By on February 19, 2012

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!

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21 Comments on “When You Need Garage Tunes Right Now: Field Expedient Surround-Sound Audio System...”

  • avatar

    I’ve always been one for reusing old things found in the basement, tinkering with electronics, and annoying the neighbours, so this is my kind of project. I think I’ll have to do the same soon in my own garage – got a timing belt that needs changing and my CD boombox has kicked it (and now refuses to kick it).

  • avatar

    The great thing about old houses is that they have detached garages….the really old ones have barns or carriage houses out back. Those are a must for the DIY dude. Attached garages not only make the house look like crap, IMHO, but will land you in divorce court if you try and use it for anything other than car or junk storage.

    BTW, over on the other side of town is one of the coolest garages I’ve ever seen. The property is a small hill. The house is built on top of the hill, naturally, but the garage is a two story affair built into the side of the hill. The base of the garage is at street level. There is a short driveway that leads to a couple of bays on the first level. Next to this driveway is another driveway that goes up the hill and loops around to the side giving access to two more bays on the second level. Total storage for 4 cars on two levels. I wish it was mine.

  • avatar

    Is that the new Lexus in the top pic?

  • avatar

    Looks great, although I don’t consider “Orgasmatron” to be Motorhead’s strongest album.

    Just sayin’

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Rube Goldberg would be proud.

  • avatar

    DOOD…you gotta put a little USB port on the jugaloo boom box…and then play Soulja Boy THROW SOME D’s on it.

  • avatar

    I still think your junkyard boombox needs to be covered in vinyl roof material for that extra touch of class.

  • avatar

    Needs chrome, like maybe some fins.

  • avatar

    Will it play “Dog Bite” fast enough?

  • avatar

    I saw a “Sing like T Pain” microphone in the clearance section at Fred Meyers. It’d be perfect to make a karaoke machine to hook up to that monstrosity.

  • avatar

    My method of choice was always the finest junkyard single-DIN stereo I could find, slipped into a proper-sized hole in a steel cabinet and connected to an old 200W AT power supply and a 70s-vintage marine FM antenna screwed to the wall outside and connected to similarly high-quality junkyard speakers screwed to the wall with some 3″ drywall screws.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes! I’ve been here and done this – well, mine was a 25w-per-channel Kenwood tape deck, a 200w Enlight AT PSU, a pair of GE boombox speakers, and a set of rabbit ears. A bit simpler, perhaps, but with the same basic premise.

      Crossloading? Pfft, who cares?

  • avatar

    Years and years ago we just wanted a good am radio in the garage and I had a 49 Mercury 6 Volt radio. The neighbor showed me how to remove the vibrator ( the do-hicky that changed DC to AC before diodes ? and wire in 110 V to 6 V transformer. I hate to think what a 49 Merc radio would be worth today.

  • avatar

    My dad goes to a lot of auctions, and is always buying up Audio stuff. In my garage I have a set of mid-80’s Sansui 320w speakers. Brand new they were a $2000 for a set, he got them for about $30. They’re missing the covers, the cabinet is a little beat, but they’re amazing, and still worth a decent bit. Hooked up to that is a 210W amp (we’re still searching for something more powerful).

    Without even driving full power to them, they well shake everything. Louder then most concerts I’ve been too. Thankfully we love in the country, so neighbors, which is a good thing, because the sound bounces off the barn and I walk down to the tree line at the end of our property and still hear the music as clear as can be.

  • avatar

    If I may make some suggestions –

    I would hunt down a cassette deck with an aux input on the front panel. I recall my parents had a 91 Subie Legacy wagon with one, very useful back in the days of portable CD players (or at least once I bought one that had anti-skip, before then you had to pause it when going over rough roads).

    And you should DEFINITELY find a way to adapt a 1980s digital tachometer to display a visualiser. I implore you to do so.

    • 0 avatar

      The best thing about those decks is that they’re still infinitely useful today, with various mp3 players all the rage. My 244 came with a late-’90s Panasonic deck – line-in, removable faceplate – and it’s my favourite of the head units I’ve had.

  • avatar

    Dude – like I have the exact same battery charger! My parents gave it to me for Christmas in ~1982? 83? I still use mine (far too regularly). With a motorcycle, old boat, old car, old truck, another old truck, and whatever else it gets a real workout. Still good though.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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. has ALOT of streaming radio including the local channels.

    Can’t hear any of it over my grinder and air compressor anyhow.

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