Introduction: Retro Radio Pi

About: Love to refurbish and repurpose old radios/devices into modern items for the house. Brings back old classic style!!

Have you ever seen those old radios in junk stores, or at flea markets and think... man that would be cool if it still worked. Well, this tutorial may not breathe life back into the dead electronics you may have found, but it will take that old shell and make something cool out of it.

Step 1: Parts List and Assumptions:

Let's start off with some things that you will need as well as some basic skills that you should have to complete the project.

Parts List:

  • PC or Mobile device that can control the Raspberry Pi via SSH


  • Basic Linux command knowledge will be needed to configure and control the Raspberry Pi.
  • Basic woodworking skills to modify the case if needed
  • Basic cable management skills to make the finished product look clean
  • Ability to use a hot glue gun for attaching things to the shell (LED strips, Wires, Speakers and such)

Step 2: Step 1- Find the Shell and Determine the Layout of the New Hardware

I found the shell for the project at a local trade show and lucked into it for $10.00. Most of the electronics and hardware were still in place. Minus one front panel knob, one vacuum tube, and a back panel. But no worries my plan was not to restore the old hardware on this radio anyway, just keep it in place to give the appearance of an old radio.

But for reference here is the Radio that I found :1957 Motorola Volumatic Tube Radio

In the pictures above you can see the old receiver shell as well as the speaker from the original radio. I did not keep the old speaker for the project but the top half of the receiver is the same in the finished project.

Step 3: Step 2- Setup Your Raspberry Pi

While this isn't a Raspberry Pi tutorial ...I will run through the common steps assuming that you have purchased the basic Raspberry Pi kit.

  • Kits normally come with the following (CanaKits on Amazon)
    • Raspberry Pi
    • Heat sinks
    • SD Card with a basic OS installed
    • Case for the Pi
    • Power Supply

I will let the manufactures guide assist you assembly of items above with a few items to make things run smoother below-

  • I recommend running the latest version of Raspbian OS for your version (Raspbian Download), as the setup of Pianobar, later on, has been tested and works with that OS.
  • Depending on where you are going to have the device you may want a USB Wireless adapter, just ensure that it is compatible with the version of Raspberry Pi you purchase. (Universal USB Wifi for the Pi)

Step 4: Step 3- Setup SSH on the Raspberry Pi

  • You will need to connect a USB keyboard and monitor up to the Raspberry Pi for this step
    • Mouse is optional but if the boot options take you straight to a desktop view it makes it easier to navigate to the terminal
  • Once connected and the Raspberry Pi boots up to the shell or desktop the configuration is about the same

Shell prompt-

  • sudo raspi-config
    • Select 'advanced options'
    • Select 'SSH'
    • Select ' Enable'
    • Exit the menu by selecting finish and allow the Pi to reboot


  • Navigate the menu to the terminal
    • sudo raspi-config
      • Select 'advanced options'
      • Select 'SSH'
      • Select ' Enable'
      • Exit the menu by selecting finish and allow the Pi to reboot

Default credentials for SSH logins on the device are below if you plan on keeping this only accessible inside your network the defaults are normally fine, but if remote access is wanted you should look to run SSH on a non-standard port with stronger credentials.

  • user- pi
  • password- raspberry

From a Windows computer use the application Putty (Download location) to connect to the device

  • You will need the IP address of the Raspberry PI ...easy way is to log back into the Pi before you disconnect the monitor and keyboard
  • From the shell prompt run the following:
    • ifconfig
  • Once you have the IP address of the Pi
    • Use putty with the following:
      • pi@IP_ADDRESS
      • Port- 22
      • Connection type- SSH
    • When you connect, use the password: raspberry (unless you have changed it previously)

Step 5: Step 4: Setting Up Pianobar and Test With Pandora

Setting this up to stream Pandora was as easy as following this tutorial-

Thanks go to - GraziCNU for the walkthrough

Some notes:

  • Commands are done through the SSH connection, can be from PC or mobile device as long as it can communicate with the Pi. If you are connecting from outside your local home network you will need to allow the device to host SSH connections through your firewall and/or router.
  • If you run multiple instances, such as connecting from the PC and mobile, both instances of pianobar will send sound to the speakers making for a very interesting mash-up.

Step 6: Step 5- Temp Fit Hardware Into the Shell

So where does the hardware go ...well depends on the case and the way you want to route the cables for the final install.

For this build here are my notes:

    • Installed two small 3 inch USB desktop speakers to the front grill, since only one was in the original I had to cut the faceplate to allow the sound out from the screen.
    • Behind the left speaker, I placed the Raspberry Pi and RF filter, ensuring that my USB and CAT-5 cables were accessible from my back panel.
    • My power cord and DC adapter for the Raspberry Pi are under the old receiver chassis, I removed most of the old capacitors and wiring since that section would not be reused.
    • The strip LED's that I used for this project have double sided sticky tape for placement, I made sure the control switch was accessible next to the Raspberry Pi for final assembly.
    • The back panel wasn't on the radio so I used a thin piece of plywood and stained to a close match. The cutouts in the panel allow for the LED light to backlight the radio when powered up.
    • Because the Raspberry Pi's audio circuit is noisy, I use an inline isolator to cut out some of the static from the power supply. If you are using a USB Bluetooth adapter and Bluetooth speakers you can skip past using the inline isolator.

    Step 7: Step 6- Final Install of Hardware and Cables

    So to install everything I went easy ...used hot glue to attach the speakers, Pi case, RF Filter, and LED strips. Gave me really good flexibility for mistakes as well. Used small zip ties on the cables and tacked them down with hot glue as well.

    Step 8: Step 7- Test and Share Your Results

    Quick clip to show the Pandora streaming on the new Retro Radio Pi

    Look forward to seeing your builds and comments.

    Step 9: Final Price-

    • Parts (Some of these I had so my total was much lower at around $28.00 total)
      • Shell - $10.00
      • CanaKit- $69.00 (Had)
      • RF isolator -$9.99 (Had)
      • LED's - $8.49
      • Speakers- $8.99
      • Hot glue - $4.00 (Had)
      • Plywood sheet - $4.00 (Had)
    • Total $115.46
    Reclaimed Contest 2017

    Participated in the
    Reclaimed Contest 2017

    Raspberry Pi Contest 2017

    Participated in the
    Raspberry Pi Contest 2017