Introduction: Speaker Jacket

About: The creation process is almost more rewarding than the finished product.

For those who have longed for theme music while walking down the street or wished they actually were the life of the party, let me present the Speaker Jacket.

This project is the product of many revisions and a love for good tunes. When you dawn the Speaker Jacket, you become a mobile dance party. It is fun to go to the park, start a little dance party, turn it off, and walk away. I doubt the TSA would let you on the plane with this thing.

Shall we...

Step 1: Process and Materials

You are building a deconstructed bluetooth boom box and wrapping it around your body. There are only a handful of components: an amp, speakers, sub and power. The base of your project should be motorcycle body armor, sports pads or something similar. You will need to find something with solid mounting points (plastic areas).

Queue the random shopping list.

  • A small 2.1 amp - Choose one with bluetooth
  • Two drivers - These will need to match the output of your amp
  • A subwoofer - This will need to match the output of your amp
  • A sub port (optional and length calculated)
  • A sheet of 1/4" quality plywood
  • Antigravity batteries
  • Speaker cabinet carpeting
  • T-Nuts and matching bolts
  • Speaker wire
  • Wire wrap (optional)

Step 2: Speaker Boxes

The design is a 2.1 system so that means there are two high/mid drivers and a subwoofer. Critical to this project is driver capabilities to speaker box volume. In order to figure this out you will need to do the math. Since math is a pain in the rear I used these two volume calculators for help.

The speaker boxes are pretty straight forward so most any volume calculator will do. Keep in mind the actual speaker will take some volume.

This project uses a ported subwoofer so the calculator needed to be a bit more sophisticated. Bass is omni-directional so you can mount the sub internally or go for bonus points and mount it externally.

  1. Using your calculations, design a box with the proper volumecut the 1/4" plywood for all your boxes
  2. Cut the holes for the drivers
  3. Locate mounting points*
  4. Drill holes for your T-Nuts
  5. Cut openings for your wiring ports
  6. Using a nail gun and glue, build your boxes.
  7. Apply the speaker box covering with a staple-gun
  8. Don't install your drivers just yet.

* Size up your body armor to find two to three mounting points per speaker box and your amp. Each piece of body armor is different and depending on your speaker box design you will need to get creative. Also keep in mind the weight distribution. Lastly, as tempting as it is to have the drivers on your shoulders, that is where your ears are.

Step 3: Assembly

This is the hardest part of the project. Don't be discouraged, this is when you learn you can transform almost anything into a thing of beauty. Depending on how "speaker compatible" your body armor is, there will need to be modifications. Some of my designs have required external steel frames and all have required considerable butchering of the plastic. As you can see here, the amp location required the chest plate to be slimmed down.

  1. Modify the body armor as needed to fit your speakers, amp and batteries
  2. Drill holes to match your mounting points
  3. Screw it all together

Step 4: Grills

As much as I wanted to skip the speaker grills, they are mandatory given the volatile nature of the dance floor and general parting mayhem. After considerable searching, I was not able to find a speaker grill that looked cool enough. This is when I decided to bite the bullet and machine my own grills. This step is not necessary and added considerable time and effort to the project. But damn, look at those sweet grills.

Step 5: Power

Antigravity batteries are amazing. In a nut shell, they are li-ion motorcycle batteries that weigh about ten times less than their NiCd and lead/acid counterparts. For this application I chose to go with two 4 cell units for easy weight distribution. The batteries needed a custom harness to wire them up in parallel. I was unsure on charging as a pair so I charge the packs individually.

Step 6: Wire It Up

Now is your time to shine. All you need to do is connect the dots. By dots I mean the amp outs to the speaker ins as well as the batteries to the amp. Wires are not the most beautiful things so you may be inclined to hide them or use various wire wrapping solutions. The more tidy you make your wires the better your project will look overall.

I went with Techflex and a some spiral cable wrap.

Step 7: Ancestors

There were many speaker jackets prior to this and hopefully there will be many more. Only when I started using sporting equipment and body armor, did the builds get interesting.

The black minimal design used an under seat 8" subwoofer and a motorcycle sound system. It also used a bandolier belt of twelve D-Cell NiCd batteries. The whole thing was too heavy and back heavy at that so the vest was a little choking.

The more ornate model was a blast. It was based on a set of lacrosse pads. I learned a lot about building sound systems and power management. It used twelve D-Cell NiCd batteries and a 4" subwoofer. The downside of this model is that I wasn't privy to driver speaker box volume calculations so it wasn't as loud as I wanted.

Go build something that brings out your inner super hero!

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