Frequently Asked Question

Q.  What is the overall philosophy of this project?
A.  To enable anyone to buy or build a music box that sounds great, has classic craftsmanship, utilizes the latest software and technology to make life easier and more enjoyable, while also respecting your privacy.

Q.  If I want one of these, what options do I have in terms of cost of building or buying a boombox?
A.  The cheapest option is to purchase the unassembled enclosure kit and all audio components and build a boombox with no computer. This is called basic boombox. The most expensive option is a fully assembled smart boombox. There are other options in between.

Q.  What are the pros and cons of the basic versus the smart boombox?

  • Basic Boombox Pros: Costs less, less complex, can still play music from “aux in” and bluetooth devices
  • Basic Boombox Cons: No voice input, no music streaming from the Internet nor USB drives, no headphone amp
  • Smart Boombox Pros: Voice controlled, music streaming from the Internet and USB drives, a headphone amp, other voice assistant skills
  • Smart Boombox Cons: Costs more and has more components to maintain

Q.  Is the smart boombox also a general purpose computer?
A.  Yes! The Raspberry Pi 4 with 4GB of memory has enough horsepower to function as an every day computer. It may not be as fast as a modern laptop, but it is still quite usable. You just have to supply a monitor, keyboard and mouse. Ubuntu Linux with the Mate desktop is recommended, but you can install any operating system that runs on a RasPi.

Q.  Does the boombox have to be charged?
A.   No – is the good news. The bad news is that it always requires AC power and thus is not portable. If you are building one yourself, adding Lithium-ion batteries to the basic boombox should not be too difficult. With the smart boombox, lack of space in the top enclosure and the requirement for two different DC voltages becomes an issue.

Q.  How many on/off switches are there?
A.   Two, in the smart boombox. The rightmost button on the amplifier is the volume and also turns it on and off. Inside the top enclosure there is also an in-line switch providing 5V DC to the Raspberry Pi (it is important that you properly shut down Linux before turning off this switch). The Basic Boombox has only one on/off switch.

Q.  How does the voice recognition work?
A.  There is a free and open source project called Mycroft. This software, along with GNU/Linux on a Raspberry Pi and other software packages is the heart of the voice-driven music.

Q.  Does everything I say get recorded and go to the Internet?
A.  No, only when the boombox is woken up. Currently the wake word is “Hey Mycroft”. A chime will sound and what you say will be uploaded and translated until you stop speaking.

Q. When the boombox is woken up, does everything I say get saved on the Internet?
A.  No, not unless you opt-in to having your speech saved with Mycroft. Their policy is to convert your speech, return it to the boombox as text, then erase it. Other voice assistants require you to opt-out to have your speech erased.

Q.  Can I configure the smart boombox so that no Internet access is required, and all voice is processed locally?
A.  Currently no, but that option is being worked on. The voice recognition will not be as accurate, but the system will train itself to your voice and improve with time.

Q.  Does this site put cookies on my computer?
A.  No, we do not use cookies.

Q. Does this site track my web surfing?
A.  No, we do not use Google Analytics, nor any other tracking software.

Q. Why is this new project and website being created?
A.  We are not out to make millions of dollars. Rather, we appreciate great sounding music, cool hands-on projects or fully constructed boomboxes, an option for maximum privacy, and the potential for a Star-Trek type computer that gives you all the answers to your questions.

Q. What are the steps to build one?
A.  Follow the complete, detailed Smart Boombox Cookbook PDF.  It will be augmented with assembly videos coming soon to YouTube …

Q. Will the global chip shortage affect the availability of Smart Boomboxes?
A.  Unfortunately the answer is yes. Around the first of the year 2022, the time that Raspberry Pi 4s were on backorder went from 2 months to a full year!  We are speculating that due to the known overheating issue with the 4s, they will focus on mass-producing 5s.  Let’s hope they become available by early summer 2022, and that they’re really cool! (pun intended  :))

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