Soapbox Music, LLC

My colleague Brendan Finucane and I founded Soapbox Music out of our own need for a dependable, affordable, and high quality recording and rehearsal space in the city of Chicago. Recording studios are notoriously expensive to start and maintain, but our cooperative model drastically reduces the cost and risk for all musicians involved, while simultaneously creating opportunities to connect, share, and collaborate with others.

Live Room
Control room
Soapbox Logo

DIY Portable Mini-amp

This is a portable battery operated little amplifier I built to plug other portable things into and to also use it as a test amp for other projects. The circuit is based on a 5 Watt LM384 mono chip amp, taking a 1/8" stereo jack and resistor summing to a mono output. Giant volume knob, on/off rocker switch with power LED light. 4 Ohm, 6 Watt speaker pulled from an old Creative 5.1 set. Wooden enclosure with a custom designed speaker hole.

Analog VU meters

For this project, I took some analog VU meters from a broken Otari 5050 2-track tape machine (thanks Ralph!), and assembled a standalone stereo meter unit based on the VU buffer circuit from JLM Audio. I re-purposed a wooden box for the enclosure, drilling holes for the input jacks and meters, and applied a 'tung oil style' finish. As a final touch, I swapped the old meter bulbs with LEDs and added a dimmer knob on the side to adjust brightness.

VU meter
Dimmer switch on the side
Replaced the old bulbs with LEDs
Early stages
Early stages
JLM VU Buffer circuit

Line level speaker switch

I built this speaker switch for Soapbox Music to allow a listener to quickly switch between different speakers. No studio monitors are perfect, and everyone listens to music on different systems, which can make it hard to know if a mix is balanced correctly. I find it very helpful to be able to quickly switch between various speaker systems to compare how things sound.

This box is a passive line level switch utilizing a 5 position, 6 pole rotary switch. It takes two balanced signal inputs and allows you to switch between 5 different outputs. Before we upgraded to an SM Pro Audio Passive-1, we had it setup at the studio with a Blue Sky 2.1 system, Adam A5s, and a FM transmitter to allow playback on a nearby radio. Spray lacquer finish on a wooden enclosure.

Earl Grey Electric Guitar

I did a complete overhaul on a Yamaha EG-112 strat, stripping and removing all the paint back to bare wood, replacing the plastic pickguard with a custom made birch pickguard stained with concentrated earl grey tea. I simplified the electronics by removing the middle pickup, replacing the pickup switch, removing the tone knob, upgrading the jack, adding a killswitch, and shielding the pickups.

Assembled body
Headstock detail
Killswitch, volume knob, 3 way toggle
Tea tannins + rust = black ink.
Sanded body
Stripped and sanded
After staining with earl grey tea
Removing the old paint. A huge pain in the butt.