Introduction: Suitcase BoomBox

Picture of Suitcase BoomBox

The Suitcase Boombox is a vintage suitcase converted into a boombox, complete with two subwoofers and four tweeters. The whole system is powered by two lead acid batteries hooked up to a charge controller, so the boombox can be charged via an AC/DC power supply or even a solar panel. The mini amplifier delivers 25 watts of power per channel, giving the system a lot of volume, comparable to a car audio system. You could definitely take this out to the park and start your own mini dance party or use it to play loud music in your room. What I love most about this project is that no two suitcase boomboxes will ever look the same. Depending on the type of suitcase you use and the size and configuration of your speaker setup, there is plenty of room to apply your own personal style to the project and make something truly unique.

Parts List:

(1x) Vintage Suitcase (I found mine on Etsy)
(2x) 12V/4Ah Sealed Lead Acid Battery Radioshack 55034004
(1x) Pioneer TS-D1720C 6.75" Component Speaker Package Radioshack 55032192
(1x) Pioneer TS-D1720C 5.25" Component Speaker Package Radioshack 55032190 (I ended up only using the tweeters from this package and saving the 5.25" speakers for another project. You can also replace this part with any other 4Ohm tweeter.)
(1x) Sunforce 30-Amp Digital Charge Controller Radioshack 277-110
(1x) Topping TP20-MK2 MKII TA2020 Class T-AMP Digital Stereo Amplifier Amazon
(1x) 3-Ft. 1/8" Stereo to Dual Phono (RCA) Plug Y-cable Radioshack 42-494
(1x) 1/8" Stereo In-Line Audio Jack Radioshack 274-274
(1x) 1/8" Stereo Panel-Mount Audio Jack Radioshack 274-249
(1x) 3-Ft. 1/8" Stereo Plug Cable Radioshack 42-223
(1x) 50-Ft. 16-Gauge Clear 2-Conductor Speaker Wire Radioshack 278-1267 (you will only need about 15ft)
(1x) 22 Gauge stranded wire, multiple colors Radioshack 278-1224
(1x) black electrical tape Radioshack 64-2373
(1x) Size M Panel-mount Coaxial DC Power Jack Radioshack 274-1563
(1x) AC-DC 12V 1.5A Power Supply Radioshack 273-316
(1x) M type plug Radioshack 273-344
(1x) 3/16" battery terminal connectors Radioshack 64-3132

Additional Materials/Tools:

Wire Cutters/Strippers Radioshack 64-224
Rosin Core Solder Radioshack 64-009
Soldering Iron Radioshack 55027897
Razor Blade Cutting Tool (for cutting leather suitcase)
Power Drill
Screws (be sure to get some that match the hardware on your suitcase)
Locknuts/nylon nuts (for areas of high vibration) and regular nuts
Small L-Brackets
1/4" plywood - I needed this to add some structural support to my suitcase, if you use a hard clamshell case, you may not require any additional support.
scrap wood (for mounting charge controller)
marking pen
metal file
wire crimper Radioshack 64-225

Step 1: Layout Speakers

Picture of Layout Speakers

This step will vary from suitcase to suitcase.  My suitcase was 20" wide and 11" tall, this was enough space to mount two 6.75" subwoofers and four 1.75" tweeters.  I cut out paper to help visualize the layout of the speakers on the side of the case.  Eventually I settled on a symmetric layout, with the two subs in the bottom center, and the tweeters along the upper corners.

Step 2: Clean Out Suitcase

Picture of Clean Out Suitcase

You'll want to clear out a lot of room to mount all your components to the inside of the suitcase.  Use a razor blade to cut out any excess material (cushions, fabric dividers) and remove any extraneous hardware (clips, brackets) with a screwdriver.

Save these scraps, you might use them later in the project (I used them to make a pocket for holding my iPod).

