Hack Any Tape Player Into a Guitar Amp




Introduction: Hack Any Tape Player Into a Guitar Amp

About: I've always liked pulling things apart - it's the putting back together again that I have some issues with.

Tape players are pretty much obsolete these days. The only place you can find tapes is either the thrift shop or the back of grannies cupboard. After making an ible' on how to convert a radio to an amp, I thought I'd try a tape player.

All Tape players (and radios) have an amplifier built into them – it’s how your able to increase the volume. What this hack allows you to do is to tap into the Tape players amplifier so you can play guitar through it. You may be thinking why in hell would I want to do that! Well hacking a tape player gives you the most amazing vintage tone. The distinct “Lo-fidelity” sounds made from hacking the tape player are great. It’s a real raw and dirty sound which is perfect for playing some bluesy riffs.

I found this tape player at the tip and thought why not give it a new purpose. The hack isn't too difficult, the hardest part is probably removing the head to reveal the wires. It's nigh on impossible to get to the head from the back of the player (believe me I've tried!) so the best way to get to it is through the front.

I've also made a video of the build as well which you can find on the next step.

Check out this website - it has some wicked ideas on how to convert radio's and tape players into amps and is a great source of information

Step 1: Watch the Video

The clip goes through how I made it and also what it sounds like.

Apologies for my playing!

Step 2: Things to Gather


1. Tape Player – You probably have one sitting around gathering dust. If not, try eBay, op/thrift shop, garage sales, dad’s shed!

2. Input audio Jack (6.5mm) – eBay

3. Wire

4. Heat-shrink


1. Small screwdriver and Philips head

2. Soldering iron

3. Pliers and wire cutters

4. Drill

Step 3: Check Out Your Tape Player

The tape player that I used has a left and right volume control as well as a tone knob. This is a good thing as it gives me more options with the type of sound that the amp will produce. It also has a radio which should still work after the hack.

To get to the tap[e reader of head, you need to decide whether you go from the back or front. I have tried this hack on a couple other tape decks and went the back way. Not really a good idea though as it's hard to actually get to the head that way. If you go from the front, you will only need to remove the door. It's a hell of a lot easier than trying to get through all the circuit boards and mechanical bits and pieces that will be in your way if you choose the back door.

Step 4: Removing the Head


1. Pull off the tape door. You might need to give it a good pull to remove it and you'll probably break a couple plastic tabs but don't worry, you should still be able to close the door after the hack. If not, you can always glue the door on or add some double sided tape.

2. Find the head. It's that rectangle, silver thing that you can see come down when you push play. To remove you will have to un-do the couple of screws that usually hold it on. You may have to cut away a little of the plastic to get to the screws.

3. Once you un-do the head, remove the wires by de-soldering. These wire are what you are going top attach the jack to

Step 5: Wiring


1. You will need to solder on some longer wires to the ones from the head. There are 4 wires that are attached to the head and you will need to solder wire onto each one.

2. Solder the wire extension and add some heat-shrink top the solder points.. The wires from the head are in lots of 2. One lot has grey heat shrink and the other black. The wires coming out are red and white. I soldered on red wires to the red ones and black wires to the grey ones.

Step 6: Attaching the Jack

After some experimenting I worked out the best way to attach the wires to the jack


1. Attach the 2 wires which have the black heat shrink on it together and also the black wire from the grey heat shrink. So you should have 3 wires soldered together and one wire (red) by itself.

2. Next you need to solder the jack onto the wires. There are 2 solder points on the jack. The 3 wires need to be soldered to the that is on the side of the jack,. The other 3 wires should be soldered to the other solder point.

Step 7: Adding the Jack to the Tape Door

You could if you wanted to, add the jack to the side of the tape player. I decided to add it to the door so I could get to it easy if I had to.


1. Drill a hole into the door. Make sure that there will be enough room for the male jack to go all the way into the female jack. I had to remove some plastic from the inside to make enough room.

