Hey! So if you're here you've probably read about and seen other projects like this. We've been blessed with this amazing personal assistant speaker, and now, if you're like me, you want to take her apart and turn her into something unique.
Well! Either way, in this instructable I'm putting my Amazon echo into a Philco Radio. I'm going to make the assumption that, if you are planning a similar project, you will use completely different makes/models of speakers and radios. In that case, some of this information you may still find useful.
What will it do?
If you just wanted to have music from your speaker come out of an old radio, it would be super easy to take out all the radio parts and put in all the fancy expensive parts. My old radio has four working knobs, so I decided to make one control the volume. This means I had to take the entire Amazon Echo apart and put it back together in a very interesting configuration that you will see in later steps!
In the future, I am planning to move the Echo LEDs so that they shine through the glass window of the radio. It is easier and more natural to communicate with the echo when you can see the LEDs, because they tell you many things such as relative volume level, whether Alexa is listening, and whether the microphones have been muted. Let's get to it!
Step 1: Remove Speaker(s) From Radio
The first step is to remove the speaker or speakers from your radio. Do not worry about cutting the old wires, because you should be using a Radio that no longer works (or is no longer safe to plug in). If your radio is 50 years or older and has had no replacements made, its safe to say it's unusable. The speaker in this Philco was attached with a few flat-head screws and nothing else.
Because the speaker fabric was brittle and wearing away in this Philco, I also ordered a new similar piece of fabric to replace it. This was done by removing the thin board that the fabric is attached to, peeling it off, and gluing the new fabric in place with mod podge.
Step 2: Begin to Take Apart the Echo (or Other Speaker Device)
I decided that at this point because I wanted an existing knob on the radio to control Alexa's volume, I first had to take apart Alexa. This gave me a good Idea of where I could attach the various parts in a way that would allow the knob to work. There are no detailed videos that show how to safely take the Amazon Echo, so I will go into detail in another instructable.
Read my instructable on taking apart an Amazon Echo here: Instructable!
Step 3: Make the Hard Decisions
Now is when you must decide where each component of your speaker device will fit. In my case, the Philco radio had lots of empty space. If you are using a smaller radio, you may need to take it apart more for more room. I'm sorry the first image is upside down, I'm not sure why it's loading that way.
I removed a few components of the Philco that I saw would get in my way, but in the end, I decided to put back all of the vacuum tubes I had taken out. The vacuum tubes, although usually hidden, are a part I did not want to separate from the finished product. They just look so cool in there, doing tube things.
I also took this time to decide where to attach the Echo's volume knob to be controlled by the radio knob. I decided to attach it as an extension of the main axle in order to keep access to the manual buttons on the top of the Echo.
Step 4: Fiddle With Knobs
Because I decided to attach Alexa's manual volume knob directly to the knob axle of the Philco, I avoided troubling with gears or bands.
The Amazon Echo's volume knob comes with an already pressure-fit gear, so I used it as an adapter that could be removed easily but that would not fall off accidentally. To do this, I used epoxy-putty to attach a small screw to the inside of the pressure-fit gear (The side that's not pressure-fit, obviously). I had to do this in order to bridge the gap to the end of the axle, which was on the other side of a thick metal panel. Yeah, this is pretty exciting stuff. After the putty dried and cured, I used more putty to attach the small end of the screw to the end of the axle. This was difficult, but the putty is very soft until it dries and there was plenty of time to manipulate it with a popsicle stick.
For the first few hours of drying, I used tape to support this piece so it would not fall off or become off-center.
Step 5: Mount Speaker Knob
After the putty had set and cured, I then needed to mount the speaker's interactive board in a way that would join the volume knob to the end of the axle. The mount I used was this piece of metal I had from another project, which I screwed on using a pre-existing screw and hole in the radio-box (shown in the third picture).
I mounted it as shown in the pictures at first but then decided to rotate it in order to provide better access to the ribbon cable input. This was essential because this ribbon cable is much shorter than the other ribbon cable.
