50's Philips Radio Saved From the Grave

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About: Hi my name is Thijs and i have a fascination for DIY audio systems. I love to re-purpose remarkable vintage objects as audio systems and think about how i can both make it practical as well as being pleasing...

After my suitcase boomboxes, I wanted to continue using interesting speaker enclosures. This time I used an enclosure that is actually intended to house speakers and all the additional components. I found a damaged and non-functioning 50's Philips tube radio at an antique shop and immediately liked it. Although it needed some work on the exterior (ripped cloth, corroded metal trimming, damaged wooden frame etc.) I went ahead and bought it. I documented the whole process with the intention of writing an instructable, but unfortunately i lost some pictures. I will still do my best to describe the full building process and I hope you like the end product just as much as I do.

Have fun reading!

Step 1: Components and Tools

Components:

  • Speakers - Technics SB CH-404 60w @ 4Ohm
  • Radio - 50's Philips tube radio (radio in the picture is not the original but very similar)
  • Amplifier - TDA 7492P 2*25w with built-in Bluetooth 4.0 module
  • Power supply - Mean Well 24V 6.5A Switching Power Supply (LRS-150-24)
  • 12V LED strips and 12v power supply
  • Speaker terminal
  • 230v socket and 230v switch
  • Thin particle board
  • Thin oak board
  • Dark wood stain
  • Aluminum corner pieces
  • Speaker and power cables
  • MDF board
  • Screw terminals
  • Electrical tape and heat shrinks
  • Velcro tape
  • Burlap fabric
  • Broadhead screws
  • Some nuts and bolts (i used M4 ones)
  • PCB spacers
  • Plexiglass
  • Thermoplastic connectors
  • 12v power cable and speaker cable

Tools

  • Soldering iron and tin
  • Wood glue
  • Staple tacker
  • Various screwdrivers
  • Coping saw
  • Sanding paper
  • Cable stripper
  • Glue gun
  • Multi meter

Step 2: Taking It Apart

Electrical components

When removing the back plates, the old electronics were visible with at least 20 years of dust on top of them. the lower metal tray was able to slide out as a whole with the glass front attached to it. As I wanted to reuse the glass front, the mechanical switches and the frame, I needed to strip all the electronics off the frame.

Housing

When I bought the radio, the wood casing was in a bad state and the speaker cloth was ripped. Furthermore, the plastic front, the switches and the metal trimming needed a good cleaning. I stripped all components and set them apart to repair them one by one.

(Again, these photo's are not of the original radio, but very similar. I used these photo's to illustrate what it looked like)

Step 3: Housing and Speaker Cloth

Housing and speaker mount

The housing was still very useful but had some drawbacks. There were a lot of holes in the bottom and the speaker mount was made of thin and weak wood with a ripped cloth. These holes were quickly patched with some leftover particle board, but the speaker mount and the speaker cloth was a bit harder.

Eventually I decided to take out the original speaker mount and replace it with the front panel of the Technics speaker cabinet I bought. I had to extend the length a bit and wanted to incorporate the front running light into my new radio. To make all of this secure and airtight i made some mounting brackets and fixed everything to the housing using wood glue and a glue gun. After fixing the inner parts of the housing I started on the outer part. I sanded down the outside and applied 4 layers of dark wood stain to give it the radio it's shiny brown color back.

Front light

The original light was not working anymore so I used a led strip I had laying around and placed it behind the metal light frame. This of course was to bright to resemble the old light. To fix this issue I sanded down two pieces of Plexiglas and glued them on top of each other. By placing this in front of the led strip I was able to create a more diffused light source which would suit this front light better.

Speaker cloth

Since I lost the photos of the building process of the speaker mount but do have the photos of building a speaker cloth frame for the other cabinet speaker, I will illustrate the building process using this example.

  1. Cut the cloth to length. Make sure you have more then enough fabric in case you make a mistake or it starts to unravel on the edges.
  2. Tack staples to opposing sides on the frame. Make sure to keep the fabric tight. When the first opposing sides are done, you do the second two. Be extra careful on the corners to get the least amount of excess fabric there.
  3. To stop the fabric from unraveling and secure it even more, I applied wood glue along the edges.

