When You Need Garage Tunes Right Now: Field Expedient Surround-Sound Audio System

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

When I moved into a Victorian near downtown Denver summer before last, I finally had something I’ve been longing for since I started messing around with cars: a garage! Since that time, I’ve been (very) gradually upgrading the place, with better wiring, insulation, beer signs, and so on. My long-term plan for the place involves an elaborate garage audio system, with a serious amp, good speakers all over the place, and a CAT5 line to the house that will provide access to the music collection on my file server. However, my long-term garage-upgrade plan also includes certain items that have higher priority— like, say, a source of heat— and I have been working on those items first. In the meantime, I needed to be able to listen to The Atomic Bitchwax at top volume, and I didn’t want to spend any money on temporary measures. One afternoon, I scavenged up the gear to make an extremely loud four-speaker setup. Here’s how.

I had a pretty serious boombox already, in the form of the 92-pound Turbo II Junkyard Boogaloo Boombox that I built out of plywood and car parts a few years back (go to the Murilee’s Greatest Hits page for the whole Junkyard Boogaloo Boombox saga). It had been just the thing for tailgate parties at Oakland A’s games, but the battery I’d scavenged out of a junkyard-bound Tercel in 2006 had lost the ability to take a charge by the time I hauled it to Denver, and it would be an all-weekend thrash to dismantle the thing and replace the battery. Hmmm… how to solve that problem today?

Easy— just add a battery charger to the crap sitting atop my pinball machine restoration project.

The Junkyard Boogaloo Boombox charges via this PVC-pipe-based adapter that plugs into one of the cigarette lighters. The charging adapter was never meant to be used in a permanent setup, but it works.

OK, so the battery charger leads clamp onto the charging adapter and the boombox now has Wanky the Safety Cat™ approval (provided I remember to unplug the battery charger when not in use).

At that point, I had music… but the junkyard-correct Chevy Beretta cassette deck and ’93 Mercury Grand Marquis 6x9s didn’t deliver enough thump for my favorite Ice-T tracks. How can I improve the situation without leaving the garage?

The cassette and 8-track players were hardwired in and it would be a supreme pain in the ass to add more amps and speakers to them, but the Junkyard Boogaloo Boombox features a wired FM modulator to allow the use of external sound sources through the cassette deck. That means I can use the same iPod I use for the LeMons Macho Man penalty… and it also means that the signal from the iPod can be split and fed into another means of amplification.

From my days in the industro-noise band Murilee Arraiac, hooking up shortwave radios through chains of OD-1 overdrive pedals and so forth, I have every imaginable audio-cable adapter. Putting a one-into-two 1/8″ jack adapter on the iPod was easy, and led to…

…this 900 MHz audio transmitter, which sends its signal to…

…this pair of RCA wireless stereo speakers, which I got at a yard sale and had been storing with a lot of other random crap in a box for quite a while. Every bit of this gear was available right there in the garage. It’s what the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™ refers to as Ghetto Surround Sound 4.0™.

I had to do a little rearranging of power outlets to feed everything, but it all sorted out in typical garage-octopus fashion.

So now I can crank up the Gotan Project loud enough to share with the whole neighborhood, and I didn’t have to buy anything. Wanky approves!






Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Feb 21, 2012

    I was asked to play DJ for my buddy's wedding last year so I put Gotan Project's La Revancha Del Tango on loop for the first part of the reception before the dance. Good stuff.

  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Feb 21, 2012

    I use a set of computer speakers with sub that a good friend gave me. They look a little beat up but sound great. I link them to anything with a headphone jack that i want to listen to which is typically an older laptop that runs Easypeasy Linux (free) to connect me with my music server inside the house or my old shortwave/AM/FM portable radio that lives in the garage. TuneIn.com has ALOT of streaming radio including the local channels. Can't hear any of it over my grinder and air compressor anyhow.

  • 3-On-The-Tree Lou_BCsame here I grew up on 2-stroke dirt bikes had a 1985 Yamaha IT200 2-strokes then a 1977 Suzuki GT750 2-stroke 750 streetike fast forward to 2002 as a young flight school Lieutenant I bought a 2002 suzuki Hayabusa 1300 up in Huntsville Alabama. Still have that bike.
  • Milton Rented one for about a month. Very solid EV. Not as fun as my Polestar, but for a go to family car, solid. Practical EV ownership is only made possible with a home charger.
  • J Love mine, but the steering wheel blocks dashboard a bit, can't see turn signals nor headlights icons. They could use the upper corners of the screen for the turn signals. Mileage is much lower than shown too, disappointing
  • Aja8888 NO!
  • OrpheusSail I once did. My first four cars were American made, and through an odd set of circumstances surrounding a divorce, I wound up with a '95 Nissan Maxima which was fourteen years old and had about 150,000 miles on it.It was drove better, had an amazing engine, and was more reliable than any of my American cars. This included a new '95 GMC pickup that went through five alternators in under two years while the dealership insisted that there was no underlying electrical problem while they tried to run the clock on the warranty.That was the end of 'buy American'. I've bought from Honda and VW since, and I'll consider just about anything except American now.
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