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Author Topic: Bluetooth Victorian Boombox  (Read 375 times)
J. Wilhelm
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« on: September 10, 2017, 04:14:08 am »

Bwahahaha! I have succeed in transforming my venerable Viccy Boombox into a Bluetooth Aetheric Device!

Very simple project. Some of you may have seen this monster from way way back when I made this Boombox around the time when life was just emerging on planet Earth (I'm exaggerating):


Well the advantage of this device is that it's basically in iPod Dock connected to a computer subwoofer system by way of a pre-amplifier I concocted (this first generation subwoofer system is used to inputs of ~5 mW and not the 1mW line-level output of the iPod dock so you need a preamplifier so the volume is not too low). I put all sorts of inputs and outputs (video/audio from the dock) because I'm a music freak, so you can connect anything in or out by way of phono plugs or RCA plugs. In it;s heyday, I could use the iPod Dock to connect and patch you Tube videos to a television screen.

The problem is that my venerable 2nd Gen. iPod Touch suffered a catastrophic failure a couple of days ago... I dropped the thing, and after about 1000 times of not breaking in the span of many years, this time the concrete pavement won the battle. The iPod still works, but looks horrible all cracked up.

Worse, every time I take the Boombox to South by Southwest, people ask me if they can connect it via Bluetooth... So my boombox is starting to look "dated" to people...

So yesterday, I purchased a cheapo $7 Bluetooth in-ear bud headset at my local super. Betting that very low power amplifiers (such as this miniature battery earphone device) could be used with the Aux input jack of the boombox, I reasoned that sound quality would be reasonable as long as the output volume is very very low on the side of the Bluetooth device (a typical property of amplifiers is that noise increases with power output, If underpowered, you will also get sound wave clipping from the output because the battery can't keep up with the output required). It was worth a try.


So, I decided to test it by cutting off the earbuds, finding the polarity of the wires, and soldering the wires to a garden variety 1/8" stereo phono plug...

It worked  Grin


The sound quality is actually very good. The volume is not fantastic if the Bluetooth signal is coming from my iPod, as I have to jack up the volume of the amplifier all the way up to get barely decent volume  Embarrassed  However, the signal coming from my new Android phone is a lot better. You still have to jack up the volume all the way up - but when the Bluetooth volume on the Android device is jacked all the way up, you can reduce the power amp (Boombox) volume to about 85-90 % (power amp output), giving you some leeway.

Best of all the quality is 97% of what I would expect. I can still discern a bit of blurriness and noise coming from EM interference coming from the circuits inside the smartphone ( a similar problem happens with an iPod Dock).

I'm satisfied the quality is good enough to demonstrate the rich bass of the Boombox. Me happy  Grin

Now that I know this works it's time to mass produce make the new generation boombox.
My aim is to make reasonably priced smaller Blue-toothed versions of it. Grin The quality is good enough for a more inexpensive and portable version...

The one you're looking at above is a huge monster that weighs 30 lbs, has no battery capability, and has a huge separate triple voltage transformer that I often leave at home due to the enormous weight. The sound is awesome, but no one can afford it.

For this one-off above, I might incorporate an old 7 inch Android tablet I have, to take the front of the dock you see in the picture. Probably a detachable wooden bumper case attached by way of the same hinge you see in the picture. A sort of "removable tablet." The 5 volt power supply for the dock can be used for the Bluetooth device which will be connected all the time.  If I decide to make the mods, I'll keep you posted.  Grin

In the meantime, my new smartphone needs a new case  Roll Eyes I think I know how to do that too.

Cheers,
J. Wilhelm
 
« Last Edit: September 10, 2017, 04:41:26 am by J. Wilhelm » Logged

Banfili
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« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2017, 01:30:37 pm »

Beautiful modding! I wonder what I could do with those two sets of music lights from the early 80s?
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Miranda.T
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« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2017, 09:45:45 pm »

Your monster boom box looks absolutely as though it was made a hundred or so years ago (with the iPod removed, of course  Wink ). I hope the formulation of the new mark II bluetooth-as-standard version goes to plan and I'm looking forward to the WiP images.

Yours,
Miranda.
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J. Wilhelm
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« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2017, 09:48:55 am »

Your monster boom box looks absolutely as though it was made a hundred or so years ago (with the iPod removed, of course  Wink ). I hope the formulation of the new mark II bluetooth-as-standard version goes to plan and I'm looking forward to the WiP images.

Yours,
Miranda.

The trick is finding the time to do it. With my new work schedule, I hardly have the time to do anything any more. I spend most of my time commuting on the bus and walking. I even have to finish the silly spats I started.

I resolved some of the volume issues by connecting the Bluettoth receiver to the ore-amplifier. When I made the circuits I was lazy and did not use an line level output switch. I just soldered the input connection to the pre-amplifier to the output jacks (the output signal from the dock is shared between the line level output jacks and the pre-amplifoer... bad electronics form, since I'm "trusting" that the (most likely Op Amp based) circuits are properly voltage insulated with capacitors (that is usually the case). But this design defect gave me the opportunity to connect the output of the Bluetooth receiver into the input of the pre-amplifier, this I get a X10 amplification. The result is that teh Bluetooth reciever is now as loud as the iPod when docked in. A little tweaking with a 3rd party equalizer app and I got the exact same sound I gor from the iPod Touch.

