Trash to treasure Bluetooth radio and tube amp build

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The before image doesn’t look all that bad but we were still impressed with what went into the restoration of this radio. Perhaps restoration isn’t the right word since it didn’t manage to hold on to any of the original internals. This is more resurrection of a retro radio case for use as a Bluetooth radio.

At first look we didn’t notice that the original knobs were missing. The speaker fabric is ripped and the glass on the tuning dial is broken as well. [Yaaaam] happened to have another antique radio with interesting knobs — but he didn’t just transplant them. He made a mold of one knob and cast three replacements for the radio. After refinishing the wood he replaced the fabric and things were really starting to look up.

All of the electronic components were removed and a new tube amp was built on the original metal chassis. It uses a Bluetooth module for input which facilitates using your smart phone as the playback device without involving any wires or other nonsense. Two problems popped up after the project was completed. The first replacement power supply overheated. The second replacement had a different problem, needing some additional shielding to prevent noise from creating unwanted… noise.

This looks so much better than modern injection molded plastic shelf systems. But there are some fun wireless hacks out there for those too.

A really, really tiny tube amp

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After building his first tube amp from a kit, he set to work on his next amp build. Since tube amps are a much more experimental endeavor than their solid state brethren, [Jarek] decided to make his next amp unique with military surplus subminiature tubes, and in the process created the smallest tube amp we’ve ever seen.

Instead of bulky 12AX7s and EL34s tubes usually found in tube amp build, [Jarek] stumbled upon the subminiature dual triode 6021 tube, originally designed for ballistic missiles, military avionics, and most likely some equipment still classified to this day. These tubes not only reduced the size of the circuit; compared to larger amps, this tiny amplifier sips power.

The 100+ Volts required to get the tubes working is provided by a switched mode power supply, again keeping the size of the final project down. The results are awesome, as heard in the video after the break. There’s still a little hum coming from the amp, but this really is a fabulous piece of work made even more awesome through the use of very tiny tubes.

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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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Beautiful tube amp uses a TV tube

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Most audio tube amps we see use common tubes – usually a 12AX7 for the preamp and one of the more common power tubes such as an EL34.[Daniel], on the other hand, decided to build his own audio tube amp with a 13EM7, a tube originally used for a television’s vertical oscillator. The resulting project is a wonderful stereo amp that sounds really good, to boot.

[Daniel] picked up the idea of using a 13EM7 tube from [Fred Nachbaur]‘s MiniBlok SET amplifier. This very tiny 1-watt tube amplifier uses a single tube originally designed for use in old, old televisions. The secret behind this build is the fact this tube is actually two triodes in one package; one side of the 13ME7 has tons of gain but not much power, making it perfect for a preamp. The other side has a lot of power, useful for delivering two watts of power into a speaker.

After [Daniel] etched a few boards for his amp, he milled out a piece of wood for the chassis. When everything was mounted he had an awesome looking stereo amplifier that also sounds great.

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.

DIY amplifier minder turns off your stereo when you forget

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[zmashiah] has a nice Nova tube amplifier in his living room, and he often forgets to turn it off once he’s done listening to music. He feels guilty when this happens, as it not only shortens the lifespan of his stereo, but it’s not exactly the greenest behavior either. Rather than let his receiver idle any longer, he built a simple device that automatically turns it off when he forgets.

He wired an Arduino to the line level output of the receiver, sampling the audio every two seconds. When five minutes pass without an audio signal, the Arduino sends an IR command to the receiver, turning it off.

He says he’s aware that it might be overkill to use an Arduino for this application, but that he would rather fork out an extra dollar or two instead of spending hours poring over AVR assembly code. While we’re all for efficiency, we can’t exactly argue with that logic – time is money!

[zmashiah] is kind enough to include his schematics as well as the code for his project, so be sure to check it out if you occasionally forget to turn off your IR-enabled appliances.

High Voltage Hacks: A 1000 Watt tube amp

Normally when we hear of a Champ guitar amp, we think of a sweet-sounding rig that puts out 6 Watts through an 8-inch speaker. [John Chambers] of Champ Electronics wanted to build a true champion for the field of battle and came up with The Champ 1000 Watt Tube Amp, an amplifier that probably puts out enough heat to keep an igloo warm.

The amp is based on 807 valves. With some clever engineering [John] managed to coax 100 watts out of a pair of 807s, so the entire amp “only” requires 20 power tubes. The build log shows some pretty impressive examples of electrical prowess. We can’t recall the last time we featured a build with point-to-point wiring on tagboard, and [John]‘s work is some of the best we’ve ever seen.

[John] has been working on this amp off and on for a few years now, but he should be wrapping up the build sometime soon. We haven’t seen this amp in action, but we imagine it would look something like this 36×10 monstrosity. Send us a message or post a comment if you can find a video and we’ll put it up.