Introduction: Ultimate Cooler Speaker System
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What two items are essential for a good party? Music and drinks.
By building a Cooler Cooler Speaker system, you can carry both in one compact, convenient package.
These instructions are specifically for a Yeti Tundra 65 qt cooler and Kicker 6" KM6LC Speakers. This makes a killer, extravagant set-up. This dude gets super loud and plays for about 10 hours on a single charge of a standard lawn mower battery. It also holds a crapload of beverages, even with the battery and drybag. BUT, this process can be done with virtually any cooler and speaker set-up. I do have measurements for a Coleman Steel Belted Cooler, 56 qt rolling cooler and 48 qt basic cooler. If you want those measurements, shoot me a message and I'll be happy to provide them.
If you like this idea, please consider voting for me in the Summer contests at the top right of the page. Thanks!
Step 1: Shopping List
To make it easy, I've included links to most of these on Amazon. Again, adjust this list to make it appropriate to the set-up you're going to build.
- Yeti Tundra Coolers - White - 65 Quart
- 2-4 Kicker KM6130 Gray 6" / 6.5"
- Pyle PLMRMP3B 4 Channel 400 Watt Waterproof Micro Marine Amplifier (For a 2-speaker version, use a Pyle PLMRMP1B or a Pyle PLMRMP1A)
- Coleman Dry Gear Bag
- Small power switch
- Heat shrink butt connectors (10) - Here are some with solder in the center that are very handy
- Female heat shrink quick disconnects (2 large/yellow, 1 medium/blue) - or buy a small package at an auto supply store
- Heat shrink ring connectors for battery cable (2 large/yellow)
- Speaker wire (4')
- Assorted zip ties (~20)
- Wire loom (1/4" and 3/4", < 3' of each)
- Clear caulk
- Wireless Bluetooth Receiver
- NOCO Genius G750 Charger/Tender - this will maintain and charge your battery. Super handy.
- Power drill-driver w/ phillips bit
- Wire clippers
- Heat gun
- Half round file
- Rotary tool (if you need to make minor repairs to cuts)
- Hole saws: 1", 4 1/4" and 5"; and an arbor. Alternatively, you can use a 1" standard bit and a Sawzall for the larger holes. Just know that this won't look as good.
- Drill bits: pilot bits, then final sizes are 3/4" bit and a 1/2" spade bit
- Knife and a box cutter are very handy
- Aluminum foil to protect components during the use of the heat gun, if you went with the solder shrink connectors.
Step 2: Test the Amp
The first step is one you really, really don't want to skip. As soon as you get the amp, take it out and connect it to power to see if the amp has an internal short. To test this, connect the red and blue wires to the battery's positive terminal and the black wire to the battery's negative terminal, then check the fuse. If the fuse has blown, then you will need to exchange the amp for a new one. About 25% of the amps I've received come with an internal short. Of those that didn't, they have all performed well long-term.
Step 3: Marking and Cutting
Now that we have tested our amp, it's time to start tearing up the Yeti.
Start by measuring, marking and drilling pilot holes for 4 speakers. Mark 5" in from left and right textured line beginning, and 4" down from top textured line. Then 4" up from bottom and 10" in from the sides. If you are doing a 2 speaker version, only drill the top 2 holes. Once the pilot holes are drilled, graduate up bit sizes until you have a 1/8" hole.
Use 5" hole saw to cleanly cut out speaker holes through top plastic. The saw will likely fill up with foam and will not penetrate the underside of the lid. If it does, let the pilot bit penetrate it, but don't cut all the way through. This is the most risky part of the project. The Yeti's plastic is substantial, so it tries to grab the saw. Take it slow and try to gradually cut. If the saw catches, it could throw it and nick the cooler lid, causing you serious frustration and disappointment.
Use a flat head screwdriver to pry off the plastic tops. Then use a knife to dig out the insulation in the holes.
If the pilot bit on the arbor did not puncture the bottom of the lid, carefully put the hole saw back into the cavity and spin it back up so that only the arbor's pilot bit drills the hole. This will serve as the pilot hole for the smaller hole saw for the underside.
Take the 4 1/4" hole saw and use the guide hole to cut the 4 1/4" diameter hole in the bottom of the lid. Centering it is vitally important. If it is not on center, you will need to use a rotary tool to sand it away so that the speaker's bottom can rest correctly.
Use the file to smooth out the cuts. This is purely cosmetic, but can't be done once the speakers are installed.
Step 4: Volume and Power Switch
Now you need to drill the holes for the power switch and volume control (which comes with the Pyle amp). Note that both of these can be omitted if you don't want the external volume control and/or want to power down the system by disconnecting the battery. They are neat features, but not necessary.
- Drill small pilot hole for the volume control. Center point is 11" right from the left side textured line and 2 1/2" below the top textured line.
- Graduate up to a 1/4" bit, then use the 1" hole saw to cut the 1" hole.
