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Portable stereo/MP3 player for when I work outside revisited (2024)

I've upgraded the portable stereo again

Project Log

Some of you may recall the portable stereo I put together to carry around when I work outside
09 - Completed.jpg

Since I posted that I've used it for many hours, while working in the garden and doing other outdoor projects (like rebuilding the back deck) as well as working on a bunch of indoor home renovations. One thing that has always bothered me is that the only way to adjust the volume without the remote control is by holding down the buttons that jump to the next & previous tracks. That's not too bad for making large changes but no good if you only want to increase it by one notch.

A few months ago I was looking for something else on Aliexpress when I came across this module with an actual volume knob so I ordered one
New Module.jpg

The new module is too long to fit between the existing speakers so a whole new front panel was needed to accommodate a pair of small oval speakers I salvaged speakers from a set of computer speakers. I had some "LVP SPC" flooring (vinyl plank with simulated woodgrain surface and "Stone Plastic Composite" core left over from one of the recent renovations so I decided to use some of it instead of the unknown yellow plastic sheet I used before.
I started by cutting the plank to size and covering it with masking tape so I could lay it out
01 - Layout 1.jpg

02 - layout 2.jpg

After looking at that for a few days I decided the speakers needed trim rings (which will also stiffen the panel a bit). This time I didn't have anything suitable so I had to make my own. If I made them the same shape as the speakers the sides would be too narrow to clamp solidly and might buzz so I designed them with a sort of elongated hexagon shape that would allow the sides to be bolted down.
Fabricating them started with making a template from thin plastic
03 - Trim ring template.jpg

UPDATE (May 21):
Trim rings laid out. I acquired this sheet of plastic about 50 years ago and I have no idea what kind it is. I've used pieces of it for projects over the years but not often because of the colour.
04 - Trim ring layout.jpg

BTW, I wanted to attach the speakers with SAE #6-32 x 5/8" stainless bolts but I was shocked to find the places around here charging about 5 CAD for a pack of 12 nuts & bolts. I wasn't in enough hurry to pay 42 cents each so I went home and shopped online. I use #6 bolts often enough that it is worth having them on hand so I ended up spending 27.62 CAD for 100 each of 3/8", 1/2" and 5/8 plus 100 nuts (I use a lot more bolts than nuts and I have several hundred plain steel nuts on hand). At my age that might be a lifetime supply ;-)

I used the scroll saw to cut out the rings and the holes in the panel, then drilled holes so I could bolt the rings together for filing. Once I had a long side, a short side and about 1/4 of the inner hole matching I turned one ring over so that I could file 2 more of the long sides and more of the inside to match and so on turning or flipping until both rings matched inside & out and were symmetrical. Then I bolted each ring to the front panel and filed its holes to match. (shown before filing the 2nd hole)
05 - Cut & file holes.jpg

Then I sanded the edges really smooth and painted them.
BTW, I bought the little triangle stands on the Aliexpress Pick 3 sale (sets of 10 pcs for about 2.50 CAD or 1.85 US)
06 - Painting trim rings.JPG

The bolts weren't here yet so I worked on planting the veg garden and other projects while listening to it in the original configuration while I waited (this gave the paint a chance to cure too).

When the bolts came I disassembled version 2 of the stereo and used the front panel as a template to cut & drill holes in the back for the compartment for the power bank
07 - Battery compartment in rear.jpg

08 - Battery compartment in rear (inside).jpg
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At least 10 years ago I sent my late friend Bill pics of some speakers I had made. He decided I needed logos with my initials for projects like that so after consulting with his (artist) brother he sent me artwork of a stylized version of my initials (R.E.K.). I printed a sheet of them at what passed for high resolution then and clear coated it so I could cut them out and stick them to a few projects over the years.
This time my neighbour Lee 3D printed one for me. Now the project is really finished
14 - Really finished.jpg
Sorry, I posted the first update as an edit. I think I'm doing this one right.

The first case was way too thin and eventually broke from falling over. Even with the new case it was too easy to make it tip forward; Moving the front feet as far forward as possible and shortening the rear ones made a big difference but it still wasn't as stable as I'd have liked. I initially decided to move the power bank to the rear to leave more room on the front panel but moving the weight of the power bank to the back should fix that issue too.

I also used the old front panel as a template for drilling the holes around the edge of the new one
09 - Drilling holes around edge.jpg

New panel ready for assembly
10 - Front panel finished.jpg

Soldering done. 2 connections to the USB plug, 1 for antenna wire and 2 each for the speakers. This project certainly didn't strain my electronics skills
BTW, the white stuff on the left is polyester fibre for inside the case.
11 - Soldering done.jpg

And assembled. It is hard to tell from the pic but I sprayed the speakers with Dark Teal Metallic
12 - Finished 1.jpg

13 - Finished 2.jpg

I've listened to it for over 12 hours so far. It is nice to have a volume knob (with power switch) but the time counter resets at only 20 minutes (the old one was 100 minutes). That wouldn't be a problem if you are just listening to songs but the radio shows & podcasts I listen to are 1-3 hours long and it would be nice to know how far into the program I am. The old player would reset to the beginning of the MP3 if I didn't pause it before turning the power off. It took me a while to figure out that with this one I need to pause and remove the USB drive before turning it off, after which I can plug the drive back in and when I turn it on again it will start where I left off. I think I'm already used to that.
It's not a big surprise that speakers that small could do with a bit more bass (I'd consider adding a port if I had a way to find the resonant frequency) but overall I think it sounds fuller than the round speakers I used in Versions 1&2.

Now about the parts I didn't reuse..... I have some ideas but they will have to wait for a few weeks until I get caught up on some other stuff.

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Sidecar Bob
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