Step 4: Backplate

Since the old back plate was broken and completely filled with holes I recreated a new back plate from particle board. I traced the old plate and cut it out with the coping saw together with the mounting holes of the other components. These components were a 230V socket connected to a 230V switch, and a speaker terminal to connect the other Technics speaker cabinet i had. I hooked everything up to thermoplastic connectors so if i had to remove the back plate from the radio completely, this would be relatively easy by loosening a couple of screws.

Step 5: The New Electronics

Out with the old in with the new!

After stripping the radio from it's electrical components, the only thing I had left was a close to empty metal frame and some mechanical switches. As I felt these switches were really cool to integrate in the use of the radio, I wanted to do something with them.

The lighting

As the backlit lighting and light indicator on the speaker cloth were broken, I wanted to replace them. Luckily I had some warm white (2700k) 12v led strips laying around, as well as a 12v power supply.

Coming back to the still intact mechanical switches. As I was only comfortable with running the relatively low current of the led strips through these switches, I decided to use one of the switches to turn both lights on and off. Using the continuity function of my multimeter I traced down 2 connections which were useful to make this switch work.

Other components

After fixing the lighting i went to work on all the other components. Hooking this up was pretty straightforward. I created a hub where 230v would come in and would be distributed over the 12v and 24v power supplies. The 24v power supply is then connected to the amplifier which would amplify the audio signal and send it to the passive crossover which would distribute the frequency ranges over each speaker.

Step 6: Finishing Off

At this point the radio itself was essentially finished and fully working. Nevertheless there were still some things left to do.

Resonance chamber

As I expected the audio quality of the radio while not having an enclosed space around the speaker was close to terrible. To fix this I made an enclosure out of 10mm MDF board. To ensure the enclosure to be as airtight as possible, I put insulating strips around the edges. This enclosure improved the audio quality significantly.

Stereo speaker

Since the radio consisted of a single 3 way speaker system at the moment and i still had the other speaker laying around, I wanted to combine the two. As the original aesthetic of the cabinet speaker was a bit out of tune with the radio, I thought of a way to make them look alike. To do this, I glued thin oak board to the sides of the cabinet and applied the same dark wood stain as I used on the radio housing. Using the same technique I also made another speaker grill using burlap fabric and an MDF board frame. As the radio also had some metal accents, i thought it would be cool to also incorporate this in the speaker cabinet front. I bought and cut aluminum corners and darkened them a bit with wood stain to give them a weathered metal look.

Step 7: That's It!

It's done! I hope you enjoyed this instructable, I surely enjoyed building it.

This build has proven to be very useful and a great conversation piece as well. I use this audio system almost everyday and people are always drawn to it when they first see it. I am also very happy with how it turned out aesthetically, remembering in which state i got it.

I will definitely continue these kind of audio projects which combines vintage items and modern audio components. See you in the next one!

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    20 Discussions

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    hallcp

    4 weeks ago

    Looks great! You are very creative.
    And as someone else asked, is this basically just a Bluetooth speaker?

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    snorlaxprime

    4 weeks ago

    Well done to recycle the oldie back to life.

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    farna

    4 weeks ago on Step 7

    You didn't really post anything about operating. Since you mentioned built in Bluetooth I guess this is really just a Bluetooth amplifier/speaker now, no independent radio operation?

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    Thiwefarna

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    That's correct. I listen mostly to music stored locally on my devices, thus this serves my needs.

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    Thiwe

    4 weeks ago

    Concerning the critique on my project I would appreciate it if it remains constructive. This project not being a restoration project was a conscious choice based on practicalities of use and the sound quality I wanted to achieve. I intended this radio to be used daily, hence using Bluetooth and all new components.

    When i bought the radio it was highly damaged both internally as well as externally (as i stated, I lost a lot of photo's so i can't show it). It was dusting away in an old antique shop far from it's former glory. Reading some comments people act as if I desecrated this radio by stripping it's electronics. If you cannot appreciate the radio's internals not being restored to it's original state, then at least appreciate the fact it is now thoroughly enjoyed and admired by me and other young people around me.

    Even though I owe no one an explanation to why I did this project the way I did it, I hope this provided some context. Appreciating what something isinstead of complaining about what something isn't brings a lot more value to this community.

