The 5 Best Talk Boxes (2023)
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 5 Best Talk Boxes (2023)
Let’s compare these in more detail.
1. Dunlop MXR M222
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.
- Good build
- Plug and play convenience
- Self-contained unit
- 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.
|Connectors||1/4″ Instrument In, VOICE TUBE Amplified Input, 1/4″ Output|
|Power requirements||18V DC Power Supply|
|Controls||Gain, 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
While more of a Vocoder effect than a talkbox, 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.
- Great features
- Can be used to modify vocal sounds
- Doesn’t come with an adapter
- Slightly lacking studio-quality sound
- Not a true talkbox
The TC Helicon 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 Helicon 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.
|Connectors||1/4” Instrument input, XLR mic input, 1/4” line out|
|Power requirements||9V power supply|
|Controls||Volume, 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
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.
- The effects loop lets you create new sounds
- Amp and tube can receive signal at same time
- LED status light
- 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.
|Connectors||1/4” Instrument input, TS effects send and return jacks, 1/4” amp output, and speaker output|
|Power requirements||9V power supply|
|Controls||Gain, 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. TalkStar - Talk Box
While the previous talkboxes on the list still rank as just effects, the TalkStar talkbox is a self-powered and true talkbox. The layout of the TalkStar is incredible and resembles a mini amplifier and has a box-shaped design.
- True, self-powered talkbox
- High-fidelity power amp
- Full-spectrum frequency range
- Aesthetic design
- Only for keyboards
The TalkStar was specifically made from quality components for talkbox users and provides superb sound. It has a high-performance 100-watt, 8-ohm compression driver and a high-fidelity 24watt RMX power amp for perfect sound reproduction.
It also comes with a 60-watt power supply and includes a custom aluminum anti-vortex tube adapter for transitioning. Not only that but the design is incredibly portable as it has its own carrying handle built in and a custom LED lighting system.
|Connectors||1/4” Instrument input, 1/4” thru input, and pedal input|
|Power requirements||24 Vdc adapter|
|Controls||Edger, tone, and volume|
Overall, if you’re looking for a REAL talkbox made from quality components that deliver high-quality sound, then the TalkStar should be among your top considerations.
5. ElectroSpit ESX-1
Finishing this list is a unique talkbox with a tube-less design for the modern musician. This device is self-sufficient with a built-in amp, compatible with synthesizers and guitars, can be used in any modern-day DAW, and comes with a companion app.
- Lightweight and portable design
- Self-powered, built-in amp
- Quality sound reproduction
- Comes with its own companion app
- Might be too much for some
The ElectroSpit ESX-1 is a tube-less talkbox that works with synths and guitars. With its own built-in amp, the talkbox provides high-quality sound and an aesthetic modern design. It goes around the neck of the performer and simply looks cool.
Not only that but it comes with its own companion app for detailed sound-shaping that includes perfect pitch, a harmonizer, a vibrato, and classic talkbox presets. This is truly a state-of-the-art talkbox for professional use.
|Connectors||1/8″ audio input|
|Power requirements||Rechargeable 9V Lipo battery|
|Controls||Harmonizer, Pitch and Mod, Vibrato, all on the app|
If you’re after a talkbox effect for professional use, made with quality, and high-quality sound, the ElectroSpit ESX-1 is the ultimate, modern talkbox that is self-powered and sports a unique, portable, and lightweight design.
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.
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.