The Cassette MP3 Player

1994 was twenty years ago. There are people eligible to vote who vaguely remember only one Bush presidency. You can have a conversation with someone born after the millennium, and they think a 3.5 inch disk is called a save icon. Starting to feel old? Don’t worry, all the trinkets of your youth have now become shells for MP3 players, the cassette tape included.

[Britt] is aware you can pick up one of these cassette tape MP3 players through the usual channels, but she wanted her build to be a little different. She’s using ar real, vintage cassette tape for starters, and from the outside, looks pretty much like any other cassette tape: there’s a thin strip of tape at the bottom, and the clear plastic window shows the tape is at the beginning of side A.

Outside appearances are just that; inside, there is a small, repurposed MP3 player, with tact switches wired up to the old buttons, actuated by moving the spools back and forth. Yes, you actually play, pause, rewind and fast forward by sticking a pencil in the spool and moving it back and forth. Amazing.

It’s a great build, and considering both cassette tapes and cheap MP3 players can be found in the trash these days, it’s something that should be hard to replicate.

Reanimating a Philips HDD 1420 MP3 Player

[OiD] had a dusty, old, forgotten Philips HDD1420 GoGear mp3 player kicking around his place. As you can imagine, the battery was dead. He had no charger or connector for the thing, but decided to try to resurrect it anyway.

He thought it would simply be a matter of providing alternative power, but the GoGear wasn’t having it and insisted on being connected to a computer. He had some luck consulting Pinouts.ru and found Philips’ own device manager software, but it still wasn’t easy. The device manager doesn’t work on Windows 7. He tried an XP box, but it didn’t detect the device.

Finally, he discovered that the hard drive was kaput and replaced it with an 8GB Microdrive. That helped, but he still had a hard row to hoe. [OiD] formatted the new HD and gave it the official firmware, but still had to replace some system files according to the Philips manual. He ended up using RockBox to reanimate it and decided to keep it on the device.

There was still an issue with charging, though. It has an IC that handles selection of either the proprietary external adapter or USB power, but the RockBox firmware doesn’t implement switching and defaults to the adapter. Several tweaks and a hacked-in mini USB later, the patient is in stable condition and cranking out the tunes.

Bumpy, The Beautiful DIY MP3 Player

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[Matt]‘s been working on a small hombrew MP3 player, and although it’s not much more useful than an iPod Shuffle, sometimes that’s all you need. Besides, it turned out to be a beautiful project, completely custom, and a great example of what a high resolution 3D printer can do with an enclosure design.

Inside Bumpy is an ATMega32u4 with a VS1003 MP3 codec IC. The device is powered by a 1000mAh lithium battery, and the user interface is an exercise in simplicity; a single click/scroll wheel changes the volume, toggles play and pause, and selects the next or previous track. Eight LEDs mounted in the center of the board glow through the case for status, volume, and interface feedback.

By far the most impressive part of Bumpy is the case. It was printed at [Matt]‘s place of employment – Formlabs – in white UV curing resin. The pictures show a surface finish that would be difficult to replicated on a squirting plastic style 3D printer, with a textured, bumpy surface that inspired the name.

MBox: A Child’s MP3 Player

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For young children, music is a wonderful and exciting thing — but do you really want them playing with your phone, or worse yet, an iPod? [Arons] decided to make the MBox, an Arduino powered MP3 player.

He was inspired by hörbert, a very similar wooden MP3 player for children. Apparently it’s a great product, but it also costs 239€. We don’t blame him for wanting to make his own.

The MBox follows the same exterior design as hörbert — though we must admit, he could have spiced it up a bit! It uses an Arduino Uno at its core with a Freaduino MP3 music shield, capable of playing all the typical formats like MP3, MIDI, WAV, and even Ogg Vorbis. To amplify the sound he’s using a Mono Audio Amp Breakout board from SparkFun which drives an 8Ω loudspeaker. A mini USB power brick provides the juice, and a 12-digit keypad provides the ability to select music — each number plays from a different directory on the SD card.

[Arons'] daughter loves it, and he probably only spent a fifth of what the real hörbert costs!

[Thanks for the tip Renzo!]

Ugly upgrade keeps the tunes playing longer

[Sam] picked up a Sansa Clip audio player to listen to some tunes while working on projects. He liked the fact that he could run the Rockbox alternative firmware on the device, but thought the 15 hour battery life needed some improving. He swapped out the stock cell with a larger Lithium cell for a long life of 50-60 hours. It’s an upgrade fom 300 mAh to 1100 mAh, but as you can see, the size of the replacement made for some interesting case modification.

The battery swap required more than just taking one battery out and putting in the other. [Sam] is using a cellphone battery as the replacement and he didn’t want to have issues with the internal circuitry. He took the cell out of its plastic enclosure, removing the circuit board in the process. That PCB is the charging circuit, which he replaced with the one from the stock battery. After insulating the cell with a layer of Kapton tape he soldered it to the MP3 player and did his best to adhere all the parts to each other.

Sure, its ugly, but that makes it right at home on the work bench.

NES controller cannibalized for MP3 player enclosure

We know some folks are very upset by the scrapping on vintage hardware, so let’s all observe a moment of silence for this NES controller.

Now that that’s behind us we can live vicariously through [Burger King Diamond's] project. He polished up the NES controller and repurposed it as an enclosure for a portable MP3 player.

His first step was to remove some of the yellowing of the plastic using Retr0brite. He admits it wasn’t bad to start with but now it’s sparkling like new. Next, he started planning how everything would fit in the case. Luckily the MP3 player operates with one AAA battery which leaves plenty of room.

Just above the A and B buttons you can make out an opening that he cut in the case for the MP3 player’s LCD screen. The bezel from the original case works well for cleaning the rough cut opening. The buttons on the controller have been patched into the controls on the MP3 board, and the opening for the controller’s cable now holds the headphone jack. There’s also a USB port mounted next to it for easy file transfers.

The one thing we would like to see is a rechargeable battery so you don’t need to open the case to top off the power. But all in all this is a fantastic build!