rage . . . if it's good enough to zip the internet to me, it's good enough to press "Play."

Step 6: Mounting Display Bezel

I thought the best place to mount the display panel would be where the original mono-speaker was located.

The first thing to do here was fill in the hole where the speaker was something a little more substantial . . . like 1/4" MDF/fiberboard. Once the MDF cutout fit in the speaker hole perfectly, I cut out an additional rectangle in it for the original Sony display bezel. The old-school speaker fabric can then be cut with an xacto and carefully folded back inside of the bezel cutout (see picture).

Once everything fits snugly, quick! epoxy it all together before something happens! Preferably 5-minute epoxy if you're like me and have a short attention span.

Step 8: Securing the Guts

The original CD-changer "electronics board" was neatly mounted in the Sony chassis. Unfortunately there was no way the original chassis was going to fit in the Hi-Fi . . .

I ended up driving down to Halted, got analuminum project box, along with other parts that will show up later. The audio signal output wires were directly wired to the board since connectors wouldn't fit in the box, and neurotically I like to solder.

A strain relief was added where the power cord leaves the box, and the entire board was mounted on standoffs with an insulating plastic sheet beneath the power supply section . . . just in case an earthquake flexes the board and shorts the components, thus causing a fire . . . it could happen, I'm in San Francisco.

The areas where the signal/ribbon wires leave the box should be oversized and filed smooth to avoid shorts in this area as well.

The entire box was then mounted to the bottom of the carousel drawer as shown in the second picture to form one big "mass" that is easier to mount in the Hi-Fi console.

Step 9: Filing a Big Hole

The Changer was originally the type that had it's carousel slide in and out. Unfortunately when I removed this from the original chassis, there was a gaping hole in the back that would need to be filled before this would become an aesthetically pleasing top-load carousel.

Regardless of which brand CD changer you use for a project like this, you'll probably have to do some sort of gap filling. Filling these gaps can be done well enough with Lexan/polycarbonate (available at Home Depot or TAP Plastics) painted to match any color. After cutting a piece that fit, I painted the back of it black, waited for the paint to dry, then covered the paint with a layer of duct tape. I knew I'd be squeezing this thing into it's new home, so the tape was just to protect the paint from being scratched off.

Step 10: Adding a Support Frame

The bottom of the original Hi-Fi didn't have much support, even for the cheap plastic record player that it came with. Some sort of reinforcement/framing definitely had to be added before I could mount the CD changer in the console.

The two cross pieces in the picture are 2x2's that were chiseled on the ends and slid into grooves that were already part of the original console. They were positioned to perfectly support the bottom of the metal electronics box.

Step 11: Tidying Things Up

Once the CD Changer's screwed into place, it's time to fill in all the visible gaps. Custom panels were pieced together with 1/4" MDF/fiberboard, then painted black to match the changer.

Life would've been easier to use a single panel to cover the gap seen in the previous step, but I opted to make a small pocket for spare CD storage.

Step 12: Intermission

At this point, everything's nice and neat, but the Hi-Fi/CD changer combo is only an audio source (no integrated amplifier/speakers), and can only be controlled by the changer remote control. Since laziness kicked in, I hooked up a Sonic Impact 5066 amplifier, hooked up some cheap Polk R15's and listened in utter amazement for a few months!

Step 13: Integrating an Amplifier

Once laziness subsided, it was time to integrate the tiny amplifier into the Hi-Fi console. The T-amp is pretty easy to take apart once you realize that there are screws UNDER the removable rubber feet on the amp! Notice how tiny the amp is compared to it's reasonably small housing!

Since the speaker output wires would need to be elongated anyway, I decided to start from scratch instead of simply adding on the the existing wiring.

Step 14: The Volume Knob

If you choose to use the original T-amp volume potentiometer, this is an easy way to stick any knob you want on it.

The end of the was cut off the T-amp volume knob and glued into one of the retro knobs that came with the Hi-Fi.

