John Gray was recently describing a project to me. Thought it was a very kewl idea and execution. I asked him to send me some pics with a brief write up. Check it out.

By simply vacuuming once a year or so, some of us have watched our interiors become ‘period’ in what seems like a very short time. As they say during this period, NP – it just means the opportunity to go overboard on other things, like this. It’s a Road Trip stereo bag I made so I can stream my internet stations on a drive Bob and I are making next month. If he ends up in my passenger seat because his car still isn’t together, it’s portable enough to go along so Bob can hear lots of music he hates.

Yeah, the music of the car is all you need, blah blah. All that is true. But sometimes you are just sitting in traffic, or on the freeway and bored. I hate earbuds while I’m driving. Having the ambient noise filtered isn’t safe and wires are always in the way. Besides, you’re listening to crappy compressed MP3 files anyway. I got this idea from a kid who put some battery powered speakers in his gym bag to carry around and use with his phone, I just took it a step further with the pieces in the picture.

The speakers are Altec Lansing Orbits. For being 3 inches and only $20, they actually sound pretty darn good if you give them enough power. They are meant to be a laptop speaker – as a single unit. A typical laptop has marginal output at the headphone jack for driving one of these, much less two. A smartphone, even less power. So the key to this whole thing is the little black rectangular piece. It’s a tiny amplifier that cleans up the signal and boosts the output significantly. Even better, it runs the MP3 format though a circuit and creates a three channel stereo emulation that it sends to the outputs. The difference is huge using the phone. Instead of having to run the phone at ¾ volume and sounding like crap, now ¼ volume produces the same level and sounds much better. It also eliminates the need for a separate splitter cable to drive the two speakers.

I ran the jack through the embroidery because the thread added some chassis rigidity for mounting. The solid patch to hold and hide the jack and the size made this gimme bag seem good for a tryout. I used a nylon washer and clip on the back to hold the jack in place. The holes for the speakers had to be carefully cut to hold everything well. I made good templates that would stick to the nylon from 3M lacquer tape, but when I started cutting with various scissors and razors, I could tell it was going to make a mess. Luckily, my wife was out of town when I came across her good Wusthof kitchen shears. These let me make surgical cuts easily and made the job a breeze.

The speakers run on 3 AA batteries, good for 24 hours of use or being on. The on/off button comes out on the outside, at the bottom of the speaker grille. Next to the switch are green LED’s bright enough to remind you, which also look cool at night. I put a foam bottom inside to hide the connection wires and amplifier, so it still works as a bag. In fact, you can get different equalizer settings based on what you happen to throw in it. A few extra wrenches adds that reverb effect, like an old AM Top 40 station. Want more bass? Move it from the seat to the floor. In fact, that’s kind of what it sounds like after all this – a good AM radio in an old car. With the sun out and the windows down and the right song on, this works just the same way.  

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  1. Rich Lambert says:

    Is the little amp a laptop piece too? I need this as I have a very long drive coming up in a week.

  2. Dwight says:

    This is a great idea. Could you please include what type the amp was?

  3. Bob Tilton says:

    Dwight and Rich – ck out the reply I got from John:

    Yes, the little amplifier is usually found with laptop accessories, it’s by a company called Boosteroo and is the Revolution model. Since I did this I’ve also found once again nothing is new in the internet age – I was throwing out some catalogs that came in the mail this week and saw some backpacks and other bags by a company called Fydelity. Mostly kids level and probably kids quality of sound, but very much along the same lines.

  4. I love it! Would be perfect for the garage as well. Thanks for sharing the idea guys.

  5. Missy got me one like that for Christmas 2 years go, with the speakers and a pocket for my iphone already in it. pretty neat little thing. only big difference was that what she got me was a cooler. Speakers are probably no where near as powerful…. i think you have just given me some good ideas for mods to it.

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