DIY Pocket MP3 Player

When [Neutrino-1] saw DFRobot’s DFPlayer module, he decided he wanted to make his own retro MP3 player. This tiny module comes packed with a ton of interesting capabilities such as EQ adjustment, volume control, and a 3 watt amplifier amongst other things. It can even play ads in between songs, should you want such a thing.

Controlling the DFPlayer module is easy using serial commands from a microcontroller, making it a convenient subsystem in bigger projects, and a potential alternative to the popular VLSI chips or the hard to come by WT2003S IC. [Neutrino-1] does a good job walking readers through the build making it fairly easy to remix, reuse, and reshare.

With the hardware sorted, all you’ve got to do is flash the firmware and load up an SD card with some MP3s. There’s even a small Python GUI to help you get your new player up and running. [Neutrino-1] also introduces users to the U8g2 display library which he says is a bit more feature-rich than the common Adafruit SSD1306 library. Great job [Neutrino-1]!

While you’re here, take a look at some of our other MP3 projects.

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Toddler-Friendly MP3 Player Navigates With Light

When designing this custom MP3 player for his grandson, [Luc Brun] ran into a unique problem. He wanted the boy to be able to operate the player on his own, but being only 2½ years old, the user interface would have to be exceedingly straightforward. Too many buttons would just be a distraction, and a display with text would be meaningless at his age.

In the end, [Luc] came up with a very interesting way of navigating through directories full of MP3 files using a few push buttons and a ring of WS2812 LEDs. The color of the LEDs indicate which directory or category is currently being selected: spoken nursery rhymes are red, music is orange, nature sounds are yellow, and so on. The number of LEDs lit indicate which file is selected, so in other words, three orange LEDs will indicate the third music track.

At his grandson’s age, we imagine at least a little bit of him navigating through this system is just luck. But as he gets older, he’ll start to form more solid connections between what he’s hearing and the color and number of the LEDs. So not only is this interface a way to help him operate the device himself, but it may serve as a valuable learning tool in these formative years.

On the other hand, if your goal is just to distract a youngster for as long as possible, an overwhelming number of LEDs, buttons, and switches might be exactly what you want.

Robot + Trumpet = Sad Trombone.mp3

[Uri Shaked] is really into Latin music. When his interest crescendoed, he bought a trumpet in order to make some energetic tunes of his own. His enthusiasm flagged a bit when he realized just how hard it is to get reliably trumpet-like sounds out of the thing, but he wasn’t about to give up altogether. Geekcon 2018 was approaching, so he thought, why not make a robot that can play the trumpet for me?

He scoured the internet and found that someone else had taken pains 20 years ago to imitate embouchure with a pair of latex lips (think rubber glove fingers filled with water). Another soul had written about measuring air flow with regard to brass instruments. Armed with this info, [Uri] and partners [Ariella] and [Avi] spent a few hours messing around with air pumps, latex, and water and came up with a proof of concept that sounds like—and [Uri]’s description is spot-on—a broken robotic didgeridoo. It worked, but the sound was choppy.

Fast forward to Geekcon. In a flash of brilliance, [Avi] thought to add capacitance to the equation. He suggested that they use a plastic box as a buffer for air, and it worked. [Ariella] 3D printed some fingers to actuate the valves, but the team ultimately ended up with wooden fingers driven by servos. The robo-trumpet setup lasted just long enough to get a video, and then a servo promptly burned out. Wah wahhhh. Purse your lips and check it out after the break.

If [Uri] ever gets fed up with the thing, he could always turn it into a game controller a la Trumpet Hero.

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This Is How The Fonz Would Play MP3s

Here at Hackaday, we love to see old hardware treated with respect. A lovingly restored radio or TV that’s part of our electronic heritage is a joy to behold, and while we understand the desire to stream media from a funky retro case, it really grates when someone throws away the original guts to make room for new electronics.

Luckily, this Seeburg jukebox wall remote repurposing is not one of those projects. [Scott M. Baker] seems to have an appreciation for the finer things, and when he scored this classic piece of Mid-Century Americana, he knew just what to do. These remotes were situated around diners and other hangouts in the 50s and 60s and allowed patrons to cue up some music without ever leaving their seats. They were real money makers back in the day, and companies put a lot of effort into making them robust and reliable.

[Scott]’s first video below shows the teardown of this unit; you can practically smell the old transformer and motor windings. His goal in the second video was to use the remote to control his Raspberry Pi jukebox; he wisely decided to leave everything intact and use the original electromechanically generated pulses to make selections. His analysis led to a nicely executed shield for his Pi which conditions the pulses and imitates coin drops; happily, the coin mechanism still works too, so you can still drop a quarter for a tune.

