When Was The Boombox Invented?

When Was The Boombox Invented?

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A staple in the streets of New York in the 1970s up until the 1980s, boomboxes can be seen in almost every corner and every party. These portable audio systems allowed the hipsters of yesteryears to bring out their music to the streets and let people enjoy it, whether they like it or not. But doesn’t knowing when was the boombox invented nag the curious cat in you?

It might seem trivial but sometimes knowing how things and trends started is beneficial, especially when finding out how things really work and how else can you make the experience seem better. While other things that can be more interesting to study, boomboxes have that solid niche in history that allows it to transcend beyond the books of music and audio equipment; it can be said that boomboxes have its cultural subset.

When Was The Boombox Invented?

We need to take a trip down memory lane, or at least do a quick search using any basic search engine to answer this question. This exercise would bring you to 1969, the year when Woodstock took place in the middle of a dairy farm in the Catskill mountains in New York. This event saw a gathering of then-famous artists like the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Santana, Grateful Dead, The Who, among other great acts.

Also released during this year were David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” Bob Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline” and Deep Purple’s self-titled album. With all these popular music coming out left and right, it just seems fit that someone would come out with a device that one can play their music on and also be able to take it out with them whenever and wherever they go.

This is probably what the inventors of the audio compact cassette thought when they came up with the first version of the boombox, the “Radiorecorder.” Far from the image that made it popular, this innovative device from Phillips of Netherlands allowed the public to record radio broadcasts onto cassettes without the need to use cables or microphones that previous iterations had used.

Development of the Boombox

Other versions of the boombox were then developed by other European manufacturers, as well as Japanese innovators. With the development of stereo recording and the introduction of improvements in recording technology, so did the design and features of the boombox improve into its current iteration.

It was in the 1970’s that the boombox initially became popular in Japan due to its portability and high definition sound. Being innovators of small things, the Japanese created different sizes for boomboxes, allowing more and more features to be packed into its small packaging.

Advancement of the Box

No surprise that they were able to advance the idea of the boombox into something more, like having removable speakers and built-in TV receivers. All features that may or may not have been influenced by the need to be unique during this period.

Fast-forward to the 1990s; you would see boomboxes sporting CD players, recorders, and even tweeters and woofers not previously seen. Graphic equalizers became smarter, although trashier designs also took over some of the models during this time.

Jacking Up the Masses

The introduction of audio jacks into the audio system industry further boosted the popularity of boomboxes as it allowed for better connectivity. Furthermore, this innovation let users plug microphones into their boxes and sing their hearts out; the first karaoke, if you may. Other devices that were often partnered with boomboxes through audio jacks include TV sets, turntables and other boomboxes.

Drop The Bass

The biggest development by far is the introduction of dynamically boosted bass. This was introduced as a response to the outcry of the youth of that era for better quality sound with distinct bass notes and higher fidelity. Bass booms saw boomboxes grow into larger units, with exceptional ones requiring more than 12 D-sized batteries to operate and requiring big and able bodies to lug them around.

An American Uprising

Back to the 1970’s, it was at this exciting era that the boombox was introduced to the American public by manufacturers like Sony, General Electric and, of course, Phillips. It was the definitive sound that it produced that attracted the young urban community to this stereo system.

There was an instant clamoring for this innovative audio system as more and more young urban adolescent sought to own one and bring their music out. This is especially through in urban communities and ghettos where it’s popularity caused bannings and shunning from the conservative side of society.

The Birth of Hip Hop

More importantly is that boomboxes became instrumental in the formation of a sub-culture which has since then outgrown it and became a culture of its own; Hip-Hop.

High fidelity sound, boosted bass, and portability features allowed boomboxes to be an integral part of the rise of hip-hop. Music battles in urban centers often took place with competing hip-hop groups trying to drown out the boombox of the rival group with modifications to their boxes.

The boombox, also known as boxes, became part of the signature Hip Hop style together with white branded sneakers and big gold chains. Artists like Run DMC, the Beastie Boys, and the Sugarhill Gang among others embraced this signature and were often seen lugging one or two boxes along for impromptu shows and dance battles.

The Waning

Noise ordinances started appearing in the 1980s, and lugging around boxes were ultimately frowned upon. This did not see the end of dance battles and the Hip Hop culture, but people moved things inside which required more power than boxes can hold.

Hip-hop did not wane but instead became a greater part of world music and culture; boxes, however, were continually fighting a battle against more compact and portable music players like the Walkman. These portable players, together with the bannings and box-related hate, saw the decline of boombox carriers in the streets of urban centers.

A Resurgence in Modern Times

Boomboxes in the modern era are sleeker and curvier, a great departure from the gray metal box that it was more known for. Boxes nowadays are smaller and contain more features than what Phillips would have thought of back in 1969.

Features now include CD players and CD rewriting capabilities as well as Bluetooth connectivity and USB ports that allow users to plug in their phones or other music players and blare out the music of their choice. Some models would even have their memory bank that can hold all the music you want.

Cassette players have disappeared from the modern boxes as cassette tapes have settled into being nostalgia pieces. CDs are still viable although more and more people are turning to online sources for their music as it is more portable and within their reach.

While you don’t see many people carrying boomboxes nowadays, sales have been steady due to its more modern features and some have even become an integral part of the home entertainment center. And now that you know when was the boombox invented, as well as its development, you can appreciate it better and see why this invention was important to human culture and history.


Hey there, my name is Scott and I am the creator of this site. Being a kid from the 80s, I have a soft spot for boomboxes and want to let everyone know how cool they still are today.

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Diana Engel - September 17, 2020

What car had the first removable boom box?

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