Step 3: Cut Out Suitcase Lining

Picture of Cut Out Suitcase Lining

I used a blade again to cut out the lining of the suitcase, on the side where I planned on mounting my speakers.  I also cut out some warped, plastic corner pieces that were sticking up.

Step 4: Install Structural Supports (if Necessary)

Picture of Install Structural Supports (if Necessary)

The walls of my suitcase are made of leather with a fabric lining, on their own they will not be able to support the weight of 2 subs and 4 tweeters.  I cut out a piece of 1/4" plywood so that it could fit snugly against the wall of my suitcase and provide extra support.  I used a laser cutter to cut out the speaker mounting holes (pdf of cutlines attached below), these cuts could also be cut with a jigsaw or Coping saw.  I kept the tolerance of my support structure tight, so it essentially press fit up against the suitcase wall.

Step 5: Trace Cutlines on Suitcase

Picture of Trace Cutlines on Suitcase

I used my structural support as a guide to trace cutlines onto the inside surface of the suitcase with a pen.

Step 6: Cut Holes in Suitcase Wall

Picture of Cut Holes in Suitcase Wall

Carefully cut along the traces and create holes for mounting your speakers.  I was able to get away with using a razor blade cutter to get through the leather sides of my case.  If a razor blade cutter is not enough to get through your suitcase, a jigsaw or Coping saw will probably do the trick.

Again, save these leather scraps, you might use them later in the project.

Step 7: Remove Front Panel From Subwoofers

Picture of Remove Front Panel From Subwoofers

Press the tabs around the inside edge of each of the subwoofer covers to remove the mesh front panel from the edge guard.

Step 8: Mount Subwoofers

Picture of Mount Subwoofers

The Pioneer kit comes with hardware for mounting the speaker components.  Use the eight longest screws in the kit to mount the two subs to the front of the suitcase.  Use a nylon nut to secure to back end of the screws and prevent vibrational loosening.  You might also considering finding a screw with a matching locknut.  File down the pointy edge of the screw so you don't accidentally scratch yourself.

Step 9: Mount Tweeters

Picture of Mount Tweeters

I cut my backing wood panel with such a tight tolerance that the tweeters press fit into the side of the suitcase enclosure.  For added stability, I used the metal inserts and screws from the pioneer kit to hold the tweeters in place from the inside of the suitcase (though this is not their intended purpose, it worked really nicely for me).  Depending on your setup, you might also consider using some of the kit's other mounting options.

Step 10: Remove Lining of Back Panel and Reinforce With Wood

Picture of Remove Lining of Back Panel and Reinforce With Wood

As with the front panel, use a blade to clear out any loose material attached to the back panel.

Step 11: Layout Remaining Components

Picture of Layout Remaining Components

Organize the remaining components around the back panel and mark drill holes.  I used two pieces of 2' wood scrap to prop up my charge controller above the surface of the plywood support.  Make sure the case will close before you finalize your layout!

Step 12: Passive Crossovers

Picture of Passive Crossovers

The Pioneer kit comes with passive crossovers to split up each channel of audio from the amplifier into a signal for the sub and a signal for the tweeters.  Use screws to mount both crossovers onto the side of the suitcase, opposite from the speakers.  Note - nearly all of my screws were screwed through the 1/4 plywood backer, but not through the suitcase enclose.

Step 13: Wire Crossovers to Amplifier

Picture of Wire Crossovers to Amplifier

Cut and strip a 2-3' piece of speaker wire (long enough so you can easily open the suitcase without putting tension on the wire) and use it to connect one crossover to the amp's left output and other to the right output.  Be sure to connect the + crossover input to the + amplifier output.

Step 14: Wire Woofers to Crossover

Picture of Wire Woofers to Crossover

Strip two 2-3' pieces of speaker wire and solder the ends of one wire on each of the subwoofer terminals.  Connect the other end to the screw terminals labelled "subwoofer" on that channel's corresponding crossover.  Make sure that you connect the + crossover output to the + speaker terminal.


