A front 45 degree view of the radio cooler.

It cleans up pretty nice.

A rear 45 degree view of the radio cooler.

Bottle opener is used frequently.

After having seen a few in the wild and having one crummy proof-of-concept build, I ordered parts for and built a brand new radio cooler in the fall of 2013. It started with two speakers and grew to four and has since been used hundreds of times between tailgates, beaches, and poolsides. It lasts longer, is way louder, and is much more hardy than a lot of store-bought speaker systems. I built mine to be as water resistant as possible; I used all marine audio equipment and tried to make decent seals around the speakers and lid. It can get rained on or be thrown into a river float and still provide powerful loud sound for tens of hours.

Components

My radio cooler is built from mostly inexpensive components and was constructed such that any component can be swapped out quite easily. For this build, I used:</p>

So all together it costs around $275 to build one of these give or take some depending on what kind of battery you use. You can also use any type of cooler that you feel comfortable mounting the amplifier and speakers in.

Construction

A complete picture of the inside of the cooler.

A complete picture of the inside of the cooler.

An image of the tricle charger wired to the battery.

Trickle charger rests in the bottom and is hard wired to the battery with quick disconnect.

Putting one of these together is much easier than it looks. The battery essentially hooks straight to the amplifier and the amplifier straight to the speakers. After that, you just need to wire in a toggle switch from amplifier (+) to the amplifier toggle post. Plug in the RCA adapters in connecting the amp to your phone (or other aux/RCA output). Turn it on and start jamming!

A common question I get about this cooler is whether or not it can actually hold drinks. The answer for my build is no. In order to maintain low moisture inside the cooler, I try not to invite any liquids (except perhaps sunscreen) inside. It can become an issue if your cooler has a drain plug. Mine eventually failed and could no longer float in a river tube without being filled with water. It is worth mentioning however that my amplifier continued to work even with fully submerged power and speaker terminals.

An image of the wired and mounted speaker.

Speakers are mounted with bolts and have wires soldered (not required).

An image of the amplifier, toggle switch, and battery.

Toggle switch hangs loose but could be mounted. Battery connects to amplifier. RCA on top.

I measured and cut the holes in the cooler using a reciprocating saw. Speaker and amplifier components were mounted using bolts with wingnuts through pre-drilled holes. I soldered the wires to the speakers but this is not required. All amplifier connections are using terminal connectors and the battery rests on the bottom with small brackets preventing it from sliding. There is a fair bit of storage space inside.

Wiring

Below is a wiring diagram showing how where all the wires connect up with one another.

A wiring diagram demonstrating how to wire up a speaker cooler.

Click the diagram to download a large version.