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  • Preamp/Faceplate for Table Radio/Boombox WISH LIST...

    Happy new year fellow Tech-Talkers...

    I've spent the last few years really enjoying messing around with smaller table radios and such. I've used several types of preamp boards including one from Parts Express and several from Aliexpress/Amazon. They're all mostly 'okay' with some pros/cons.

    Since Parts Express/Dayton Audio has the ability to get pretty much anything made they way they want it, I was thinking about how nice it would be to have a 'Dayton Audio' themed preamp faceplate for the many, many table radio and boombox designs that are built by us DIY'ers. Look at the project showcase and you'll see that many of the new things that are being made revolve around this small and/or portable all-in-one music solution.

    Dayton Audio has a "look" or "Design Language" with their small amps... Black brushed aluminum, knurled metal knobs with machined exposed aluminum knobs, quality feel with the switchgear, attractive high-contrast fonts, etc. I would absolutely LOVE to use a Dayton Audio designed and appearance preamp on future table radios instead of taking chances on whatever unit that Aliexpress is selling hot this quarter.

    I'd like to make a list of what I'D like to see in a preamp/faceplate board, and see what you guys think should be included feature-wise.

    Here is my list:
    (1) Rotary Input. Could be built-in or even external like the Sure unit. I'd like it to default to volume up/down, but with a press it could also toggle to inputs which would change as you turn the dial.
    (2) It should have the ability to turn-on another device (amplifier) 'Trigger-On' I think it's called, which we could attach to a relay of some type to turn on the actual amp. Maybe a 3-5 second delay?
    (3) It should have a real remote with rubber buttons and use AAA batteries, not be a membrane credit card thing with button cells... those things just feel cheap.
    (4) I know this may be more difficult, but a connection for a line level pre-volume L/R output for a spectrum analyzer would be awesome as well! In other words no matter where the volume is on any input, the spectrum analyzer would display mostly the same output, regardless of volume level. I love spectrum analyzers.
    (5) Probably goes without saying, but USB/SD flash card music input... maybe even cell charging through that port if not too difficult?
    (6) Classy looking display,
    (7) softer tone for Bluetooth alert, not the full-volume voice that some have.
    * If it had the classic Dayton small amp look that would be excellent....

    This level of quality and appearance:

    Click image for larger version  Name:	Amp Face.JPG Views:	3 Size:	24.6 KB ID:	1428396


    Heck, maybe even something with a built-in amp if it approaches 50 watts or so?

    Parts Express has been great at listening to DIY'ers and has been catering to this type of product more and more, for example the new amp series with built-in DSP.
    I love making these types of small radios for friends and family, but am getting a little frustrated with the hit-or-miss, cheap boards I mostly see out in the marketplace. The great community that is Tech Talk has personally helped me navigate several struggles/issues with some of these preamp boards... from noise issues, to reducing voltages, etc. but I know if Dayton resolved to do it right, they could make a truly fantastic product that would be a pleasure to operate.

    Please add your thoughts and list of features you'd like to see, maybe it could happen?


    Thanks!
    TomZ
    Last edited by tomzarbo; 01-04-2020, 02:18 PM. Reason: Added a few more wish list items
    *Veneering curves, seams, using heat-lock iron on method *Trimming veneer & tips *Curved Sides glue-up video
    *Part 2 *Gluing multiple curved laminations of HDF *Cello's Speaker Project Page

    *Building the "Micro-B 2.1 Plate Amplifier -- Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3 * Part 4 * * Part 5 'Review' * -- Assembly Instructions PDF

  • #2
    Here are some of the table radio's I've made so far for comparison:

    Toni Table Radio:

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    Bantam Table Radio:

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ID:	1428400 Another with a smaller faceplate (noisy) :(

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    Sound Travelers:

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    That one didn't use a faceplate, but you get the idea.

    Almost forgot about this one for my Wife's sister and husband:

    Click image for larger version

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    I have several more ideas in the pipeline that I'm excited about building as well.

    One I'm excited about is a Bantam Table Radio 2.1 version which will delete the PR's on the L/R speakers and add a 5" subwoofer for deeper bass and more output.

    Another I'm jazzed about is a super-small 2-channel radio with a very minimal footprint using the ND65 drivers. Think Sound Traveler or Toni Table Radio, but more compact, possibly a bit taller, angled up a bit too.

