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Hard drive MP3 boombox? Answered

I was wondering if anyone has and Instructable or has done this. I've searched Instructables and can't find anything like this at all, which really surprised me as I thought this would have been an obvious one to do. What I'd like to do is build a bookcase / boombox stereo from scratch using: 1. an old hard drive 2. some speakers 3. a small lcd to display info 4. some basic controls 5. usb port to update files on HD -or- make the HD removable 6. whatever other electronics parts are necessary. It doesn't need to have radio, CD audio or anything else. All I want is a 200GB or larger hard drive full of MP3's and a way to play them with decent fidelity and loud without using the computer. I've built lots of PC's and know computer hardware and software fairly well but have never used a soldering iron... but can follow complex instructions very well. Also I'm not sure if it can use a prebuilt interface by scavinging the electronics from a basic el-chepo MP3 player or if it would be better to use something like a VIA Micro-ATX motherboard with built in CPU and have something like a USB drive booting to a simple version of Linux directly to a media player interface? That seems like it would cost more in parts but be simpler than creating custom circuitry. But that is the way I would go if attempting this on my own. An all hardware & firmware solution somehow seems more elegant but that's beyond my current ability's. If I go with the Micro-ATX motherboard and Linux it could be done in a modular format that would allow the addition of other components latter such as CD player (with auto MP3 ripping), input and output to other components etc. So has anyone done this? If you haven't but have the know how do you want to collaborate via e-mail and walk me through it. I'd create an Instructable if so and give you full credit. Any and all suggestions, comments, rants, put downs, cheers, roars, hollars and yells appreciated!!


I have searched for several years for a portable digital boombox with hard disk mass storage and good sound. My digital music collection is over a half terabyte ( 70 thousand tracks) so I must have a display for navigation. Player must be independent of limited size of phone or mp3 player capacities.

Solution I'm working on is based on a Toshiba Netbook NB205, with a 10" display. This netbook has three USB borts, one that will charge. The internal drive is size-limited and far too small, and the machine has no Bluetooth for wireless speakers. Memory is maxed out but limited, making navigation of my large library slow.

The machine is too small for Windows 7 and and higher with the current Media Player, so I'm using Windows XP with SP3 and Media Player 10, even though they say 10 won't work on XP. I'm sure you could use other players also as long as they will run on XP, but I like to keep things simple and straight forward.

So here is my solution:

Digital music library is housed on an external 1TB USB hard disk (1 USB port used), and is BACKED UP to a second drive stored off-line for safety. The library is split into two main directories, MusicPart1 and MusicPart2, to improve navigation speed by limiting entries. Windows Media Player officially supports only a single music library, but does allow each user their own library, so I created MusicUser1 and MusicUser2 logins, and built the seperate Media Player library files from MusicPart1 and MusicPart2 directories. (research online to discovery how to delete and rebuild Media Player library files when you need to.) Seperate logins and directories improve the navigation speed lots.

For decent sound, I found the Sound Freaq Pocket Kick that will work either wired (second USB port used) or using Bluetooth. It has three speakers and pretty good base for the size. Since the netbook had no built-in Bluetooth, I found a tiny USB Bluetooth adapter (third USB port used). But for normal use, I can connect the Pocket Kick via USB for power and/or for rechargiing it's batteries too. Also, when wired I can use a short male/male stereo mini plug for sound.

In order to keep this compact and convenient, the hard disk and the Sound Freaq are currently attached to the back of the screen with Velcro. I have ordered a couple 90 degree angled USB plug adapters to keep wires close to the computer case and allow free opening and closing of the netbook lid. I expect to be able to locate or build a small case for all of this for portability. A small forward-facing container should also add some base resonance and direct the sound to the front. I will likely re-locate the Velco disk and speaker support from the screen back to the inside of the case.

Since many digital music files have crappy tag data, I use MP3Tag free tag editor to edit and correct tag days BEFORE I add files to my libraries.


10 years ago

I think there are two possible solutions to this problem. Firstly, you could go the motherboard/sound card/Linux route, in which case you are basically building a simple media computer. This method would involve finding a motherboard, drive and power supply that go together (by motherboard I really mean motherboard+CPU+RAM), assembling your machine, installing a basic Linux distro (there are almost certianly specialised light mp3-player distros around) and then fitting it into your enclosure. Alternatively, the Minty MP3 by ladyada uses a PIC and some other bits and pieces to read mp3 files off an IDE device and play them. It's not as complex as the computer, doesn't have quite as much functionality, but it fits in an Altoids tin :) It requires a lot of fiddly assembly and soldering, however, unless you get one ready-assembled which would probably cost a fair amount. Personally, I think the best compromise of cost, performance and ease of assembly would be scrounging a complete outdated computer from a person, school or office that is upgrading, installing your light Linux distribution and then stripping the unnecessary parts.

. If I were going to try this, I think I would start with a MP3 player that already uses an HDD and has a USB port. Most computer HDDs are EIDE or SATA, so you will need to verify that the player is compatible. Connecting the two may be as simple as using a cable with the proper connectors - maybe not. . From there, all you need to do is feed the audio output of the player to your amp and speakers. . A small computer PSU should be able to handle the load. Unless you like a lot of bass. You may need to install a voltage regulator(s) to feed the player and amp if they don't run off the standard PSU voltages.