There are many options for portable sound systems, but none that fit my unique requirements. I needed a portable sound system that could:
- Be loud. I need a system that could project clearly in large, open spaces.
- Offer superb sound quality. I did not want to sacrifice quality for efficiency or volume.
- Offer power-efficiency // long battery life. My system needed to last at least 12 hours without being charged.
- Be rugged. I needed a system that could be knocked around or continue functioning through exposure to all kinds of weather conditions.
- Be (relatively) light. I needed a system that weighs less than 20 pounds for carrying on a bike long distances.
- Be cost-effective. I didn't want to spend a fortune on this system.
- Be easy to use. I needed a system that anyone, without instruction, could use easily and would not require regular maintenance.
- Be compact. I needed a system that could easily fit on to the back of my bike.
This list was a major challenge but, ultimately, I put together a system that meets these requirements and I wanted to share what i put together with the rest of the world. While my primary use for this system is a week-long bike tour (RAGBRAI in Iowa), this system can be easily adapted for other niches.
- Speakers: Blaupunkt MSX652 6.5" marine speakers
- Speaker Enclosure: Qpower QPTS65EW Pair 6.5"
- Amplifier: Lepai LP-2020A
- Battery Power: Poweradd Pilot Pro 32000mAh
- Mounting Platform: Top Choice Whitewood Board (0.75-in x 3.5-in x 20-in)
- Container for electronics: Project Source 13-in Black Plastic Tool Box
- PVC Pipe: 1-1/2-in x 2-ft Schedule 40 plus 2x 1-1/2-in PVC end caps
- Mounting Clamp: Superklip PVC Pipe Clamp
- Bluetooth Adapter: SoundBot SB360
- Ground Loop Noise Isolator: PAC SNI-1/3.5 3.5-mm
- Hardware: 8x #8 1/2-in. screws, 2x #10 zinc plated wing nuts, 2x #10-24 1.25-in. screws, 3/8" x 1-3/4" x 2-3/4" Dia
- Optional: Spray paint
Power Tools Needed
- Power drill
- Jigsaw or hacksaw
My total cost was approximately $225. Your mileage may vary depending on when and where you purchase these items.
Total Weight: 13-14 pounds (6kg)
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Step 1: Speaker Assembly
I didn't get images of spray painting the speaker enclosures but this required that I disassemble the enclosures, including the speaker screen.
Note: even if you are not disassembling the speaker screen, I highly recommend you pop it out and apply glue to the rim, then reseat the screen. They are otherwise only held with a small patch of adhesive that will likely fail before long. If using Gorilla Glue for the first time (as I was) you should know that it will expand, so apply sparingly!
- Using 8x #8-1/2 in. screws, attach the speaker to the back of the speaker enclosure screen.
- Attach the quick-snap speaker wire to the speaker. Strip the ends and attach the other end to the inside of the speaker enclosure.
- Optional: sodder the wire to the terminal in the speaker enclosure.
- Once finished, re-attach the speaker screen to the enclosure
Step 2: Establishing Speaker Mount
My rear rack had two pre-drilled holes that I used to secure one end of the board that I would use to mount the speaker system. I drilled two holes into the board and then fed a #10-24 screw through each, secured by a wing nut. I went with the wing nut because I wanted to be able to easily tighten the screws by hand, or remove the nuts by hand to more easily remove the entire system from my rack.
I attached two Superklip PVC Pipe Clamps with wood screws, then snapped my 2' PVC pipe into place. Each clamp is rated to hold 84lbs. so the PVC pipe is securely in place, but can be easily removed if needed.
Note: In the photos you can see that the board extends beyond the end of the rear rack. Although this makes the system less stable, this was an intentional decision. I wanted the speakers to be hanging from the PVC pipe rather than upright so that road vibration and other forces wouldn't cause them to move over the course of a weeklong bike event. Given that they are hanging, the enclosure on each speaker ends up obstructing the area in which the rear panniers would be placed. I could have made a wider design that clears the panniers, but decided that I prefer a more narrow profile that extends off the end of the rear rack.
Summary for Step 2
- Drill two holes in 20" piece of Top Choice Whitewood Board
- Secure whitewood board to rack with wing nuts.
- Attach superklip clamps to the opposite end of the whitewood board.
- Clamp PVC pipe into place.
Step 3: Cut the PVC Pipe Down to Size
With the speakers assembled and seated in their enclosure, hang them from the PVC pipe.
I used painters tape to decide where I would cut the PVC pipe. I used a jigsaw to cut through the PVC pipe but you could just as easily use a hacksaw. After cutting the PVC pipe, I sanded the ends and attached PVC pipe end caps to each side.
Summary of Step 3:
- Attach speakers to PVC
- Cut PVC to desired length if necessary
- Close off the ends of the PVC with end caps.
Step 4: Mount the Electrical Equipment
The Project Source 13-in Tool Box ends up fitting perfectly on the Top Choice Whitewood Board from Lowe's, so that the "legs" at each corner of the toolbox come to fit snugly along the edges of the board.
To secure both the board and the toolbox to the rack, I ended up using a U-bolt (pictured) and threaded it behind the back of the rack.
A hole was drilled on each side of the tool box to accommodate the speaker wire. I was able to place the amplifier, battery, bluetooth receiver and ground loop noise isolator in the tool box without much difficulty. Eventually, I removed the face plate of the amplifier and returned it to the tool box to give it a more slim profile, but you can play around with the arrangement that works best.
Set the battery to 12V output and you're all set! On my recordings, the output of the battery at 12V was 4.5-amps. I've had no issues with the set-up and, in my tests, you should be able to get 7 hours of play time on one battery at maximum volume. On a recent ride playing music at less than full volume, I drained the battery from 65% to 45% in 2h20m (10% per 70 minutes). YMMV
Step 4 Summary:
- Drill holes through board and tool box for the U-bolt and secure to the rear rack.
- Drill a hole in each side of the tool box for the speaker wire
- Connect your amplifier, battery, bluetooth receiver, and noise isolator and you're good to go!