Instructables
Picture of Ghettoblaster MP3 player installation
This shows the conversion or more of an installation of a 4 gig Creative Zen MP3 personal media player into a vintage National Panasonic RX-5030 boombox ghettoblaster.

I've featured the finished product on my home website Furocious Studios

Thanks to those users who have gone before me unknownuser2007 and HappyDad their instructables were key in pointing me in the right direction.

The inspiration for my project actually came from the guy who installed a 7 inch Tablet PC into a Hitachi ghettoblaster to achieve a Boombox PC. Gutterslide And now with the advent of the iPod Touch and several knockoff versions of the MP3 player...hmmm consider the possibilities!

WARNING!!!!
Don't electrocute yourself! If you don't know anything about electricity then Stay Away! The warning on the cover of appliances about electrocution is there for a reason. You can be shocked and even killed x_X I haven't been shocked on this project but I don't go poking around where I shouldn't be. If you are getting jolts or blowing fuses that is a sure sign that you have no business messing with electronics. Consider yourself lucky you could be dead.
 
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Step 1: Choosing Components

Make sure you carefully plan out your modifications and hopefully have some back up plans in case things don't work out. Leave some room for experimentation. If you can find some junk to play around with before you move on to the good stuff that is preferable. I wasn't about to go installing a $300 iPod before I tried this out with the cheaper stuff on my first attempt. The 1st MP3 player I used cost me $11. Use cheaper components to test your connections. Make sure you have a Multimeter and know how to use it!

Selecting a Boombox

I found my boombox on ebay. There you have a bit of a selection. I also kept my eye open for 2nd hand shops, flea markets and yard sales.

1. I was looking for a boombox that had Aux Inputs just in case modifying
the tape deck didn't work out.

2. I payed particular attention to the ends and face of the box to make sure
there would be room to add the additional jacks and ports for my mods.

3. I wanted a boombox that could put out some decent volume. EQ wasn't as
necessary because most MP3 players have presets.

4. I was looking for a King of Boomboxes or at least the classic look.

5. Lots of chrome and lots of buttons and lots of features!!!

6. I was looking for a box with VU meters but those can be added later so
that wasn't as important.

Selecting an MP3 player

I looked for deals online. I ended up with a refurbished player for a fraction of the price for one brand new.

1. I had to keep in mind that I was going to install the MP3 player in the Cassette Deck
and make it appear as if it were a cassette in the window. So I had to choose an MP3
player that had a landscape orientation.

2. Most of the functions needed to be on the front of the MP3 player or I was going to have
wire displaced buttons to somewhere on the front of the boombox. The more buttons
to move then the more chances I would singe the circuits on the MP3 player (MP3
players have a lot of micro circuitry that is tricky to solder with clumsy fingers like mine).

Finding the bits

I made several trips to Radio Shack and ordered some buttons and things at sparkfun.com Look around online there are lots of places to buy components. Best of all many of the components I scavenged from other electronics I had previously. I'm a pack rat so I managed to save a lot of money on parts.
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Hey kepster.I have a project for a recording artist..Can we talk dave.wess@gmail.com (Dave)

Kepster (author) 1 year ago
I'm not sure why but it seems modern electronics are so weak in comparison.
agkp801 year ago
Well it was not just your blissful imagination, but the tape decks of 80's had that awesome quality especially the one from 'National Panasonic' even i have a RX5100 model and i feel a nostalgia towards it...
hoffsta1 year ago
Hey Kepster, I have a captcha bug that doesn't let me reply to your comment but I wanted to update you on my Montgomery Ward box:

Thanks for the reply. I was able to find a place to tap in after the preamp. I tried at both the output pins of the preamp chip and on the input selector switch. I was able to get clean sound at both points, but at very low volume. I even tried with a USB DAC that puts out over 2 volts of line level, supposedly more than the cassette preamp is capable of. It looks like this trick is not going to work and I suspect it may be an impedance mismatch issue, however I am not well read on that subject. In the end, I realized this box has L & R Mic inputs on the back and to my delight, they take line level signal perfectly! I can just solder some leads to these internally and be on my way. The tape player doesn't even need to be playing for the Mic input to work.

However...I just searched for info on my Boombox and discovered it is a pretty rare one. The last example that sold on eBay went for $217! I may not be modding this one after all, seeing as how it's in great condition and everything works. Thanks again for your tutorial- I may try this project on a little rougher box.
Kepster (author)  hoffsta1 year ago
When you mentioned the brand I took a quick look on ebay to see what boxes came up and they are worth quite a bit.

