Sonic Suitcase plays music with the style of an Alabama Maker

Sonic Suitcase plays music with the style of an Alabama Maker
Wade Wellborn, a.k.a Dr. Music, started making speakers out of old suitcases and selling them in his Fairhope record store and it grew into its own business and made him an Alabama Maker. (Karim Shamsi-Basha/Alabama NewsCenter)

The maker: Wade Wellborn

Sonic Suitcase, Fairhope

What do you think of when you hear the term, Sonic Suitcase?

A suitcase for travel at the speed of sound? A symphonic concert instrument from the future? Something out of a spy movie?

When you walk into Dr. Music’s store on Church Street in Fairhope, Alabama, you find yourself surrounded by vinyl records, CDs, posters and all things retro. But if you look at one particular shelf on the left, you will think of a movie set. Vintage suitcases line the wall, with speakers protruding from their sides.

Sonic Suitcase helps you unpack music with panache. from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

To say they look extra cool would be an understatement.

Sonic Suitcase is a boom box and a Bluetooth speaker made in Fairhope by Dr. Music, aka Wade Wellborn.

“I was at a show and a buddy of mine brought an old carpetbagger suitcase on stage to hold all of his cables and picks. I thought, I could build a guitar amp in a suitcase. This was in 2002 when the record business was dying. I realized if I could make speakers for iPods, I could stay in the market,” Wellborn said.

Wellborn is passionate about building sturdy wooden enclosures inside these suitcases. He is extremely picky when it comes to the quality of sound. Growing up with an interest in music and in speakers, his friends would bring him their cars for a new sound system.

He learned to tell you if a suitcase speaker is well-made after a few seconds of listening to it.

“There are several elements to a sonic suitcase. First is the electronics, second is the enclosure, which I build in every suitcase. You have control of the acoustics and the specific sounds of the speakers,” Wellborn said.

In addition to the Sonic Suitcases, Wellborn sells vinyl records and CDs. He loves the sound of records compared to digital, and believes the experience of going into a music store still beats shopping online or downloading music.

“People talk to each other in the store. You don’t do that when you download music onto your phone. I sell the Sonic Suitcases in the shop and on my website. They’ve become so popular, I can’t keep them in stock. People can also send me their own suitcases, and I’ll make a speaker out of them,” Wellborn said.

I asked Wellborn why he chose Fairhope.

“I grew up here, and my wife is from this area. We absolutely love it here,” Wellborn said.

If you ever have the chance to travel the speed of sound, take one of Dr. Music’s Sonic Suitcases with you. If anything, the name alone will be a good conversation piece on the jet.

The Product: Speakers and amplifiers made out of out suitcases, footlockers, bags and other items.

Take Home: A Bluetooth speaker made from a leather suitcase (prices vary).

Dr. Music Records/Sonic Suitcase 35 S Section St Fairhope, AL 36532

251/990-3412; thesonicsuitcase.com

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