Step 15: Wire Tweeters to Crossover

Picture of Wire Tweeters to Crossover

Since the two tweeters have a resistance of 4Ohm, I wired them in series to the tweeter output from the crossover.  To do this, connect one tweeter's + lead to the + crossover terminal (you may need to lengthen the wire).  Then connect the - lead of second tweeter (of the same channel) to the - crossover terminal.  Connect the remaining two leads from the tweeters to each other to wire them in series.  Repeat this for the second channel.

Step 16: Secure Batteries

Picture of Secure Batteries

Use small L brackets to secure the two batteries against the lower corners of the suitcase. 

Step 17: Prepare Amplifier Power Cable

Picture of Prepare Amplifier Power Cable

Cut the power supply that came with the amplifier and strip the wire.  The outside lead is - and the inside lead is +.  Connect the exposed leads to a piece of 1-2' speaker wire and cover the connection with electrical tape.  This wire will connect the amplifier to the charge controller.

Step 18: Prepare Battery Terminal Clips

Picture of Prepare Battery Terminal Clips

Cut two more pieces of 1-2' speaker wire and crimp a 3/16" quick disconnect connector on one end of each wire.  These wires will connect the batteries to the charge controller.

Step 19: Connections to Charge Controller "battery" Terminals

Picture of Connections to Charge Controller "battery" Terminals

Connect the + end of the two battery connections from the last step, and the amplifier power supply wire and crimp with one of the terminals included with the charge controller.  Do the same for the - leads of these three wires.  Screw the terminal connections to the + and - terminals of the charge controller, on the side labelled "battery".

Step 20: Wire Charge Controller to Batteries

Picture of Wire Charge Controller to Batteries

Connect the quick disconnects from the charge controller to the batteries.  Make sure to connect the + from the charge controller to the + on the battery (and vice versa).

Step 21: Prepare External Power Supply Cable

Picture of Prepare External Power Supply Cable

Cut a 1-2' piece of speaker wire and attach an M-type barrel plug to one end.  Crimp the remaining two terminal mounts from the charge controller to the other end of the wire.  Then screw the terminals onto the side of the charge controller labelled "array".

Step 22: Mount Charge Controller

Picture of Mount Charge Controller

Now that all the connections to the charge controller have been made, use wood glue and a screw to mount two pieces of 2" wood block to the plywood panel.  Once the wood glue is dry, use screws to attach the charge controller to the front of these blocks.

Step 23: Remove Amplifier Front Panel

Picture of Remove Amplifier Front Panel

Use a hex key to remove the four corners screws on the front panel of the amplifier.  Use a tiny hex key to loosen the set screw from the knob, and remove the knob from the panel.  then use pliers to unscrew the nut attached to the knob's underlying potentiometer.  The front panel should come off easily.

Step 24: Mount Amplifier

Picture of Mount Amplifier

Use a pencil to mark the place on the enclosure where you would like to mount your amplifier's front panel.  I mounted mine on the side of my suitcase.  Drill out holes for the 4 corner screws, potentiometer, switch, and blue LEDs.

My suitcase enclosure added about 1/2" of extra space between the front panel and the rest of the amplifier.  Since the original screws weren't long enough to cover this distance, I went to the hardware store and found some ~1.25" 3mm screws to replace them.

Screw through the suitcase enclosure to mount the front panel on the amplifier.  The amplifier is light enough that it will support itself by the screws alone.

Step 25: Connect Charge Controller to Amplifier

Picture of Connect Charge Controller to Amplifier

Make sure the amplifier is switched to the off position and plug in the connection from the charge controller.

Step 26: Mount External Power Supply Jack

Picture of Mount External Power Supply Jack

Drill a hole in the suitcase and mount the M-type barrel plug.  My enclosure's walls were so thick that I couldn't use a nut to lock the plug in place, I supplemented with super glue.  You can use the 12V wall wart or even a 12V solar panel to trickle charge your batteries through this jack.

