Category Archives: General

Restored Vintage Stereo Console

The restored vintage stereo console is finally complete.  I’ve been working on this thing on and off for way too long.  I am very happy with the results and the console is working as it was originally intended albeit with much more modern components.  Let me show you what I’ve done…

If you are interested, click here for the prior article about the vintage stereo console.  But essentially that article talks about how I removed all the original components and ended up with an empty cabinet.

Speakers

The original console had raw drivers inside each compartment on either side of the cabinet.  I was going to try to source new drivers but instead, my friend Jeff gave me a pair of vintage Polk speakers he no longer used.  They took a little finagling to get in but they couldn’t have been a better match.

The speaker wires are cheap; this is not a reference system so I did not splurge on exotic oxygen-free copper wires with silver soldered ends.  However, I did get some nifty banana plugs from Amazon.  They have a screw-on design and worked very nice.  They were super easy to install, without the need of a soldering.  Those are two-way Polk speakers by the way.

And from the image above you can see I put the original backing material back on.  This did two things:  it improved bottom end on the speakers a little bit and it also makes the console look finished.  So both sides of the rear of the console are covered.  Here is the other side:

And the side and center back panels…

The Components

Now let me show you what runs the whole shebang…

I cut a piece of MDF to serve as the new shelf for all the goodies shown above.  I used MDF because it is cheap and I had some left over from when I built my new nifty worktable (i’ll have more about that in a later post).  There is a brace you can’t see in the photo above so the new MDF shelf had to be cut about 1/8 inch short on all sides in order for me to get it in the console’s cavity.  This left a rather ugly gap on each side, so in order to cover it all up, I just used adhesive-backed cork drawer liner.  I bought that from Amazon too and it worked out just fine.  It was easy to cut and since it bends easy, I could cut it as long as I needed.

The Power Supply

So what do we have here?  At the very top is a Furman power supply.  I wanted this to look as slick as possible and the Furman power supply does the trick.  On the back side of the power supply are a number of power outlets all fed from one heavy gauge wire that plugs to the wall outlet.  This way there is only one plug to deal with.  Another cool feature is the single power button that if needed, shuts power off to all plugs.  It is all fused and overall it is very well made.  Mounting the power supply required cutting a hole in the shelf and then sliding it in.

The Amplifier

Next is a Yamaha WXA-50 Wireless Streaming Amplifier.  I chose this because it has a built in amplifier, bluetooth, digital input, optical input, remote control and has its own app that can be used from an iPhone or iPad.  However all this does not come cheap.  The WXA-50 is rather pricey, but it is the perfect fit for what I wanted to do here.  The WXA-50 sits vertical as you can see.  I had originally mounted it flat but it took up too much space and did not look good.  To get the WXA-50 to stand vertical, I had to build a small box underneath the shelf.  This took some effort because it had to be done around the ventilation panels of the amp.  Once I figured it out though, the amp slid in place and all is good.

The Media Server

Finally, I have my old macMini acting as media server.  I have my entire music library stored there and it is accessible from either my iPhone/iPad or from my macBook via remote desktop.  This means that I can play my entire iTunes collection from the macMini through the WXA-50.  I suppose the macMini could have been installed underneath the shelf but that proved to be problematic in case I need to access it.  Plus it just looks cool in the current configuration.

Remember I said there is an app?  The app is called Yamaha MusicCast.  Once you get that all configured, you can link it to your SiriusXM account, play any radio station on the internet and many other sources.  The WXA-50 is a very nice piece of equipment indeed.

I had originally wanted to slide a vintage amplifier (say, something like an old Marantz) but there is just not enough space.  And, there would be no bluetooth, XMRadio, etc.  Instead, what I have here is just perfect.  The system is not overly loud and serves exactly what it was meant to be:  a very pleasant way to have background music playing in the background.

Finally, if you notice on the featured image above, there is a small framed key…  It is special and fits nicely with the mid-century theme going on…

This is a legit Playboy Club key that used to belong to my father-in-law.  Good times!

