The Sonovox – a retro Peter Frampton “Talk Box”

The Sonovox – a retro Peter Frampton “Talk Box”

Bill writes –

“I was listening to an old “Ellery Queen” radio drama via the Internet last week. The program was just okay, but there was a wonderful 1950s vintage radio commercial that included the terrific Bromo Seltzer Talking Train. Whoo Whoo -Bromo-Selzer – Bromo-Selzer – Bromo-Selzer – Bromo-Selzer. Have a listen.

I looked the BS-TT up on the Internet. Evidently, the Talking Train was a big deal in the advertising world back then. It utilized a now ancient sound effects device called a Sonovox.

Sonovox uses small loudspeakers attached to the performer’s throat. It was used in a number of songs from the 1940s to the 1960s, and is used to create the voice of Casey Junior the train in Dumbo and The Reluctant Dragon, the instruments in Rusty in Orchestraville and the piano in Sparky’s Magic Piano”Link.

Has anybody made similar speech effects gizmos? Post up in the comments!

14 thoughts on “The Sonovox – a retro Peter Frampton “Talk Box”

  1. jordan314 says:

    Looks like this hip hop guy made a talkbox:
    Page is kind of a mess though. Still, I might try it, they go for like $120-$140 commercially.

  2. ehrichweiss says:

    Wow, that page on headcrack says that Roger Troutman used a talkbox, I always thought he was modulating his voice through a Moog, electronically.

  3. suburbanjunkyard says:

    Frampton used a Heil Talk Box, I think Dunlop owns them now…I believe he inserted a clear vinyl tube into his mouth and clenched it in his teeth as he sang during the solo-probably a simple circuit, they have been around for a long time.

    Here’s the Wikipedia entry on the Talk Box:

  4. thebillionaire says:

    That Whizzer the Taking Airplane record was featured on
    Kiddie Records Weekly this year. I think it’s still available for download.

  5. hammerthumb says:

    I built one of these when I was a teenager.

    Cheap radio shack horn tweeter, plastic barbed pipe nipple, length of clear plastic tubing, amplifier to drive the tweeter.

    Leaving an inch or so of length to protect the tweeter element inside, cut the plastic horn off with a hacksaw. Glue the pipe nipple where the horn used to be. Insert tubing and fix so it doesn’t hit the tweeter element. I got the best results Frampton style by taping the tube to a mic stand with the end near the mic itsself.

    I found that a mixer made this task a lot easier since one could control which instruments were going into the talkbox as well as notch out trouble frequencies. Also, the tubing got pretty gross if you didn’t clean it after use.

  6. says:

    I also made one a few years back. My biggest problem was that most speakers put out too much sound to be isolated properly. I solved the issue by using a little belt-clip style amp — one of those .5 watt mini jobs from fender or marshall. I taped a plastic funnel over the speaker and fit clear tubing on the funnel. plug your guit into the lil amp, stick the tube in your pie-hole, and start “talking” into the mic. It cost a total of about $15, took 10 minutes to put together, and worked pretty well.

  7. Inqusitive says:

    FYI: The Sonovox & Talkbox are two different types of vocal sound design. Yes, instruments (or synths) ‘color’ the forments created in the acoustical cavities of the human body, but they do it in different ways and with different techniques. Vocoding is a third type of vocal sound design and creating a synth using formant shaping is a forth.

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