Step 27: Connect RCA Cable to Amplifier

Picture of Connect RCA Cable to Amplifier

Plug the red and white ends of the RCA cable to the amplifier input.

Step 28: Mount External Audio Jack to Suitcase

Picture of Mount External Audio Jack to Suitcase

In case you want to access the audio in from the outside of the case, mount an 1/8" stereo jack to the side of the suitcase.  Use some 22 gauge wire to connect the leads from the jack to an inline female 1/8" stereo jack.  Use electrical tape to cover any exposed solder points.

This way, you can store your audio devices inside the suitcase by plugging them directly to the 1/8" stereo jack to RCA cable that is plugged directly into the amplifier.  Or you can plug the 1/8" stereo/RCA cable into the inline jack, and use a male to male stereo cable to hook up to the external 1/8" jack.

Step 29: Create IPod/phone Mount on Inside of Suitcase

Picture of Create IPod/phone Mount on Inside of Suitcase

To make thing really fancy, I used some of the extra fabric I removed in step 2, to create a little pocket for holding my phone/iPod inside the suitcase.

Step 30: Rock Out

Picture of Rock Out

You're done!  Have fun!  Be sure to check the voltage readout on the charge controller occasionally and make sure the battery doesn't get too drained (the charge controller won't be able to charge the batteries if they are completely drained).


manollito made it! (author)2015-02-08

made it!

jnormanslak (author)manollito2017-02-12

love the voltage meter. what was your aprox end cost for build?

manollito (author)jnormanslak2017-02-12

thanks! my costs were about 300$ for the build

jnormanslak (author)2017-02-12

This is great - I've seen completed stand-alone versions of this for sale in a speciality home furnishing shop outside Chicago. Whoever made them likely was inspired by your design. I wonder if the aprox end cost could be added. Also, your video was very slick, but didn't have a representation of what your speakers actually sounded like - I know it would of been playing once removed through the youtube video to my laptop, but still, one could get a sense of the dynamics, maybe?

PelyB (author)2016-08-08

UNA PASADA!! Gran trabajo, gracias por compartirlo.

boymowgli (author)2015-11-06

Hello Amanda! This is a perfect sound system for my trike at burning man..... problem is I'm swamped with building the trike this winter and next spring. Have you considered making these for sale? I know, the whole point is DIY, just short on time!

phatmanp (author)2015-07-12

baaadass piece of kit

DaYodadude (author)2015-06-29

I like your profile pic!

wobbler (author)2015-05-25

Awesome professional looking design! However, if you decide to fly on holiday with it, I'd suggest renaming it from a BoomBox suitcase in case they ask you what it is at Customs, although I'm sure you'll look good in an orange jumpsuit.

delrosario.paul (author)2015-03-29

Newbie here. I want to add a JBL GTO804 subwoofer and JBL GX-A602 amp along with some other speakers. Are two 12V/4Ah Sealed Lead Acid Batteries sufficient to power these things?

drawkward made it! (author)2014-08-24

made it, love it!

the only issue i'm having is with the trickle charger. i used the components you listed, but for some reason the charge controller doesn't indicate that the batteries (12 V 5 amp) are charging. any suggestions?

brentreissman (author)drawkward2014-12-30

Where'd you get the crossovers, and how much were all the parts (ignore the case and speakers themselves)

joe.d.salvo (author)2014-12-21

Had a few questions, sorry if they've alreayd been answered
Would it be possible to add subwoofer into the mix or some sort of midrange speakers
I don't know a lot about what the best combo is but have space from something else in my case
Also what do you have a suggestion for a Lithium battery set up?
And one last thing, if I didn't want to include the solar charge capability what parts would I omit or have to replace?
Thanks and love the project

r55ruckus (author)2014-11-11

Awesome Job!!! I hope to build something like this soon since I already have some of the parts.

chemacky (author)2014-08-28

Is there a wiring diagram somewhere? I am pretty confused on how the circuit works. The power connects to the 'array' terminals of the solar charge controller, while the amp AND the battery connect to the 'battery' terminals of the controller? I can see that you've spliced some wires for this part, but since everything is the same colour its difficult to see what is going on.

