The 4 Best Talk Boxes (2022)

Talk boxes are a great way of adding innovative sounds to your music. They work by directing the sound of a musical instrument to your mouth, allowing you to vocally change the harmonic output of the instrument.

My top recommended talk box is the Dunlop MXR M222. This talk box combines excellent quality with plug-and-play convenience and ease of use.

My second recommended talk box is the TC Helicon TalkBox. Despite its budget-friendly price, it offers an array of features that are usually only found in more expensive models.

The 4 Best Talk Boxes (2022)

1. Dunlop MXR M222
Top Pick - Well-built, self-contained, easy to use.
2. TC Helicon TalkBox
Budget Pick - Great value, unique sound effects.
3. Rocktron Banshee 2
Wonderful quality, effects loop, LED light.
4. Boss VO-1 Vocoder
Special sound effects, effects loop, portable.

Let’s compare these in more detail.

1. Dunlop MXR M222

Top Pick
Well-built, self-contained, easy to use.
View Price at Amazon

The Dunlop MXR sports a moderate price tag but has all the quality that you could want from a talk box. It encompasses plug-and-play convenience as everything you need to get started is included. It also comes with four cables included ensuring ease of use.

Pros

  • Good build
  • Plug and play convenience
  • Self-contained unit

Cons

  • Not very suitable for amps over 100W
  • Requires some time to master

The Dunlop is a pedal-type box that provides classic talk box sound. Tone, volume and gain controls allow you to add shape and texture to the sound and give free reign to your creativity.

The MXR also has a built-in amplifier which sheds the need for an additional amp. Along with the 18-volt power adapter and quality construction, the talk box applies to many instruments and can be used to create cool sounds.

Connectors1/4″ Instrument In, VOICE TUBE Amplified Input, 1/4″ Output
Power requirements18V DC Power Supply
ControlsGain, Tone, Volume

The Dunlop is a self-contained box that includes a built-in amplifier and speaker, so it can be conveniently located. Surgical tubing and a mic clip are also provided.

2. TC Helicon TalkBox

Budget Pick
Great value, unique sound effects.
View Price at Amazon

The TC Helicon is a great option for amateur musicians thanks to its low price. Despite being affordable, this talk box has a plethora of features that you would struggle to find in a much more expensive product.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Great features
  • Can be used to modify vocal sounds

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with an adapter
  • Slightly lacking studio-quality sound

The talk box comes with an adaptive tone, studio-grade reverbs, and pitch correction which can be used to correct vocal sounds even when the effect is off. The main drawback is that the talk box lacks that studio-quality sound.

Note that this product only comes with an electrical plug. Consequently, those living outside the US may have to buy an adapter or converter. The TC Helicon also doesn’t include any cables.

Connectors1/4” Instrument input, XLR mic input, 1/4” line out
Power requirements9V power supply
ControlsVolume, tone, reverb, pitch

Besides the recognizable “hose-in-mouth” effect, this talk box can be used to create a variety of unique effects, such as the electronic “talking robot”, allowing you to put a distinctive twist on familiar songs.

3. Rocktron Banshee 2

High-end
Wonderful quality, effects loop, LED light.
View Price at Amazon

The Rocktron Banshee 2 comes with a high price tag, but fortunately has the quality and features to match. You can feed your instrument’s signal to the amplifier at the same time as the tube.

Pros

  • The effects loop lets you create new sounds
  • Amp and tube can receive signal at same time
  • LED status light

Cons

  • A bit pricey

What makes the Rockstron Banshee 2 stand out is the built-in preamp, amplifier, and horn speaker which are included in the cabinet, making the installation a breeze.

The Banshee 2 includes an effects loop that allows you to add more effects to the talkbox sound or the sound of your musical instrument. This will really allow you to add a new dimension to your music and express yourself creatively.

Connectors1/4” Instrument input, TS effects send and return jacks, 1/4” amp output, and speaker output
Power requirements9V power supply
ControlsGain, tone, and output

The preamp section includes gain, tone, and output controls, while also providing the option of dialing in a variety of clean and dirty preamp tones. An active LED lets you conveniently check when the talkbox is on.

4. Boss VO-1 Vocoder

Versatile
Special sound effects, effects loop, portable.
View Price at Amazon

The Boss VO-1 vocoder is a great way to get talk box sounds without having to put a tube in your mouth. Just use a separate mic to vocalize as the vocoder can combine the sound of your voice and instrument to create talk box sounds, electronic voices, and other innovative harmonics.

Pros

  • Creates a variety of sound effects
  • Battery-operated
  • Effects loop

Cons

  • May not provide an authentic talk box tone
  • No cords included

Thanks to its versatility, the vocoder can be used to introduce many more sound effects to your music than a standard talk box. It can even be used to create ensemble vocal sounds without having to connect an external microphone.

The effects loop can be used to create further sound effects. The ‘advanced mode’ is also a great addition which allows for new synth tones with exceptional clarity.

Connectors1/4” guitar input, XLR mic input, 1/4” line out, 2 x 1/4” FX loop
Power requirements9V power supply
ControlsBlend, tone, and color

Note that the Boss VO-1 doesn’t come with any cords. Consequently, you will have to supply the 1/4-inch guitar cord, 1/4-inch line out cord, and mic cords. It can be operated on a 9V battery or a 9V power converter. 

What is a Talk Box and how does it work?

A talk box allows musicians to modify the sound of a musical instrument by applying speech sounds to the instrument’s output. Typically, the talk box has an effects pedal that allows the sound of the instrument to be directed via a plastic tube to the mouth of the musician.

When pressed, the talk box enables the user to vocalize the sounds of the musical instrument, creating unique speech sounds and special effects.

The talk box will also contain an amplifier and speaker, along with connectors for the speaker output of the instrument amplifier and normal instrument speaker. The foot-operated pedal allows the musician to direct the sound from the instrument speaker to the talk box speaker, which is then passed on through the tube.

By vocalizing, the musician can modify the harmonic content of the instrument’s output, effectively making the instrument ‘speak’ or produce an array of unique sounds. 

Is a Talk Box worth it?

Depending on the type of music being played, you will generally find that a talk box is worth it. You can purchase a talk box from your local music store or on Amazon for a reasonable price. In many scenarios, a talk box will allow you to express your creativity and expand on the type of sounds that you can produce.

There is a reason that top bands such as the Eagles, Bon Jovi, and Motley Crue have used talk boxes in some of their songs. Many musicians find that being able to ‘vocalize’ their instrument allows them to give familiar songs their own distinctive twist.

Whether you are a hobbyist who just loves creating music or an amateur musician contemplating buying a talk box for gigs, you are likely to find that they are well worth the investment.

What is the best way to use a Talk Box?

A talk box is used along with a musical instrument such as an electric guitar or saxophone. During a song, the talk box can be activated by pressing the pedal which will divert the sound of the instrument through the tube into your mouth. As you speak or sing, the modulated harmonics are passed back to the speaker, creating the classic talk box tones.

Verdict

Talk boxes are a great way to expand your musical expression and creativity. Although their use has not been heavily implemented throughout history, they do hold a special place and are behind a few memorable songs over the years.

My main recommendation is the Dunlop MXR M222 for its great quality and features. This is a popular choice by many and for good reason.

For those on a budget, I recommend the TC Helicon TalkBox which offers an amazing array of features for its modest price.

Brian Clark is a multi-instrumentalist and music producer. He is passionate about practically all areas of music and he particularly enjoys writing about the music industry.

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