After the mount is secure, I suggest you test the knob. The radio's knob should now also turn the volume knob on the inside of the Echo. In my case, because of the knob, I picked, the radio station display on the radio also rotates when this knob is turned. It is a cool bonus! Even if it is no longer a functioning radio knob for that purpose.
Step 6: Contain the Other Boards
This was a fun step to figure out. To protect the other two boards from dust, I housed each of them in a clear cassette tape case. Using a small drill bit, I drilled out holes in the cases where the screw holes on the boards were and then threaded zip-ties though to keep them in place. I also drilled a hole for the power cord to plug in, as well as the two speaker cords. I decided to cut the speaker cords at this point because I knew I wanted to extend the wires and house the speaker lower in the radio body. I made sure to mark which pair was connected to the white plug, and which pair was connected to the black plug. I then left the plugs plugged-in, as shown on the left in the image.
The ribbon cables fit through the cracks of the cases very nicely. Once I knew everything was plugged into these two boards, I sealed the cases with larger zip-ties to keep them closed and protected.
Step 7: Rewire the Speakers
As you can see in the first picture, I marked the wires that were originally connected to white plug with a white twist-tie. I soldered four one foot long lengths of wire to extend these two pairs of speaker wires. I did a rush-job on this because I did it outside, but as long as the wires are securely connected it should be fine. I twisted the extension wires as I attached them in order to keep them organized.
It is very important that the wires all end up connecting to the exact spots you disconnected them from.
Then simply heat-shrink or wrap the solder in electrical tape. I also used zip-ties to keep the two pairs of wires together, as shown in the third picture. (I am a zip-tie fiend, it's true).
Step 8: Complete
After your re-housing and soldering is complete, you have the option of securing the housing to the inside of the radio. I chose to leave my components loose because this radio does not move around ever and I intend on tinkering with these components some more. As long as they are out of the way of any radio parts that move when knobs are turned, they are safe. Due to the flexibility of the ribbon cables, I was able to just leave my cassette cases in the Philco like a pile of dirty clothes.
Because I did not have a flat surface on the inside or the radio to seat the actual speaker-portion of my personal assistant, I made a hammock out of scrap fabric. This allows me to take the speakers out without having to unscrew anything, and it does not dampen the sound very much if at all. I apologize for not having a picture.
If you can, bolting or screwing your speakers to the inside of the radio is preferable so they do not rattle around in there.
After this, you are essentially done! Plug in your power cord, make sure all of your ribbon cables are plugged in, and enjoy! Thank you very much for reading.
Step 9: EDIT: THE NEXT DAY (LEDs)
I knew i wanted my 'Plilexa' (Philco Alexa) to have a yellow LED in the front panel of the radio. I also knew I wanted it to respind just like Alexa's normal blue LED's, in order to show when Alexa is listening to commands and processing requests. Well, less than a day later I was struck with inspiration.
I remembered a video i watched on youtube by 'LOOK MUM NO COMPUTER' (here is the link:Video link) in which he described a popular system in diy synthesizer building. Basically you take a light detecting resistor and tape a light emitting diode to it with black electrical tape. Its a way to have voltage of one circuit determine the resistance of another.
I broke open a 50 cent night light to get the resistor, and bought some cheap decor with yellow LEDs at the discount surplus store (50 cents for 50 LEDs, 5 switches, and 5 extra resistors!). The string of LEDs came with a resistor and two AAA batteries, but I switched that out for a 9 volt. Then, I added the light detecting resistor next to the resistor it came with. Success! The lights could be turned on with the switch, and the brightness was determined by how much light was hitting the sensor.
After this, I simply removed the cheapo switch and wired the circuit into the radio (because my Philco had a working switch knob). Then I simply taped the sensor on the new circuit over one of the LEDs on Alexas light crown. This worked BEAUTIFULLY. Now I can turn the curcuit on and off (to save battery) without effecting Alex's performance at all. Not only that, but I can finally see whether or not shes listening. I'm very proud.