...Or am I just a spaz?

DRIFTING_IS_FUN (author)2014-06-11

found the answer! 11.56 volts. I searched 12 volt battery chart.

DRIFTING_IS_FUN (author)2014-05-16

wow sounds great! thanks for the instruc. im pretty much using the exact setup as the one you made. but what voltage is too low to recharge. or what number on the solar charger is a sign i should charge the batteries?

Fanchetlolo (author)2013-11-28

Great great great ! I have started it but would like a different charging /power system. What would be your recommendation if I want to use a lithium batterie ? How did you come up with 4 Ah? The charger manual recommends 45 Ah ! Would you have a link or another instructable tokindda teach how to : calculate the batteries you need for the system you decide to setup and then how to choose the charging system accordingly? Many thanks for the help this is awesome!

charging lithium batteries tends to be a little more complicated, but it is possible. Do you still want to stick with a solar setup?

Thanks for your answer !
I would like to charge it using the mains electricity.
I know that lithium batteries are a bit difficult to charge, and especially dangerous. That´s why i was considering lifepo4 batteries but am not happy about the charging device i could find so far.
Any idea advise would be more than welcome.
Again congrats for your suitcase, i love it...

if you want to charge from a wall socket then you don't need to use a charge controller, just unplug the battery from the amplifier circuit and connect it to the charger that the battery manufacturer recommends for the lithium battery (you could even setup a switch to toggle between connecting to the amp and the charger). I picked two 4Ah batteries bc that was the most I could fit without getting too heavy, Lithium batteries are not as heavy though, so you might choose something that lasts even longer

Yes you're right, I will need a toggle switch while charging, it bring some complexity to my system to use now... I wonder now how most our device (laptops and so on) could still be used while charging.
Also, i saw a nice suitcase boombox that had a usb port for charging, which I love. Usb charger I have would deliver 5v 1A, so seems not compatible with a 12 v battery? Do you know a usb charger that could do the trick ?
Many thanks for your help again...

purpulhaze (author)Fanchetlolo2014-04-24

Laptops have built in charging circuits that senses when to switch. It is possible to find an IC that could possible do the same. I believe maxim makes such ICs. For that sake of simplicity I'm probably just gonna use a 3 way switch myself. Charge, OFF and AC. I'm also pretty sure you can find mini amps with usb charging ports.

gsie (author)purpulhaze2014-05-09

Thanks for your guide! I used it as inspiration to build a similar suitcase system and opted for a charging circuit from AccuSafe:

It's custom made for DIY soundsystems like this. It monitors the battery so it won't go under 11,5v (at which point the battery becomes lazy and won't recharge) and handles power switching duties. By building in a power supply and a charger the suitcase is self-contained and the AccuSafe circuit switches the amp to the power supply and the battery to the charger when I hook up the power.

if you use a different amp (that only requires 5V) you could run the whole system off 5V batteries and charge via usb. I'd imagine that charging via usb will take longer than charging through the wall socket.

Fanchetlolo (author)Fanchetlolo2013-11-28

Actually i would like to add a bluetooth receiver as well... :)

there are plenty of bluetooth receivers that you could hook up to this setup, best choice would probably be something you could wire up to the suitcase power supply, so you don't have to worry about charging it separately.

DRIFTING_IS_FUN (author)2014-05-07

hi ive almost all the parts to make my suitcase boombox. is the power adapter 1000 ma = to 1 A? if so you said 1.5 A adapter and your link to radioshack specifies 1A or 1000ma. im new to electronix and am wondering if i could go higher or just get to the charger on the link. HELP SOS = save our suitcase

purpulhaze (author)2014-04-24

I love this project. I'm thinking about making as a gift for my mother. The only thing I was thinking about changing was possibly making it a bit smaller and using lithium charger and batteries. Pretty sure it should make the case lighter and also get more charges.

yeah i'd recommend the lithium batteries, my batteries are a bit heavy

EricWe (author)2014-02-26

Hi there Amanda!