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    ToniRose

    4 weeks ago

    I love seeing classic design restored and put to new use. The speaker is a great match. (In the first picture it looked out of scale to the cabinet, but in the last ones I see they look perfect together.)

    You also gave me the solution to a sewing project I'm working on. It's using a fabric that easily frays, and I never thought of running glue around the edges. The instructions said to zigzag stitch them, but that function's not working on my machine. Now I don't have to wait for repairs to finish! Thanks.

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    ThiweToniRose

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    Thanks a lot! Great to hear you got inspiration for one of your own projects, good luck!

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    mitygeek

    4 weeks ago on Step 5

    I'm lost on the 1st picture if this is the old original wiring or your new additional workup. The next series is obvious but could you add some notes to the pictures for us less tech savvy? Thank you much I like the use of the older cases.

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    Thiwemitygeek

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    It is actually all new wiring, only the switches remained intact of the old inner workings of the radio. Thanks!

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    JohnW839

    4 weeks ago

    I love those old radios, and this project made very good use of one of those beautiful and interesting old cabinets. One suggestion: Since the LED strip is a constant (non-changing) load, you could have just used a voltage dropping resistor between the LED strip and the 24V power supply saving the 12V power supply for another project.

    It would be cool to have an actual radio receiver built into this project, but I'm not sure how you would be able to change the stations. I suppose it would depend on the radio. Then of course you'd need a way to get the radio audio signal into the amplifier. Maybe too complicated to mess with. Just a thought.

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    ThiweJohnW839

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    Thanks for the tips, that would have been a more elegant fix indeed. It just happened to be i had a ton of 12V power supplies at hand and thus used this as a solution. I agree that a true radio functionality would have been cool indeed. I thought about it but thought of it as to much hassle since i could also play radio from any device connected to the radio. Thanks for the thoughts and constructive feedback, appreciate it

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    oldtestingfool

    4 weeks ago

    By all means keep and restore the old Multi-band radio. Phillips is reknowned for their radios, and this one had Shortwave bands for worldwide radio DXing or listening. Shortwave is still around and the only form of radio in some places. You could keep the guts from the old radio setup, test the tubes (if you can find a tester!) and get it going, you'll like it.
    Good job on the redo radio, though!

    1 reply
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    Thiweoldtestingfool

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    Thanks for the constructive feedback! Contrary to other people in this comment section.

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    kmpres

    4 weeks ago

    Many people, particularly those who had or have careers in technology, enjoy restoring old tube sets from the 1920s to 1960s, often called the golden age of vacuum tubes. The technology is fascinating, the parts are easy to handle and understand, and when a working set rises out of the ashes of time it is a joy to behold! My guess is that this is particularly popular these days because it reminds people of the fun they had in tuning in radio stations and playing the vinyl records of their youth. Any radio in good physical condition can be restored, you've only to look online for details on how it is done. Young people who grew up with boomboxes and Bluetooth really don't appreciate this unless they know someone who does radio restoration for a hobby. Try restoring an antique radio rather than converting it into something modern and mass produced. I guarantee you, the experience will be much more satisfying!

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    ve6cmm

    4 weeks ago

    It's a shame to see a beautiful radio such as this being turned into a humdrum audio amplifier.
    It looks great, and you did a nice job restoring the cabinet, etc. However, you turned something of great value into nothing.

    The original radio sounded great, could pick up signals from around the world, and was something to really appreciate.

    Some things are meant to be saved in their original form. In my opinion, you could have found a better carcass to do this with.

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    ItsGraGra

    4 weeks ago

    It would have been far better to have restored the original radio than turn it into yet another boom box.

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    GlennG12

    4 weeks ago

    I like the work you did, but there are a lot of us out here that appreciate the original design. It's not all that difficult to restore one of these beauties. Basically need to replace all the capacitors and test all tubes before applying power. Most of the time this is all it takes. Keep up the good work.

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    MarioB137GlennG12

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    Yeah, I also really hoped for a restauration instructable. Reading about stripping away the old electronics made my heart break a little. All those nice vacuum tubes and sockets. :(

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    pettefar

    4 weeks ago

    Fixing and keeping the original electronics would have been so so much better, in my humble opinion.

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    LeroyW12

    4 weeks ago

    This should instructsble should be titled how to replace speaker cloth.