Colin Elwell is a salesman by trade, but when you wander into his lab in Lawrence, Kan., you’ll find more than 50 boomboxes inside, each of them unique.
He restores the rarest boomboxes, hoping to sell them to fund new projects. For other radios, Elwell would rather see the speakers go to use than go into the recycle bin. To help decelerate the trash bin fate that the radios have, he modernizes them by adding Bluetooth and rechargeable batteries so they can keep up with modern music machines.
But sometimes Elwell fuses old and new technologies to create new, heavily modded, devices. His most famous work is a Super Nintendo Classic merged into a boombox—it looks like the next best thing to a Nintendo Switch. Another favorite of his is a boombox with Amazon Alexa built in, which can be a hit at parties but has broader functionality, too.
For a lot of people, music isn’t just about the sound, it’s also about the look. Elwell is fueled by memories of what music’s style was like when he was young, which is why he crafts boomboxes with ‘80s flair and 2020 tech.