Modern Features In Classic Radio

As consumer electronics companies chase profits on tighter and tighter margins, it seems like quality is continually harder to find for most average consumer-grade products. Luckily, we don’t have to hunt through product reviews to find well-built merchandise since we have the benefit of survivorship bias to help us identify quality products from the past that have already withstood the test of time. [Tom] has forever been fond of this particular Sony TV/radio combo from the ’70s so he finally found one and set about modernizing it in a few key ways.

Among the modifications to this 1978 Sony FX-300 include the addition of a modern color display, Bluetooth, an upgraded FM radio, and a microphone. At the center of all of this new hardware is a Teensy 4 which [Tom] has found to be quite powerful and has enough capabilities to process the audio that’s being played in order to make visual representations of the sound on the screen. He also implemented a bitcrusher filter and integrated it into the controls on the original hardware. He’s using an optimized version of this library to cram all of that processing ability into such a small chip, and the integration of all this new hardware is so polished that it looks like it could be an original Sony stereo from the modern era.

While some may complain about restomod-type builds like this, we don’t really see any need to be arbitrarily or absolutely faithful to bygone eras even if the original hardware was working properly in the first place. What works is taking the proven technology of the past and augmenting it with modern features to enjoy the best of both worlds. Much like this hi-fi stereo which blends the styles and technology of the 90s with that of the 60s in an equally impressive way.

53 thoughts on “Modern Features In Classic Radio

  1. Just curious where “restomod” comes from. Never heard the term, and it isn’t immediately obvious to me which parts come from where except for the “-mod” suffix.

    Also, Twitter hidden in a link, UGH!

    1. Restmod means that someone incapable to work on electronics goes to destroy old hardware for the looks. I think that proper restorations should be shown in this blog, instead of butchering things.

      1. RestoMod refers to restauration through modernization. The term comes from the oldtimer scenes where some original parts are not available any more. E.g. you replace the carburetor of the engine with a direct injection system.

          1. Carburetors are complicated machines that often require rebuilds with specific kits consisting of very small parts like pin valves, gaskets, diaphragms, etc. Those are the parts that become unavailable making the carburetor body itself a useless brick without

          2. When I replace things I do so because they’re worn out or broken. Having only a worn out or broken carburettor might not seem like an issue to you, but it’s not going to make my car work.

      2. Hot take.

        Did you consider that the name of the website you are browsing is HACKaday? As in hacking something apart and hacking something together with the bits?

        Keep in mind, ONE guy did this to an old radio. He didn’t butcher a rare mahogany case. He didn’t take a dremel to an ivory inlay. Its all plastic and consumer electronics, nothing to freak out about.

        This isn’t Mr Carlson’s lab, repairing vintage equipment is an equally acceptable craft, don’t get me wrong, but on here creativity should be appreciated and not scolded because it doesn’t meet YOUR requirements.

    2. The term is used heavily in automotive contexts, where someone will restore an old car and at the same time replace some of its parts with more modern (or simply non-original) ones.

    3. I hear the term used in the custom car scene. It’s typically a part that isn’t made anymore so it’s fabricated and has modern stuff added to it like a dashboard to house a LCD screen as a gauge cluster. In other words it’s a restore and modification.

    4. Somewhat off-topic, but worth a mention. Is in automotive terms a restomod is most often a restoration (aesthetically), but with some modernization mechanically to allow the car to be actually used and enjoyed rather than stuck in a collectors barn somewhere. So Disk brakes, fuel injection, power steering etc. I love classic cars, but try relying on drums-all-around in modern stop go traffic and you quickly appreciate certain aspects of modern vehicles.

    5. Restomods are the best! Not throwing out the old hardware like those gutted-case projects but still ending up with something useful in the current day and age in the end.

      1. Yep, even properly restored, it’s useless in original form now. The addition of an internet radio tuner would help this tons. Maybe a pi would have been a better choice. Though a teensy should be able to handle internet radio streams, so maybe it just needs a software update.

      1. CRTs and tubes are magical devices. Perhaps humanities most ingenious, most native technology ever created. People from the stars, if there are any, would be amazed about tube technology, for it being so unconventional and warm, almost lively. ❤️

        1. I find it a bit disappointing that more and more hacks are just buying pre-build modules and wiring them together. Don’t get me wrong, this is an incredibly useful way to get things done. In this case however, it’s not that difficult to hack into the horizontal and vertical deflection amplifiers.

