One of the items on my geek bucket list has been to build my own version of a boombox. The boombox was introduced by Philips in 1969. Refinements were introduced by Japanese manufacturers and introduced to the US in the 70’s. They became a hit with urban youth. By the 80’s, boomboxes had reached an age of gigantism – bigger, blasty, bassy. See the Wiki for det’s.
My desire was to build a box that echoed back to the old school days, but took modern design cues. I wanted a box that looked good, sounded good (well, loud, anyway) and I could customize easily.
As a prototype, I built the Day & Night Sampler, a little music player in a re-purposed tin box. The “Back in Black” (BinB) Boombox started with what I learned in that build and grew from there. This was a journey, where I made several prototypes to visualize what I thought the boombox needed.
I reached a point where I was happy with the basic frame of the BinB, but it was missing something – the magic something i like to call ‘minimal viable blinkenlights’. It just had to have flashing LEDs.
I had read (and experimented with) John Boxall’s tutorial on using the Sparkfun Spectrum Shield. The Spectrum Shield works with an Arduino to display two channels of 7 audio frequency bands each. I used a VFD to test the Spectrum Shield display. It worked, but not very dramatic.
About this time, I saw the work of David J. Watts on Adafruit’s Show & Tell Hangout. David presented a very creative small boombox. His used the MSGEQ7 IC, which is also the heart of the Spectrum Shield, to display the frequency bands on a matrix of LEDs. Hmn… John Boxall showed how to do that with a Freetronics Dot Matrix Display, also an LED matrix. “What a minute! I have a Sure 0832 LED matrix someplace in inventory…[rummages around for awhile]… Yeah, here it is. I can use that to look like the graphic equalizer on old boomboxes.”
But it was still missing… something. Well, what if I put in some Adafruit Neopixel Rings where the tweeters would normally go on a boombox? Googled around a bit and discovered the work of Chris Wilson on youtube, using an Adafruit Neopixel Strip as a VU Meter. Perfect. A few easy tweaks to Chris’ code and I had Neopixel rings bumpin’ in blue to the beat.
And the name… What could be more iconic of an era than the 1980 release of “Back in Black” by AC/DC? Plus, my boombox was black… REALLY black… extreme GLOSSY black.
Read the full tutorial here.
Featured Adafruit Products!
Medium 16×32 RGB LED matrix panel: Bring a little bit of Times Square into your home with this 16 x 32 RGB LED matrix panel. These panels are normally used to make video walls, here in New York we see them on the sides of busses and bus stops, to display animations or short video clips. We thought they looked really cool so we picked up a few boxes of them from a factory. They have 512 bright RGB LEDs arranged in a 16×32 grid on the front. On the back there is a PCB with two IDC connectors (one input, one output: in theory you can chain these together) and 12 16-bit latches that allow you to drive the display with a 1:8 scan rate. Read more.
Stereo 20W Class D Audio Amplifier – MAX9744: Pump up the volume with this 20W stereo amplifier! This slim little board has a class D amplifier onboard that can drive 2 channels of 4-8 ohm impedance speakers at 20W each. Power it with 5-12VDC using the onboard DC power jack and plug stereo line level into the 3.5mm stereo headphone jack and jam out with ease. Since it’s class D, its completely cool-running, no heat sinks are required and it’s extremely efficient – up to 93% efficiency makes it great for portable or battery powered rigs. Read more.
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