We first caught glimpse of the Berlin Boombox back in September and, honestly, we weren’t all that impressed. But having received a barrage of email updates from several sources for the past several months, we can no longer turn a blind eye. The Berlin Boombox, a product billed as “a cardboard soundsystem for your smartphone.” must have some kind of promise, we’re just not sure what the promise is.
Inspired by 1980s “ghettoblasters,” the Berlin Boombox, as many innovative technologies do today, began as an idea on Kickstarter. Within 30 days, creator Axel Pfaender (Berlin-based designer, illustrator and DJ) raised $20,000 for the project, comfortably surpassing his goal by $6,000. The Kickstarter page garnered attention from a variety of tech magazines and blogs, and Pfaender began receiving a steady stream of retailer requests (the boombox is available world-wide at retailers based in locations ranging from Los Angeles to South Africa and Japan — you can find a retailer near you with this interactive store-finder, or simply order online from their site).
Pfaender aimed to create “something that stands out among the legions of minimalist black plastic boxes with rounded edges,” and the end result is an attention-snagging sound system that you can build yourself..
The Berlin Boombox consists of heavy corrugated cardboard (barely one-tenth of an inch thick) with screen-printed black and white graphics. It has a sturdy carrying handle, one large aluminum knob for both power and volume, and electronic parts that are all German-engineered by Mivoc Pro (all design, screen-printing and cardboard production is done locally in Berlin). The electronic specs include: integrated digital 2×5-watt amplifier; two 3-inch Mivoc Pro speakers, and a standard-issue 3.5mm audio jack. The boombox is powered by three AA batteries – a far cry from the 10 lbs. of D-cells required by the boomboxes of yesteryear.
The website explains that you “insert your device where, back in the day, the tape used to go.” The Berlin Boombox is also environment-friendly: it’s shipped flat for minimal use of energy during shipping and made from recycled cardboard, among other qualities. Full specifications are found here.
As far as the audio quality is concerned, it’s tempting to imagine a thin, tinny and muffled sound that doesn’t even come close to the “blast” associated with the boombox’s ancestral inspiration, the ghettoblaster. However, the device is probably worth a try, clocking in at a reasonable €65 (just over $88). At the very least, it’d make a great gift for kids and art-enthusiasts.
Considering the fact that a big part of the experience is building and customizing your very own boombox and not just merely roaming the block with it propped on your shoulder, the Berlin Boombox might have some potential. It may not be the audiophile’s dreamboat of a mobile sound system, but the overall package makes it a fun and aesthetically pleasing project to delve into. For little more than an extra $12, you can purchase the “Montana” edition of the boombox: it comes bundled with six acrylic markers from Montana Cans that, along with whatever other art supplies you wish to use (spray paint, pens, collages, stickers, etc.), allow you to customize your Berlin Boombox however you like. In fact, there’s even a design contest for Montana Boombox owners.
All things considered, what do you think? Would you sport a cardboard boombox when you hit the streets with your crew, or would you just as soon pick up the iHome IP4 Boombox (which, among other respectable attributes, isn’t made of cardboard…) for your portable sound-blasting needs?