So all I need is to make an external "plug" with the Bluetooth receiver. I guess I could go the extra mile and physically solder it inside the Apple dock and feed power from the pre-amplifier volt supply... But I think a Bluetooth receiver I can plug into any device I want would be more versatile... The battery life on the Bluetooth is not too good though, so that may push me to fully integrate the receiver. It;s so small it's barely noticeable.I can do anything with it.

A new boombox will require a quality power amplifier. I have shown the "front end" Bluetooth receiver has a very good quality, so the "back end" of the Boombox now has to be of quality. This is where you start shopping for subwoofer systems. The idea is to get a high quality yet inexpensive amplifier you can buy repeatedly, without the danger of it being discontinued any time soon. Otherwise each boombox would be a "one-off." Nothing wrong with that, but it will jack up the price tag tremendously as I have to hunt for parts and spend time searching over and over.

I like recycling and re-suing old parts, but they're also a nightmare. The Boombox sounds great; it's based on an Altec Lansing ACS-340 system (back when Altec Lansing was a high brown brand name)... As long as you don't jiggle the wires too much. It's full of cables and connectors in the back, all of them jiggly. Touch a wire, and the amplifier will give you a nasty shriek or loud "thump" and any of the three speakers will stop working until you jiggle the cables a bit more. It's the DIN type connectors in the back. All the pins are loose. That is one thing that convinced me at some point the Boombox would never sell. It's major open heart surgery to replace all of the wires and connector in the box. You can do great things with old parts, but you're also buying problems. The key is to get all new parts if you can. That is what I did with everything else I made.

So the Gen 2 Boombox will not be made from recycled parts. Theres a number of very inexpemsive subwoofer systems out there.
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Miranda.T
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« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2017, 09:53:12 pm »

The perpetual engineer's challenge - finding the sweet spot between quality and cost. But will not the issue be so much in the modern internals but rather sourcing a supply of  appropriately steamy outer casings?

Yours,
Miranda.
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J. Wilhelm
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« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2017, 10:34:26 pm »

Well the outer casings are always the main cost and effort of any build. Which is why I need to keep the electronics cost down. In the case of the boombox however it's convenient if the body of the boombox is the the same as the enclosure of the subwoofer. I already have a suitable source of external materials which coincides with my casings. The other components which are untried but I have a source are the horns. Miniature horns to be precise. I'm still holding fast to the idea of using non functional horns but rather decorative for the sake of preserving the sound quality of the satellite speakers and overall compactness. I also need to make sure the horns can get banged about a bit and not break or bend.. So I have a revolutionary idea in mind...
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MWBailey
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« Reply #6 on: September 17, 2017, 11:53:54 pm »

How youfind time for thisthis magnificence (begging your pardon, im writing this on my pad from thr hospital) what with all the other stuff going on in your life amazes me. Great work as usual!
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« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2017, 12:10:45 am »

Hospital, Mr Bailey?
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J. Wilhelm
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« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2017, 12:23:03 am »

How youfind time for thisthis magnificence (begging your pardon, im writing this on my pad from thr hospital) what with all the other stuff going on in your life amazes me. Great work as usual!

Mr Bailey! Sorry to hear you're in the hospital. Wishing you a speedy recovery.

The boom box was built long ago. It was present already by the Steampunk Bible release party in 2011, back when I was a full-time Steampunk. I would have a hard time building it today, but my aim is to do precisely that but in a smaller, more modern and practical form.

iPhone/iPod no longer has the lion share of the market, and decent Bluetooth sound has made its appearance. So it's no longer practical to use a dock, when $7 can buy you a decent quality Bluetooth adapter which connects to any sound source for your amplifier. I still intend to find a decent speaker system, perhaps an inexpensive Subwoofer system, as that is the centre piece of the puzzle.
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MWBailey
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rtafStElmo
« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2017, 05:40:51 am »

Hospital, Mr Bailey?




(Edited for content -er, haarrrumph!)

I'm mostly recovered now, but things were hairy there for a few days. Might be going home soon...
« Last Edit: September 18, 2017, 05:25:17 pm by MWBailey » Logged
Miranda.T
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« Reply #10 on: September 18, 2017, 06:16:29 pm »

Hospital, Mr Bailey?




(Edited for content -er, haarrrumph!)

I'm mostly recovered now, but things were hairy there for a few days. Might be going home soon...


I'm very sorry to hear that - I hope you feel back to rights soon.

How youfind time for thisthis magnificence (begging your pardon, im writing this on my pad from thr hospital) what with all the other stuff going on in your life amazes me. Great work as usual!

Mr Bailey! Sorry to hear you're in the hospital. Wishing you a speedy recovery.

The boom box was built long ago. It was present already by the Steampunk Bible release party in 2011, back when I was a full-time Steampunk. I would have a hard time building it today, but my aim is to do precisely that but in a smaller, more modern and practical form.

iPhone/iPod no longer has the lion share of the market, and decent Bluetooth sound has made its appearance. So it's no longer practical to use a dock, when $7 can buy you a decent quality Bluetooth adapter which connects to any sound source for your amplifier. I still intend to find a decent speaker system, perhaps an inexpensive Subwoofer system, as that is the centre piece of the puzzle.

That sounds like a jolly good plan; best of luck with the search for the speakers.

Yours,
Miranda.
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