Did the iPod kill the boom box?

Back in the days before the iPod transformed the way people listened to music on the go, boom boxes were everywhere.

Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Starting in the 1970s boom boxes provided the soundtrack of urban life -- on the street, buses, subways, parks, and beaches -- boom boxes were everywhere. Now they're almost defunct, music has moved inside, between our ears. We plugged-in and tuned-out from the world around us. The transition from external to internal was slow at first, before the iPod there were other MP3 players, and before that there were portable CD and cassette players. But big and brash boom boxes survived and prospered when those headphone-oriented devices appeared and then disappeared from the scene. If iPods and phones didn't kill off the boom box, they signaled the beginning of the end of their reign.

Boom boxes were popular with rock and heavy-metal fans, but later 'boxes hit it big in hip hop culture. The Panasonic RX-F32, JVC RC-M90 and the Sharp GF-9696 were the boombox kings. They could rock your world, but battery drain was considerable, the bigger 'boxes sucked the life out of a load of D batteries in a matter of hours.

They looked cool, decked out with all of those switches, knobs, and exposed drivers, boom boxes made a statement, sound is my thing and I'm proud of it!

Boom boxes never sounded good to me, but the biggest ones boomed and played really loud. They looked cool; decked out with all of those switches, knobs, and exposed drivers, boom boxes made a statement, sound is my thing and I'm proud of it! Today's puny portable Bluetooth speakers can't match a boom box for sheer braggadocio. Blue tooth speakers are pretty humble sounding devices, the little cylindrical ones make no bass to speak of, the larger ones pump out some low-end, but can't touch the mighty bass oomph of a 14-pound JVC RV-NB70 Kaboom! ($300) boom box. That's fine for a modern 'box, but the KaBoom is a far cry from the behemoths from back in the day. I rarely see or hear monster boom boxes on the street anymore; it's been years.

If you still tote around a massive boom box, tell us all about it in the comments section.

About the author

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Home Theater, Inner Fidelity, Tone Audio, and Stereophile.


Discuss Did the iPod kill the boom box?

Conversation powered by Livefyre

This week on CNET News
Hot Products
Trending on CNET

CNET's top picks

9 vacuums you need to see

We’ve selected a variety of vacuums that offer something extraordinary – from a fantastically sturdy upright to a low-key bot with Roomba-level performance.