Upgrading a Vintage Radio with Alexa While Retaining AM/FM Functionality

Tsuryx upgraded a vintage Sony transistor radio from the ‘70s with Amazon Alexa, without sacrificing the original AM/FM radio functionality.

Cameron Coward
22 days agoRetro Tech / Music / Alexa Gadgets

Vintage radios look awesome and we see a lot projects that repurpose their enclosures for use with modern audio hardware — I’ve completed a couple of projects like that myself. But those projects almost always gut the original electronic components entirely, so the actual AM/FM (and sometimes shortwave) radio functionality is lost. That’s why we’re impressed by this build from Tsuryx that upgrades a vintage radio with Alexa without sacrificing AM/FM reception.

This is possible because, unlike modern devices, vintage electronics tended to have more space inside their enclosures than they actually required. That was especially true for radios, because of a “bigger is better” perception and the fact that speaker drivers benefit from having air to move around. Tsuryx’s Sony TFM-9450W transistor radio from the late ‘70s was still in working order and had room to spare, so they were able to keep the original circuit board and speaker driver and add the new components.

Tsuryx already uses Amazon Alexa in their home and wanted to extend that capability to this radio, so one of those new components is the board from an Amazon Echo Dot (4th Generation). They chose that model specifically because it has auxiliary output through a 3.5mm jack. The Echo’s board mounts onto the inside of the enclosure, with the microphone exposed enough to pick up the user’s voice.

At that point, Tsuryx had two separate audio sources within the enclosure, but only one speaker. So, they added an inexpensive audio mixer board to combine the two. That accepts two source inputs via 3.5mm jacks, with two knobs to adjust their levels. It then outputs the mixed result through another 3.5mm jack. In this case, Tsuryx connected the speaker directly to that output.

We should point out that this isn’t necessarily the standard way to connect everything, as the AM/FM radio source is amplified for the speaker and the Echo Dot source is not (it is, presumably, amplified for headphones). Even turned all the way up on the mixer, the Echo will likely be quiet. But it appears to work well enough for Tsuryx’s use and that’s what matters. Now they get to enjoy good ol’ fashioned radio alongside modern streaming.

Cameron Coward
Writer for Hackster News. Proud husband and dog dad. Maker and serial hobbyist. Check out my YouTube channel: Serial Hobbyism
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