In the park, on the subway, or even in school hallways, boomboxes were status symbols among young audio aficionados from the late 1970s through the 1990s. Lauded for their complex acoustic capabilities, boomboxes let consumers play personalized, high-quality sounds wherever they desired, bombarding the world with their musical tastes at the loudest volume possible.

Beginning with the first portable radio-and-cassette players developed around 1977, the typical boombox incorporated an AM/FM receiver, an amplifier, two speakers, and a cassette or CD player, all built into a single carrying case. Sometimes called ghettoblasters, these devices often came with large handles or shoulder straps for easy transportation, though it was coolest to sport a boombox on one shoulder, leaving the other hand free to give high fives or the middle finger, as the occasion warranted.

Most boomboxes were powered by multiple D-size batteries, and like other audio electronics of the era, the big boombox names were Aiwa, Marantz, JVC, Sanyo, General Electric, Panasonic, Sony, and Sharp. However, forgotten brands like Lasonic, Crown, Yorx, Tecsonic, Helix, Conion, and Lloyd’s made popular boomboxes, too.

Eventually, boomboxes included more extensive features, such as input and output jacks or detachable speakers that could be set up in far corners of a room, making the players more attractive to DJs since they could connect microphones and turntables for live mixing. Some boomboxes, like Sharp’s VZ-2500, even integrated a vertical turntable into the player’s body, while others featured a row of colored dance lights, like the Breakdancer BD-8000, which earned the nickname the “Disco Lite.”


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