Soundcast Melody Bluetooth Boombox at Slab City Page 2

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The Last Free Place
In 1905 silt build-up and heavy rainfall caused the failure of two agricultural canal projects and allowed the Colorado river to over-run its banks creating two new rivers (New River and Alamo River), which dumped the entire flow of the Colorado into the Salton Sink for about two years creating California's largest lake: the Salton Sea. Only about 15 feet higher in elevation than the lowest point of Death Valley, the 15 mile by 30 mile lake's surface is 226 feet below sea level and has no natural outflow.

Over time, land developers in Los Angeles saw the accidental lake as a perfect opportunity to develop beach front property and began developing a vacation wonderland complete with cabanas, marinas, and lots and lots of water skiing. By the 1980's however, increasing water salinity began to erode the lake's ecosystem and by the 1990 the water reached salt levels exceeding that of sea water. Fish died off; water levels continued to rise flooding marinas; and developers pulled out leaving what amounts to a post-apocalyptic ecological disaster for local inhabitants.

Today, the little tourist towns ringing the lake like Bombay Beach and Salton City are ramshackle affairs of abandon buildings and and shanty towns. Job opportunity is near non-existant in the area; the locals here are poor with little hope of any sustained economic improvement. But the human spirit is strong...

Just four miles up the road from Niland on the lake's south east shore, lies Slab City on the abandon remains of Camp Dunlap Marine Base. The base was an artillery training facility for the Marines constructed in 1942, but was decommissioned and leveled in 1956 leaving only the foundation slabs from the buildings. The land being re-conveyed to the state of California in 1961. In 1965 Riverside county ordered a number of squatters away from a camping area near Mecca 20 miles to the North, and recommended they move to the remains of Camp Dunlap. Slab City was born.

Today, Slab City is home to about 150 full-time residents who live primarily in structures built from found materials. Numerous "snowbirds" also arrive in winter months to escape frigid northern climes in recreational vehicles of all types. There is no water, no sewer, no electricity, no nada, so if you need it, you'll need to bring it. But once here, you're in for a big surprise—this place has a social calendar that's hard to keep up with!

Friday night is a party at Radio Mike's—who also keeps everyone up to date with his Slab City Radio 96.3. Saturday night is open mike night at The Range—an open air venue that sees about 100 folks enjoying the tunes. Sunday morning at 9AM sharp is breakfast at the Oasis. Monday morning there's a preacher from town who brings in a big breakfast, boxes of clothes, mattresses, and on the Monday we attended, a golf cart to give away. New Years eve saw another big bash at The Range. January 1st was the annual Polar Bear plunge into the canal. And any night, just wait for the sun to set and listen for guitars and drums, and you'll find a friendly campfire to hang out at.

Okay, it's not all roses. There's no doubt quite a bit of pilfering going on—you don't want to leave your propane stove lying around when you're not in camp, and you certainly don't want to leave a solar panel unattended. The Slabs also have a fairly un-healthy tweaker population, and if you cross someone who has some local pull you might find your camp burned down in the night. So yes, this place is pretty rough around the edges.

On the other hand, the tribal spirit is strong here. People gather and play music together every night. Locals clean their slabs and create art gardens from found objects. They gather together for coffee in the morning, and often someone will bring donuts or a bean casserole to share with fellow Slabbers. This is a place of raw humanity; a place that arrises out of the dirt fueled by individual passion and caring. If you want to see and be with people living and, yes, thriving off-the-grid as organic human beings, this is the place. Slab City is a raw, pure, human experience. I loved it.

Salvation Mountain
Started in 1998 by Leonard Knight, Salvation Mountain is an art installation made of straw bails, paint, and branches. Read more here.

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East Jesus
Created by Charlie Russell, East Jesus is a habitable, sustainable project dedicated to repurposing found objects as art and creating an alternative living environment. Charlie passed in 2011, but his work is being carried on.

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Charlie's Memorial

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The Range
Slab City's finest venue for music and laughter brought to you by Builder Bill.

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Builder Bill rocks the house.

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Jimmy did a mean pork pull on Tuesday. Thanks mate, the cookies were great!

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General Pictures
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Ben plays drums at Jimmy's Pork Pull.

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Paul and I started our own little art garden at our camp entrance.

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One conversation in four on the Slabs is about some dog or other.

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My favorite photo of the week: Jack Two Horses' dog Maggie.