The remote is working well now, but [Scott] still needs to finish up a few odds and ends to bring this one home. But we love the look and the respect for tradition here, as we did when this juke got a Raspberry Pi upgrade to imitate a missing wall remote.

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Ask Hackaday: How On Earth Can A 2004 MP3 Player Read An SDXC Card?

What were you doing in 2004? Can you even remember 2004? Maybe it’s like the old joke about the 1960s, if you can remember it, you weren’t really there, man. Cast your mind back, [Lance Armstrong] was winning the Tour de France, and SpaceShipOne made it into space.

[Gregg Eshelman], wrote to us to say that in 2004 he bought an MP3 player. Ask your parents about them, they were what hipsters used before they had cassette tapes: portable music players that everyone thought were really cool back then, onto which music didn’t come from the Internet but had to be manually loaded from a computer.

Jokes about slightly outdated consumer electronics aside, [Gregg]’s player, a GPX MW3836, turned out to be a really good buy. Not only does it still work, it packs an unexpected bonus, it reads 64Gb SD cards when they are formatted as FAT32. This might not seem like a big deal at a cursory glance, but it’s worth considering a little SD card history.

Back when the GPX was made, the maximum capacity of an SD card was 2Gb, a figure that must have seemed huge when the standard was created, but by the middle of the last decade was starting to look a little cramped. The GPX player is designed to only read these original 2Gb cards. In the years since then there have been a couple of revisions to the standard, SDHC, and SDXC, which have given us the huge cards we are used to today. Many other devices from the 2Gb SD era, made before SDHC and SDXC existed, cannot read the modern cards, yet [Gregg]’s GPX can.

Hackaday’s readership constantly amaze us with the sheer breadth of their knowledge and expertise, so we are sure that among you reading this piece will be experts on SD card standards who can shed some light on this mystery. Why can a player designed for the original SD card standard read the much newer cards when other contemporary ones can not? [Gregg] would love to know, and now our curiosity has been whetted, so would we.

If you think you’ve heard [Gregg]’s name before, it might be for his expertise in resin casting automotive parts.

SD card image: Andreas Frank (CC BY 2.5).

Patents On MP3 Format Due To Expire

MP3 took off in the late 90s as the digital music format. It then proceeded to slaughter the CD, and launch the file sharing revolution as well. It’s a proud format that has roots stretching all the way back to the early 1980s, when the possibility of sending music over ISDN lines was first considered. Now the patents on it are beginning to expire and its licencing program has been terminated.

The MP3 standard was the property of Fraunhofer IIS, and the original licencing model was intended such that encoders would be expensive, and decoders relatively inexpensive. This would allow people to buy software to listen to MP3s cheaply, but the creation of MP3s would be expensive, and thus handled by studios and music labels. This all changed when a high-quality MP3 encoder was leaked to the public, and suddenly it became possible to readily convert your CDs at home into the MP3 format.

One hangover of this ownership of the MP3 standard was that when you installed certain FOSS software, such as Audacity or a Linux distro, you would find that you had to go and do some legwork to find an MP3 codec. That was because it wasn’t worth the legal trouble for the FOSS authors to arrange a workaround, and trading in proprietary software is the antithesis to everything they stand for.

However, now that more of the relevant patents are expiring, you can now expect MP3 support to be baked into more software. It may be more than a little late, with more advanced audio formats beginning to take over, but it’s great to know that Fedora, for one, is starting to include MP3 support with their releases.

If you’d like to read more about the history of the MP3, check out this great article from NPR. Fraunhofer have their own great history site, too. If all this talk of advanced audio formats has gotten you excited, check out this MP3 decoder written for the ESP8266.

[Thanks to Tim Trzepacz for the tip!]

Sansa MP3 Player Runs Doom Unplayably

DOOM, is there anything it won’t run on? Yes. Your front lawn cannot currently play DOOM. Pretty much everything else can though. It’s a testament to the game’s impact on society that it gets ported to virtually every platform with buttons and a graphical screen.

This video shows a Sansa Clip playing DOOM, but it’s only just barely recognizable. The Sansa Clip has a single color screen, with yellow pixels at the top and grey for the rest of the screen. The monochrome display makes things hard to see, so a dithering technique is used to try and make things more visible. Unfortunately it’s not particularly effective, and it’s difficult to make out little more than the gun at the bottom of the screen.

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