This is awesome. What would you suggest if I wanted to forgo the solar and simply use a 12v battery and wire it directly to a small amp? I saw a Lepai 2020+ that seems to makes sense. It seems that then to charge it i wouldn't want to open the suitcase so could i just also have wires hooked up to the battery to a jack that i could plug in the charger from outside the suitcase. If I did this does there need to be a toggle switch or can the battery just be hooked up to both at the same time, and take a charge when i plug in the charger to the wall, and run the amp at the same time if needed?

Thanks here. Again this is awesome!

amandaghassaei (author)EricWe2014-03-05

yeah I think that would work. To be safe I'd say you would want to switch between the charger and the amp. But you could plug in the amp's original power supply at the same time, and just switch to that power while you're sharing so that you never have to turn it off completely, does that make sense?

bmahana (author)2014-02-22

I was using the charge controller with charging from the wall and it seems to have drained the batteries and now they won't charge. Any suggestions on a how to wire if i just want a wall charge or any suggestions on an appropriate solar charging unit?

amandaghassaei (author)bmahana2014-03-05

hmm... google/amazon for lead acid battery charger - you can hook that straight up to the batteries to charge. Once you get the batteries drained low enough, you won't be able to charge them with the charge controller. If you just want to use the system indoors, I'd recommend wiring up the amplifier's original power supply.

quackelteki (author)2014-02-15

safety first guys, imho this device has the capability to inflame your house, is there some kind of temperature control?

bmahana made it! (author)2014-01-29

First off, THANK YOU for the step by step, I wouldn't have been able to execute this without the detailed guide. I finished last night and sounds amazing. The only question I have - Step 28 - are the red and black wires that are soldered to the external audio jack both 22 gauge wires? One for positive, one for negative? I didn't want to assume and just start wiring away.

amandaghassaei (author)bmahana2014-01-29

looks great! yes I just used 22 gauge for this, you could use speaker wire too if you have extra left over. There are three connections: two red wires (one for each channel +) and one black ground wire.

bmahana (author)amandaghassaei2014-01-29

Thanks for the response, I just have red, so I'll just have to use that for the two channels and for the ground, and just mark the one that is the ground with a sharpie so I don't get confused.

amandaghassaei (author)bmahana2014-01-29

that works too :)

nerd7473 (author)2014-01-23

This looks like a simple but complex build nice job


nerd7473 (author)nerd74732014-01-23

calling myself nerd not you

efahrenholz (author)2013-11-13

I love the idea, but I think a 30 amp charge controller is going to kill those batteries.

I admit it's overkill (already had it around) but I don't think it will hurt the batteries

triumphman (author)2013-11-19

Nice, but I want to listen to the OUTDOORS!

devangs3 (author)2013-11-14

Give her a cookie! I made a boombox in an SMPS, but now I think this suitcase is better!

italzboi (author)2013-11-14

This is truly awesome. The amount if time, effort and care that went into this project really shows. And I really want to make one lol

tekaka (author)2013-11-13

beautifulll. been thinking about portable sound for a couple of years, wonder after a walk with a suitcase. Seems verry accomplished, your design, above my grasp actualy. Thank you for realising it.

Lectric Wizard (author)2013-11-13

Built a unit similar to this for a busker,years ago, minus the solar stuff. It worked great & flew around the world many times.Might still be out there somewhere. Great job on comstruction & Instructable !! CHEERS!!

thirst4know (author)2013-11-13

Hello everyone check out back up batteries for emergency lights or alarm systems for comparable batteries @ way less cost than RS. I got 12v 5amp hour for $8 plus $4 delivery.

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a grad student at the Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT Media Lab. Before that I worked at Instructables, writing code for ... More »
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