Ghettoblaster MP3 Player Installation




This shows the conversion or more of an installation of a 4 gig Creative Zen MP3 personal media player into a vintage National Panasonic RX-5030 boombox ghettoblaster.

I've featured the finished product on my home website Furocious Studios

Thanks to those users who have gone before me unknownuser2007 and HappyDad their instructables were key in pointing me in the right direction.

The inspiration for my project actually came from the guy who installed a 7 inch Tablet PC into a Hitachi ghettoblaster to achieve a Boombox PC. Gutterslide And now with the advent of the iPod Touch and several knockoff versions of the MP3 player...hmmm consider the possibilities!

Don't electrocute yourself! If you don't know anything about electricity then Stay Away! The warning on the cover of appliances about electrocution is there for a reason. You can be shocked and even killed x_X I haven't been shocked on this project but I don't go poking around where I shouldn't be. If you are getting jolts or blowing fuses that is a sure sign that you have no business messing with electronics. Consider yourself lucky you could be dead.

Step 1: Choosing Components

Make sure you carefully plan out your modifications and hopefully have some back up plans in case things don't work out. Leave some room for experimentation. If you can find some junk to play around with before you move on to the good stuff that is preferable. I wasn't about to go installing a $300 iPod before I tried this out with the cheaper stuff on my first attempt. The 1st MP3 player I used cost me $11. Use cheaper components to test your connections. Make sure you have a Multimeter and know how to use it!

Selecting a Boombox

I found my boombox on ebay. There you have a bit of a selection. I also kept my eye open for 2nd hand shops, flea markets and yard sales.

1. I was looking for a boombox that had Aux Inputs just in case modifying
the tape deck didn't work out.

2. I payed particular attention to the ends and face of the box to make sure
there would be room to add the additional jacks and ports for my mods.

3. I wanted a boombox that could put out some decent volume. EQ wasn't as
necessary because most MP3 players have presets.

4. I was looking for a King of Boomboxes or at least the classic look.

5. Lots of chrome and lots of buttons and lots of features!!!

6. I was looking for a box with VU meters but those can be added later so
that wasn't as important.

Selecting an MP3 player

I looked for deals online. I ended up with a refurbished player for a fraction of the price for one brand new.

1. I had to keep in mind that I was going to install the MP3 player in the Cassette Deck
and make it appear as if it were a cassette in the window. So I had to choose an MP3
player that had a landscape orientation.

2. Most of the functions needed to be on the front of the MP3 player or I was going to have
wire displaced buttons to somewhere on the front of the boombox. The more buttons
to move then the more chances I would singe the circuits on the MP3 player (MP3
players have a lot of micro circuitry that is tricky to solder with clumsy fingers like mine).

Finding the bits

I made several trips to Radio Shack and ordered some buttons and things at Look around online there are lots of places to buy components. Best of all many of the components I scavenged from other electronics I had previously. I'm a pack rat so I managed to save a lot of money on parts.

Step 2: Goodbye Cassette Player?

This boombox was a beauty and it was my sad duty to remove the tape deck. Most tape players of this age rarely function with the pristine quality perceived of these devices back in the 80s. I don't know if they were all that wonderful back then or it was just my wide eyes and blissful imagination.

The first order of business was to carefully remove the cassette deck keeping in mind that I might need to re purpose some of the parts. The green arrows show where the wires connect the tape head to the circuit board. I thought it would be nice to use the wires with the 3 prong connector to attach the headphone output to the board...ah but to a blank spot elsewhere on the board.

Step 3: Power to the Tape Deck!

Here is a handy component I was hoping to use in my project. It's the switch that turns on the power to the tape deck circuits. Or it would have been handy if I would have figured out exactly where to connect my inputs on the Function Selector Switch.

Initially I soldered the circuit closed so that it would power up immediately when the Tape Function was selected. Perhaps I could hook my MP3 charger where the Tape Motor was? Later I abandoned this idea and de-soldered the connection when I figured out where the main power was for the boombox. Now when the Tape Function is selected the boombox is essentially switched off.

Looking back with a little more research I could probably find a way to disable the cassette amp, still use the clean tape audio inputs at the function selector, and run the charger off the power source that was originally for the motor.

Step 4: Disconnect the Tape Deck Motor

In order to remove the tape deck you have to desolder the motor. The tape deck motor runs off power that may be tapped for another function. Originally I thought I would hook up the charger to this circuit on the motor wires.

Step 5: Prep the Deck to Be Accommodate the MP3 Player

Oh how I hate an MP3 player exposed to the elements. I think it's foolhardy engineering to have your MP3 player sticking out of the top of your boombox or dangling from a cord off the side.

