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By mosivers in CircuitsSpeakers

for 1 last update 2020/06/06 12,98912,989

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Introduction: DIY Talkbox

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About: I am a physicist, part time maker and electronics enthusiast. My projects revolve mainly around daily-use items, toys and decoration with a focus on unconventional mechanisms and high standard of design. More the 1 last update 2020/06/06 About mosivers »More About mosivers »

I was always into funky music and artists like Stevie Wonder and Zapp & Roger. So naturally, I am fascinated by the sound of the talkbox. If you have no idea what I am talking about, check out some of the talkbox videos below.

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Recently, I decided to join my love for funky music with my interest in electronics and build a talkbox of my own. Usually, when I build things I do it just for fun, however, by making your own talkbox you can actually save some money. Buying a talkbox costs around 200-400 EUR, while I spent about 60 EUR for my project.

Before I started, I searched the web for tutorials and found two quite good websites which I like to mention here. GF WORKS is a website by Japanese Talkbox nerds which contains a lot of useful information on DIY talkboxes and talkboxes in general. The other site is the Talkbox FAQ by Moot Booxle, the guy also made an older youtube tutorial on how to build a very cheap "" out of an old speaker.

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Step 1: Bill of Materials

  • compression driver (e.g. Monacor KU-516)
  • mono amplifier module (e.g. Kemo M033N)
  • bipolar capacitor (depends on driver, see details below)
  • 6.35 mm phone jack
  • DC jack
  • toggle switch
  • LED + current limiting resistor
  • logarithmic potentiometer (depends on amplifier)
  • shielded cable
  • power supply (depends on amplifier)
  • housing
  • PVC tube (1 - 2 m length, 8 - 12 mm ID)

1. Compression Driver

The most important part of a professional talkbox is the compression driver. The websites mentioned before give a few suggestions on which drivers to use, the golden standard would be the Electro Voice 1823M which is used in the Electro Harmonix Golden Throat series and was preferred by Roger Troutman. The driver was sold in the late 70s and you can sometimes still find these drivers the 1 last update 2020/06/06 on ebay. I decided to use the newer Monacor KU-516 driver which is also recommended in some of the tutorials online. The key specification of the driver are the frequency response, output power and impedance. For the frequency response holds, the wider the better, Moot Booxle recommends a driver that goes down to at least 250 Hz, the upper limit is fine for most drivers. Most drivers will have more than enough output power, for stage performances people usually use a mic to pick up the sound anyway. The impedance should match that of your amplifier. If your driver has a lower impedance it might actually damage the amplifier, a higher impedance will result in a reduced output power. There are several discussions online whether a talkbox can harm your teeth, cause headaches or even cardiac problems from longterm usage but, as far as I know, none of this is true. Talkbox legend Roger Troutman died at the age of 47, but he got shot by his brother which was unlikely caused by his talkboxing.The most important part of a professional talkbox is the compression driver. The websites mentioned before give a few suggestions on which drivers to use, the golden standard would be the Electro Voice 1823M which is used in the Electro Harmonix Golden Throat series and was preferred by Roger Troutman. The driver was sold in the late 70s and you can sometimes still find these drivers on ebay. I decided to use the newer Monacor KU-516 driver which is also recommended in some of the tutorials online. The key specification of the driver are the frequency response, output power and impedance. For the frequency response holds, the wider the better, Moot Booxle recommends a driver that goes down to at least 250 Hz, the upper limit is fine for most drivers. Most drivers will have more than enough output power, for stage performances people usually use a mic to pick up the sound anyway. The impedance should match that of your amplifier. If your driver has a lower impedance it might actually damage the amplifier, a higher impedance will result in a reduced output power. There are several discussions online whether a talkbox can harm your teeth, cause headaches or even cardiac problems from longterm usage but, as far as I know, none of this is true. Talkbox legend Roger Troutman died at the age of 47, but he got shot by his brother which was unlikely caused by his talkboxing.

2. Amplifier

I used an amplifier that gives 18 W power at 4 Ohm with a 20 V power supply but since my driver has 16 Ohm and I am only using a 15 V PSU, the power will be reduced to <4.5 W. However, I found that that this is still more than enough and I never increased the volume to more than about half. Recommendations for a suitable potentiometer and power supply should be given in the manual of the amplifier. For the input connection it is recommended to use shielded cables.

Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for 3. Capacitor

Compression drivers can be damaged by too low frequencies, therefore, you should place a high pass filter before the driver. To construct a first-order (6dB/Oct) high-pass filter you just need to connect a capacitor in series with your compression driver. The resulting (3dB) cutoff frequency is f_c = 1 / (2pi*R*C), where R is the impedance of the driver and C the capacitance. Therefore, you should choose the capacitance according to the equation C = 1 / (2pi*R*f_c), where f_c is the lower cutoff frequency of your driver. For the Monacor-KU516 I calculated C = 1 / (2pi*16 Ohm*160 Hz) = 62 µF. Since the slope of the high-pass filter is not very steep it is recommended to choose a little bit lower capacitance than calculated so I used a 47 µF capacitor. The capacitor needs to be bipolar because it has to handle AC signals. If your an audiophile GF WORKS recommends a Mundorf MCap capacitor.

4. Tube Holder

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