Introduction: Vintage Beat Box Suitcase
***Edit: I've since added Bluetooth, battery power w/charge controller, and some grilles for the speakers. I've now added the write up and photos for the updates.
I've been wanting to make a portable suitcase stereo for quite a while now, but just never got around to it. I was going through my parts boxes and started digging out stereo components and realized I pretty much had enough to build one, minus the speakers. Later that day, my uncle sent me a text asking if I wanted his old Sansui floor-standers. The woofers were good, but some of the other components were shot. I checked to make sure they weren't highly sought after and valuable speakers first and then decided to take them apart. I ended up using different speakers that I found later in storage, so the Sansuis will be a possible restoration project in the future.
All I needed now was a neat looking suitcase. A trip to the storage locker later and I had my old 50's/60's hardshell overnight suitcase. It's in perfectly good useable condition, but I rarely use it and thought I could do something better/more fun with it.
This was a really fun and surprisingly easy project that I basically did over a few days in my free time and the end result is a fantastic sounding stereo that's also pretty stylish!
What you'll need:
-Suitcase of some kind (The more unique looking, the better!)
-Speakers (Choose speakers based on your personal needs, or just use whatever you have lying around)
-Amplifier (I had a cheap Lepai LP2020A+ that I had disassembled and modified in the past, but never used)
-Power supply (I chose to just use a wall wart for now, with the possibility of adding a battery later)
-3.5mm female jack
-RCA female jacks x2
-Indicator light (optional)
-Insulation foam (optional)
-Soldering iron and solder
-Solder sucker (if you need to remove parts from your amplifier)
-Hot glue gun
-Helping hands (not absolutely necessary, but makes things a lot easier)
Let's get started!
Step 1: Modify Amplifier
If you don't need/want to modify your amplifier, you can skip this step.
Since I had already taken my LP2020A+ apart and thrown away the housing and extended/replaced the switch, I decided to keep going on it and extended all of the controls, inputs and outputs.
I desoldered all three of the potentiometers (volume, bass, and treble) by heating the solder points with my soldering iron and then using the solder sucker to get the hot solder off of the PCB.
After removing the potentiometers from the board, I cut and stripped extension wires to go from the board to the terminals of the potentiometers (18 wires in all).
I then simply soldered all of the extension wires from the pots to the board.
I also desoldered and extended the original switch and replaced it with a vintage switch I bought off of eBay for about $5.
I desoldered the power input jack and replaced it with a round one to make mounting easier.
I also desoldered the original 3.5mm and RCA input jacks, extended and replaced them all with panel mount parts.
Step 2: Measure and Mark Suitcase
Now you need to decide where you want all of your components and controls to be located on/in your suitcase. I drew a few designs on paper just to get a rough idea of what it would look like with the parts placed in different areas of the case and finally decided on a setup that I liked.
I used a tape measure and square to get my marks straight and true and then used a Sharpie to mark the centre point of each hole I needed to drill.
I gave it a final look to be sure everything was where I wanted it and then used an awl to again mark the centre point of each hole.
Step 3: Drill Holes
I used a caliper to measure the diameter of each component before drilling the holes just to be sure. Once you know what size holes to drill, drill away! I drilled a small pilot hole in each spot first, then used the proper sized bit to finish them.
I used standard bits for the smaller holes (up to 1/2"), A 1" forstner bit for the indicator lamp and a 4" hole saw for the speaker holes.
After I drilled the speaker holes, I placed them in and marked the mounting holes with an awl and then removed the speakers and drilled the holes.
Step 4: Mount and Wire Components and Battery
Now that you've got all of your holes drilled, you can start mounting and soldering your components. I had to use a Dremel with a sanding drum to remove some of the material behind the hole where my 3.5mm jack was being mounted because the threads weren't long enough to go through the hole I drilled in the case. The amp was secured with a hot glue gun.
I used Loctite on the threaded parts just so they don't vibrate loose while there's music playing.
The wiring was fairly simple. The amplifier originally had all of the inputs and outputs marked, so it's just a matter of connecting the speakers to the speaker ports, the power to the power input, etc. The majority of the time I spent on the wiring was just extending the components from the amp board with wires. If you have any wiring questions, you can always leave a comment or send me a message.
Since originally posting this Instructable, I've added a 12v 8ah battery, charge controller for the battery, Bluetooth module and charger for the battery powering the Bluetooth module. The battery that powers the amp lasts approximately 4 hours at high volume before needing to be recharged.
To wire the battery and charge controller in, I simply wired the input power from the female DC jack on the outside of the suitcase to the power input of the charge controller. The charge controller has two 12v charge outputs which share the same circuit. I wired the battery directly to one of the outputs and the amplifier to the other. This enables the amplifier to utilize the battery power and direct power from the wall wart at any given time. To secure the battery inside the case, I simply used 3 'L' brackets and screwed them to the inside of the suitcase around the battery.
I then disassembled my Bluetooth music receiver module and desoldered the original male 3.5mm jack from it. I soldered in new wires to the left, right and ground terminals of the module and wired them to the same input as the female 3.5mm jack that goes directly to the amplifier. To charge the battery of the Bluetooth module, I disassembled an old automotive 5v charger and soldered a male micro USB to the 5v output to go directly to the Bluetooth module with an on/off toggle switch to turn the charger on and off. I used the end of the lighter plug that I disassembled for a button (it sort of matched the vintage look of the other external controls) to control the Bluetooth module from the outside of the suitcase.
Step 5: Add Insulation
I used a piece of foam insulation to improve the sound quality and bass response of the speakers. You don't need to use insulation, but your speakers may sound hollow or tinny with no insulation. I secured my insulation with hot glue.
Step 6: Finishing Touches
Now you can add some little finishing touches to your suitcase boombox. I was thinking of using some small adhesive letters to label the potentiometer knobs, but I thought it looked better with a more plain and simple look.
I chose to reuse two of the Lepai amplifier's knobs for the bass and treble and then used a different knob that I had in my parts bin for the volume.
I made some grilles for the speakers using large black rubber grommets that I removed from a trailer tail light kit and steel mesh removed from a cheap old set of bookshelf speakers that I had picked up from the Goodwill a while back. I used epoxy glue to secure them around the speakers. Be creative and use whatever fits your specific application :).
Step 7: Done!
Now you just need to hook in an audio source and blast some tunes! Since everything is integrated into the top half of the suitcase, there's still plenty of room in the bottom half for anything you want. I actually use the original toiletry case to hold the power supply and aux cable.
I hope you enjoyed this Instructable! As always, any questions, comments, suggestions and constructive criticisms are welcome!