So I decided to permanently install the MP3 player inside the old cassette carriage. In order to retain functionality of the front of the player I had to cut a hole in the face of the carriage. Also I custom cut a slot to slide the MP3 player into position.

This solution provides the MP3 player with added protection and shock resistance. Also the inset position provides added protection from scratching the face.

I'm sure that ultimately this project seriously voids the warranty on the MP3 player.

NOTE: Particular care must be taken and painstaking attention to detail in order to keep the final product from looking like the hack-job that this really is. Your cuts must be exact! Use some sandpaper can be used to smooth the edges but be careful to not scratch the surrounding finish. I used a dremel to make the cuts. Be careful that no rotating part of the dremel housing comes in contact with the finish.

Holes must be cut in the cassette carriage and the deck to accommodate the plugs and side button wires of the MP3 player.

Step 6: Wire in the Jacks

Next i found a blank spot on the board to rewire the 3 pronged jack. This is so that if I want to tear the boombox open for whatever reason I can easily detach the front of the box. This is where I will connect my "headphone" jack to.

On the other side of the board I tried to determine where to wire my audio on the Function Selector switch. I was going for connecting to the tape function bypassing the amplifier for the tape deck. Eventually I abandoned this approach and just cheated and wired up to the Aux Line Input RCA jacks.

It would have helped to have the repair manual for this boombox but I didn't get that until I had finished the project. If only I had been a little patient who know how it would have turned out. All my attempts to use the tape deck circuit resulted in underlying noise that was simply avoided by going for the Aux Line In. Perhaps I could have figured out how to not only disconnect the motor but also disconnect the tape amp it would have been different.

The early reason I decided to go with the Aux Line in instead of the Tape Circuit was I wanted to use the motor power source for the charger. That changed later along the way as well. Now the Tape Selection serves as a total power down for the boombox.

Here's an instructable that successfully uses the tape circuit to play and charge an iPod

Step 7: Reroute Side Buttons to the Front of the Boombox

Time to void the warranty on the MP3 player... Carefully figure out how to open the case of the MP3 player. Usually carefully twisting the player will get it to split open. Determine where the fasteners are in the case and carefully unsnap them. Prying on the edges of the split will chew up the side (not that anyone will see the sides) you may possibly slip and damage the inside of the MP3 player or slip out and slice your hand. Some how I managed to avoid damaging anything.

Now with a micro-tip on your soldering iron and use extreme precision to solder your button wires to the solderpoints inside the MP3 player. If you splash any solder or overheat the components you will soon be chucking your MP3 player in the trash or scrapping it out for parts. I experimented on a $11 MP3 player that I burned up prior to this step when working on the whole charger set up.

The best place to thread the wires is through one of the openings for side buttons you displaced in this installation.

Make sure you seal up the MP3 player again for added protection before you finish installing it into the deck.

By the way...the MP3 player is precisely lined up and hot glued into the cassette carriage.

Step 8: The SD Card Drive Dilema

One of the MP3 player features that was displaced on the side was the SD card slot. I thought that wouldn't be a problem I would just install one on the side of the boombox next to the USB port.

Well I never did get that part figured out. Any help here would be appreciated. I checked and rechecked the wiring but never got my extension to work. I used a micro SD card adapter to go into the card slot on the MP3 player. I drilled holes in the connectors and soldered wires to run to a New card slot for the exterior of the boombox. Essentially this mod was an extension cable adaptor. I tested the setup. All the connections were wired correctly from the adaptor to the New card slot. But I couldn't get the new card reader to work before final install so I gave up.

My final solution was to hack open a spot in the cassette carriage and deck to get to the MP3 player card slot. Fortunately the Zen is compatible with an 8 gig card. Most MP3 players only allow a 2 gig. Needless to say that 8 gigs lets you store a lot of music.

Unfortunately the Zen I purchased was a refurbished unit. Not long after I started using it I had a miserable time updating firmware or loading anything on the actual MP3 player itself. This means I have to crack the boombox any time I want to add or change music.

Step 9: Charge!!! or Maybe Just Recharge.

Lastly I installed a DC USB charger which I mounted to the inside frame. I wired this to a switch and the external USB outlet. The voltage regulator put out a nice even 5 voltz for my MP3 player but the charger itself creates too much interference to charge while playing music. The charger is powered off of the main power circuit of the boombox itself (which is 9 volts). So it can charge the MP3 player if the boombox is powered by AC or powered by Batteries. I traced the circuits from the AC transformer and the battery compartment and discovered the + and - points were actually labeled with tiny "+" and "-" symbols on this models printed circuit board.

WARNING: Testing the voltage on a boombox that is plugged in to an AC outlet can cause electric shock, serious injury, and even death! If you don't know how to use a multimeter chances are you shouldn't be attempting this type of mod.