    TomZ
    *Veneering curves, seams, using heat-lock iron on method *Trimming veneer & tips *Curved Sides glue-up video
    *Part 2 *Gluing multiple curved laminations of HDF *Cello's Speaker Project Page

    *Building the "Micro-B 2.1 Plate Amplifier -- Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3 * Part 4 * * Part 5 'Review' * -- Assembly Instructions PDF

    Comment


    • #4
      Great ideas, Tom!
      Besides building a number of these devices and discovering strengths and weaknesses of various components, your
      professional experience as an educator really shines. I agree with many of your observations - the typical membrane
      remote with the little "clicker" buttons not only feels cheap, it feels like it's just waiting to die, then you are out of business,
      since they aren't available separately.

      If I can jump into your thread here -
      I'd like to build an internet radio type box - I'd like to have maybe 4-5 preset internet streaming "stations" that
      would connect over wifi. I don't need or want to stream bluetooth (or airplay) audio from my phone, but it's possible
      that a simple BLE app would offer remote control of the "radio".
      Are the components available, or would this require a lot of integration?

      Thanks in advance..

      I think I hear a difference - wow, it's amazing!" Ethan Winer: audio myths
      "As God is my witness I'll never be without a good pair of speakers!" Scarlett O'Hara

      High value, high quality RS150/TB28-537SH bookshelf - TARGAS NLA!
      SB13/Vifa BC25SC06 MTM DCR Galeons-SB13-MTM
      My Voxel min sub Yet-another-Voxel-build

      Tangband W6-sub

      Comment


      • #5
        Originally posted by donradick View Post
        Great ideas, Tom!
        Besides building a number of these devices and discovering strengths and weaknesses of various components, your
        professional experience as an educator really shines. I agree with many of your observations - the typical membrane
        remote with the little "clicker" buttons not only feels cheap, it feels like it's just waiting to die, then you are out of business,
        since they aren't available separately.

        If I can jump into your thread here -
        I'd like to build an internet radio type box - I'd like to have maybe 4-5 preset internet streaming "stations" that
        would connect over wifi. I don't need or want to stream bluetooth (or airplay) audio from my phone, but it's possible
        that a simple BLE app would offer remote control of the "radio".
        Are the components available, or would this require a lot of integration?

        Thanks in advance..
        Thanks Don,

        It's really fun messing with this stuff, lots to be learned -- thankfully the folks here are willing to teach.

        What you propose sounds pretty nice, and is probably the way things are headed from the looks of it.
        I can't comment as I don't know anything about 'streaming' as you're describing it. I know PE has devices that do that, possibly they could be integrated into a faceplate type of device that could be made into a radio.

        There are a few guys on here that have a pretty good handle on Arduino-type stuff and it seems that has the capability to do amazing things if you know how to do it. In a few years from now once I get my existing speaker backlog cleared out, I may dig into that aspect of the hobby.

        Regarding Bluetooth, MOST young people use it all the time -- I think they never turn it off -- and it's probably just a dollar, maybe less -- to add to a device -- retail, and the FM radio is probably pennies... not that they work all that well (at least compared to an average car radio) but they provide some added functionality and options for folks aside from a jumpdrive or direct 3.5mm connection. Personally, I tend to use USB flash drives with most of my music collection on it, and a few dozen videos of youtube vids, mostly of live concerts and such -- assuming the unit has a video player.

        Also, I asked the question awhile back on how to add a computer CD ROM drive to a preamp faceplate... they are so cheap and small these days, I thought it would be cool to add CD to a table radio. Turns out it can be done, but it's not easy. Again, Arduino may provide a solution to that as well.

        Let me add your item to the list...

        (8) Internet music streaming with the ability to create station 'presets'
        ……. and I'll include since I referenced it...
        (9) CD ROM connectivity for audio output through USB with a cheap computer CD ROM... heck, might as well add that since we're dreaming, right?

        I'm thinking there may be two options for this device, one basic one as I've outlined and one with more features such as the wi-fi connectivity. Adding all features into one device may price it out of affordability for it's intended use.

        Anyway, I'm babbling, but thanks for the input and for adding to the list.