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Gopher Flats is a well maintained full 19-hole golf course free for the playing.

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Well maintained by you, of course, after finishing your putt, you drag a bit of carpet around to "groom" the hole.

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Jack Two Horses has the Spool House over by East Jesus.

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It's taken a couple of years, but his little slice of heaven is coming along.

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It's 10:30 AM, time for a cocktail and a bowl.

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That's it from Slab City, hope you enjoyed the photos. CES show report starts next week. That's going to be a culture shock after Slab City.


KG_Jag's picture

Tax deductible trip out of the cold to Burning Man Jr.

What is the annual depreciation on that bucket?

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Have to chuckle, it's thoughts like that that don't even exist at Slab City...thank goodness. No, no tax consequences from this trip. Just time to listen to tunes both from the Melody and from all the local musicians.  

Heard more live music this week than I usually would in two months.

JRT's picture

Tyll, I have liked reading your reviews of headphones, headphone amplifiers and other headphone related content, and would very much like to see more technical content related to headphones and hearing perception. You seem to have a good perspective on it, and I usually like your approach, but not with this one.

This article is degrading your signal to noise ratio.

What next? ...maybe a field trip to a crack house in search of a venue suitable for a review of a Bose Wave Bluetooth adapter and Bose Wave table radio?  

You have demonstrated that you can do much better, very much better. Please keep up the good work, and not more of this.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Appreciate your comments. I wondered whether to bother with a post about Slab City. I just found it terribly interesting and an opportunity to not let InnerFidelity go dark while I was away. But thanks, I certainly will continue the more traditional reviewing and tech comments.

Guitarist9273's picture

I appreciate content like this.

I love & learn from the technical & scientific posts (and would like to see more of them) and I always look forward to the hardware reviews & measurements. But, I'm absolutely interested in reading about (and seeing photos of) stuff like this, rather than Innerfidelity going "dark" while Tyll's doing stuff in the world. And, it's one of the reasons I like Innerfidelity & have been a habitual reader since it's inception.

Quirkyness is generally goodness. This website does quirky well. The InnerFidelity ethos would be more bland without posts like this. 

Dan S's picture

I also appreciate content like this. It's a nice change from the other material, and your trips sound really interesting! Great pics, too!

Guitarist9273's picture

How does the Soundcast Melody compare to the UE Boom that you've previously given high regards to? The price difference is great, but I'm curious as to how it compares to other Bluetooth speakers, nonetheless. Thanks!

Tyll Hertsens's picture

The Melody extends the bass significantly, and goes MUCH louder in volume.

ultrabike's picture

I enjoyed reading this quite a bit. A few years ago some friends at work and I were discussing Slab City. Before that, I never heard of it. I also have not visited, but one of my friends is serious about photography and wanted to visit. Dunno if he got around doing it. Great pics Tyll, and really enjoyed the background story.

As far as reviews, it seems clear to me that Slab City and camping trips bring a great application for a device such as the Melody BoomBox. DAP + Cans would solve the "take my music with me" problem, but they are not for sharing. Having to press the play button may be a way to ensure one wants to play music through the BoomBox if other bluetooth device is around, but it does seem a bit ackward.

The fact that this goes louder and deeper than the UE is nice. Seems a little bigger though.

norach's picture

I also liked this write up. So much I registered just to comment.

Apart from showcasing the perfect environment for this little speaker box (the sort of thing I've been interested in for a while), you have added a bit of warmth to what could have easily become a sterile list of news and reviews. I can think of no better way to truly evaluate a product like this that taking it ~in to the wild~ and using as it was intended.

Seems like it passed with flying colours.

zobel's picture

Lots of DIYers there. Enjoyed the read and the pictures Tyll! Being a DIYer myself, I was interested in the new "boombox". I just got done putting together a mobile music system with some similarities to the Melody. I used a poly ammo box, which I lined and braced with plywood on the inside (siliconed in).

Two $50, 5" Tang Band full ranges just worked perfectly for the size of box (Qtc = .75) stuffed with poly fluff that was stuffed in the top half of some panty hose (to prevent fibers from infesting the woofers).The box is air and water tight, and has a handle. I  had a pair of metal grills that worked out perfectly. Granted, this doesn't have a sound stage at all, unless you have you head right at the box. My next version will have detachable speakers that you can separate (same drivers) and a little tool caddy to carry the whole thing in. Not the first to have that idea. I am going to make a waterproof boombox with some marine two way speakers.