The USB data lines from the MP3 player run directly to the new Micro USB port mounted on the end of the boombox. The power lines from the Charger go to the New switch so that power can either come from the Charger or from the New Micro USB port which can be linked to your computer to load music onto your MP3 player.

With the charger installed I do not have to have a computer to recharge your MP3 player.

Oh...the old tape counter...that is just there for cosmetics.

Step 10: Is That a Cassette Player or an MP3 Player?

Lastly I made a wallpaper image using one of my favorite brand of blank cassette tapes I used to use back in the 80s.

Now sometimes you can glance at the Tape Deck and swear that there is a tape in it.

Step 11: Going Crazy!!! ...future Projects.

The boombox was an overall success. The only problem I've had is that you eventually have to charge the battery on the MP3 player and the electrical interference is too much to play music while it charges.

I am considering trying to figure out how to set up the MP3 player to run off of power from the box instead of the battery. To accomplish this I would probably use a 5 volt voltage regulator. However if charging causes an electric hummmm then running power from the boombox will probably do the same. So I will have to install a ground loop isolator (two audio transformers) in the audio lines.

I went on to modify another boombox. This time I used a Magnavox D 8443 and an iVO-Sound m1050 personal media player.

Installing the MP3 player displaced 5 buttons and a power switch which I relocated to the old cassette player buttons. All of these buttons being outside of the MP3 player cause a horrible ground loop problem. I tried a ground loop isolator but it cut out some of my sound as well. Frustrated I asked the question on the Instructable question area and figured out the best I could do to resolve this was change the power cord to a three prong cord. I still haven't changed the power cord yet. I am scrounging around for an old computer component that has a three pronged socket to replace the standard two pronged socket of the boombox. The two HOT prongs go to where the old ones were. The third prong the ground wire is connected to where the ground wires from the audio cables connect to the board on the boombox. Of course if you have an older house your power outlets may not be grounded so a three pronged plug wont do you any good. If that's the case then call an electrician and have your house properly grounded before bad things happen to your happy home.

My favorite mod is that I added LED VU meters under the left and right speakers. I got the LED kits ready-made off of ebay For one of the speakers I had to resolder all the LEDs to the other side of the board to get the board to fit in such a tight spot. Unlike light bulbs LEDs are Unidirectional so you have to solder them back on so the electricity flows through the LED in the same direction as before.

This whole project has been a ton of fun troubleshooting and problem solving. Every feature you decide to add and every different component you use puts a whole new spin on how the project will turn out.

If there is a next project I will probably attempt install an MP3 player that I make from scratch that mainly plays SD cards and USB flash drives. has several kits I could use to do this.

...after having said all that...For anyone who attempts a project like this I wish you the best of luck!!! Have fun!!!!



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    58 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Right now I'm listening to my version of the 2016 digital boom box. My collection of 70000 digital tracks was too large for mp3 players, and I couldn't find any sound device with enough internal storage and a screen for navigation through my music library. Mine features a Toshiba NB305 10" Netbook with a 1TB USB drive and a SoundFreaq Pocket Kick blue tooth speaker mounted to the lid with Velcro. Some right-angled USB adaptors that are ordered will provide a compact USB cable to keep the Sound Kick batteries charged for disconnected listening. A tiny USB blue tooth adapter works when speaker is disconnnected. The Net Book fortunately provides three USB sockets to make it all work. And the Sound Freaq has surprisingly good sound from three speakers.

    4 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    Sounds like it is an awesome set up! I'd like to see some pics if you have any to share.


    Reply 2 years ago

    I'm trying to upload images, having a problem. They seem to disappear.


    Reply 2 years ago

    I haven't yet received the right-angle USB adapter so the wires still hang out too far, but you can get the idea. On the NetBook is about five or six years old and I'm still running Windows XP SP 2 patched up to date, with Media Player 10, which I guess officially doesn't work with XP, but so far so good. I maxed out the memory on the machine, and split my library in two, as I mentioned, for performance. Any questions, email


    Reply 2 years ago

    Hey! Windows XP! The pinnacle of the Windows OSs. Anything newer than XP is overly bloated and probably wouldn't be much use for a GettoBlaster.

    Another possibility I've considered is repurposing old mobile devices, but touch screens are just too disgusting to contend with.


    Reply 2 years ago

    If the big brains would get it together and give us a nice boombox with a processor, navigation screen, and internal mass storage we wouldn't need to 'abuse' the old ones, that were really great in their day. My satellite radio offers a nice digital boombox thing, so why not a computer processor and screen? You can use Line IN from a computer to it also.


    Reply 2 years ago

    I would have recommended the LASONIC I931 BT, but it seems they are out of production.

    There are now many portable speaker systems you can Bluetooth with, but nothing is as advantageous as having everything onboard in one smooth package in old school style.

