Those of us who grew up practicing backspins on flattened cardboard during the ’80s remember all too well the iconic boombox. Thanks to the shoulder-crushing burden of eight D-Cell batteries, the original “portable” speaker busted out enough bass beat to bring Doug E. Fresh and Run DMC to dance-party levels. Who’s got my mix tape?
To be sure, when hung on the wall, the Touch of Bass has a way of attracting attention.
Today, the boombox occasionally resurfaces masquerading as a modern Bluetooth speaker milking retro appeal, but the most genuine riffs on the classic music machine seem to pique the interest of Gen X-ers who actually busted a move at Young MC’s command back in the day. Perhaps that’s why Portland, Oregon-based Case of Bass, which started a suitcase boombox revolution, has been so successful. And now a partnership sprung from that company is coming out with what is sure to be another wildly popular product among the boombox nostalgic. Meet Touch of Bass.
What you’re seeing is a purpose-built piece of art converted into a modern-day Bluetooth boombox you hang on your wall. And if you’re thinking it looks supercool, we’d be inclined to agree with you. As a bonus, it also sounds surprisingly good, too.
You want to touch it
Pictures can’t quite capture the three-dimensional sense this sonic art piece has. The framed print, which was produced from photographs taken by a local Portland photographer, has an eerily natural sense of depth already, but when the images of the boombox’s drivers are cut out to make space for actual speakers, the piece jumps to life. Nearly everyone we showed the Touch of Bass to reached out to hit the play/pause button believing they were actually there. The effect is very convincing.
Hang it on the wall, and the Touch of Bass has a way of attracting attention. If the merit of a piece of art can be based on its ability to start a conversation, then the Touch of Bass is a sure success. Of course, it’s not just there to look cool, it’s meant to make music.
You’ll actually listen to it
The boomboxes of the ’80s weren’t exactly high-fidelity, partly because they didn’t really need to be, but also because the acoustic design requirements and electronic engineering necessary for high-end sound made it hard for old boomboxes to sound great. Fortunately, the Touch of Bass sounds far better than the portables of yore, thanks to efficient digital amplification, higher-quality drivers, and the convenience of Bluetooth. Packed inside the bump-out on the back is a 60-watt digital amplifier. The DSP-controlled amp powers dual 6.5-inch woofers and two 5.8-inch tweeters.
Touch of Bass creators Ezra Cimino-Hurt and Chris Regis spent the past year traveling to and from their manufacturer in China — which is responsible for producing a wide array of popular Bluetooth speakers — customizing the Touch of Bass’ sound quality until they got it just right. Thanks to Digital Signal Processing (DSP), it is possible to work minor miracles with large drivers mounted in a small, sealed box. The Touch of Bass offers all the low-end punch and deep tones you would expect from a speaker with the word “bass” in its name, but it also delivers highly dynamic sound with just as much clarity in the midrange and smoothness in the treble as you would expect from a pair of bookshelf speakers purpose-built to produce music at a high level of fidelity. Are we talking super-audiophile material here? No. But what you do get from Touch of Bass is sound far larger than you can expect from small portable Bluetooth speakers costing the same price. And then there’s the bit about it being a super-cool piece of wall art.
What you get from Touch of Bass is sound far larger than you can expect from small portable Bluetooth speakers costing the same price.
In addition to offering easy wireless Bluetooth connection, the Touch of Bass has an auxiliary input for connecting any number of audio devices. During our evaluation period, we connected a turntable with built-in phono preamp for a super-retro system that offered a visual and tactile feast for the senses. Seriously, the coolness factor here is off the charts.
The prototype version we tested suffered from some phase alignment and cancellation problems, but those have since been solved. This finalized version, which can be purchased now through a special offer at website Touch of Modern, sounds like a speaker that got a year of careful attention to detail.
Made for your wall
Mounting Touch of Bass is a piece of cake. You’ll just need a couple of wall screws to feed into the piece’s key-hole mounts, which are raked back a bit to ensure a snug fit against the wall. The speaker doesn’t have a battery in it, so you’ll need to connect a provided 24-volt power supply. The power supply is white in color, so you may want to paint it to help it disappear into the wall if you don’t go with stock white walls as part of your decor.
Once in place, we’d suggest considering the addition of accent lighting, which helps pull out the depth of the image and increase the 3-D effect we mentioned earlier. No matter how you choose to show it off, we’re convinced onlookers will come for the art, and stay for the music.
In addition to the Touch of Modern listing, you can snag a Touch of Bass for yourself on Amazon.