IMG_2730.JPGMuch like worried parents will fuss over a child before sending them off into the world, I fidgeted over the details of this lil guy, attempting to delay the inevitable departure, filled with pride and worry at the rigors he’ll face out in the real world. Unlike most worried parents, I eventually said “fuck it,” and dropped this fucker off at the local Fedex, to be shipped cross country in a large cardboard box.


The details were particularly sweat-able on this build, as this was essentially the third iteration on the concept, starting with a beast of the beats that went to Keith, and then a semi-pro configuration that went nowhere. Here are the vague details of the build:



Obviously, the first detail to isolate is the Lego theme. Legos, by the way, are a fairly mediocre permanent construction material. Turns out the 10-micron precision makes them fairly expensive from a cost/volume stand point (a small enclosure requires a lot of legos). Had my little siblings help me build lego boxes to compare the looks. Turns out rainbow is a crowd favorite


Fast forward a few days, after much designing, some deliberation, and then cutting, I’ve got a wood box to match the lego box. I believe I designed for 4L internal volume for each NS3 driver, which, in retrospect, I feel was too much. However, once the wood is cut…alea acta est. I went for a seamless miter approach on this build, to avoid the ugly “end-grain” of the birch plywood. I wrapped the grain around the “depth” of the box, but the grain of the “face” does not flow into the edges. So far I haven’t figured out a solution to this that works out in our boring 3 dimensional Euclidean / Newtonian universe.


Here we can see the translucence of the 3d prints, pre assembly. Originally, I had not planned for there to be a VU lightstrip in this build, but then I realized that since I built all the electronics off of the wood box, fitting them into the lego box, which had 5/6 faces constrained already, would be extremely difficult. At this point, I also realized I miscalculated the amount of space wires take up. Medusa rears her ugly cable management head yet again.


Now you see what I mean.


Analog signal processor demonstrating that I am the particular type of person that loves neat things but does not love making things neat, and so I live in a constant torment of my own devising. I chose a scheme that allows for a bass shelf at lower volumes, but flattens the EQ towards higher volumes—it’s essentially a loudness compensation circuit, except that since I have no reference for the actual loudness of the output (due to lack of information about source gain, listener position). I call it the “party” compensation circuit, because while one might enjoy deep sonorous extension at lower listening levels, once your friends roll through, 14 beers deep each, you’re cranking that fucking volume knob. And while the NS3’s have a lot of allowable excursion before crashing, the garbage bass lines that litter the hip hop soundscape are essentially glorified sine waves that will fuck your shit up. The obvious and simple solution to this is a simple dynamic gain-tied or signal-adaptive high-pass for excursion limiting, or a multi-band compressor. I leave these endeavors as an exercise to the reader until I have the time to implement them on the next build.IMG_2409.JPG

Pre-wood finishing. After disliking the gumminess and amber tint of marine spar varnish, I chose to use tung oil to bring out the figure. Then I sealed the box+3d printed parts with epoxy (bar top) for strength/durability, and finally, for UV protection and hardness, I finished with a clear gloss polycrylic. Here’s what it looks like finished:



Boombox The First

IN the way that most things in life are, there was no moment where the stars aligned and a beam of silver brilliance illuminated me with inspiration; it was not a sudden cataclysm of grand events or even a single moment of clarity. It was more the lucky coincidence of a few small dust mites, just little things, which only in detailed retrospection, could one notice an amount of circumstantial  alignment, that lead to thiswhich, of course, is on par with the scale of endeavor.

I was confronting my post-graduation ennui, as the evaporation of two of the more fulfilling experiences in my life (leading the water polo team, and learning tons of shit with tons of new people) had left me both without purpose and without the satisfaction of achievement of purpose. This was compounded by the fact that I had a degree in Mechanical engineering, which is a certification that I have all the necessary tools to be achieving things, but no job, which rendered those tools somewhat useless. I also other aligned mites; I had a little bundle of cash from graduation, a garage full of random bits of electronics, a shit load of time, and a best friend who wanted portable bluetooth speakers.

So I told him, I could build those for cheaper. He said fuck yeah, and I went to Urban Ore, where a quite lucky mite of dust fell into place; I found a use pair of drivers which just so happened to be the AuraSound NS4-255-4D. If this set of esoteric numbers doesn’t cause heart flutters, the NS4 is one of the best small format full-range drivers in the world, and it’s also impossible to get, because AuraSound was shut down by the feds. Th NS4 some how managed to sneak a little performance past the Iron Law;  it’s loud and it’s got bass in a small box, and it’s cheap (well, used to be cheap; the last commercially-available pair was bought by me, 1.5 years ago for $50). And somehow I had found a pair of these fuckers for $4.

And so I built him a damn boombox, and it’s design was mediocre, and the electrical engineering was shoddy, and the panels were cut from slightly different bits of wood, and nothing was quite lined up right, and it took all summer to get the right parts, and I ran up against the deadline of his birthday so I had to build for 2 days straight, and then it was the day of, and I hadn’t eaten all day because I had to finish it, and I was supposed to be leaving to go his house for a BBQ, and I was late, and I was and had been focusing for the last 8 hours to an extent that makes me wonder about the exact nature of my mental health, and I had my doubts about the whole thing because in someway the little guy’s success was entangled a bit with my own soul, but then it was time to go to his house, and since it was too late to turn back, I turned it on, for the first time, on the porch looking out to the sun setting over the Golden Gate, fog and clouds glowing with orange warmth, with my parents drinking a beer and my little siblings watching, and when the power light flicked on, and the beast was awakened with a bit of thunder, and the peaceful calm of a idyllic Berkeley summer sunset was shattered, I grinned.

Here’s the guy from that exact moment:


And Then The Rest

The response was positive, so I built a few more. Though, the first few efforts up until recently were a bit sophomoric, here are a few of them:


Here we’ve got some unfinished pictures of an ultra mini build with a 2 way design using a very surprising 3-inch sub that kicked low-end ass. Built into a (small) cake box.


Here’s some beer for scale:WP_20150117_11_02_35_Pro

Here’s the second NS4 build, with some Brazilian cherry I found on the side of the street. Shipped this one to the east coast. Not the most finished product I’ve made but it worked ok.


Eventually I realized that the finish (wood pun intended) is as important as the start so I worked on getting a cleaner look and looking into wood varnishes.WP_20150604_21_01_22_Pro

And the most recent piece, the KrumpKanon for Keith “I’ve been lifting so it can be heavy” Savran, complete with Lego detailing, a 200W sub, missile launch switches, and a marine spar varnish. It’s quite heavy.