        TomZ

        *Veneering curves, seams, using heat-lock iron on method *Trimming veneer & tips *Curved Sides glue-up video
        *Part 2 *Gluing multiple curved laminations of HDF *Cello's Speaker Project Page

        *Building the "Micro-B 2.1 Plate Amplifier -- Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3 * Part 4 * * Part 5 'Review' * -- Assembly Instructions PDF

        Comment


        • #6
          And some product support and how to for stupid people like me.

          Comment


          • #7
            Tom,

            So it's helpful (in product development or IT) to think in terms of "use cases". How will the user use this gizmo.

            I need to:

            Connect over wifi to an internet URL that streams audio, whether talk (NPR/Free Speech) or music
            I want an LCD screen to show me status and what's playing
            Frankly, I can just go to Amazon and buy any number of "Internet Radios" for about $100, so sinking
            30-40 hours of development and building could be a "labor of love", or it could be a rathole of things
            not quite working the way I want.
            But yeah, you can make a number of devices like this with Arduinos

            Like you, I am fond of devices where I don't have to worry about any connectivity, just stick in a USB drive and play
            just what you put on it. Very simple. I may just get something like that for my shop.

            The new little (Sure) amp with DSP could also be a monster solution for this kind of device with the wonderful
            cheap little drivers we can get from PE. But every additional integration takes time and money.

            A recent DIY electronics mag had a project like this, a box with internet, usb, bluetooth and a cd player.
            The guy said that he spent about $400 plus a number of custom 3d printed parts. Lots of effort..


            I think I hear a difference - wow, it's amazing!" Ethan Winer: audio myths
            "As God is my witness I'll never be without a good pair of speakers!" Scarlett O'Hara

            High value, high quality RS150/TB28-537SH bookshelf - TARGAS NLA!
            SB13/Vifa BC25SC06 MTM DCR Galeons-SB13-MTM
            My Voxel min sub Yet-another-Voxel-build

            Tangband W6-sub

            Comment


            • #8
              I just wanted to bump this to see if anyone had any additional ideas or input.

              And thanks Don, for the new way of looking at this. As a teacher I've become a 'list' guy, so....

              SilverD has been investigating another little preamp player that I've also messed with a bit to see if a rotary volume knob could be added to it, I think Neil has one coming as well...

              Here is the thread for that one: http://techtalk.parts-express.com/fo...coder-question

              The idea for that one is to at least just get a volume knob going via a rotary encoder. It had advertised three leads listed three contacts as being for 'rotary encoder master volume control' which may have just been marketing 'untruth' or bad translation. That one is around $10, so if a remote volume encoder could be added to that one, it would do the job for me pretty much... but I'd sure rather deal with the known quality of PE and Dayton rather than going through Aliexpress and the unknown manufacturing process/parts 'randomness' and other issues that exist with many Ali purchases.

              Anyway, just wanted to bring this to the 'forefront' for a little longer to see if there was any additional thoughts or features you would like to see.

              TomZ

              *Veneering curves, seams, using heat-lock iron on method *Trimming veneer & tips *Curved Sides glue-up video
              *Part 2 *Gluing multiple curved laminations of HDF *Cello's Speaker Project Page

              *Building the "Micro-B 2.1 Plate Amplifier -- Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3 * Part 4 * * Part 5 'Review' * -- Assembly Instructions PDF

              Comment


              • #9
                Originally posted by donradick View Post
                Tom,
                ...
                Frankly, I can just go to Amazon and buy any number of "Internet Radios" for about $100, so sinking
                30-40 hours of development and building could be a "labor of love", or it could be a rathole of things
                not quite working the way I want ....
                That was my first thought. Is there a mass produced (i.e., cheap) unit I could "hack" into my own project.

                Click image for larger version

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                Comment


                • #10
                  Originally posted by tomzarbo View Post
                  I just wanted to bump this to see if anyone had any additional ideas or input.
                  The only other product that I've seen that would be of interest is the Aiyima product that also includes Mic and guitar inputs:

                  Click image for larger version  Name:	Image1.png Views:	0 Size:	299.0 KB ID:	1429052

                  It had advertised three leads listed three contacts as being for 'rotary encoder master volume control' which may have just been marketing 'untruth' or bad translation.
                  Hmmm... I looked at a lot of different vendors for that product, but what I always saw was "Master volume encoder interface", without the word "rotary" in the description. I assumed that the interface could be used for volume control, but that the volume information could be encoded in one of many different ways, and that it wasn't necessarily designed for a rotary encoder.