2. Attach the jack to the door.

3. Replace the door. If necessary, you might have to add a little glue so the door stays closed.

Done! Now it's time to plug in the guitar and make some noise. Play around with the volume and tone if you have it on your tape player to get the best sound. Another tip is to turn the volume down on your guitar and use the volume on the tape player. this can also help get a better sound.

Step 8: Removing the Motor

This step isn’t necessary but I’ve read that the motor cancause some interference so I decided to disconnect it. You will have to take off the back to get to the motor but it should be too hard to reach.


1. Remove the belt that drives the tape player. This can be found on the actual motor.

2. I also decided to cut the wires on the motor so it didn’t work at all. Find the wires that drive the motor and cut them. Be careful that you don’t cut the wring thing!



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27 Discussions

Hi, I was interested in using this idea, but as a slave amp by plugging it into my main amps effects loop. My question is, how would I modify this to have an audio input AND output to return the signal to my main amp?

The real 70s and 80s tape hack was: take a 3mm to 6mm jack cable ( or a regular cable if you want to smplify your Sinclair ZX Spectrum or, say, your mobile phone from the future). Plug 3mm jack into tape recorder's mic input, and 6mm jack into guitar. Open tape deck and press down heads while pressing rec and play. Now you have an amplifier.
The main difference is it needs a tape recorder, while your hack works in tape players also.

2 replies

I did that with my speccy! I had completely forgotten about this until now. Thanks for the memory!

aha! yes I'd see how this would work... Might give this a try next.

hey great tutorial my player head only has two wires and what I think is a ground attached to the frame. I followed your video but without success. How would wire this? Thanx john

1 reply

Hey John,
Have you tried to attach the 2 wires to the input jack? if not, give that a try. Also, if the ground it attached to the frame, then maybe attach a ground wire from the input jack to a ground terminal and then touch one (or both together) the wires from the head to the jack and see if that works.

Good luck!

Do I have to push play to make it work? I am trying to convert a line and it has some problem with the motors, so the autostop mechanism kicks out the play button every time I push it. Is that a problem?

BTW, great instructable.

1 reply

Yes it does. If your play button isn't staying down I'd say your going to have to find another tape deck to use.
I cut the motor wires on mine and didn't have any issues, as a last resort you could try that.


1 year ago

seems heavily overdriven, maybe the line level off the pickup is a lot hotter than the tape head. Maybe put a pot and tiny cap inline to act as an attenuator?

1 reply

Hey there,
That's actually a really good idea. I'm going to do some more experiments this week and see if I can improve the sound. I have a few 1k pots at home to play with.

I used to busk on the streets of San Francisco, CA, MANY years ago. I was a sax player, so no amp needed! There was a duo, however, that used a boombox for a guitar amp, though I think they found some way to drive the stereo channels inline, so the left side would be the preamp, and the right would be post. LOTS of "crunch" (distortion) which sounded cool.

1 reply

sweet. I wonder how they did that.. I might have to do some research to find out.

I done a similar rigging as i called it to a stereo record player in 1968. Took the needle cartridge off the tone arm and the 3 wires going to this was right, neutral and left. Soldered on two 1/4" jacks and had a mic and guitar amp. Had to only turn on the platter and let it spin while i played and sang! All of ya'll have to remember stereo sound was for the rich back then. A reverberated speaker in the rear seat separation was an option!

1 reply

Nice one. I like the idea of having to spin the turntable while you play!

I wish I would have kept my kids ghetto-blasters for my guitar. Very ingenious!

1 reply

you could make a lead that plugs into your microphone socket on the PC & record it as well....

I've found that they need another 10 dB of gain to run off a guitar. I use an effects box as a preamp. I also built a preamp in a box using a TL091 FET amp chip and a 9V battery.

This is great! I've got an old boom box radio that I wanted to add a blue tooth reciever to and was unsure how to do it. This will work!