Building A Solar-Powered, Supercapacitor-Based Speaker

Inspired by many months of hours-long load shedding in South Africa, [JGJMatt] decided to make a portable speaker that can play tunes for hours on a single charge and even charge off the integrated solar panel to top the charge off. None of this should sound too surprising, but what differentiates this speaker is the use of two beefy 400 F, 2.7 V supercapacitors in series rather than a lithium-ion battery on the custom PCB with the Ti TPA2013D1 Class-D mono amplifier.

Insides of the speaker prior to stuffing and closing.
Insides of the speaker prior to stuffing and closing.

The reason for supercapacitors is two-fold. The first is that their lifespan is much longer than that of Li-ion batteries, the second that they can charge much faster. The disadvantages of supercapacitors come in the form of their lower energy density and linear discharge voltage. For the latter issue the TPA2301D1 amplifier has a built-in boost converter for an input range from 1.8 – 5.5 V, and despite the lower energy density a solid 6 hours of playback are claimed.

Beyond the exquisitely finished 3D printed PETG shell and TPU-based passive bass radiator, the functionality consists out of a single full-range speaker and an analog audio input (TRS jack and USB-C). To add Bluetooth support [JGJMatt] created a module consisting out of a Bluetooth module that connects to the USB-C port for both power and analog audio input.

Charging the speaker can be done via the USB-C port, as well as via the solar panel. This means that you can plug its USB-C port into e.g. a laptop’s USB-C port and (hopefully) charge it and play back music at the same time.

For those feeling like replicating this feat, the Gerbers, bill of materials, enclosure STLs, and everything else needed can be be found in the tutorial.

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It’s A Microphone And A Spring Reverb All In One

We’re so used to reverb effects being simply another software plugin that it’s easy to forget the electromechanical roots of the effect. Decades ago, a reverb would have been a metal spring fed at one end with a speaker and attached at the other to a microphone. You may not see them often in the 2020s, which is probably why [Ham-made] has produced one. It’s not the type with a speaker providing the sound, though. Instead, this is a microphone in its own right with a built-in spring line.

Perhaps it’s not the best microphone possible, with a somewhat heavy diaphragm and 3D printed body. But the hand-wound spring transmits the sound down to a piezo disk which serves as the electrical element, and the whole thing screws together into quite the usable unit. There are a selection of sample MP3 files that provide an interesting set of effect-laden sounds, so if you fancy building one yourself, you can judge the results.

We think this may be the first reverb microphone we’ve seen, but we’re certainly no stranger to reverb projects. More common by far, though, are plate reverbs, in which the physical element in the system is a metal plate rather than a spring. We like it when the sound source is a Commodore 64.