                  I found a lot more information about that JL chip at this link: https://cloud.whitequark.org/s/WPMSZM7CrbT6Gde/download . That link is for a 166Mb download that has information on all of the variants of the AC690n chip, along with the software and reference circuits. It also has Codeblocks, which is an open source IDE needed to run the JL development tools. I tried installing the software, and yes, you can compile the code. However, I think there are some other tools and a development board required to program the devices with your own code--that toolset is here. The complete toolkit costs around $130.

                  The AC690n series has about 10 variants, from a 16-bit chip for small Bluetooth speakers to a 64 pin version that supports a large LCD display. These chips are used in a lot of commercial devices--for example, the Sansui T18 Bluetooth speaker uses the AC6905, which is a 24-pin version of the chip. JL says there is just one code base for all of these chips. The 48-pin version used in the product that Tom referenced in the other thread is the AC6901. Interestingly, none of the reference drawings for any of the chips in this series show a rotary encoder, and if you do a word-search on "rotary" in the code, you will come up empty. Maybe it is a new feature that will show up in a future version of the code, but it isn't supported in the code that I was able to find.

                  On the other hand, the advertisement for the Aiyima product shown above says it uses an AC690n chip for the Bluetooth, and it's got knobs!. So are those potentiometers or rotary encoders, and in either event, how do those controls interface to the AC690n chip? Plus, there is a cell phone app that makes this product even more interesting. But at 12" by 8", this is not an ideal product for a table radio...it's too big. It would be nice if this product had a smaller sibling without the guitar and mic circuitry..

                  There is a Karaoke control board that is a lot smaller, but it doesn't appear to have line-level outputs (???)

                  Click image for larger version  Name:	Image2.png Views:	0 Size:	161.7 KB ID:	1429084
                  Last edited by neildavis; 01-10-2020, 05:51 PM.
                  Free Passive Speaker Designer Lite (PSD-Lite) -- http://www.audiodevelopers.com/Softw...Lite/setup.exe

                  Comment


                  • #11
                    Blast from the past: Pournelle's Law "If you don't know what you are doing, find an expert"

                    Thanks Neil - you never cease to amaze.

                    I think I hear a difference - wow, it's amazing!" Ethan Winer: audio myths
                    "As God is my witness I'll never be without a good pair of speakers!" Scarlett O'Hara

                    High value, high quality RS150/TB28-537SH bookshelf - TARGAS NLA!
                    SB13/Vifa BC25SC06 MTM DCR Galeons-SB13-MTM
                    My Voxel min sub Yet-another-Voxel-build

                    Tangband W6-sub

                    Comment


                    • #12
                      Thanks Mike and Neil for the great finds and info.

                      Mike, that looks pretty nice and seems to have a level of functionality that everything else I've seen doesn't have, namely Don's request for internet radio stations. I don't see a USB input for MP3's and the like on that one, but for many, that wouldn't matter I guess. I see the description says "Digital" radio, assuming that's just digits on the display and not 'HD Radio' but it would be nice if it was. Might be a bit big for a table radio, but I think it could be made to fit if the box size was re-jigged a bit to a more vertical orientation.
                      Nice find there.

                      Neil, is the slot at the top of the first unit for a CD? Looks like it.
                      EDIT: just checked it out, it's not, just a 'design feature' I guess.

                      Thanks for all the digging into the bowels of what chips make this stuff work. I may have added the word "Rotary"... the text in most of these descriptions says "Master Volume Encoder Interface" to which I probably added the word 'rotary' The term 'encoder' does seem to suggest more than just a potentiometer would be in play, but given the state of Chinese-to-English translation quality.... who the heck knows.

                      I think I may just have to get over my love of knobs and learn to embrace the button press. Thanks Neil for all the work and explanations. You guys are amazing.

                      TomZ
                      *Veneering curves, seams, using heat-lock iron on method *Trimming veneer & tips *Curved Sides glue-up video
                      *Part 2 *Gluing multiple curved laminations of HDF *Cello's Speaker Project Page

                      *Building the "Micro-B 2.1 Plate Amplifier -- Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3 * Part 4 * * Part 5 'Review' * -- Assembly Instructions PDF

                      Comment

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