I would hazard a guess that most readers haven't given very much thought to what happens to trusted and faithful luggage when it's retired from frequent use. If they're not exiled to the basement for storage of odds and ends, old suitcases could very well end up just being dumped in the trash. If they're lucky though, brothers Ezra and Alex Cimino-Hurt might get hold of them for conversion into stylish and powerful Case of Bass boomboxes.
Whereas recycling breaks down waste materials like plastic and glass bottles, tin cans and newspapers so that something entirely new can be produced, up-cycling gives whole objects a new lease of life as re-purposed products. That's precisely what Portland's Case of Bass does. The company brings together classic electronics and vintage luggage to form stunning, hand-built, one-of-a-kind portable sound systems.
Some models are complete and ready to ship as they are, but others can be custom-configured to include buyer-specified inputs, amp sizes, power sources and personal detailing. The designers say that they use tried and tested classic electronic components that were built to last rather than throwing in the very latest that technology has to offer (and perhaps falling foul of early bird faults and foibles). The Cimino-Hurt brothers also state that where vintage electronics are no longer available, newly-made substitutes will be used but for the most part, vintage is best.
There have, of course, been many positive modern developments that it would be foolish to ignore, such as advances in battery technology, and the Case of Bass boomboxes are currently powered by lightweight Li-ion battery packs.
Models have been organized into four classes that roughly matches cases of similar size and speaker capacity. Notable examples include the Baby Baltimore model with a 50 W amp powering a 6-inch woofer, 4-inch mid and 1-inch dome tweeter from KLH, and a repurposed hat box known as MuuRay that packs a monster 12-inch woofer with LED backlighting, a pair of Bose 2.5-inch full range drivers and two 1.5-inch clarion tweeters and a 150-W amplifier that should command immediate respect from anyone in the locale.
The classy Sherlock model comes with an 80 W amplifier, two 5.5-inch full range drivers from Bose, a piezo horn and a 1.5-inch clarion tweeter. The creatively-named Norman Rockswell American Tourister case is powered by a 50 W amp and sports a full complement of Fisher drivers in the shape of a 10-inch woofer, 4.5-inch mid and 3-inch tweeter. If you're looking for style and immense power then look no further than Uncle Sal, which features a whopping 300 W amplifier powering two 8-inch woofers, twin piezo horns, and a 1-inch titanium dome tweeter.
Models vary between 10 and 20 pounds (4.5 and 9 kg) in weight, depending on the setup, and would typically take about a week per unit to build. Each model description is accompanied by an indication of exactly how much of the product is up-cycled. Prices start at US$275, and availability is through a small number of local retailers or direct from Case of Bass.
For those concerned about potential damage to all those exposed speaker cones, the designers say that they can discuss options that offer the best protection without significantly impairing the aesthetics.
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