Other Amps

Radio to Amp question.

1

Ive come across a few Youtube videos where people are converting small'ish older vintage wooden tube and SS radios to guitar amps.

From what Ive seen they dont look too complex to convert, and I have a really cool old G.E. tube radio with a very cool wood design cabinet that is sitting up in the rafters. Has anybody tried it with success or is it too much of a P.I.T.A. ?

and another.

2

It’s certainly possible, however you must be cautious about what circuit the original radio is. There are some that have no power transformers and are commonly know as ‘widowmakers’ If the amp has a power transformer it is a reasonable candidate for a champ type circuit,roughly 5 watts. If you’re interested in that sort of thing I would suggest trying to build a kit amp to get your feet wet , especially if you have no amp building experience. Safety is paramount!

3

I don't remember how I did it, but back in the mid 50s I stuck a small, portable radio, the kind that was about the size of a pack of cigaretts, inside a guitar that I cut open and strange as it sounds, it DID work!!???

4

I did it in the late 60's with a portable I found in the garbage, so I could play guitar in my Hippie Van. With a battery operated radio, you can just feel your way through...usually the trace that runs around the perimeter of the PC board is ground, and then just lick your finger and touch different spots of the board until it makes aloud noise. That's where you connect the guitar jack. If you have a wired radio, you can fry yourself with that method, plus they usually aren't grounded so they don't make good guitar amps without some well-engineered mods.

5

I did it in the late 60's with a portable I found in the garbage, so I could play guitar in my Hippie Van. With a battery operated radio, you can just feel your way through...usually the trace that runs around the perimeter of the PC board is ground, and then just lick your finger and touch different spots of the board until it makes aloud noise. That's where you connect the guitar jack. If you have a wired radio, you can fry yourself with that method, plus they usually aren't grounded so they don't make good guitar amps without some well-engineered mods.

– Billy Zoom

That does ring a bell!

6

If you look around, some of these old radios had a PHONO input so you could use a record player thru them. It’s an RCA jack, but if you get a 1/4” to RCA converter you can plug a guitar right in. No mods needed.

7

Back in Jr High a buddy of mine made his bass amp out of an old RCA console radio. It worked so well that Dad thought he and I could make my first guitar amp out of an old Phillips standup radio/phonograph.

We blew it up real good. Smoke, fame, lotsa sparks....

Not long after, Dad helped me buy my first real amp- a Beltone.

8

I remember back in the 70's, some stereo receivers had the 1/4 inch input jack. Plug the guitar in, set the receiver to Aux In, and use the stereo speakers. Can't recall if the receivers were Pioneer or Kenwood.

9

Back in the Jr. HS days I did all these permutations.

My Dad was an EE, ... always an old radio or receiver kit around to try and blow up with my Electric guitars and Bass. I became quite proficient making 1/4" to RCA adapter cables.

You need to be sure of the speakers, easy to go over the top... especially the 6*9 ovals!

Tone was always a bit thin, but when trying to make a big noise...

10

The reason I asked,is that I have a guitar hanging in the living room for spur of the moment playing. I'd prefer to not have a guitar amp in there so a "radio" would be more appealing.

I found a SS kit amp on ebay that I can easily stuff in the radio once I gut it.

11

The reason I asked,is that I have a guitar hanging in the living room for spur of the moment playing. I'd prefer to not have a guitar amp in there so a "radio" would be more appealing.

I found a SS kit amp on ebay that I can easily stuff in the radio once I gut it.

– LA_Manny

I have a bunch of old radios and intercoms sitting around collecting dust. I can send you one if you wanna try sticking the kit inside.

12

I have a bunch of old radios and intercoms sitting around collecting dust. I can send you one if you wanna try sticking the kit inside.

– Powdog

Thanks for the offer Ethan, Imma try the one I currently have. It should work,If I have issues I'll take you up on your offer.

13

Its a fun project. Sound can be disappointing. You can gut the radio, and then put in a better speaker. Then use a low watt head if you dont want to build/ modify an amp. Roland cubes are affordable and easily installed in guitars or wierd enclosures. Solid state with modeling sounds and effects. Have fun!

14

I found this old tube radio in a local thrift shop. I bundled it with another purchase and got it for $20. Appears to be from the 1950s. The volume pot needed cleaning but otherwise it worked OK!

15

The seal on the back - you know it's a quality radio!

16

So I was initially puzzled by the selection knob on the front - it had a setting "PH". What was that? Oh...phono input! And here's the jack. So of course I rigged up a guitar input for it and... it worked just fine! There's some hum due to my poorly grounded input setup, but the tone is unmistakably tube, and I could get some convincing Charlie Christian type jazz tones from the small speaker using my Telecaster. I didn't try overdrive the input, but it probably wouldn't sound too impressive with the built-in speaker. I may eventually try to install a speaker-out jack so I can attach a larger speaker to it. Probably would sound OK, but still you could do better with a simple 5W guitar amp.

17

My first "amp" was a SABA tube radio in 1965. I had one of those suction cup pickups with a DIN plug that plugged right into that radio. Great distortion.

18

So I was initially puzzled by the selection knob on the front - it had a setting "PH". What was that? Oh...phono input! And here's the jack. So of course I rigged up a guitar input for it and... it worked just fine! There's some hum due to my poorly grounded input setup, but the tone is unmistakably tube, and I could get some convincing Charlie Christian type jazz tones from the small speaker using my Telecaster. I didn't try overdrive the input, but it probably wouldn't sound too impressive with the built-in speaker. I may eventually try to install a speaker-out jack so I can attach a larger speaker to it. Probably would sound OK, but still you could do better with a simple 5W guitar amp.

– Frank_NH

Thats what Im talking about!

Glad to see you got a decent sound out of the little Radio. Like Powdog said earlier, the RCA input is all you need to get it going. Not bad for a $20 investment and probably a future speaker upgrade. Im sure the tube/ Charlie Christian sound is good enough for noodling in the living room. Shes cool.

I like the look of the Vintage radios and having one in my living room as opposed to a Amp would do the trick for me.

20

A buddy used the phono input on an old 1940s console radio. 12" field coil speaker, octal tubes. Weird, but sounded great. Easier to get the Mrs. to allow it into the living room. I've wanted to build a guitar amp out of an old cathedral (pointy top) radio. As long as it has an RCA phono input on it, using a radio should be easy. If not, you'll need to find the output of the RF/IF section just before the amp/AF section. A schematic would help. See if you can find a Sam's Photofact for said radio. Or, use a signal injector to find that connection.

Or, just look for a Fender Greta.


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