Realistic in da house
Hello everyone! I had mentioned in another thread I had a small project waiting in the wings. Yep, small is definitely the right descriptor. You see, my youngest was waiting for me to pick her up after work one day (it had turned pretty ugly out, and the alternative was not very appealing), so she spent that time in the local Goodwill store. For those who don't know, Goodwill is a second-hand shop, taking in donations to re-sell in order to help others. While perusing the hand-offs, she saw a Realistic Clarinette 16, a AM/FM/Phono/Tape player, originally sold by Radio Shack. It caught her eye because it was so small and "cute", plus it has a tape deck and Phonograph. The first catalog appearance was in 1986, on page 55. As you can deduce, it was their most basic entry-level stereo, with all 4 functions and two 4" speakers for $99.95, not expensive, but not dirt cheap by 1986 standards.
It only had 1 of the speakers (no great loss there) and was sold "As Is" for just under $15. A quick check at the available electric outlet showed life on both channels, so home it came. Here it is with a cassette single for scale.
Yes, it is small - told you it was the right descriptor. Anyway, her idea was that hopefully everything worked, and maybe I could add an Auxilliary input to hook up a media player (phone) or computer. Yeah, she likes retro stuff. Anyway, It could stand a good cleaning, so I scrubbed it down as much as possible. It actually wasn't too bad.
Checking it out, I noticed it needed to have the volume, selector switch, and variable tuning capacitor cleaned. Now, my old can of Radio Shack Color Tuner Cleaner (you're old if you've used THAT!) has fallen on hard times, it fell out of the cupboard and broke the nozzle off, so I needed a replacement. Did you know that WD40 makes a Contact Cleaner? Neither did I. It works pretty good. All moving contact points are now noise free. I then trimmed the tuning cap to get the station frequencies back to where they should be on the dial. Believe it or not, this thing does a good job of pulling in the stations.
Next on the list is to find a spot to add the auxiliary input. AM and FM are out, since they'd have to be playing while you are trying to hear the aux input, and the Phono stage is out since it would have the RIAA curve in it, so the tape input seemed the most logical. Yes, there should be some tape EQ, but all I needed to do was find the spot after that to hook in.
In the first pic, the upper left corner is where the Tape audio comes in and feeds to a KA1222 preamp. Pin 3 and pin 6 are the outputs, with pin 5 being the ground. I traced these past the few output components to their spots on the selector switch where I soldered a set of wires to the exposed solder points. Thank goodness I have a plethora of old defunct USB cables to use in just such situations. FYI, its all common ground for everything. All I need to do is get an in-line female 3.5mm stereo jack, and it'll be finished.
To the rest of the board, this is definitely a minimalist unit. There are only 4 chips and a smattering of passives. The chips are: the above mentioned KA1222, the TA7460AP AM/FM detector/ demodulator with it's complementary TA7358P FM front end, and the mystery output amplifier chip, an 8-pin stereo unit that is hidden under the soldered on heatsink by the large capacitor on the lower right side.
Visually, all the components are fine, I felt no heat on anything while running and the power supply held steady at 12V input, ~15V output (after the supply capacitor), which, when coupled with the small output chip, means MAYBE 2 watts / channel. I don't have a 8 ohm dummy load, so I can't verify that, but all research for such chips around that time period (1986) give that approximate power. And believe it or not, that's more than enough for desktop use. Now if only the output caps were of a larger value to let more bass through..... I'll have to see what I have on hand. Or not. 😆
Here it is ready to go with a pair of period speakers I built back around the same time - seat side mount speakers for a full size van, made with parts from JC Whitney. 4" poly full range and Piezo tweeters. Still blasting after all these years. Tough stuff!
Great find. I loved realistic line of audio products. My 1st receiver was a 2100d, and wish I still had it. Hope you get it back to it’s original glory. Have fun with it.
This is an interesting beginner unit. I want to get some more photos when I open it up again to get to some more of the things I couldn't do - Belts (need to order a kit) on the tape deck plus cleaning and lube of the rotating / wear points. Surprisingly, everything works. Like I said up above, it's got MAYBE 2 watts/channel at best. The output amp chip is the size of a through-hole LM386 (8-pin chip) that, unfortunately, is underneath the heatsink that is soldered to the PCB. I really don't want to mess with that if I don't have to, so, unless it dies, we'll never know what the chip really is. Even the guys over on the Nuts-n-Volts Forum can't find anything on this unit. It's not even in the SAMS Photofacts. Story of my life, always the unusual / rare stuff.
I've already added a "Line-In" wire, and have just picked up an Aux cord or 2 from the local Dollar Tree to splice in. They may be cheap, but they work as long as you don't beat them up.
A thought just occurred to me: since this has no tone control, would the audiophiles like it? o_O LOL
I still have a working realistic Lab 500 phono. Lucky that it’s direct drive. Keep surfing the web, if it has a s/n. Someone bought out a lot of radio shack parts back then, you might get lucky.