In the Making: One-of-a-Kind Sound Machines

Back In the Making Jul 30, 2019 By Fred Greaves

Vintage suitcases, canteens, metal carrying cases and wooden boxes of varying colors and sizes occupy nearly every inch of a ceiling-scratching shelf in Kaden Hill’s suburban Sacramento garage workshop. 

Hill will soon transform them into Rare Bird Stereos, one-of-a-kind reclaimed-material portable Bluetooth stereos. “I kept finding speakers everywhere (at thrift stores) that didn’t really have a purpose anymore,” he says, so he built his first stereo about five years ago, but got serious about it after he began studying to become an electrician. 

Hill says he goes to thrift shops, antique fairs and yard sales a few times a week to find cases, speakers, screws and switches to create the unique sound machines. “Searching for everything is really fun, ’cause that will usually ignite something in my brain.” 

For this stereo, he drills through an Argus slide projector case to install the components, then prepares the wiring to install the rechargeable lithium battery (above) that lasts 15-17 hours, he says. He sells his stereos for $150-$700 online on his Etsy store; at Miel Apothecary in Oak Park; and in markets and festivals, such as the Sacramento Midtown Farmers Market and the Kate Wolf Music Festival near Mendocino. 

And how did he come up with the name Rare Bird? “The ‘rare’ part is the uniqueness of each one of them. … And the ‘bird,’ because they sing.”

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