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Modifying: Bluetooth 8-Track Adapter


Ever since I installed an 8-track player in my 1984 Cougar—on purpose!—I've been disappointed in a few things. Sure, 8-tracks are generally horrible to deal with in the first place, and then there's that issue of 7 watts pumping through 4 lackluster speakers. But I sought to compensate for these with an adapter to play my digitally-compiled music through the radio via other means. I started off with the typical Kraco 8-track-to-cassette adapter. And inside that, I put a cassette-to-MP3 adapter. And then plugged the cord into my iPod or phone. The result? Horrid, horrid degradation of sound. Along with an unspecified warbling sound. And the fact that I needed to lug around TWO adapters. There had to be a better way.

I found a few videos on YouTube concerning homemade 8-track adapters. Most involved gutting the 8-track and installing the innards of a cassette adapter, complete with wire running out of the body. While that's fine, I wanted something cleaner and higher-tech.

Enter: the world's first* Bluetooth 8-track adapter.

*I never found any evidence otherwise, so I'm a-claimin' it.

Bluetooth 8-Track Adapter

Left: So here we start with a typical 8-track. In this instance, I chose a generic, non-descript, recordable 8-track from K-Mart. Any old 8-track will work, though. This one was all black which worked better for my particular instance, as you'll see later.

Bluetooth 8-Track Adapter

Left: After popping off the top, time to gut the entire 8-track case. Nothing inside will be reused for this project. Also shown here is a gutted cassette adapter, and a gutted Bluetooth device, along with all the tools used to do this.

Bluetooth 8-Track Adapter

Left: With all the components gathered, it was time to solder all the connections. For the record, the Bluetooth board has a soldered-on battery; from there I soldered on the cassette adapter wire to the Bluetooth board. The extra triangular board next to the capstan was already in the cassette adapter, so I merely carried that over.

Bluetooth 8-Track Adapter

Left: There were some minor trimming and modifications necessary to make all the components fit into the 8-track case...

Bluetooth 8-Track Adapter

Left: ...but the end result is a very roomy, yet compact design. The extra wiring got spooled around an existing post. Yes, I could have shortened the wire a bit more, but I wanted to give myself extra wiring in case this needed to be redone in the future.

Bluetooth 8-Track Adapter

Left: So I popped the lid back on, and...yeah, it looks exactly like it did before starting. Which was, of course, the whole point.

Bluetooth 8-Track Adapter

Left: Ah, but a closer inspection shows the magic: here we have a 1/8" mini jack and a mini-USB port. The jack is for either input to, or output from, Bluetooth. I can choose to never use this, but it's nice to have, and it does work as advertised. The standard mini-USB port is needed to charge the Bluetooth module's battery. Since everything here is black in color, nothing stands out and it all blends together quite nicely.

Bluetooth 8-Track Adapter

Left: Underneath the peeling label is the on/off switch for the module. Very stealthy.

Bluetooth 8-Track Adapter

Left: A close-up of the capstan in place. It's amazing how the cassette head and the read head on an 8-track player are so similar. That made this job a lot easier.

So how does it sound, you ask? Well...it's not bad. There is a low volume issue which is related to either the distance of the capstan to the 8-track player's read head, or it may be the Bluetooth module itself. But it does work, and I am able to wirelessly stream music from my phone to the adapter with ease. If I want to use my iPod instead, I can plug a 1/8" stereo adapter wire between it and the side of this adapter. Battery life is very good also, about 8-10 hours of continuous use.

Now those road trips in this car will be a little more bearable. And all of this from an early-1980s vintage 2-post radio! Gotta love technology.

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