That is where you have to decide if the mods you make are worth it. If you do a nice clean job and do it right being careful not to harm the original features it might even be welcome to someone wanting to buy it later. For example you find a box that doesn't have an Aux In and you add one, most people get these old boxes to jack in their tunes anyway. You do a good enough job an the won't know that Aux In wasn't an original feature ;)

However the mods I have made are a bit extreme. Plus the boom box most likely will out last any new-tech mp3 player you could add to it since all modern tech is basically made to be disposable after just a couple years.
hoffsta1 year ago
Thanks for this! I just started on a Montgomery Ward boombox. I found the cassette audio input to the main board and tapped my ipod into that but the levels are way too hot and everything is completely distorted with the VU meters maxed the whole time. I assume the problem is that my line level signal is hitting the cassette preamp. What is my next step, find a place to tap in that bypasses the cassette amp? I do not want to use the radio line as I listen to it often. Thanks!
Kepster (author)  hoffsta1 year ago
With the Magnavox the radio has it's own circuit before the amp so I was able to install an additional input switch to switch between radio and my input. I would set the main selector to radio and then my bypass switch from radio to my mp3 player.

The trouble with the cassette line is you have an extra on switch to power the circuit (the play button), you have the motor which causes noise interference, and you don't want to use input point at the head because of the preamp. My best guess is you can bypass the preamp at the input selector switch.

Another option is the good old car cassette input adaptor. If you have to use the cassette line there may be a way to modify a cassette adaptor to do what you want. That actually modifies the sound to work through the head in the cassette deck.

Don't give up, there are lots of new mods out there since the time I did this project. Also there are finally new boom boxes out there that can run off a usb flash drive and SD card. They just weren't very common when I did this project. That was my initial goal to pop in a flash drive or SD card like we used to pop in and old school cassette tape.
I don't know anything about circuit boards, but I sure enjoy reading this instructable. Good job and it looks awesome.
dll9322 years ago
I once had a large, advanced boombox...whose cassette deck and amp died. The speakers and power supply and antenna were still in good shape. I also had a car cassette receiver I didn't need. I hacksawed/Dremeled the top plate to fit the deck knobs and faceplate, wired it up to the power supply and hooked up the antenna to the antenna jack. Finally, I wired up the output to the speakers. Worked great for several years (of course, the P/S has to be adequate and the speakers of matching impedance). I was gonna paint it camo and letter FrankenBlaster on it but never got "aroundtuit."
Kepster (author)  dll9322 years ago
Car Stereos add a whole new realm of possibilities. My latest idea is to make a boombox (custom portable cabinet) from a complete car stereo system. There are many luxurious features on car stereos that most home systems don't have.

Let me know if you post some pictures of the FrankenBlaster, it would be interesting to see!
dll932 Kepster2 years ago
Sorry, it's long gone. Car stereos have better sensitivity/selectivity than many stationary audio stuff-by necessity.
Kaiven3 years ago
I have been trying all day to attach an aux cable to the cassette tape output. There is a red, white, and black wire on both the cassette and aux wires. I can already tell that black is ground, but when I cut the connection for the black only, sound keeps playing?
I am pretty sure I need to hook a potentiometer to these wires somehow because my mp3 player puts out too strong of signal. The problem is that I have no clue what to attach the potentiometer to? Can anyone help me?
Kaiven Kaiven3 years ago
Ah, well I found out the cassette tape output is similar to a microphone... sound came out the speakers just by tapping the wire. Anyone wanna recommend a new place to attach the aux input?
Kepster (author)  Kaiven3 years ago
I don't know the specifics of the equipment you are trying to work with but remember that you are working with Stereo sound as well. You have Left (white) and Right (red) channels so you have to decide how you want to deal with 2 outputs not just one. You may need 2 potentiometers. Personally I haven't any luck using a pot. to reduce the audio signal.

In general when plugging in external devices to a sound system you usually have to set the volume on the actual device at 50% or to whatever level it takes to stop the distortion.
Kaiven Kepster3 years ago
I finally figured it out haha... I hooked a resistor to each channel and attached them directly to the amplifying IC. There were two, so I had to find out which one it was. It works great now, audible up to 500 feet!
zack2473 years ago
to get that mp3 player to run off of 5v a idea i have would be to desolder the battery cell from the control circuits, then solder the 5v to the + and - on the battery's control board. it sould work from there, but i cant say im positive it will since i havent tried before.