          I’ve always been fascinated with CRTs as a display medium. I even have a few small-ish sizes stashed away, but sadly life got in the way of ever using them.

          I just noticed today that you can buy small CRT displays on Aliexpress for cheap.. might have to build that CRT clock I’ve wanted after all!

    1. One man’s joy is another man’s sorrow. So is life.

      By the way, value is relative. And everything is history, in one way or another.

      There’s also another old saying:
      Before you can create, you must destroy.

      I don’t like that saying, personally. But it seems there’s some truth within. If you want to errect a city, you may have to eradicate the forest in that space in order to make room for the foundation of your city. Again, I don’t like it. But at least in the past, the statement had some truth within. Nowadays, we (hopeful) would intecrate the forest into our city. But our ancestors did neither have the wisdom nor the technology to do so.

      Peace to everyone.

    2. 1000 comment minus points for failing to even read the link (which explains both that the donor devices were broken, and well under $100 total shipped internationally).
      Righteous indignation over re-use of broken consumer electronics is good for a laugh, but purely at the indignee’s expense.


    Some videos of repair and smart tv transformation without gutting the CRT electronics. Besides these TV sets aren’t rare or expensive models, they were cheap sub brands models, not iconic and rare models. In fact in this video channel restoration of expensive hi fi gear is made without adding strange functions.

    1. These restomods look nice, yes. But they are also all missing a vital detail – shielding. For the digital components, at least, shielding would be nice. Computer components do generate a lot of RF interference. TTL signals are square wave and cause hefty harmonics! The analogue, oscillator-free parts maybe not so much, though.

        1. Well, I’m using CRT monitors in my ham shack here. They barely cause any interference, in contrast to switching power supplies.

          That’s why I’m using regulated, transformer-based power bricks here, among lab PSUs (also with transformers each).

          Digital circuits in plastic cases, as I said, do cause more noise than conventional circuits (except those with oscillators, maybe).

          Long store short: That nice fellow could have had done things the proper way and spend an extra thougt to the shielding.

          He would have had earned bonus points for making sure things don’t catch fire, also!
          Hot glue isn’t exactly safe, also, if things heat up. Parts may go loose, fall onto each others, cause a short, then start a fire. Two-component glue is safer, here, I suppose.

          And adding ferrite rings on the cables..
          Wires act as antennas, especially if they carry pulsating/oscillating signals.

          A bit of aluminum foil and cardboard.. That would have helped a lot and would have shown his good will and his good intentions, too. 😎👍

          This site says that such a simple shield in a C64 reduces noise by *eight* (8) times!

          Just use an online-translator of your choice. Source language is German.

          Best regards, vy73/55,

          1. Correction, it seems that the nice fellow in that YT blog did use screws, mainly. That’s fine, I think. My bad, I didn’t watch the video properly (eatched it in low res on my mobile on the go).. My apologies, I was wrong here.

  3. Great to see such wonderful old kit featured. Have several Sony items of that era myself.
    Not so great to see the usual trolls evangelizing about what other people do with their own property when it doesn’t agree with their own views. Possibly the same people who noise about evilcorps who deny them their right to open/mod/repair what is theirs.
    Comments should be user based only, then at least we can filter out the more tiresome commentators.

    1. +1
      The Dutch techsite has a very nice user-driven “moderation” system. Comments can be rated between -1 (harmful, disrespectful, trolling,..), 0 (unrated, not relevant), +1 (on-topic) to +2 (really adding value to the discussion) and filter buttons on top let you select which class of comments you want to see, The rating of a comment is averiged over all the scores that a comment gets, so the wisdom of the multitude rules.

    2. You cad destroy yout property or ruin it forever. This doesn’t stop people to write out their idea and find that a stupid thing.

      Remember only that hiding a commentator works both ways.

      Anyway, whatever dude, have a nice day.

  4. That’s a neat upgrade – I like it – I might have made some different mods to suit my particular use case but if it works for the owner no he can keep on rocking in style

  5. We are at a point where some hardware, even restored to pristine condition is useless. Old TVs are this way. Restore your favorite 1957 Zenith portable TV, and what can you do with it? (I guess you could modify it with an RCA jack).

    The other week I was working with my grandson to build a crystal radio. His questions were, what can we do with it? and why would I want to listen to scratchy talk radio?

    AM radio is all but useless, FM radio is a close second, with too many ads. Old cell phones are the same, who is going to restore an old Motorola luggable phone (if you did, how could you show someone it worked).

    Why not make something like this useful instead of a dust collector? Read about the original use on the internet.

