I recently found a guy on Instagram who collects and restores ’80s-era boomboxes, or “ghetto blasters,” as he calls them.
I’m not sure how proper that term is in today’s society, but when I was a kid, I absolutely lusted after these things. Boomboxes became so popular that even very small radios with speakers earned the “boom” title, but a “ghetto blaster” for me stood for the original, massive, shoulder-mounted, all-in-one, battery-powered stereo systems.
The advent of Bluetooth technology and the widespread use of smart phones has brought about a recent resurgence of boomboxes in public.
But almost to a one, the offerings available in the Bluetooth speaker market remind me of the tiny “boom” boxes rather than those party-rocking big boys.
In this third installment of a DIY audio series, we explore a project that just might bring some real slam back into your Bluetooth game. We’re going to make a big-time Bluetooth speaker, and because of the complexity here, we’ll take a couple columns to work through it.
Building your own Bluetooth speaker is not a new DIY audio project. However, I’ve got my finger on the pulse of the latest stuff in audio drivers and amplifiers, and the one we’re going to make is a little better and a more straightforward than what I’ve seen before. Let’s begin.
We need an enclosure, first and foremost. While I would recommend a solid, stiff and nonresonant one (e.g., made from plywood or MDF) for the sonics, in this case, I’m going to recommend an old vintage suitcase for the looks. The largest sides of these suitcases are often a bit flimsy, so we may want to glue a thin (a quarter inch) slab of plywood to the back of the fabric for some strengthening.
Speaker choice will come last, because first we have to figure out the most bulky element: the electronics and batteries. The type and amount of batteries we include will factor into the eventual weight of the whole speaker suitcase and will determine what kind of amp we can use and what kind of power we can expect.
For ease of build, we should look for something with the batteries already built in. And as a bonus, if we go with 5 volts and 2 amps as the size and amount of electricity, we’ll actually be using standard USB power. Which means we can add to the battery supply by throwing in a high capacity quick-charge external phone battery. Those are available everywhere.
The amp I found that satisfies these requirements is made by ONEU. Search Amazon for the 50 watt ONEU (put quotes around this, because Amazon thinks you mean “one u” if you don’t) Bluetooth Stereo Amplifier — that’s our dancing partner. At $80, it is the most expensive piece of the project, but that’s good. We want most of the money in the important electronic parts, and 50 watts (25 on each side) should be enough for what we’re doing.
We continue next week by adding speakers — stay tuned.