Instructables

Upgrading tube radio with new caps and IPOD/AUX input

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After fixing up the cabinet to this radio and enjoying staring at it for awhile, it is finally time to take a whack at the chassis. It worked fairly good as it was but it had a hum that was always in the background which gets pretty annoying after awhile. Its also not good for the tubes and what not when it does that anyway. The FM band on this radio doesnt work either. these issues will all be fixed in this instructable plus a couple of other things to make it more "usable" for newer technology with an IPOD/ aux input.

you need some tools for this plus some safety common sense
1: multi meter
2: soldering iron
3: solder
4: scrap wire
5: wire snips
6: new capacitors!
7: earphone jack
8: a drill and a 1/4 inch bit

 
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Step 1: Inventory the caps to be replaced

Picture of Inventory the caps to be replaced
IMG_0469.JPG
  In order for you to know what to replace, an inventory must be made of what needs to be replaced. Since all radios are different you need to figure out exactly what your radio has inside. you can do this by either looking directly at the capacitors and hopefully the numbers will be still visible. You can also look at the service manual for a schematic for your radio. you can get one here: http://www.nostalgiaair.org/ If they have a schematic for your radio, it will be like mine and list specifically every capacitor and resistor value and any other bit of info about your radio. mine even tells me how to calibrate the AM and FM which would seem impossible without the manual. The manual also show component locations to help you locate the parts. 
   
  Next, get a piece of paper to write down the values and voltages you need. I also wrote down conversions from microfarads to picofarads to help when i go to select the new ones. from what ive done research on and what the great people on this website have told me, the paper and wax capacitors are the ones that need to be changed, which is underneath the chassis. As far as the humming noise goes. that is the electrolytic capacitors in the power supply circuit, mine was located in a metal can on the top of the chassis which contains 3 capacitors inside it actually. 

  Make sure the radio is unplugged before you go poking at things! on most chassis, the metal case is the negative part. but while you're in there, look around and see if there is any burnt out parts or wires that need attention. 
ruineves2 years ago
Hi there, thanks a lot for the instructions. I have also an old radio and I was wondering if it is possible to connect my phone to it so I can play my mp3's with that warm sound of the tubes. Now I know the answer.

But I still have some questions:
Do we need to convert the digital sound from the mp3 player (iPod or not) into an analog signal?

The output signal from a mp3 device (iPod or not) is not too strong for the old radio?
florlayamp (author)  ruineves2 years ago
The headphone jack on any device is an analog signal, You can even use the line out jack if your device has one. As far as the signal being too strong for the radio, i havent seen any reason to be alarmed by it. cranking up the sound on the ipod just makes the radio go louder like it would with a newer one. I usually have the ipod volume all the way up :).
dsandds20032 years ago
Their is another trick to the DIODE tubes. Most of the BAD or dead diod sections can be tricked into working. I used to use 1n4004 diodes to replace the detector that was weak or bad. I just soldered them into the circuit. I also used to take the 6H6 metal tubes apart and unsolder the pin ends to remove the small glass tube inside the metal shield. I then would replace the diode sections of the tube with 1n4004. Then used a 5 watt resistor to replace the filiment ( can't remember the value ). This also worked for alot of other tubes. In some cases you can use a 1n4146 for some detectors. These fixes worked better than a new tube.
fraugefahr2 years ago
This is awesome!!!!! I have been looking for a tutorial like this for a long time - always wondered if it was possible. I am definitely going to have to try this - thanks so much for sharing it!
macwhiz2 years ago
You should be careful, some of the old tube radio chassis are connected to the Hot AC line, and would fry your iPod or mp3 player used for input
VadimS macwhiz2 years ago
Yes, it's often a good idea to re-wire it with a 3-prong plug.
VadimS VadimS2 years ago
http://www.angelfire.com/electronic/funwithtubes/AA5-6.html
Her actually is a good article.
macwhiz VadimS2 years ago
An isolation transformer, mounted externally would probably be the best
florlayamp (author)  macwhiz2 years ago
i do like the idea of an isolation transformer for safety and piece of mind. wouldnt the chassis in this case be similiar to a neutral connection? ive connected one wire of car speakers to the vehicle chassis this way when i didnt have enough wire and it worked in a similar way. luckily for me everything seems to be working fine with this circuit. "knock on plastic"
lesizz macwhiz2 years ago
Worse yet, with the frame of the jack connected to the chassis in this type of radio there is a SERIOUS SHOCK HAZARD. And a 3-wire plug won't help. What is needed to make the project safe for radios with one side of the line connected to the chassis is to run the power line through an isolation transformer like this one:
http://www.newark.com/triad-magnetics/n68x/isolation-transformer/dp/18M9252?in_merch=Popular Isolation Transformers&MER=PPSO_N_P_Isolation_None

That way neither power line wire connects directly to the radio, but goes through the transforme first.
c_madsen2 years ago
I like how you have kept so much of the original components, and only changed a few capacitors. I would have been tempted to rip out all the old components and replace them with new ones.
VadimS c_madsen2 years ago
There's no point in replacing the other parts. Carbon resistors, mica, and ceramic capacitors don't degrade with use or age. With a unit this old you may as well replace all the electrolytic capacitors because of there age On new equipment, it may be worth testing the capacitors first, but most people reading this don't have an lcr meter to do that (hehe got a really nice one given to me).
One of the interesting things about the older tube circuits is the richness in tone quality that the capacitance of the tube impart. I have rebuilt older T.V.s inparticular an Advent Video Beam 1000. These were the projection sets sometimes used by GoundRound in their restaurants in the 1970 into the '80s. They have an giant 8' screen which is great to watch.