The Battle Wagon is Born, A detailed account of the creation number 444

  The story of the Battle Wagon began with a question…Can you build it?  I get asked this question all the time.   I always answer the same, yes, but we are going to build it my way.

  The question was in reference to a big ole sound system that someone saw on the internet.  It was the Blastmaster xl.

I checked it out and really liked what they were shooting for.  It’s a huge dose of portable sound and I approve of that in every form, but for me it needed a little more pizzaz.

The Blastmaster was a Car stereo built onto a wagon, fine yes but that’s really not what I envision when dreaming up something this big.  The next thing I noticed was it was meant to be heard from one side.  This just wouldn’t do for the needs of the inquiring party.  The Party we are talking about was the Neon Army and Con Bro Chill  and that is not a group that takes partying lightly.  It is their essence, their ethos…Let’s just say it’s important.

They were putting together the new Neon branded version of Tom and Gary’s DDP.  This is where we take global party people to the next level.  The event was apply named the Party March, and it was going to be amazing.

They had their work cut out for them to live up to the path that DDP had cut through Portland in 3013 and they were eager to impress.  This is where Case of Bass comes into the equation.  We were approached to be the official Boombox sponsor.  This means that when the Party march sets off the amount of sound that the core team will produce would be enough to power the booty shaking good time.

To illuminate the concept of this event and what a DDP is in short there is a radio transmitter and the sea of tunes is transmitted to all the individual devices (boomboxes etc) and they all play the same cut in unison making for a ton of fun.  For more detailed info Tom and Gary have broken it down in detail in their Manifesto.  A good read for the Party enthusiast.


The Backpack Transmitter was fitted into a Sharp VHS Camcorder hard case for 1986, add straps and you have the Pirate signal generator.

So I digress… Case of Bass Boombox Sponsor/ Unorthodox Audio Specialist is tasked with the challenge.  We have 6 weeks and i has to be enough to make me excited or it’s just not worth doing.


Step one-  The Concept


      Like everything cool the ideas start with sketches.  The correction I immediately implemented were multi directional sound.  If it’s the center of the party then you have to be able to get a taste from all sides.  The second and most important was it had to be aesthetically interesting.  A box has been done, and the turtle shell concept while complicated was the one I liked.                                         


The wagon base was the foundation was the scale determination and with 6 weeks to work from concept to delivery we wanted to put some bounds on design.  In the design discussions we were all over the place, boombox tanks, RC devises, but we were going to work out proof of concept and jump off from there.


Step two-  Design System Based on Sketch and order parts.

The Case of Bass model is about power to weight ratio.  If your Case weighs 50 lb. you probably wouldn’t take it anywhere, but this joint was on wheels so we have a few more liberties.  The wagon is rated at 900 lb. so our ceiling was high.  The wagon had to be pulled, but with the addition of a two person yoke to pull it was shaping up to be very doable.

The heart of the beast had to have bumps, and be felt, even outside.  So we started with the subs.  With Parts Express as the official CoB parts provider for the stuff we love I went with their Dayton 12″ HighOutput Subwoofer X2.  This means the entire unit has to be solid.  This type of boom with exploit any weakness and rattle.  Aim high and maybe we will break some brains.  The Subs would be hidden and since their output isn’t directional we put them in the core and since they were 4ohms we dedicated a Digital Sub amp to each driver.

The rest of the parts were designed to offer a full range listening experience from all sides.  Since Mid-range frequencies travel the furthest I went with the dynamite Faital Pro 4″ Midrange .  These were positioned in the sealed corner trusses and tuned to handle that frequency.  The rest of the surfaces were to be peppered with 6 1/2″ poly domed woofers and 2 1/2″ tweeters, with the occasional horn for class.

The power system had to be adequate to bump at full output for hours and then some so we went deep cycle 12V Solar storage lead acid battery.  With a capacity at 120 ah it was the safe bet, but it was huge, needed to be accessible and heavy as all get out.   A challenge, but the right choice for future upgrades and accessories that have power needs.  (Lights, fog machine…whatever)


Step three-The vessel is born

For strength and flexibility I built the unit with 1/2″ russian Birch ply.  The speaker/sub box builders like to use 3/4″ and MDF for density and strength, but I still wanted to conserve on weight and would make  up for the material flex in design and inner supports.