nice project! who doesnt like the retro look?
Kepster (author)  zack2473 years ago
Just make sure you use a voltage regulator so you don't get a huge power surge in your MP3 Player.
begnbezzy5 years ago
LOVE IT! you have a manual or schematics for the Magnovaox? can you send to me @ bezzymares@yahoo.com.
Kepster (author)  begnbezzy5 years ago
Sorry I couldn't find a service manual for this model of Magnavox anywhere. I did map out the main circuit board but it is hardly usable by anyone else. The best I can do is refer you to the diagram of the Function Switch in the comments below.
Where did you find the schematics for this Boom-box? I found one in a thrift store that is almost the same model. The major difference is that this one did not have the line in jacks. I have been looking for a way to add in a line for the same type of mod. Ironically, I found the box, then found this instructable.
Kepster (author)  atombomb19455 years ago
I found the boombox schematics for the Panasonic on ebay. That was actually easy to find. But I still haven't found schems for the Magnavox. And to date I still haven't finished the Magnavox. I'm still working out the hummm. Ok...so you don't have a line in. My suggestion is that you find the left and right channels from the radio circuit which can be found at selector switch. Add a switch between the radio and your new MP3 player connected to the left and right channels.
xanxor Kepster3 years ago
touch the antenna with your hand...
So wierd... i seriously just figured this out on my D8443. and now i find this even though I commented a few weeks ago... And by the way. Touching a D8443 is murder. You really are a murderer
Kepster (author)  xanxor3 years ago
You are absolutely correct! The D8443 is an awesome box! It is the ultimate for modification. I'm seriously thinking iPod Touch for its majesty. The LEDs are a Must for an add on. I don't know how I ever got along without that feature, it's just too cool.
xanxor3 years ago
MURDERER!!!!
Kepster (author)  xanxor3 years ago
Lol! IT'S ALIVE IT'S ALIVE, totally unnatural but it's alive. We could call these zombie boxes. Thanks for the feedback...you have no idea what I have buried at my house ^_^

ooo I'm a cannibal too.
 What if you retained the open/close functionality of the tape door and simply used a cabled connector on the inside? That way you could simply open the door and take the player out to access the buttons, and slide it back in and close the door. If theft is an issue a simple tab-style lock could be installed to keep the door closed unless you want it open
Kepster (author)  icanhaszombie4 years ago
I'm sure you might be able to covert the cassette deck into a dock with a smaller MP3 but the Zen is too large and the ports are on several sides.  You would have to custom an additional port for the MP3 controls.

My most recent thoughts are to forget about replacing the cassette deck and just mount a simple MP3 player on the top or side of the boombox.
Spook19914 years ago
Hi...I`m new to this,and i wanted to do this project for long time...I`m wondering,if you connect mp3/mp4 player in the way you said,does the boom box need a battery,or some power source?Please,i really need to know...
Kepster (author)  Spook19914 years ago
Your boom box would be powered the way it normally is from a power outlet or by battery.

The mp3 is powered by it's own built-in rechargeable battery.
I better idea would be to make a docking station for the Zen instead of integrate it with warranty-voiding modification.
Kepster (author)  samuraiclinton4 years ago
The reason I decided against any type of docking station is because if you happen to be in the wrong company for less than even a minute your little mp3 player is gone for good...victim to a five finger discount and a quick slip into a pocket.  A permanent solution is by far the best.
any ideas of how to mod a dual cassette for this? and still be able to use one

Kepster (author)  cynical_chemical4 years ago
You could use both tape players if you install a smaller mp3 player somewhere else on the face of the boombox.  If you can figure out how to use the radio circuit (running off the main function selector switch) for your mp3 player so that you install an additional switch between the radio and the mp3 player, then you could leave the tape circuit untouched.
jerkey4 years ago
I believe the problem you are experiencing with the SD card slot is - you can't extend those wires! There is high-speed data going back and forth across them, and any wire you add will scramble that communication with the Zen, and it won't work. Experiment and try shortening the wires, or see if it still works if you put it back the way it was. If it doesn't, maybe it got killed. If it does work, it's probably the wire length - maybe you could get away with a couple of inches?
Kepster (author)  jerkey4 years ago
Yay! Someone with an SD card slot answer! I don't know of anyone who has tried to do this type of mod with the SD card. The idea is to use SD card kind of like old school cassette tapes only you can have a whole huge collection instead of 40 mins of music. The only way to find out what will actually work is experiment I guess. I think maybe I'll try to modify an SD card reader or something along those lines. Maybe experiment with different extension cables.
Yay! I found more peoples with the same mp3 player as me!!!
DIY Dave5 years ago
How many volts is the motor you disconected? If it is a 5 volt motor you could run the wires from it to charge your Mp3 player.
Kepster (author)  DIY Dave5 years ago
You have to be careful...even if it is a 5 volt motor watch out for power spikes. If you do something like that make sure you use a voltage regulator.
and maybe a capacitor on each side of the regulator to filter power spikes
Kepster (author)  sk8erdude5 years ago
I'm sure if that will work. It is very tricky to get charging to work. It's even trickier to get it to charge and play at the same time with out noise interference. I've been considering removing the battery all together and adding a 3.5 v voltage regulator and just using power from the box. 3.5 volts is the current I get from the battery.
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