This Boombox Hack is Lit

Old boomboxes make great hacks. Their design is iconic; yes they look dated but that really just builds on the nostalgic urge to have one hanging around. Plus their big cases simply invite adding things inside in a way impossible with contemporary electronics.

[Danc0rp] hacked his JVC M70 boombox to make the speakers glow with animated light, bumping VU meters, and a pulsing horizontal bar above the tape deck. The effect is superb. The cones of the speakers act like a projection surface and the grilles hide the LEDs until they activate, and enhance the effects once unleashed. It is one of the best LED speaker hacks we’ve ever seen.

Custom board with Arduino UNO
Custom board with Arduino UNO

The light effects are provided by LED strips, which for the speakers are attached just inside the outer rim. The brains behind it all is an Arduino UNO. To connect to it, he soldered components to a blank Arduino prototyping board. That board takes input from the boombox’s line-out and does some filtering (an attempt to address some ground noise) before passing the signal on to the Arduino. That board also interfaces between the Arduino and the LED strips. The schematic is available on his GitHub page. He’d like to replace the board with a custom PCB instead and is looking for design help.

The result is not only beautiful but professional looking too. This makes us wonder why boomboxes don’t come this way. See it for yourself in the video below.

Maybe you don’t have a boombox or want to start from scratch. In that case, check out this artfully made wooden one or this custom one in a rugged, homemade case that you’d swear on first glance was military issue.

10 thoughts on “This Boombox Hack is Lit

  1. That makes me want to buy an old classic defect boombox, gut it from electronics, install some new high quaility speakers, some electronic (RPI,ESP32 etc?) and fill the rest up with 18650 batteries – Could be a fun project :)

    1. “install some new high quaility speakers” may I ask why? How bad are the original boom-box speakers that you are willing to put in new speakers. I don’t think that adding high-end over the top speakers will sound any better in this plastic box with handles? But perhaps I’m wrong.

        1. interesting approach… unfortunately although box speakers will produce sound, the only produce LEFT or RIGHT depending on the earplug placed onto the readhead of the tape. You can’t place both earplugs/earphone, so you’ll never hear the music as it should. Especially on music from the 70’s you’ll miss out a lot as the channels L and R are much more separated. Nonetheless a cool trick of which I doubt anyone will hear its far from perfect.

    1. i would have installed just 1 LED: a red one. ..probably inside the battery compartment where nobody could see it. the reason: i rarely maintain interest in my own projects. and you’re right, the build is certainly great.

  2. Brings back some mid 1980’s memories of a music& car audio shop in my city.
    This man dealt in boxes up to, nearly, small coffin sized.
    Nothing like watching 2 guys climb out of a small car dragging a big one.
    Lighting done in & around the speakers, on center brackets, ringing the cabinet, EQ bars, etc.
    I don’t think that most of them would have run more than 20 mins from the huge slots of “D” cells, IF the lights were turned on. Use of the included, on board power supply, was strongly suggested.

    The store was an interesting spot to stop in at. I worked nearby and
    (on paydays)would slow down to check the parking lot appearance.
    Depending on the looks of things, I might stop in.
    One never knew who you might strike up an interesting chat with! ;^)
    Or new music someone could point out to you.
    Ahh, the pre “social” media days

  3. I don’t subscribe to adding lights. If I want a light, I will buy a light. However, an old friend who knows I like junk gave me an old DeWalt job site radio/charger that the radio was gone beyond repair in (flood damage, the entire PCB is one hunk of shite fuzzy corosion). The speakers were still alive though. I was able to put a bluetooth receiver/amp into the box, and put some foam carpet padding behind the speakers and now I can play tunes from my phone and it sounds better than it ever did.

    BTW. a hack a guy taught me when I was about 10 years old might come in handy if you want to use the amp in an old boombox. You can generally get at the input to the amp at the high side of the volume control pot. One side will be ground and the other side will go to the selected signal source. Once you have found the high side of the volume pot, a little work with an exacto knife to isolate it from what it used to go to, and you have the input to the amp. Check it between the high side and ground for DC with a DVM as you may have bias voltage on it and require a cap for coupling.

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