The T-amp volume potentiometer came with a handy mounting flange that worked perfectly to mount the pot to the Hi-Fi's wood paneling.

Step 15: Adding Speaker Outputs

Gold plated binding posts were added to the back of the Hi-Fi to serve as speaker outputs.

Clean holes can be drilled in wood with Forstner-style bits. These are definitely recommended if the hole will be visible. Standard drill bits will often tear and splinter wood upon entering and exiting regardless of how careful you are!

Once everything's bolted in place, the filtering capacitors that were originally soldered across the outputs of the T-amp are soldered across the binding post outputs.

Step 16: Laying Out the Controls

Picture of Laying Out the Controls
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Before going crazy and drilling holes, it's always best to lay things out to make sure they'll look good . . . oh yeah, and to make sure things will fit as well.

If you've got a lot of time on your hands, or like me, you're terrible at sketching, go the CAD route. Of course good 'ol paper and pencil work fine as well!

Step 17: It's All About the Switches!

Next up is finding/mounting some switches to control the CD changer's functions like Play, Pause, Skip, etc. Once again, I managed to find some cool, retro-looking switches and knobs at Halted. Unfortunately the switches didn't come with any mounting brackets or mounting flanges for that matter!

Luckily, I had some 3/4" MDF lying around, in which I managed to cut out slots for the switches. I spaced the switches out at 0.750 center-to-center, marked my lines with digital calipers, then cut the slots with a jigsaw. Even though great care was taken, I was surprised taking measurements afterwards, that each spacing was off by less than 10/1000ths of an inch!

After the slots were cut, the switches were epoxied into place, along with a flange place that would allow for a flat mounting surface to mate with the Hi-Fi.

Step 18: More Knobs

The original Sony CD changer came with a rotary track-change knob, so once again, like the volume knob, the track change knob was rigged to fit with the retro Hi-Fi knob.

Another hole was drilled into the Hi-Fi panel and the track-change knob was epoxied into place.

Next, all of the control switches were also epoxied into place.
If Verbatim doesn't make these vinyl look CDs, EMTEC also have colored vinyl look CDs. They have rather small label size, in different colors.
mryoshisan3 years ago
Why not mount the speakers underneath in the void.

Nipper would be proud.

I love the old HIFI's... They don't make them like that anymore (that made me sound like an old fart!) Now get off my lawn!

Here's one of my old HiFi's

i have a old eico hf-81
waiting to get speakers right now
lemonie7 years ago
This is very nice.
As one finishing touch, how about spraying your CDs black, and adding custom old style LP labels to them?
(Or rather copies of your CDs)

