Adding AirPlay to a shelf system

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AirPlay is a great system. It allows you to send whatever media is playing from one device to another. Sure, we wish it were a bit more open (Apple is certainly not known for that) but there are several option for creating your own AirPlay receivers. After coming across a project that does just that, [Matt Shirley] decided to turn his shelf system into an AirPlay receiver.

The path to his goal depends on the Raspberry Pi’s ability to receive AirPlay audio using the Shairport package (we just looked in on another player that does this last week). He uses an Edirol UA-5 USB audio interface as an amplifier for his record player. He wasn’t using the USB port for it and knew that it would be simple to connect the RPi USB as a host for the device.

Wanting to keep the look of the system as clean as possible he popped the lid off of the amp. There is just enough room to fit the small RPi board inside. He hacked (literally, look at the pictures) an opening for the USB ports into the side of the metal enclosure. A short patch cable connects from one port to the USB jack on the back of the amplifier. The white cable leaving the side of the case provides power to the Rasperry Pi. The surgery was a success and now he can listen to his tunes with a tap of his finger.

An amplifier circuit good enough to eat

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[Dino's] kitchen skills match his hardware hacking prowess. Look really close at the image above and you’ll realize this collection of transistors and passive components is edible. Rather than decorating cookies for the holidays he built this audio amplifier from gingerbread, icing, and candy.

The thing is, [Dino] almost always has that extra touch to his presentations. If you watch the video after the break you’ll notice that the sound is not the crystal clear quality we’re used to hearing in his video. That’s because he used the hardware from which the edible offering was modeled to do the audio for the presentation clip.

After laying out the design using Express PCB he gets down to business. The base, which is gingerbread, looks just like a square of Radio Shack protoboard. To make the diodes he rolled up some tin foil around a screw driver to use as a mold for sugar and water which had been boiled long enough to give a dark color. A similar technique was used to cast the other parts. Everything was tied together using frosting and pieces of red and black licorice.

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Frankenstein, an all-tube home theater amplifier

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Here’s an exercise in excess if we’ve ever seen one. While working on his undergrad at Michigan State, [Gregory] thought it would be a great idea to build an all-tube home theater system. He calls his seven-foot tall rack of amplifiers ‘Frankenstein,’ and we’ve got to agree this build is an impressive monstrosity of engineering prowess.

[Gregory]‘s Frankenstein is a complete 5.1 home theater system. In the interests of sanity, the majority of the equipment in the rack is off-the-shelf gear including a CD player, surround sound processor, and a beautiful McIntosh solid state preamp. The power amps, though, are where this build really shines.

For the sub, [Gregory] built a wonderful monoblock tube amp, able to push nearly 300 watts into a subwoofer. The other channels for this home theater system are amplified with a huge four channel tube amp providing 480 watts per channel. In total, there are 23 tubes in [Gregory]‘s amplifier system, enough to consume 20 amps of filament current.

You can check out [Gregory]‘s demo video of his system after the break.

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Cute little amplifier has a tube pre

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While you won’t catch us in an argument with an audiophile regarding the sound quality of tube vs. solid state amps, there is a general consensus that tube amplifiers sound much better than their transistorized brethren. Actually building an all-tube amplifier, though, is a bit harder than one built around common ICs – there are transformers to deal with and of course very high voltages. One solution to get the sound of tubes easily but still retaining the simplicity of integrated circuits is a hybrid amp, or a tube preamplifier combined with a solid state power section. They’re easy enough to build as [Danilo] shows us with his hybrid tube amp design (Italian, translation).

[Danilo]‘s design uses two ECC86 for the left and right channels powered by a 12 Volt supply. Each channel is sent through a tube and then amplified by a TDA2005 20 Watt power amplifier. After plugging in a CD player, the result is a clear, warm sound that can put a whole lot of power through a speaker.

A pair of briefcase boombox builds

Here are two different briefcase speaker projects. [Dale] built the offering on the right back in high school and the upgraded version 2.0 more recently. He was inspired to send in a tip for the projects after seeing yesterday’s suitcase full of tunes.

The first version uses a pair of speakers pulled out of a car at the junkyard. They’re mounted on some particle board which beefs up the side of the plastic briefcase. The amplifier that drives it is mounted inside the case along with a battery to power the system. [Dale] included a crude storage bracket for the input cable and since the amp can drive four speakers there are connectors on the outside for two more.

Version two has quite a bit more polish. He doesn’t show that one off quite as much, but you can see there is a LED strip on the case that serves as a VU meter, as well as a numeric display which might be battery voltage? He mentions that this blows away any commercially available systems his coworkers have brought to the job site.

Video of both rigs can be found after the break.

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A suitcase full of tunes

Take the party with you by building your own boomcase. It’s an amplifier and set of speakers built into luggage. It uses an audio jack to connect to your favorite music player, and with a bit of  added protection — like grills for those speakers — it could still be gently used to transport your wardrobe.

A 1960′s suitcase was mutilated for this build. [Jay] must have already had it on hand because combined with some used parts he claims to have only spent $50 total. After trying out a few different speaker orientations on a piece of cardboard he covered the outside of the case in blue painter’s tape and started cutting holes. The amp he chose has a nice face plate which happens to  fit nicely on the top side of the case. For now he’s powering it with a 10,000 mAh (ie: 10 Ah) portable device recharging battery. But as you can hear in the demo after the break this seems to have no problem supplying the system with enough power.

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[Quinn] resurrects an amplifier that experienced death-by-capacitor

[Quinn Dunki] is adding wireless audio to all of the rooms in her home. She’s going with Airplay, snatching up used or refurbished Airport Express units because of their ability to work with both her existing WiFi and the Airplay protocol. The last piece in the puzzle is to get an Amp and she chose the small unit seen above. The problem is that it was dead on arrival and she couldn’t get the company to respond to her issue. So she cracked it open and fixed it right up.

The offenders are the three electrolytic capacitors at the top of the picture. She took some close-up images of each and you can’t miss the fact that they’re blown out. These are often among the higher price-per-unit parts and manufactures try to pinch the penny as much as possible. Add to it the heat in a small enclosure like this one and you’ve got a failure. [Quinn] dug through her junk bin but the size of the replacement had to be a perfect match so she ended up putting in a parts order. The new caps fit and work perfectly as you can hear in the clip after the break.

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