This i'ble will take you though the restoration of a vintage tube radio to near-original condition and in the process, upgrade it to play to MP3s with a low cost, easy to build AM transmitter.

This project does not rely on making permanent changes or modifications beyond cosmetic repair and is a great way to introduce novice electrical, radio, or woodworking enthusiasts to what was once the entertainment equivalent of a 60-inch LCD TV.

The model used in this rebuild is a 1936/1937 Emerson AL130 purchased on eBay for less than $60 with restoration/upgrade components rounding out to around $150 (includes Priority shipping).

From Radiomuseum.org
Emerson Radio & Phonograph Corp., New York, NY
Model: AL130
Country: United States of America (USA)
Year: 1937
Radio / Tuner
Valves / Tubes: 5 total (6A7, 6D6, 6Q7, 25L6, 25Z5) + Balast
Audio: Principle Super-Heterodyne (Super in general); IF-Freq 456 kHz; 2 AF stage(s)
Band: Tuned circuits 6 AM circuit(s), Wave bands Broadcast (MW), Police, sometimes also early TV (75-200m).
Power type and voltage: AC/DC-set / 105-125 Volt
Speaker: Loudspeaker Electro Magnetic Dynamic LS (moving-coil with field excitation coil) / Ø 5.5 inch = 14 cm
Material: Wood case (Ingraham Cabinet, Bristol, CT)
Shape: Tablemodel, Mantel/Midget/Compact but not a Portable (See power data. Sometimes with handle but for mains only).
Notes: BC(540-1580kHz) and TROP(1580-4200kHz) bands. Uses 49 volt ballast tube.

Step 1: Finding a Donor

The first step is to dig around the innerwebs and look at some of the styles manufactured during different periods, taking note of the frequencies they operate in. The most common bands are AM, FM, ShortWave, and Police. Actually playing The Police through your radio is optional, but highly recommended.

Once you get a general idea of what size/shape/era you like, research a few makes/models to determine the rarity of parts in the event your radio is missing components.

DO NOT PLUG IT IN YET! Doing so without giving it a look through for short circuits, bad wiring, or living things (not a joke) may be the last thing you do in this world or at the least, justify nasty looks and name-calling from your local firefighter.

In our example, the AL130 is quite common in that it only needs 5 tubes a balast, and a few capacitors. This is commonly known as an "All American 5" (AA5) design and makes parts easy to track down through various online suppliers.

The following links proved indispensable during the course of this project...

Information resources:


Thank you for not gutting this radio to install a mp3 amp like so many others do. If they only knew how easy it was to make a transmitter like you did then a lot of still serviceable radios would still be in action. I have an old P2 computer running Win 2K feeding a Talking House Part 15 AM transmitter for my radios. I have a fairly extensive OTR collection that's just perfect for listening to on my tube radios. Keep up the good work!
Why can't I see your video?
Sorry about that! I changed some of the privacy settings on my YouTube channel and inadvertently disabled the link. <br> <br>Should be good to go now!
The photo shows a mono plug for the audio in using a mp3 player. As a test, I plugged a set of headphones with a mono plug into my mp3 and did not get any audio out. I'm building on of these transmitters and am wondering if I should use a stereo plug?
I guess it would depend on how &quot;smart&quot; the MP3 player is. The iPod shuffle I used in this project had no problem outputting the audio to a mono channel. If you're having problems with the conversion of stereo to mono, you might try using a 1/8 stereo-to-mono adapter. <br> <br>http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2102690
i love this kind of instructable. And i seems to be well laid out. So thanks a lottttt.
Thanks for the comments!<br><br> I'll expand the tutorial to include a few more safety tips and alternative methods for going about the restoration. To be fair though, tens of millions of All American 5 (AA5) radios just like the AL130 have been manufactured, operated, and repaired safely since its introduction in 1933. Was the live demonstration with the back cover off and chassis exposed dangerous? Perhaps. I guess it all depends on who you ask and whether or not they feel comfortable in an environment given a certain experience level.<br><br>Either way, the vast majority of people who reads this will learn something they didn't know before clicking the link. That's what Instructables is all about...
I was thinking the AA5 had to include a 50C5 power tube...hmmmph really i dont remember.....yes it alway depends on who you ask and if tey feel comfortable, however.....remember a dummy will plug the plug in backwords, even a genius might not know the state of the romex inside the wall, thats why i warn.....build any tube stuff from scratch? this is a good step in that direction.
Yes and no. I've got the ideas on paper but cant decide on the face of the cabinet. Using original (recycled) parts is the goal, but doing it tastefully and not making it look like a production radio is challenging. Most faces were iconic to a specific model/manufacturer.
isolation transformer ...this is danger city...if you were to plug this in as wired into a socket that was &quot;accidentally&quot; reverse wired, the chassis, and anything conductive that touches it would be hot....and your the ground. BUUUUTTTTT once you make it safe this probably sounds great! you know if you want that tube sound you can just use barbed wire instead of speaker wire....thats what the pros use.
Nice instructable.<br><br>For safety sake, anyone considering repairing an old radio like this should also consider adding a polarized AC plug, safety capacitors and an isolation transformer.
I love it. 99% of these projects are Step 1: Gut this junk, and it makes me cry. Very nicely done sir.
Nicely done, sir. I especially like that no permanent modifications were done.

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