    1. Of course, this is an issue in “antique radio” circles. Some try very hard to use replacement parts that fit the era of the set. Others will use the original part’s casing to hide a new capacitor. Some will just let the item sit on the shelf, never to be used.

      They’ll build little transmitters to feed their AM radios with a turntable or MP3 player. They do it less with FM, except for receivers from before WWII, that tuned the 40MHz range. Of course, those were modified or used with converters after the move to 88MHz.

      Some will add a bluetooth receiver, easy to add without hurting the radio, but then it’s just the audio amplifier being used, the radio section becomes irrelevant.

      And yes, people collect old tv sets. A VCR provides material. A DTV converter would too.

      Collectors collect things. Many want to use them, but it’s secondary to having them. If you.modify it more than using modern parts, it becomes something else.

      The Ross House Museum is a house in Winnipeg dating from the 1850s. It’s not a practical house to live in, modify it to be liveable, and it becomes something other than one of the oldest houses in Winnipeg. So it “sits on a shelf” as a museum, only open in the summer I assume because it gets too cold in the winter. It exists because it was kept intact, a representation of my family history that I didn’t know about until 13 years ago.

      1. i’m glad you made the segue to housing because that’s exactly what was on my mind. working on 100+ year old houses, the tension between repair and replace, function vs heritage, is itself just a sideshow to the tension between “historical because someone first installed it 50 years ago” and “historical because someone did heavy repair to it 50 years ago”. everything’s been touched and touched again, and the updates themselves are old now.

        i have one of the few houses in my city with what appears to be all original interior trim, but i know that is only possible because someone some number of decades ago put a lot of work into restoring or replacing the trim. that relatively recent work is probably much more important to this hisotrical asset than the original installation job was.

        my favorite in the restoration genre here is when someone is rebuilding something that hasn’t been used in 30 years, and finds a 30+ year old hack that some previous repairman had made just because they wanted to use the thing.

    2. There are plenty ways to feed video into an old classic TV. RF modulators, DTV converter boxes, Sat tuners, cable boxes. DVD, VCR, Bluray players. If they don’t have an RF out, they almost certainly probably still have a composite out that can be fed into an RF Modulator. Several channels on restoring these old TV/Radios. mrcarlsonslab mainly focuses on old vintage tube radios and does proper restorations on them. shango066 mainly focuses on old tube, not just CRT, but old pre transistorized tube TVs. His videos are more resurrections, he just hunting them down, some that have sat for decades out in the desert, abandoned houses/warehouses and enjoys just getting the damn things to work again rather than properly restoring them, though there are some restorations sprinkled in as well. The creator of this basically destroyed something that was probably worth hundreds to the right collector. Hopefully they didn’t chuck out all the innards they stripped out to create this, even those on ebay may be worth a decent amount to a collector looking to restore another one that is broken.

    3. For old TV sets, it’s possible to feed them a VHF signal using an RF modulator.

      It’s the same restoring a Fiat 600 made in 1957. you are going to use it sometimes, maybe to go at antique car shows or the like. Using it for everyday errands isn’t a good idea, especially because of anti pollution law is forbidden to use them ever weekday but only on weekends, and because older cars are less safe in case of accident.
      If you reaaly want a Fiat compact car for everyday rides, you can buy a Panda or a current 500, the former also CNG powered and the latter full electric if you want to pollute less.

      About FM radio, I’m listening now to FM radio, about AM there are now less stations and unfortunalely cheap switching power supplies have polluted the AM spectrum masking in the noise distant stations.

  6. In the mid-1970s, a lot of consumer electronics had a “military” look to them.
    Maybe people were sick and tired of how shoddy electronics had become, and were longing for ruggedness and reliability.
    I owned a GE 8-track player with a similar look.

    1. I recognize the”military style” but I’ve never felt it really resembled military equipment. More like an artist’s rendition of “military” and then other companies followed.

      I looked at the picture here and wondered why someone didn’t create 3D printing plans for this “military style”. There is a style, even thiugh I can’t define it, though that round meter is definitely part of it. The arrangement of the speaker grill too.

      A few years ago I brought home a Panasonic RF-1600. It’sheavy, not just the chassis but a decent speaker. When Ifirst saw it, I thought it was AM/FM, until I saw the timezone wheel on the back. The dial rotates so you only see one band at a time.

      I gather it came slightly before the “military style”, soon Panasonic shortwave portables wernt to that. Doubt they are better built.

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