The Coleman Steel Belted Cooler Cooler Speaker
Prior to deciding to tear up a Yeti, this was the best cooler speaker system that I made. It's a sturdy cooler, has Kicker components, and weighs a lot less than the Yeti. From a value standpoint, this is the best model. It plays for about 16 hours on a single charge of a standard lawn mower battery.
- Coleman 54 qt Steel Belted Cooler: Green, Red, Black, Silver
- 2 Kicker KM6130 6" / 6.5" Marine Speakers: White
- Pyle PLMRMP1A 2-Channel Waterproof Amplifier (Silver) or a Pyle PLMRMP1B (Black)
- Dry bag, 20L
- Power switch
- NRS 1in Heavy-Duty Tie-Down Strap (2')
- Heat shrink butt connectors (12) - here are some with solder in the center that are very handy
- Female heat shrink quick disconnects (2 large/yellow, 1 medium/blue) - or buy a small package at an auto supply store
- Heat shrink ring connectors for battery cable (2 large/yellow)
- Speaker wire (3')
- Assorted zip ties (~6)
- 1/4" wire loom (< 3')
- #8, 1/2" stainless steel screws (14)
- Clear caulk
- Wireless Bluetooth Receiver
- NOCO Genius G750 Charger/Tender - this will maintain and charge your battery. Super handy.
- Power drill-driver w/ phillips bit
- Wire clippers
- Heat gun
- Half round file
- Rotary tool (if you need to make minor repairs to cuts)
- Hole saws: 1", and 5"; and an arbor. Alternatively, you can use a 1" standard bit and a Sawzall for the larger holes. Just know that this won't look as good.
- Drill bits: pilot bits, then final sizes are 3/4" bit and a 1/2" spade bit.
- Knife and a box cutter are very handy
- Aluminum foil to protect components during the use of the heat gun
The first step is one you really, really don't want to skip. As soon as you get the amp, take it out and connect it to power to see if the amp has an internal short. To test this, connect the red and blue wires to the battery's positive terminal and the black wire to the battery's negative terminal, then check the fuse. If the fuse has blown, then you will need to exchange the amp for a new one. About 25% of the amps I've received come with an internal short. Of those that didn't, they have all performed well.
Now that we have tested our amp, it's time to start cutting.
Start by measuring, marking and drilling pilot holes for the speakers. Mark 4 1/2" in from left and right (from inside of ridge depression), then 5 13/16" in from top and bottom (inside of ridge depression).
Once the pilot holes are drilled, graduate up bit sizes until you have a 1/8" hole.
Use 5" hole saw to cleanly cut out speaker holes completely through the lid.
Use the file to smooth out the cuts. This is purely cosmetic, but can't be done once the speakers are installed.
Now you need to drill the holes for the power switch and volume control (which comes with the Pyle amp). Note that both of these can be omitted if you don't want the external volume control and/or want to power down the system by disconnecting the battery. They are neat features, but not necessary.
- Drill small pilot hole for the volume control. Center point is 9 3/4" in from the sides and 1 1/4" above front center of inner lip.
- Graduate up to a 1/4" bit, then use the 1" hole saw to cut the 1" hole.
- Drill pilot hole for on/off switch. Center point is 9 3/4" from sides and 1 1/4" below the top inner lip.
- Graduate up to a 1/4" bit, then use the 3/4" bit to drill the hole.
Place a bead of clear drying caulk on the speakers as shown below. This will create a waterproof seal, which will help sound and water resistance.
Align the speakers in the holes, then screw the speakers in with Kicker supplied screws.
Install amp on underside with supplied screws and washers. Orient with power cables toward back of cooler, and input cables near front of cooler.
Volume Control Installation:
Install switch by pushing through cooler top. Plug together and attempt to stuff inside the lid. In the cooler pictured, we did not try it and instead opted to shrink wrap the cord to keep it out of the way. Note that trying to cut this cord and reconnect is very difficult as the wires are microscopic. Attempt at your own risk and frustration.
Re move adhesive cover, mount and install with supplied screws.
NRS Strap Installation:
Install 15" (point to point) NRS strap on right inside of cooler using (2) #8, 1/2" stainless steel screws. This keeps the hinges on the lid from breaking from the weight of the speakers and amp.
It is now time to begin wiring. Match up the +/- wires from the amp's 2 channels with the 2 speakers. With the Kicker wire, the blue is + and the black is -. With the amp, the wire with the black stripe is -. Here is the orientation:
- White is Front Left
- Gray is Front Right
Now, measure out the right length on the Kicker speaker wires and cut them.
- Left side: Cut down to 5"
- Right side: Cut down to 4"
Be sure to cut the Pyle connectors off of the wires. They are a pain and are not as waterproof as the heat shrink butt connectors.
Next, using the butt connectors, connect the wires. If you use the solder containing connectors I suggested, place aluminum foil behind them to guard the other wires, then strip and connect the wires. While they are connected, use the heat gun to shrink the tubing and melt the solder. This creates a terrific seal. If you use standard heat shrink butt connectors, crimp and shrink as you normally would.
When it comes to the power wires, I decided to consolidate them together to make it easier to wire to the switch. Each speaker's LED light has positive and negative wires (so a total of 2 of each). By combining the negatives with the amp's negative wire, it makes it much easier to connect to the switch. I suggest doing the same with the LED's positives, along with the positive and accessory wire from the amp (red and blue).
As pictured below, you see the following wires:
- Left is the ground, so it contains the battery's negative wire, amp's negative wire, and the negative LED wires that we combined in the last step. They are attached with a yellow quick disconnect.
- The center is where the power will come out of the switch when it is activated. Therefore, we connect the red and blue wires from the amp and the positive wires from all of the LEDs.
- The right connection is where the power comes into the switch, so it is only the positive wire from the battery. It is attached with a blue quick disconnect.
Once each of these are connected and tested, I suggest you use solder to hold the disconnects to the switch. When doing this, be careful not to bridge the connectors with the solder or you will short the system and blow the fuse. If you do not want to solder the connections, crimp the hell out of them, as they like to work their way off over time.
You're now ready to crimp the ring connectors on to the power wires going to the battery. I suggest you put some red electrical tape around the base of the positive ring connector and black on the negative. If you accidentally reverse them, and flip the switch, you'll blow the fuse. It really sucks to be at the campground without a back-up fuse and pull a bonehead move like that.
Place the connected battery in the Coleman dry bag and roll the wire up as you seal the dry bag. This will keep the water and melted ice away from the battery.
Once all connections are made, organize them so that they are as slim as possible and zip tie them together. Also, zip tie fuse holder toward amp to keep it from dangling into the water. Then use some wire loom to cover up the loose wires. This will help the cooler's appearance and protect the wiring.