-Each corner is a sealed truss and the inner speaker compartments are all separated to prevent the Subs from blowing the other drivers out the side of the box.

-The other trick is to make sure everything is accessible yet separate and sealed.  the design was challenging in the way that I had to make it seem like it was very simple, everything is hidden, but it is not that.

-If it wasn’t already challenging the “turtle shell” design made for multiple angles and drawing with chalk is more forgiving than cutting with a table saw.


-The front panel was reserved for the control panel and the  user interface.  I also had to consider the people pulling the Battle Wagon wouldn’t appreciate their ears being blown out.

Wagon Fitting success, the yellow paint has to go!


The Battery is going to live in the “Trunk” box in the back here.  It also moves the weight to the back, so we had to orient the box on the wagon so we weren’t popping a wheelie.
The plan was to paint the entire unit in a white enamel so the joinery in the construction only had to be so perfect.  Then addition of a load of construction adhesive at every joint made for tight construction and the chance that it would blow apart was almost impossible, even at 11.

Step Four-Prime, Sand, Prime, Sand, Prime, Sand…Repeat

-The base coat was an enamel based primer shot from the HVLP for even coats and conservative use of paint.

-Each layer was primed then sanded then smoothed with Bondo body filler and sanded to a buttery smooth finish.  All together there was 4 coats of primer allowed to dry overnight and cure properly.

-This style construction allowed for me to sand and break all hard corners into a smooth uniform shape.  The panels were all laid out and the driver placement was painstakingly sketched out.  The design is fun, but the attention to detail at this stage is everything.  If a small part doesn’t line up or feel contiguous with the whole vision it’s just dumb to be lazy.

Step Five-  Cut Holes and Add that Sweet Final Candy Coat

To mirror both sides I template layout.  A very useful technique when there is so much symmetry.


-I knew that moving this bad boy would be a task so i integrated a handle cutout at every low corner.  This breaks up the shapes and makes it more interesting as well as adding necessary function.

I can’t help but anthropomorphize my creations.  They come alive as they develop and I use that in the design process.  Happy little accidents to quote the Genius that is Bob Ross


-The lower section was open to allow the Subs to bump out the bottom, but I wanted to add some Faux features and the lower rectangular cutouts are for some classic Fisher speaker Vent trims

-The final coats make it so lovely, getting excited

The holes that are cut but not going to get drivers or trim are all relieved and softened with a light round over.


Inspiration rolls through


The exposed inside components were still primed white, and as it shaped up into a chubby Munko Whale I decided to make the inside and exposed sections black to keep it all clean.


-Peel off the masking and get the two toned results.

The Black was a 2 in one rattle can paint and primer in a flat finish.

-Four coats of a clean Semi-Gloss white enamel gives a durable candy coating and is ready for the wiring and components to start going into place.  White is safe, but it’s really about making this first go at this concept able to be anything with a little accessorizing.

Look deep into my eyes

Step Six-Wiring and Tuning


Starting with the heart beat of this animal I installed the Subs and the Sub amps.  Dual brand 750W @ 4ohms dedicated to each driver accessible to allow for crossover tuning and proper ventilation.  Still hidden underneath it all, it you need to access it is possible.  I would probably opt for a different amp setup in the future, but these did the trick nicely for a cost effective proof of concept come to life.
The technique of channeling all wiring through inner compartments starting at the back and dividing each section of drivers into a channel for the group of amplifiers we chose for this project.
The main input and controls were based in a 2 x 50W Digital amplifier that offers light EQ with Bass and Treble controls, Aux in, Aux out, and a bluetooth receiver.   It wasn’t necessary for the Party March, but after that party ends this creation will have many adventures.  These two channels powered the MidRange corners and the drivers at the back of the BW.  (Battle Wagon)
Taking advantage of the Aux out feature I linked the Sub amps and the 100W X 2 digital amplifiers to this signal.  This allowed for the most control of the output and sound as possible from the Control Panel.  Each side is a dedicated channel with 100w to each.
The Control Panel in front is recessed and mounted just inside the front face.  Challenging…Yes, but worth it.
From top left down the controls include;
– A green button (Dummy Switch) for future features
-Keyed master on/off switch (because it’s fun)
-On/Off Potentiometer for Sub pre-amp and levels to Subs
-Toggle power switch for Sub Amps (power up before audio to prevent pops)
-200W Amplifier volume control for side panels
-Two rocker switches for underbelly spinny lights
-The master amp control sub panel with Bass/Treble, Master Volume, 1/8″ stereo Aux input, input selection button to enable Bluetooth, USB input, and On/Off switch.
It indeed has the SpaceShuttle feel as far as controls, but it’s all part of having the ability to tune the output and make for the perfect sound for each occasion.  The party March needed an 11 setting and that was the first and most achievable goal with this much oomph.
A quick flight check was obligatory with so many buttons to push.