I'm using a T amp, the Muse dt50 (with the tripath tk2050), powered by a craftsman 20volt rechargable tool battery that I borrowed from my drill, (19.2 volt cheapy). The amp comes with an ac adapter, which works well too. Good clean power, plenty to rock out these excellent speakers. Very efficient, a single one hour battery charge will last for a LONG time, still checking just how long, but even at high volume, it will play about as long as the Melody I think The volume control is digital and is also a switchable tone control, (one push of the same knob converts it to treble control, another push to bass control, another push, back to volume) and lights a red or blue tiny led to let you know the function. Sweet. On the back are two pairs of RCA inputs, switchable on front of the little amp, which measures about 61/2" X 41/2" X 2".Also on back are gold plated speaker terminals which are full size and spaced 3/4" for use with dual banana plugs. I have tried several other T amps and D amps, and find this one to be best for this use. The amp costs $70 at amazon, and ships from China, which takes about a month.

With a Muse Audio mini USB DAC pluged into my laptop feeding this amp and speaker combo, you get wow sound on your desk top that rivals any powered mini monitors out there. The speakers for this use are in two individual boxes of course.

There it is. Plug anything into it. I still use a portable CD player. The amp, battery ( or AC adapter), CD player (or what have you), speaker wires with dual bananas, and a pack of CDs, all fit in a fanny pack, that you can carry along with the ammo box, in one hand, if you want. I am amazed at the sound! After many years designing and building loudspeakers, and sweating over the crossovers, cabinet design, ect. it was really a great change of pace to do this fun project.

I am having a whole lot of fun right here in Montana. I don't play at the Range, but I do at the Grange  : )   And we build drums and play in drum circles monthly. But please... don't move to the Bitterroot. It is ugly, bleak, cold in the winter, and smoky from forest fires in the short, dry summers........kind of like Bozeman,  right Tyll?

Thanks again Tyll, for the fun read and great pictures! Did that gal with dual birds dislike you for some reason?

Three Toes of Fury's picture

Yo Tyll,

i LOVE this posting.   Its a wonderful combination of tech talk (nifty speaker!) and sharing of life experience.    Ive never heard of Slab City but am so grateful to be exposed to its existence by you and this story/pictures.    Sure it may not be everybodies cup of tea but that doesnt mean fans of this site wouldnt want to hear about it...i know im glad you shared!    

It seems to me that critiques of your posting or Slab City are quite hypocritical, as the entire point of being a headphone enthusiast boils down to one word....MUSIC.....the love and appreciatiation of music.  I dont think its a generalization to say that most visitors to this website share that love.   Clearly the residents and visitors of Slab City share in that appreciation of music.    Therefore it IS a perfectly appropriate and worthwile story.   Bam!

Thanks again...keep the great postings coming and safe riding!

Peace .n. Life Experience...Experience Life!


thelostMIDrange's picture

tical and sensibly devised item. Long live the boom box.  In my younger years, I used to lay down my fair share of cardboard for breakdancin in the middle of the street. Good 'ol days. I think it's against a law now. 

philipjohnwright's picture

So on the one hand we have Slab City, so eloquently described by Tyll. On the other we have Naim's $200k amp and Light Harmonic's $120k DAC, no doubt alongside many others, being showcased in the capital of taste, Las Vegas.

Guess which gets my vote for being more like the real world?! More please Tyll, it's good to be reminded that music doesn't need umpty dumpy squillion dollars of kit to communicate, nor that it's meant to reflect life, a means to an end rather than an end in itself. 

Nb I thought ALL America was under 60ft of snow, how come you side stepped it (says he displaying his ignorance of US geography - and we Brits call YOU insular!!) 

natal's picture

Love your periodic motorcycle adventure writeups coupled with some new gear for travelling.  Your pictures are great!  I'll tell ya Tyll, your posting warmed up a very very cold day in Calgary.

Stephen Mejias's picture

Love your periodic motorcycle adventure writeups coupled with some new gear for travelling.  Your pictures are great!  I'll tell ya Tyll, your posting warmed up a very very cold day in Calgary.

+1, in NYC.

hahajohn's picture

Yes, no doubt your tech articles are very good. Congratulations, mate, keep bringing more things like this.

hahajohn's picture

Yes, no doubt your tech articles are very good. Congratulations, mate, keep bringing more things like this.