Raspberry Roller

I got a Raspberry Pi a while ago (well, two actually) and have finally finished my first project with it, to make a portable music streaming device.

This would have been pretty easy, but I decided to put it in an old retro 80s ghetto blaster case, namely this one, a Phillips Roller radio cassette player. My parents had one when I was a kid and I came across one on eBay and thought it would be perfect.


So, I ripped out the guts, including the rather measly speakers and cut out loads of the inner plastic that was supporting the amp, radio and cassette parts and went to work to put in my own contents.

This took quite a while and the added difficulty of a young baby and a two year old who needs constant entertainment only added to the challenge (using a dremel when the wife has put your 6 month old son to sleep doesn’t go down too well ;)).

Once all the insides had been cleaned out, I then went to work to put my own contents inside. Alongside the Raspberry Pi, I also put in:

USB WiFi dongle with external aerial (so I can replace the one on the radio)
USB WiFi dongle with external aerial (so I can replace the one you see from the outside)
Amp from Sure Electronics (I wanted a tripath, but this seemed the easiest)
Amp from Sure Electronics (I wanted a tripath, but this seemed the easiest)
Kenwood Car Speakers
Car Speakers (3-way speakers for better range, but at 5 1/4″ these aren’t gonna rock the house too much)
Simple USB soundcard
Simple USB sound card (I’d read the internal sound chip in the Pi is a bit basic if you are using the 3.5mm output, hence this)

The car speakers were chosen since the old ones were really small and not capable of any bass or offering high power output, the amp because i thought it had a volume control – but to get it to work needed some ninja soldering skills that I don’t have, the sound card I believe is an improvement on the in-built chip (but I might be wrong) and finally the WiFi dongle uses an external antennae, so I’ll still get a good service with all the different devices crammed inside the stereo.

The next step was getting the Pi to play music. Luckily, I tend to listen to all my music from a central server running the rather awesome MPD to stream my music out to as many connected MPD clients as I want. So, all I had to do was install MPD on to a fresh version of the latest Raspbian and I was almost ready to go. I wrote a small script which, on boot, checks to see if my MPD server is available, if so it starts the MPD daemon on the server playing the stream, then starts the MPD client on the Pi playing the stream from the server. If it doesn’t find the server, it adds music from the small local library stored on the SD card and plays that instead., via MPD.

Here’s the inside of the Roller, with the Pi, amp, soundcard and speakers in place:

A view inside the Raspberry Roller.
A view inside the Raspberry Roller.

I stuffed the whole thing with cotton wool, to help boost the bass (but I know next to nothing about proper speaker design, it is one of those things I plan to do in my retirement – build massive bass-thundering speakers).

The Pi is at the bottom, the amp in the middle (you can see the amp’s fan sticking out) and the sound card is at the top.

The finished Roller in all it's red raspberry goodness.
The finished Roller in all it’s red raspberry goodness.

And here is the finished article (playing at the time, but you can’t tell when it is on apart from the music playing).


It sounds pretty good considering. The bass could be better, but you can’t expect much from such relatively small speakers. However, it does go pretty loud for something so small and it sounds really clean and crisp, so I am happy with it.

For the other Pi I have lying around, I plan to use it (when Piface comes out) to control the lights in the dolls house we got my daughter this Christmas. Eventually she will hopefully get in to using Scratch herself to control the lights in her dolls house (and maybe some other things like a little mini stereo or even a small screen in her dolls house). I would imagine when she sees that we can plug her dolls house into the TV and it is a computer, she will be a little excited and intrigued!


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