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Project Information

I've always been fascinated with antique vacuum tube radios… especially those beautiful console radios from the 1930's and 40's. It goes back to the days of my childhood when I was fixated on my great-grandfather's antique radio console while visiting him. While browsing them on eBay, I came across an old Philco console cabinet for sale that looked in tough shape but usable… and it was located not too far away from me. It was particularly appealing to me because of its art-deco design, and hidden control panel. I got an idea that I could outfit it with modern stereo equipment so I bid $40 on it and won the bid. Here's what I started with.




For the audio equipment to do the restomod, I planned to primarily stream music to it, so all I really needed was a good amplifier. But I wanted to maintain its original look and feel, so, for the focal point, I elected to use a high quality vintage style table radio with stereo output (to the amp) and an auxiliary input (for streaming from an Apple Airport Express via Airplay) where the original AM/SW radio had been mounted. I choose the Tangent Audio Uno radio. (Tangent Audio no longer sells this radio, but you can get a cheaper version of it from Crosley Radio called the Solo). The other table style radio I had considered was the Model One from Tivoli Audio. This is a better quality radio than the Tangent Audio radio, but I was taken with the art-deco styled glass tuning dial of the Uno.

I installed a small 8" Polk Audio powered subwoofer where the original speaker was located and will also use two bookshelf speakers, mounted on shelves on the wall, for sound.

The most significant audio component is the vacuum tube stereo amp I built and installed from a kit. It is called the Dynakit ST35. It is a clone of the the Dynaco ST35 designed by Dave Hafler in the 1960's nicknamed the "Baby Dynaco" in the early days of high fidelity. Also checkout this review for more information about this awsome little amp. I mounted this amp where the original phonograph was mounted. Tilting out the front access panel reveals it. This is a safer way to display this amp because there is exposure to high voltage.

The cabinet was salvageable but needed a lot of work to repair many cracks, and delaminating veneer. I wrote a 10-part blog on the entire process.

I'm really pleased with how this came out, and the quality of the sound of that vacuum tube stereo amp is just outstanding. I think I can say that this one of the coolest projects I've ever worked on for myself.

Gallery

Comments

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7,093 Posts
Yeah, that is very cool. Well done, for sure.
 

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807 Posts
Fantastic Job!
 

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1,137 Posts
blown away …. as in How Cool is That! Really nice job on the finish.
 

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6,901 Posts
Nice upgrade!
 

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7,085 Posts
It came out absolutely beautifully! If she sounds as good as she looks, it's gonna be amazing!
 

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6,833 Posts
As I am old enough to have lived with a "Silvertone" with a separate 6 volt-car battery as the power in a house with no electricity or any of the conveniences related to power, I really like your project!

FANTASTIC JOB!

The "Lone Ranger" music used to shake the table beside the radio.Under kerosene lamp-light or candles, that was a creepy feeling. It shook me as well. The single speaker old wooden cabinet radios still sound good.
 

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941 Posts
Beautiful job on the restomod,

Thanks for sharing.

Bill in MI
 

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17,398 Posts
Nice work. Is there more woodworking or electronic job to do? Either way, I bet a lot of fun.
 

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598 Posts
As a young teen, I was lucky enough to have the bottom portion of one of these fitted with a 78/45 record player on top. rjR is right, for a single speaker, it had great sound. Nice job on the cabinet, looks wonderful.
 

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5,795 Posts
After watching all of the DIY shows on TV I though you were supposed to chop it up, paint it some bizarre color and basically ruin the look in order to "refurbish" it. I think your approach looks much better. That is really nicely restored.
 

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574 Posts
I have been wanting to do THIS for so long. Very cool!
 

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198 Posts
That is fantastic. Love the styling. You did it justice! Your grandfather would be proud.

Bret
 

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As I am old enough to have lived with a "Silvertone" with a separate 6 volt-car battery as the power in a house with no electricity or any of the conveniences related to power, I really like your project!

FANTASTIC JOB!

The "Lone Ranger" music used to shake the table beside the radio.Under kerosene lamp-light or candles, that was a creepy feeling. It shook me as well. The single speaker old wooden cabinet radios still sound good.

- ralbuck
I thinks those old radios are underestimated today in their sound quality. They may not reproduce stereo sound, but that vacuum tube technology is still revered today by many audiofiles and musicians. Unfortunately today, if you want a vacuum tube amp, you either have to shell out some big bucks to have them professionally restored, or you need the electronic skills to do it yourself.
 

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Thanks for all the kind words everyone… its been playing nonstop all weekend.
 

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After watching all of the DIY shows on TV I though you were supposed to chop it up, paint it some bizarre color and basically ruin the look in order to "refurbish" it. I think your approach looks much better. That is really nicely restored.

- EarlS
Good point Earl. I was aware that there may be a few folks that would be upset that I retrofit it… they feel that history is being lost, and I hoped that this project would be a good example of a proper retrofit, especially in light that a more modern vacuum tube stereo amp is the centerpiece of the electronics. Some of the retrofits I saw posted on the internet, while looking for ideas for the project were indeed pretty poor and ruined the original piece.
 

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35 Posts
Nice work. Is there more woodworking or electronic job to do? Either way, I bet a lot of fun.

- majuvla
I think I spent about the same amount of time on woodworking, the elctronics, and the finish work. The challenge of the woodworking part was figuring out how to do the repairs and what materials to use.
 

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1,079 Posts
Really nice SAVE!
 

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17,881 Posts
+1 to everything said thus far. It looks great, and the insight you put into the electronics is fabulous. Wonderful project, kudos!
 
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