Restoring a Vintage Stereo Console

Restoring a vintage stereo console is a project I’ve wanted to work on for a very long time.  I know, these things are dinosaurs from an era long gone, but I have always had a certain affinity for them.  Finally, a couple of weeks ago I found this piece of furniture and decided it would make a great candidate for restoration – ahem – upgrade…

Some History

Back in the 60’s a console was one of the nicer options to bring hi-fi sound home.  “Separate” components would make the scene a few years later, but this was the way to go in those early days of stereo sound.  This console consists of two stereo speakers on either side.  The center has a lift-up lid that when opened, displayed the magic:

On the left is an automatic record player with a selector for different speeds and on the right, a tuner/amplifier.  Oh and don’t forget a compartment to store records.

This is the audio only version of the console genre:  there were also larger consoles that would not only have the above components but would also house a television.  The TV would be in the center and usually had sliding doors to hide the screen.  My aunt had a Magnavox console with the television set in the center and it was awesome!

The Project

This particular console is a “Silvertone” made for Sears from sometime in the mid to late 60’s.  As expected for a piece of furniture of this era, it is very, very heavy.

I plugged the power cord in the outlet and sure enough, the receiver’s lights came on.  Unfortunately nothing but static and hissing came from the speakers.  I switched the record player on and as expected nothing happened.  I wasn’t expecting much, after all don’t forget this is almost 50-year-old components.

Today, I decided to open the console and disassemble the components.  From the back, this is what the console looks like…

And as expected, there are three separate compartments.  To the extreme left and extreme right you can see the back covers for the speaker enclosures.  In the center, the cover for the amp, tuner and turntable mechanism.

This stuff is ancient!  I found brittle connectors and cables as well.  Also, to the right of the power supply/amplifier I found two shriveled up belts (possibly from the turntable mechanism).

And next, this is what I found in the speaker compartments.  As it turned out, the big woofer is a paper cone affair with a very small magnet and a horn tweeter at the very top.  You can see that in the second photo below.  This must have been state-of-the art when this console was sold but by today’s standards this is not so great (more about this later).

Taking it Apart

Since none of these bits work and the cost to repair would likely be high, the sensible thing to do is to gut the console.  My plan is to replace the old components with a modern integrated amplifier with bluetooth and upgraded speakers.  This way, I can stream music from my iPhone or iPad and in the future I can get a modern turntable for playing my old vinyl collection.

Taking the components apart took patience.  I started by removing the power supply/amplifier by disconnecting wires from the tuner.  There were several that had to be cut but eventually the unit came out.

Next, the record player.  This is what it looked like from below:

It took some doing, but eventually I figured out to remove the safety pin from one stud (above right) – then the whole thing just rotated up.  The record player’s mount consisted of three springs and foam, which by the way had almost completely deteriorated to dust.

The last piece of hardware to go was the tuner.  This took patience but eventually it came out.  At the end of the day, the piece of furniture is now empty!  There is quite a bit of room left to design a new top to house new components.

The top picture is looking at the console from above.  Once I figure out my new components, this will be cut where needed and a new top made to fit.  The last two pictures show what the lower cavity looks like.  You might notice the holes on the “floor” – those were there to help vent the old components.

Finally, the speakers.  This part was very dusty and smelled bad.  The sound baffling insulation was covered in 50 years’ worth of dust.  Once I had that nasty stuff out, I started by removing the paper cone woofer, shown below…

Once the woofer came out, I found this:

LOL!  A center mounted mid-range driver!  At the very top, this is what the horn tweeter looked like:

Eventually, the horn tweeter came out and I was left with only the dark gray mounting plate attached to the inside of the console.  Screws held the mounting plate in place along with the dowels that you can see above.  You can also see the mesh on the other side of the port in the picture above.  That mesh was covered in dust too.

What Next?

Well, this is where the fun begins!

At first, I thought I could re-purpose my vintage NAD 1700 pre-amp by mounting it vertically inside the console after making a new top.  But, the pre-amp is way too wide and has no bluetooth built in.

After several Google searches I have found a few alternatives.  They are all more modern integrated amplifiers with a very small footprint.  I’ve found some with old-fashioned tubes (which would look cool as heck) and the others made from solid state components.  The majority of these modern integrated amps do have bluetooth and some even have a built in DAC and digital input from a computer.  Very nice options indeed.

I’m also researching the speakers.  I’ve found a couple of “kits” I can adapt to fit inside the speaker compartments, which are large enough for a nice option.  Then again, I also have a pair of very nice PSB bookshelf speakers.  However they will need a small subwoofer and real estate is tight.

So, stay tuned.  I’ll have more articles as the project takes shape!  And if you have any suggestions please let me know.  This will be a fun project!