    The "big brains" still don't get it.


    Reply 3 years ago on Step 11

    that is so true!

    When I first started the boombox project there weren't any good ways to get big sound from a personal listening device. Now there are many options iDocks of all types, with Blutooth connecting and many convenient options.

    Technology has finally come around so there is very little reason to abuse a boombox. Now for most boxes you can buy a simple adapter that will connect almost any audio via Blutooth.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Hey kepster.I have a project for a recording artist..Can we talk (Dave)


    5 years ago on Step 2

    I'm not sure why but it seems modern electronics are so weak in comparison.


    5 years ago on Step 2

    Well it was not just your blissful imagination, but the tape decks of 80's had that awesome quality especially the one from 'National Panasonic' even i have a RX5100 model and i feel a nostalgia towards it...


    5 years ago on Step 11

    Hey Kepster, I have a captcha bug that doesn't let me reply to your comment but I wanted to update you on my Montgomery Ward box:

    Thanks for the reply. I was able to find a place to tap in after the preamp. I tried at both the output pins of the preamp chip and on the input selector switch. I was able to get clean sound at both points, but at very low volume. I even tried with a USB DAC that puts out over 2 volts of line level, supposedly more than the cassette preamp is capable of. It looks like this trick is not going to work and I suspect it may be an impedance mismatch issue, however I am not well read on that subject. In the end, I realized this box has L & R Mic inputs on the back and to my delight, they take line level signal perfectly! I can just solder some leads to these internally and be on my way. The tape player doesn't even need to be playing for the Mic input to work.

    However...I just searched for info on my Boombox and discovered it is a pretty rare one. The last example that sold on eBay went for $217! I may not be modding this one after all, seeing as how it's in great condition and everything works. Thanks again for your tutorial- I may try this project on a little rougher box.

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Step 11

    When you mentioned the brand I took a quick look on ebay to see what boxes came up and they are worth quite a bit.

    That is where you have to decide if the mods you make are worth it. If you do a nice clean job and do it right being careful not to harm the original features it might even be welcome to someone wanting to buy it later. For example you find a box that doesn't have an Aux In and you add one, most people get these old boxes to jack in their tunes anyway. You do a good enough job an the won't know that Aux In wasn't an original feature ;)

    However the mods I have made are a bit extreme. Plus the boom box most likely will out last any new-tech mp3 player you could add to it since all modern tech is basically made to be disposable after just a couple years.


    5 years ago on Step 11

    Thanks for this! I just started on a Montgomery Ward boombox. I found the cassette audio input to the main board and tapped my ipod into that but the levels are way too hot and everything is completely distorted with the VU meters maxed the whole time. I assume the problem is that my line level signal is hitting the cassette preamp. What is my next step, find a place to tap in that bypasses the cassette amp? I do not want to use the radio line as I listen to it often. Thanks!

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Step 11

    With the Magnavox the radio has it's own circuit before the amp so I was able to install an additional input switch to switch between radio and my input. I would set the main selector to radio and then my bypass switch from radio to my mp3 player.

    The trouble with the cassette line is you have an extra on switch to power the circuit (the play button), you have the motor which causes noise interference, and you don't want to use input point at the head because of the preamp. My best guess is you can bypass the preamp at the input selector switch.

    Another option is the good old car cassette input adaptor. If you have to use the cassette line there may be a way to modify a cassette adaptor to do what you want. That actually modifies the sound to work through the head in the cassette deck.

    Don't give up, there are lots of new mods out there since the time I did this project. Also there are finally new boom boxes out there that can run off a usb flash drive and SD card. They just weren't very common when I did this project. That was my initial goal to pop in a flash drive or SD card like we used to pop in and old school cassette tape.


    5 years ago on Step 11

    I don't know anything about circuit boards, but I sure enjoy reading this instructable. Good job and it looks awesome.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I once had a large, advanced boombox...whose cassette deck and amp died. The speakers and power supply and antenna were still in good shape. I also had a car cassette receiver I didn't need. I hacksawed/Dremeled the top plate to fit the deck knobs and faceplate, wired it up to the power supply and hooked up the antenna to the antenna jack. Finally, I wired up the output to the speakers. Worked great for several years (of course, the P/S has to be adequate and the speakers of matching impedance). I was gonna paint it camo and letter FrankenBlaster on it but never got "aroundtuit."

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Car Stereos add a whole new realm of possibilities. My latest idea is to make a boombox (custom portable cabinet) from a complete car stereo system. There are many luxurious features on car stereos that most home systems don't have.

    Let me know if you post some pictures of the FrankenBlaster, it would be interesting to see!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Sorry, it's long gone. Car stereos have better sensitivity/selectivity than many stationary audio stuff-by necessity.