Customer ordered radio with the WORKS!


A customer sent this 1941 RCA Victor Model 16X-2. This is a Bakelite radio that was factory painted ivory. 

He ordered the WORKS!

1. Electronic Repair and Restoration

2. Cosmetic Restoration

3. Add Bluetooth

4. Add FM

5. Add WiFi (Amazon Dot)

The radio had been in the family for years. The customer's mother was the original owner.

When I received the radio, I did not try to plug it in:


After replacing the power cord, I took a closer look under the chassis. It was all original. Nobody had done anything to the electronic circuitry since new. Needed a new filter capacitor. Even if it didn't, it is probably a good idea to replace it anyway. Before plugging in, I replaced all the paper and wax capacitors. Why take a chance? Some say if they're not defective leave it alone. I've tried that approach and I end up having to come back after failure during burn in. If originality under the chassis is important, I think I would rather stuff old components.

Here's what was replaced under the chassis:

After consulting with the customer, I convinced him that cosmetic restoration wasn't necessary with this radio. It was in good original condition. No cracks. No chips. I prefer not to repaint an old radio even if the original paint is scratched up like crazy. I prefer to patch and repaint only if the cabinet has been cracked or chipped. If the old cabinet had been stripped and repainted at some point then it's fair game.

However, this story is not electronic or cosmetic repairs. This story is about fancy upgrades. Bluetooth is the most popular upgrade at RRF. More than half of our radios are ordered with the Bluetooth upgrade. 

Next most popular is WiFi Amazon Dot ("Alexa"). We've also done Google Nest as well. Personally, we use Alexa every day through vintage radios for our family music and entertainment. 

FM is not as common as WiFi and Bluetooth. Not sure why. It sounds great. The FM module is a modern integrated circuit so it's reliable and easy to install. Typically, it mounts on the back. This radio required a new backing board that was custom fabricated. More on this later...

All these upgrades can be added to the same radio. You can have all 4 audio sources playing. Just switch from one to another. One audio source does not usually interfere with the others. Once in a while the original AM vacuum tube receiver picks up noise from the other modern upgrades so I need to play around with different transformers, add a few capacitors, and re-route or shorten leads to eliminate noise. It's a challenge and requires a different approach every time.

I decided to use a special 3 pole double tap rotary switch to select between upgrade options. This rotary switch is mounted on the newly fabricated backing board and allows the user to select between all the functions.

Three pole switch is connected as follows:

Pos 1: AM tuner

Pos 2: FM tuner, tap at position 2 used for 5V 5mA transformer

Pos 3: Bluetooth

Pos 4. WiFi

The radio came with its original backing board with attached antenna loop which was in good condition. I decided not to mount all the add-ons to this backing board. It was old and brittle. With repeated flexing the backing board would eventually break off. 

I fabricated a backing board using fiber composite material:

Then, I mounted the rotary switch. I made sure the back of the switch didn't rub against the original backing board that has the radio wire wound antenna mounted to it.
Then I mounted the FM tuner in its clear plastic enclosure and the Bluetooth jack:
Here's what the inside looks like:
The FM tuner needs a 5V 500mA transformer. I needed to find a place on the chassis to mount it.

Here's a picture of cable management routing on the backing board:

Finally, Here's how the back looks with all the user labels.


So how does it work? 


All functions can operate simultaneously. Switch from one function to another on the fly without having to re-pair, disconnect, reconnect, re-tune stations, or swap cables. Just turn rotary switch installed in the back to go from AM to FM to Bluetooth to WiFi. All volume levels are equally matched so one function is not louder or softer than the other.


The FM module mounted on the back panel has its own LCD back lit screen. FM is powered by internal non-switching transformer and uses the radio amplifier circuit. Volume can be adjusted via left knob on the FM tuner or left radio knob. FM digital tuner can search for stations with stronger signals. 


The Bluetooth is battery operated. A fully charged the receiver can operate for 3-4 hours. It takes 30-45 minutes to recharge. Any standard household 5V smart charger can be used. Not included. All charging cables and cables to radio Bluetooth 3.5mm jack are included. Any generation Bluetooth is compatible.


The WiFi connection is with Amazon Echo Dot which is external to the radio. The Amazon Echo Dot is powered by a separate power supply that is included with the Amazon Echo Dot. Google Nest, Android, or any MP3 player device that has a 3.5mm output can be used inter-changeably. Any generation Amazon Echo Dot is compatible.


A YouTube demonstration video is here.


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