- Inside the 1" hole, drill a 1/8" hole, then use the 1/2" flat bit to drill a hole for the plug to fit through.
- Drill pilot hole for on/off switch. Center point is 11" left from the right side textured line and 2 1/2" below the top textured line.
- Graduate up to a 1/4" bit, then use the 3/4" bit to drill the top hole.
- Inside the 3/4" hole, drill a 1/8" hole, then use the 1/2" flat bit to drill a hole for the switch wires to fit through.
Step 5: Amp Installation
The amp is oriented sideways, with Pyle reading right-side up (power connections to the right.)
Put the volume control connector through the left hole.
Center the amp with the top screw holes just barely on the flat surface. This will allow the lid to close. Also be sure the hole for the wires that go to the switch can clear the amp.
Secure with (4) Pyle supplied #8, 1/2" stainless steel screws and included washers.
Step 6: Speaker Installation
FIRST, place a speaker in each hole to be sure is sits flush. If it does not, you will need to file the hole on the underside of the lid to allow proper clearance. In this project, I filed away too much on the near side of the bottom left hole. After a while, I realized that I needed to file the far side of the hole and that solved the problem. Test often while filing to confirm you are improving the situation with the material you are removing.
Once all speakers can sit flush with the lid, place a bead of clear drying caulk on the speakers as shown. This will create a waterproof seal, which will help sound and water resistance. Align the speakers in the holes, then screw the speakers in with Kicker supplied screws.
Step 7: Speaker Wiring
It is now time to begin wiring. Match up the +/- wires from the amp's 4 channels with the 4 speakers. With the Kicker wire, the blue is + and the black is -. With the amp, the wire with the black stripe is -. I zip tied each together to better organize. Here is the orientation:
- White is Front Left
- Gray is Front Right
- Green is Back Left
- Purple is Back Right
Now, measure out the right length and cut the wires. Be sure to cut the Pyle connectors off of the wires. They are a pain and are not as waterproof as the heat shrink butt connectors.
Next, using the butt connectors, connect the wires. If you use the solder containing connectors I suggested, place aluminum foil behind them to guard the other wires, then strip and connect the wires. While they are connected, use the heat gun to shrink the tubing and melt the solder. This creates a terrific seal. If you use standard heat shrink butt connectors, crimp and shrink as you normally would.
Step 8: LED Wiring
When it comes to the power wires, I decided to consolidate them together to make it easier to wire to the switch. Each speaker's LED light has positive and negative wires (so a total of 4 of each). By combining them with the amp's negative wire, it makes it much easier to connect to the switch. I suggest doing the same with the LED's positives, along with the positive and accessory wire from the amp (red and blue).
Step 9: Switch & Volume Wiring
As pictured, you see the following wires:
- Left is the ground, so it contains the battery's negative wire, amp's negative wire, and the negative LED wires that we combined in the last step. They are attached with a yellow quick disconnect.
- The center is where the power will come out of the switch when it is activated. Therefore, we connect the red and blue wires from the amp and the positive wires from all of the LEDs.
- The right connection is where the power comes into the switch, so it is only the positive wire from the battery. It is attached with a blue quick disconnect.
Once each of these are connected and tested, I suggest you use solder to hold the disconnects to the switch. When doing this, be careful not to bridge the connectors with the solder or you will short the system and blow the fuse. If you do not want to solder the connections, crimp the hell out of them, as they like to work their way off over time.
One feature of the amp is the external gain. You don't have to use it, but it makes a handy external volume control. And, at this point, if you drilled the hole for it, you're committed.
Plug in the connector and force it into the foam inside the hole. Try to get it as far into the lid as possible. You may need to dig some foam out with a screwdriver. Then, coil the wire inside the hole so that it condenses into the bottom of the hole. This will allow the volume control to be mounted and recess into the 1" hole in the lid.
Following this, you can take the adhesive cover off of the gain control, mount it, and secure it with the included screws and washers.
Step 10: Clean-up
Once all connections are made, organize them so that they are as slim as possible and zip tie them together. I could have done a better job than that bunch on the right, but in the end it worked fine.
Use some wire loom to cover up the loose wires. This will help the cooler's appearance and protect the wiring.
Step 11: Battery
You're now ready to crimp the ring connectors on to the power wires going to the battery. I suggest you put some red electrical tape around the base of the positive ring connector and black on the negative. If you accidentally reverse them, and flip the switch, you'll blow the fuse. It really sucks to be at the campground without a back-up fuse and pull a bonehead move like that.
Place the connected battery in the Coleman dry bag and roll the wire up as you seal the dry bag. This will keep the water and melted ice away from the battery.
Alternatively, and this is an upgrade I did recently, install a quick disconnect between the battery and the power wire. This harness will work. If you invest in the NOCO charger, then you can use it to be the quick disconnect for the power with this extension. This saves another attachment on the battery.
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