Vintage Radio with Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi has truly opened up all kinds of possibilities in custom entertainment. One of the most fascinating possibilities lies in replacing the guts of a vintage radio or other media device and enhancing its abilities while keeping the aesthetics of yesterday.

Gordon, who studied computer science and works in the semiconductor industry, decided to enhance a Roberts R300 vintage radio that formerly belonged to his grandmother. His original intention was to keep everything authentic, but after finally getting it out to work on after years of storage, he decided to instead enhance its capabilities with a Raspberry Pi. Besides, AM and long wave radio signals aren’t exactly in vogue these days, and he operates IQaudIO, which specializes in selling audio accessories for the ‘Pi.

Beyond any internal issues, the vintage radio wasn’t exactly as good as he remembered. As he puts it: “Some parts of the radio were okay, some terrible and overall it had lost that lovely red [color] that I fondly remembered.” After cleaning everything up, things look much better, as noted by the before and after videos and gallery below.

To make the ‘Pi modification, the vintage radio itself was easy to get apart as screws, not plastic clips, were still the primary method of attaching things together at the time. Unnecessary components were unsoldered and removed, and the single 40-year-old paper speaker was replaced by two modern drivers supported by a medium density fiberboard (MDF) frame. For control, the original volume potentiometer was replaced with a rotary encoder wired in the the Pi’s general purpose input output (GPIO) pins.

According to Gordon: “It would have been easy to butcher the whole thing but trying to keep the changes non obvious, maintaining the controls etc. was difficult.” Looking at the radio in action in the second video, I think he’s definitely succeeded so far!

According to Gordon, there are “still many things to do but [I] will be attempting to keep to the original look and feel where possible.” For another retro-Pi audio idea, be sure to check out this 40s-era radio converted into a media center.