thats what it says on the back of my TV thats been RCA's slogan for decades.
erfonz lemonie7 years ago
That dog and gramophone remind me of a Banksy.
jeffkobi (author)  lemonie7 years ago
Excellent idea! You got me motivated to do a quick search for labels, and I actually found blank vinyl CD's! from Verbatim:
Well I can't say I'm too suprised that someone sells them, but I would't have thought it if you hadn't brought this to my attention, thanks. L
canyonmn6 years ago
I'm sure what you've got works perfectly, but for future use, there are "clip-on" ribbon cable ends that you could have clipped on both cables and created your extension that way. I get a headache just thinking about how difficult that soldering job must have been .. :-)
jeffkobi (author)  canyonmn6 years ago
ahh, just looked those up . . . yep definitely would've helped! unfortunately, most of the work was done in the wee hours of the morning when stores weren't open, and i "just wanted to get it done." luckily, i got my first soldering iron when i was about 8 (RC cars), so i've had a lot of practice!
Yes .. I noticed, after reading through your instructable, that you enjoy soldering .. so it probably wasn't a bit deal for you .. :-) Great job!!
djslacker7 years ago
Using your instructable, how much time do you think that someone could cut off your 100 hours? Also, do you know how much all of the parts cost, besides the original cabinet and 6-disc changer???
jeffkobi (author)  djslacker7 years ago
You could probably cut it down to around 50 hours of total work time if you work quickly, and have a nice shop setup, rather than an apartment floor and jigsaw. Since I did it over a 6-month span, I often had to figure out where I left off! Other costs: Amp-$30 Amp power supply, regulator, capacitor - $18 Pushbuttons & switches - $25 Aluminum box for CD guts - $15 Everything else, I basically had laying around, misc wood/lexan, ethernet cable for wiring, power cords from old computers
xsmurf jeffkobi6 years ago
Where did you get the amp for $30? It seem to hoover around $60 to $80 :/
hernanai xsmurf6 years ago
lol... "hoover" you meant "hover..."
jeffkobi (author)  xsmurf6 years ago
the original t-amp sold for $30-$35 back in the day (i.e. last year) at parts express, but didn't come with a power supply ($25 extra). the new gen2 model comes with a power supply, so they upped the price . . .
hoganape6 years ago
Very nice! I've always been a fan of retro stereos. I have been keeping an eye out for a large cocktail style cabinet for just this type of thing, but I never can find one that I like. Beautiful project!
elcure7 years ago
Just GREAT! I really liked this one. I live in Mexico and round here there is a lot of old hi-fi devices lying arround. I will make one of those. Thanks for the great ideas.
Stegs7 years ago
awe inspiring. the switches and knobs look phenomenal.
Mr. Rig It7 years ago
I can think of so many compliments to give you on this project. Your 6 month process paid off. Great job A+ This one is a true favorite on my list.
Mr. Rig It7 years ago
Can you please tell me what is the job of the filtering capacitors is exactly? It's all Greek to me. Thank you.
mdmoose297 years ago
best instructable i have seen in a loooooong time. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! I am definately going to have to resume some of my unfinished projects because of this. :)
PCvsMac7 years ago
Lovely! Also, there is a part of section twelve (like when you lean over it it sticks in your stomach, the bit that is protruding out and makes it look like a pinbll machine) where there dosen't seem to be anything. Rather than spoiling the looks with some dirty speakers on top, why not integrate it? (The section where I have shoddily described where it should be. If you DID follow this message, let me know, because even I don't think I followed it...) Or would it just spoil it? Or have you done this?
jeffkobi (author)  PCvsMac7 years ago
I originally wanted to integrate the speakers, but when I heard how fantastic the tripath amp actually was, I couldn't bring myself to destroy it's imaging by putting the L and R speakers next to each other! It's currently got a small plant sitting on top of it, with the speakers on stands in my living room. Absolutely amazing to listen to, but again, I give all the credit to the amp!
Cool Dude. Hmmm... Why not try to turn a tacky radio into a design from an earlier era? (I.e. Why not disasemble a radio and place it inside a box which resembles a 50's design? (Or whatever.) Seems like fun!
jeffkobi (author)  PCvsMac7 years ago
Have you seen this instructable (not one of mine): A very cool "vintage" take on internet radio!

Here's a preview of the next one I'll be posting, an Apple floppy drive amplifier . . . I'm a big fan of anachronisms, especially when it comes to good designs from the past!
SacTownSue7 years ago
Amazing. Impressive job. The black CD's are the perfect touch. Love it. Brings back memories of summers in the musty basement listening to 78's and 45's. Maybe I'll try something like this someday.
jeffkobi (author)  SacTownSue7 years ago
If you get around to making your own version, definitely let me know as I'd be more than happy to help in any way I can!
LasVegas7 years ago
Beautiful job. Sad that the original Webcor wasn't restorable. This is most definitely, a great reuse of the cabinet.
meddler7 years ago
Wow, this is cool.I'm no good with electronics, i do love the style of antique radios, so this is a neat thing to see.
I love it! Enter this into the Laser Cutter Contest!!!!!!
admanrocks7 years ago
this is really cool