And while on the subject of music…  May the road go on forever for the Midnight Rider…  RIP Greg Allman…  Ramble on…

Update:

Care to see how the console looks like today?  For a followup article, see the Restored Vintage Stereo Console page.

Godspeed, John Glenn

It is with a heavy heart I write today’s post.  Today we lost a true hero – the last of the Mercury Seven – John Glenn.

I suppose I am just “old” but the Mercury Seven represent for me a time when we as a nation and society traveled through time’s finest hour.

Godspeed John Glenn…  May you travel well…  Godspeed…

mercury_test_pilots-1

Just imagine the stories these glorious seven are sharing now…

Astronaut John Glenn photographed in space by an automatic sequence motion picture camera during his flight on “Friendship 7.” Glenn was in a state of weightlessness traveling at 17,500 mph as this picture was taken.

 

Hitachi RB 24EAP Leaf Blower

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6 month old Hitachi Leaf Blower

I’ve had enough of the 90th Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.  Anticipating company that will soon be arriving I decided to fire up my 6 month old Hitachi leaf blower and clear out the driveway, front walk and back patio – after all, Thanksgiving weather is in low 70’s today, here in the Upstate of South Carolina.

And sure enough the damn thing refused to start.  On close inspection, the reason for the failure appears to be the carburetor is not priming.  Press the rubber bulb, right?  Well sure.  But the grommet leaks and fuel spills out instead of getting pumped into the carburetor.

img_4133And here is that grommet I speak of.  It has two rubber lines coming out of it, and they are just press-fit in the two holes on the grommet.  Of course, when one pumps the bulb, fuel spills out through the little lines.

And yes, I have followed the recommended fuel requirements:  this blower is using 100% straight fuel (or at least that is what the pump said) instead of that ethanol laced crap sold today.

Of course we all know the reason for this:  today’s fuel is just not what it used to be.  All these rubber parts are made of the cheapest materials.  The grommet pictured above should be made of Viton so it would be impervious to today’s fuels.  But no.  This stuff is mass-produced and this part would eat at the bottom line.  That CEO at Hitachi would fail to get his bonus.  Instead us consumers get the shaft.  Again, this blower is only 6 months old.

Fortunately, these parts are available online.  I just placed an order for a new grommet and fuel lines because you know the minute I go replace this those lines will be brittle and start leaking themselves.  Oh but here is the kicker…  These parts totaled about $8 bucks with a $7.95 shipping & handling charge.  Go figure…

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Mopeds, Trucks and Mustangs

img_4128My friend Jeff sent me this photo just a few minutes after leaving work yesterday, November 22nd.  I suppose this is as good an example of “necessity being the mother of invention” as any…

Interesting how mopeds are becoming more and more prevalent in our busy streets.  The sad part about this is that these transportation conveyances are so non-regulated.  Then again, this is why they are so easy to acquire and to ride.  Catch 22 for sure.

Don’t take me wrong, I am not scorning folks driving these machines on city streets and highways but some of these folks certainly go to extremes at the expense of their own (and others) safety.  And adding insult to injury with no regard to basic laws and driving conduct; ie., driving in the left lane, hogging the road or hauling a keg of beer, etc.

img_3947While on the subject of mopeds…  I took this photo several weeks ago.  It shows two extremes in transportation – a sign of our times.  On the left a fully loaded $60k Ford pickup and on the right another moped.  Two chariots providing the same basic concept – moving from point “A” to point “B” – but with different levels of safety, comfort, status, and the list goes on.

Finally, a short story on the silver high-dollar truck shown in the picture:  The truck was a “loaner” given to a co-worker by a local Ford dealership  Turns out several months ago my friend had bought one of the new Mustangs with the V6 engine.  Said Mustang developed a voracious “appetite” for engine oil and eventually started making strange noises.  The dealer took the engine apart, put it back together and that yielded more strange noises.  After weeks that turned into months the good folks at FOMOCO did like Tammy Wynette standing by her man and in this case, stood by their steed:  they sent a brand new crate engine replacement.

All is well now after the engine transplant and my friend is back on the road enjoying his Mustang.  I guess this must have been a bad omen though…  FOMOCO has ceased production of the V6 engine Mustang…

So happy Thanksgiving 2016 to you all.  I for one have much to be thankful for and with much optimism that America will be made Great Again.