Step Seven- Sub woofer tuning and final touches.

When building a sub box, which is hidden deep within where no one can see, but hear and feel there are many subtle details that optimize for best results.  First choice for us was is it sealed or ported?  The sealed enclosure takes less volume, but the output can be truncated and we didn’t want that.
I decided to build a scale replica of the inner box and test the available configurations to get the best results.  This started as sealed, then sealed with the recommended volume fore best results for a party frequency.  This for some is super subsonic, but for us it was all about the 808 kick.  The magic party sound that we all love whether we know it or not.
I had mixed results with the sealed enclosure and moved to ported designs.  With the Subs hidden and few paths out of the box I was limited.  The idea of a 4″ hole in the top of a BW was asking for a spilled beer poured into your carefully tuned enclosure, this was no option.   The sound indeed sweetened in the tests, so the ported enclosure was the option I was digging, but why not get even crazier.  If we could build a Bass Horn transmission line within the painted sealed finished enclosure we could port the subs out the back in style and offer a chance for that bass frequency to develop as it wove its way through the path of least resistance.

-This is a stock image, but it’s a good visual aid to show what’s happening in the center of our BW.  Each Sub box has a channel that connects near the top the exits out the back through very cleverly hidden ports.

Step Eight- Hand her over to Con Bro Chill for final touches

The BW is alive and is a real show stopper.  Con Bro Chill had found a sponsor to absorb the costs of such a noble undertaking and Bud Light  raised their hand to promote their new fruity beverage the call the Rita.  A Summer treat that needed to be shared.  I integrated a sleeved umbrella stand for lack of a better term to hold accessories that the BW would use like a swiss army knife.  The setting for the Party March was a LimeRita tree.  It towered above everyone and acted as the flag for Party Central.



-Brightly colored and laced with LED Lights, the Lime Rita tree was the first symbol that BW would raise to get the party started.  I imagine a flagpole to come, or an extra large umbrella to shade you as you make your way wherever the party takes you.    The White clean BW was treated to a dash of color and the Neon Army did their thing.  Each corner was wrapped in a Neon Vinyl and took my Munko and turned him into a party Simon

-Case of Bass approves of Simon and all things Simon related.

Step Nine-Assemble the Troops and get Ready to PARTY

The Battle Wagon was only the chest of the Boombox Voltron that we had envisioned.  In addition to this crazy creation we needed a gaggle of unique Neon Army Boomboxes to spread the beats throughout the March.  Inspired and determined we hand build a fleet of colorful craziness.

-Designed digitally to represent the Neon Army 10 blasters were laser cut and powder coated out of high grade Aluminum.  Light and strong they clad a Russian Birch sub box that is also wrapped in a black laminate to accentuate and protect the  contents while making the colors pop.

-Each box has a coordinating colored acrylic window illuminated with LEDs from within.  They are a team, but each one is unique and special.



“Pants Down Thumbs Up” is the slogan and we embraced it on the Trunk of the BW
Let’s Light this Candle!!

Step Ten-Party

The Party March assembled and the joy and celebration vibe was high.  Con Bro Chill made it fun for everybody and it was truly a delight to work with them.  I see it as the beginning of a beautiful relationship.



Setting up and coordinating before the masses arrive



I was there with bells on and even though I worked for about a million hours prior to the event, the Party Spirit was with me and I smiled like a big idiot all day long.
Thank you Portland, OR for cultivating such creative sweetness.  You are a doll.