The 10 Best Boomboxes
10. Supersonic SC2020U
- speakers are detachable
- smaller and quieter than it appears
- some models destroy tapes
|Rating||3.6 / 5.0|
9. Naxa NPB-262
- mp3 playback via usb thumb drives
- doubles as a pa system
- it's extremely large and heavy
|Rating||3.9 / 5.0|
8. Jensen CD-490
- retractable telescopic antenna
- led track display for cds
- not particularly loud
|Rating||4.2 / 5.0|
7. Memorex MP3451
- battery or ac-powered
- digital tuner display
- only available refurbished
|Rating||4.0 / 5.0|
6. Quantum FX J22UBK
- built-in mic for tape recording
- converts cassettes to mp3s
- four d batteries not included
|Rating||4.2 / 5.0|
5. Sony CFDS70
- digital clock tells hammer time
- 19-hour battery life
- aux input for newer media
|Rating||4.0 / 5.0|
4. iHome iBT4
- aux line-out for daisy chaining
- durable rubberized finish
- sturdy carrying handle
|Rating||4.3 / 5.0|
3. DeWalt Worksite
- can charge your dewalt batteries
- 2 convenient ac power outlets
- built-in protective storage box
|Rating||5.0 / 5.0|
2. Pyle Street Vibe
- lightweight portable and compact
- built-in sd card and usb readers
- rechargeable battery lasts 4 hours
|Rating||4.7 / 5.0|
1. G-Project G-Boom Wireless
- rugged rubberized carrying handle
- onboard playback controls
- impressive volume for its price
|Rating||4.9 / 5.0|
Even Hip Hop Needs Some Heavy Metal
Responsible for the death of countless batteries, boomboxes were notorious for pushing the limits of quality engineering. Although handles rarely broke, they often looked as if they wanted to just to spite the absurdity of what they were designed to do.
Take, for example, Lasonic's TRC-975. Weighing in at a whopping 23.3lbs (batteries included), it required 10 D cells to power its two 8" woofers. But that was back in 1988 when sound superseded sense and music wasn't meant to stay plugged in or sit in pockets.
Someone actually looked at that monstrosity, looked at the engineer guilty of conceiving it and said, without a hint of irony, "It needs a handle."
200-watt woofers vibrating their screws loose wasn't the only reason boomboxes had heavy metal casings. The handles needed something sturdy to latch onto. Ergonomic plastic handles folding flat in plastic housings simply wouldn't suffice. Portable stereos that could double as counterweights for elevators needed something stronger.
As Lewis Carroll once said, "Take care of the sound and the sense will take care of itself."
To Boom Or Not To Boom
Back in the Eighties and early Nineties, the most important feature of a good boombox was bass. Be you lounging in your backyard with some friends or hosting a romantic dinner in a van down by the river, it seemed like there was never enough bass to kill the mood.
Boombox manufacturers spent so much time trying to figure out how to overpower crowded streets with portable woofers they never stopped to think about how a boombox might sound at a reasonable volume. Indeed, if you turned your TV all the way up while watching Saturday Night Live and your boombox all the way up and you could still hear Chris Farley screaming at you, your boombox wasn't up to snuff.
For better or worse, we live in the Age of the Earplug. Noise pollution is no longer hip. Boomboxes no longer hop down the sidewalk. And those who love rap tend to keep it to themselves while they're in public.
Needless to say, the criteria for what makes a good boombox good has drastically changed.
Detachable speakers are great: We no longer dance with them propped up on our shoulders, anyway.
Smartphone docks have completely replaced cassette decks and CD players: Nobody makes mix-tapes anymore and MP3s have rendered CDs all but obsolete.
No handle? Not a problem. My friends and I aren't going anywhere.
Sure, you can still buy boomboxes for break-dancing on the street, but for those who just want portable speakers for their smartphones, there's no time like the present.
Up Jump The Boogie To Be
Lovingly called a Brixton briefcase by Londoners and a ghettoblaster by Americans, the boombox was invented by none other than the very same brilliant minds that brought us the compact cassette, Philips.
That's right. A Dutch company based in Amsterdam permanently altered British and American cultures in the Seventies and Eighties. Here's how:
About a decade before the boombox, Philips invented the cassette as a compact medium for storing audio. They announced their invention a year later on the Berlin Radio Show, and then waited an additional year before announcing it in the United States. They licensed the format for free in hopes that Japanese manufacturers would take advantage of the new technology and help spread the word. They did.
By 1966, the compact voice recorder and it's requisite cassettes were a huge success. But Philips wasn't satisfied. They wanted a recorder that could also play back the audio with state-of-the-art fidelity, something their compact recorder simply could not do. It recorded just fine, but the playback left a lot to be desired.
And so the first boombox was born.
Initially more popular in Japan where they were made and Europe where they were first distributed, the boombox finally made its way into the hearts and minds of young Americans in the mid-Seventies. The introduction of stereo-quality input and output jacks made it possible for the boombox to be used as a portable P.A. system. With the help of a microphone or a pair of turntables, MCs and DJs could spit and scratch on the fly so long as their batteries didn't run dry.
By the mid-Eighties virtually everyone in America had a boombox. There were boomboxes in the subway, boomboxes on the beach, boomboxes on hot dog stands in Central Park, boomboxes in the back seats of old cars that only had radio tuners on board.
By 1989, boomboxes were a pop culture phenomenon, featured in films such as Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, Say Anything with John Cusack, and the hideous Teen Witch with its forced hip hop sequence. Why? Because every film needs a good boombox.