Banshee Talk Box – Part 1

Ever since I heard Daft Punk’s “Around The World” I have wanted to recreate that sound.   Now I can finally make this sound and you can too!  Last week I broke down and bought a used Rocktron Banshee talk box!   Since it was used I had to buy a replacement tube at Home Depot. I just received the power supply i bought online (It takes a 2000 ma 9V adapter).  Now it is as good as new and I’m ready to rock!!!  Behold, the Rocktron Banshee in all is glory!


Rocktron Banshee Talk Box
Rocktron Banshee Talk Box

For those of you who don’t know the difference between Talkboxes, Autotuning and Vocoders I’ll quickly explain what kind of sounds they make.   I will attempt to simplify this as much as possible.  There are plenty of resources online to get more detailed info about their history and how they actually work.  Videos of the Talk Box in use coming soon!

  • Vocoders: These are processors that make voices sound robotic and synthetic.  To oversimplify a very complex effect, vocoders essentially take a voice, modulate it with another sound source that has been divided into frequency bands,  add some noise and let you control the levels of each sound.   Most of today’s vocoders allow you to control the pitch of the signal and even play combinations of notes.
    • Example: Imogen Heap – Hide and Seek
    • Vocoders available to buy: Waves Morphoder (plug in), Native Instuments Vokator (plug in), Prosoniq Orange Vocoder (plug in), Nord Modular (hardware), Electro Harmonix Voice Box (Stomp Box).
  • Autotune: Autotune is an effect that has become used in most recordings these days.  These work by taking a signal, defining a set of notes that the sound can use, and only allowing the signal to use those notes.  Many autotune devices can also be used with a keyboard to retune the vocal live, or in a sequencer, based on the notes being triggered while the signal is playing.  Their sound ranges from subtle pitch correction to inhuman-like  pitch accuracy and vibrato.   It sounds less robotic than vocoders has a high intelligibility.
  • Talk Boxes: This is the sound I’ve wanted for so long.  Talk boxes take an amplified signal, put it through a tube that goes to your mouth, and let you use your mouth as a filter.   Microphones are only used to record the signal or send it to a PA.  The sounds you can make with them range from simple formant filter (A, E, O, etc) to forming words while you play an instrument.  It is most typically used with distorted guitars or synthesizers.  It is important to note that TalkBoxes can only exist in hardware unlike Vocoders and Autotune devices.  Since your mouth is the filter it has to be a signal sent to your mouth to form that signal into words or formants.  It is for this reason that Talk Boxes tend to sound like talking instruments more than processed voice.  I guess it could be a virtual plug in if someone with years of free time could synthesize the human voice, create a digital representation of the mouth cavity, create words in real time, and side chain in a signal….  That’s a lot of work for something so simple.  I recommend we quit trying to make everything a VST and accept that some things make more sense to exist as hardware.
    • Examples: 2 Pac “California Love”
    • Talk Box devices available to buy: Rocktron Banshee, Heil Talk Box, Dan Electro Free Speech, Custom Built.
      • Personally, I like the banshee option the most for it’s blend of simplicity and tone.  Heil seems to have better tone, but there is more set up hassle involved.  Dan Electro is commonly reviewed as the cheaper lesser option.  There are a few tutorials online to build your own for cheap.  If you do this I’d love to hear your results.

Come back soon to hear a demo of the Rocktron Banshee in a video demo!  Thanks for stopping by 🙂


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