MP3/USB/Aux Hack Hidden Behind Cassette Facade


[Ivan] made something special with this car stereo hack. He altered the head unit to play MP3 files from USB and added an auxiliary line-in. But looking at it you’d never know. That’s thanks to the work he did to create a false button hiding the audio jack, and a false cassette hiding the USB port and MP3 player display. Possibly the best part is that the radio itself still works like it always did.

There are several components that went into making the system work. It starts with the cassette/radio head unit. To that he added an MP3 player with remote which he picked up on Deal Extreme. He wasn’t a huge fan of the IR remote that came with it so he rolled in a remote that mounts on the steering wheel. To pull everything together he used a PIC 16F877a. The microcontroller controls the lines which tell the head unit if a tape has been inserted. When [Ivan] selects either the Aux input or wants to play MP3s from a thumb drive the uC forces the head unit into cassette mode and the audio from the player is injected into the cassette player connections.

To help deter theft [Ivan] created two false fronts. The end of a cassette tape plugs into the USB port. The rewind button plugs into the Aux jack. You can get a good look at both in the demo after the break.

36 thoughts on “MP3/USB/Aux Hack Hidden Behind Cassette Facade

      1. So being poor predisposes you to being a criminal? Are you aware that during the great depression–a period of 25% unemployment, destitution, dustbowls, breadlines and “Hoovervilles,” crime, in general, went down?

        People who steal things do so because they are selfish douchebags. Period.

        Being poor, or the degree to which one is poor, has *nothing* to do with it.

        By your logic, there should be no such thing as a rich thief. How do you explain Bernie Madoff?

          1. Um, no. Please read [Frank’s] statement again and really think about what he said. [Dax] said nothing about “how poor the neighborhood is.” He did imply, however, that depending on how poor a person is, that person will steal seemingly inconsequential things – a blanket statement covering an entirely wrong class of people.

            I’m sure what he meant to say was, “It’s all about how much of a scumbag you are.”

          2. “wait… people still steal stereos?
            I thought that was a 90′s thing….”
            “People steal windshield wipers if they look new. It’s all about how poor you are.”

            I interpreted it as a response noting relative value of the items someone would risk stealing. Car stereos are typically not worth what they once were, so they get stolen less often than they would 20 years ago. Dax used the winshield wipers as an example of the value of another car component that can be stolen. I interpreted it as “it doesn’t matter what the value of the item is, if it’s of more value than what you currently have, it’s worth stealing”. For example, windshield wipers may seem like a pointless thing to steal, but if you’re in a situation where even that is tough to afford, there’s reason to do it. There also may not be as many high-value items in some places as well, so something like a stereo would still be on the list of things valuable enough to take.

        1. Change ‘poor’ into ‘addicted’ or ‘starving’ and there you go.

          And during the great depression people also were more social to each other I bet since it was another time. Plus if everybody is in the same boat then who are you going to steal from? Another pauper? Hence the drop in crime I imagine (if there even was a drop).

        2. in fact its called innovation my dear, I use iPhone , mac book retina pro and counting but why not exploring new ideas and not to sell things on olx and sites like that

  1. Excellent hack,

    It would be cool if he hid a USB drive inside the fake tape end,

    also, as time goes on it’s probably more likely someone will want to steal his “stock” stereo.

  2. Seriously? I added a few circuits to my car myself, but seriously… just buy an MP3/CD player, it’s just 100$ or even less. I see it’s a standard socket, not like those who are embedded in the central console, like in modern cars.

    1. @hackaday: I accidently clicked “Report comment” please ignore it (I did not found a way to revert that)

      @SINEKT – If you take a look in to the blog you will see several reasons why I ended doing what you see above. If you don’t feel like reading here is a snippet (I think you are actually describing Solution No 2)
      Solution 2:
      Forget about the old cassette player and buy a new USB enabled one. But I live in a neighborhood where such a device (in the car) can “magically” disappear, hence loosing my money.
      So your idea is perfectly valid for your neighborhood. For mine … it is a different story :)

  3. Nice cover up. Low profile stock stereo is the way to go. Add amps and better speakers hidden, more miles with all gear on board. Aux jack non degrading to music. Android phones play flac, you can get clean sound now.
    Kudos to the ergonomic panel on the radio. No tiled or seesaw buttons no tilted swooshey style crap. Everything readable with your fingertips not eyes. Should be the law.

    1. They play FLAC but do they have a decent sound output? Even over headphones I hear it can be iffy, in a time where a decent amp chip are pennies.

      And no we don’t need design-force laws :)

      1. Whatever cheap op-amp chip is in a modern Android phone, it is probably better than most of them were 20 years ago.

        If it’s not good enough: Get your SMD gear out and upgrade it. :) Or use an external USB DAC: I hear that these are things that can actually be made to work with Android devices.

        Or “just” use HDMI. It seems most Android phones include HDMI (plus or minus an adapter), and getting high-quality (or at least easily-hacked) HDMI -> audio adapters is fairly easy and cheap: I’ve got a device in a box behind me that can convert HDMI to 8 channels of analog audio, or to 2 channels of TOSLINK, or a few other things.

        So, more to the point: Android+FLAC? Yes please.

  4. Nice work!! I am wondering where did you get the control protocol you send through the pic? Did you do back engeneering? I want to do something similar to my 98 Explorer but I need de audio corporate protocol A & B. Keep it going!!

  5. Nice hi-tech hack, i´ve made one myself some years ago, not so advanced but yet functional, and funny i guess.

    My objective was only the aux-in, so i grab a cassette with a 3.5 male jack ( cheap stuff in a chinese sotre), a headfones (w microfone) for my mobile phone at the time (nokia 6680) and a 3.5 female aux-jack. The hack was pretty simple, i had a 1GB card on the mobile phone and all music was there, so i cut the ear plug and soldered the cable from the headfones adatper to the female jack, and bingo!

    I had my mobile phone playing sond to an 80’s car tape radio, and plus if someone call me, i could pick up the call (on the mobile phone) and listen it through the stereo, to reply i had to pull the headphones button to activate micro-fone.

  6. The trick to not getting car stereos stolen is to not be lazy and install them properly. Don’t just use the shitty push-fit cages, go out and buy the install kit for your car and bolt that sucker in. If you do it properly, it’s going nowhere without pulling half the dash out. I recently did an install into a vehicle like this. The head unit is bolted to two ears, which in turn bolt into the superstructure. The dash panels then fit over the top, preventing you from getting access to the screws without removing those first. In my experience most thieves give up if a quick tug/poke in the holes with a coathanger doesn’t work. It’s just not worth being caught in the act.

    That said, kudos on a nice hack. An even cooler way of doing it would have been to leave the tape deck in place and just use the switching in the Aux input jack to select between regular tape mode and aux input. I.e. if plug inserted, switch to aux mode, if tape inserted then play it, if neither then select radio..

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