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The Difference Between Vocoder and Talkbox (Comparison)

The Difference Between Vocoder and Talkbox (Comparison)

Products like these are used for sound changing, a talk box is a type of instrument that’s used to change voice, which is used for making beats and rock music. A vocoder is a device used for the compression of audio data of a human voice, in simple words, it is used to transform a human voice into a different voice, and encrypt or encode the voice.

Nowadays, a talk box is used a lot for making sick beats and music every beginner has a talk box, many popular artists also use a talk box for beats used in their music, one of them is Peter Frampton a classic rock music artist, who used it a lot. 

What is a Talk Box? 

A talk box is also known as an effect pedal, which helps musicians to change the sound of any musical instrument to alter by applying speech sounds and modifying the frequency content of the sound onto the instrument.  

Usually, a talk box would lead the sound towards the musician’s mouth modifying the voice using a plastic tube. To change the voice, a musician would change the shape of the mouth which would eventually change the sound.

The First Person To Make a Guitar Talk Was Alvino Rey
The First Person To Introduce Guitar Talk Was Alvino Rey

An Overview  

The talk box is an effect pedal that sits on the floor with a speaker and an airtight plastic tube for the voice. It can be made out of cheap materials such as a homemade talk box because a bougie version would be costly. The speaker is kind of a compression driver with a horn loudspeaker but the horn is replaced with a plastic tube making it a sound generator. 

The talk box has a connection with an instrument amplifier and a normal speaker, a pedal that directs sound either towards the amplifier or the normal speaker, this pedal is usually pushed on/off. 

Musicians That Used Talk Box 

The history of the talk box is about the famous and legendary musicians using the talk box to make masterpieces by using just a box which makes music interesting and fun. 

Alvino Rey “St. Louis Blues” 

Being the colonist of the electric guitar and also being the first-ever musician to play pedal steel guitar Alvino Rey would be the first musician to make a guitar talk. In the 1940s, he used a microphone and a performer’s vocal box to vocalize the steel guitar’s lyrics by placing the microphone near the throat. 

Sly and the Family Stone “Sex Machine” 

In 1969, the first market-available talk box was released by Kustom Electronics, which contained a speaker driver enclosed in a bag. It was not that good as it had low volume and was not used much on the stage but was used in the studios, the musicians included Steppenwolf, Iron Butterfly, Alvin Lee, and Sly and the Family Stone used this talk box. 

Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” 

Many say that the 1970s was the year of the talk box which isn’t true. 1975 was the year of the talk box as Frampton and Joe Perry of Aerosmith used a talk box while singing a very hit song named sweet emotion giving a Kaftwerkian vibe. 

There are many more musicians that used talk boxes, which made songs very different and gave a different vibe. Some more of the famous talk box songs. 

  • Mötley Crüe, “Kickstart My Heart” … 
  • Weezer, “Beverly Hills” … 
  • Steely Dan, “Haitian Divorce” … 
  • Pink Floyd, “Pigs” … 
  • Alice in Chains, “Man in the Box” … 
  • Joe Walsh, “Rocky Mountain Way” … 
  • Jeff Beck, “She’s a Woman” … 
  • Peter Frampton, “Do You Feel Like We Do” Not only is Frampton Comes Alive! 

What is a Vocoder? 

The vocoder is a type of voice changer that encode voice analyses and creates a synthesized version of the human speech signal for voice encryption, voice multiplexing, audio data compression, or voice transformation. 

At bell labs, Homer Dudley created a vocoder, so that it could synthesize human speech or human voice. This would be integrated into the channel vocoder, which would be used as a voice codec to be used for telecommunication which would help to conserve bandwidth in transmission by coding the speech. 

Encrypting the directional signs means securing voice transmission from any interruption. It was primary use was to secure radio communication. The benefit of this encoding is that the original version is not sent but the bandpass filter one. The vocoder is also used as a musical instrument which we will discuss later on it was known as a voder

People In The World War II People Would Communicate In The Trenches So They Would Receive Encrypted Messages
People In The World War II People Would Communicate In The Trenches So They Would Receive Encrypted Messages

Use in Music 

For music-related use, musical sound is used as a carrier instead of using extraction of fundamental frequencies, for example, a person can use the sound of a synthesizer as an input to the filter bank. It became very popular in the 1970s. 

Using vocoders in music is still pretty alive as many 19s musicians use it still:  

  • Sexual EruptionSnoop Dogg. 
  • Hide and SeekImogen Heap. 
  • Hunted by a FreakMogwai. 
  • Planet Caravan – 2012 – RemasterBlack Sabbath. 
  • In The Air Tonight – 2015 RemasteredPhil Collins. 
  • Black SupermanAbove The Law. 
  • E=MC2 – InstrumentalJ Dilla. 
  • Ode To PerfumeHolger Czukay. 

These are just 8 of many more songs made by the vocoder and incredible instrument. 

Best Vocoders 

Best vocoders that are available in the market:


These are just the top 10 of many more vocoders that musicians enjoy. 

A Video Describing How To Use A Vocoder

The Origin of Vocoder 

It was developed in 1928 by Homer Dudley in Bell Labs, to show the speech synthesis part of the decoder, the voder. It was introduced to the public in the AT&T building at the 1939–1940 New York World’s Fair.  

It consisted of sound sources for pitched tone and hiss were a switchable pair of electronic oscillators and noise generators. 10-band resonator filters with variable-gain amplifiers as a vocal tract, and the manual controllers and with the inclusion of pressure-sensitive keys for filter control and a foot pedal for pitch control of tone.  

The filters controlled by the keys convert these hissing and tone kinds of sounds into vowelsconsonants, and inflections. It was very hard to control such devices were only controlled by skilled and professional people, who could produce clear speech. 

Using Vocoder Directly Through The Mic
Using Vocoder Directly Through The Mic

The vocoder built by Dudley was used in the SIGSALY system, built with the help of Bell lab in 1943. SIGSALY was developed to encrypt a high level of speech communication in World War II. In 1949 KO-6 vocoder was developed but in limited quantities. 

It was close to SIGSLAY being at 1200 bit/s, later in 1963 KY-9 THESEUS was developing having 1650 bit/s voice coder used super-conducting logic to lessen the weight to 565 pounds (256 kg) from SIGSALY’s 55 tons, then later in 1961 HY-2 voice coder was developed with a 16-channel 2400 bit/s system, weighed 100 pounds (45 kg) and was the fulfillment of a channel vocoder in a protected voice system. 

Are Talk Box and Vocoder the Same as Autotune? 

In basic terms, a vocoder is entirely different from autotune, as autotune is used to correct the tone of a singer, and a vocoder is used to encode or encrypt voice. But apart from differences, both can be used to make sick, creative, and synthetic voices. 

The talk box is also completely different from autotune, in a talk box you make the instrument talk, but it’s not clear that much but it works as many musicians love the talk box and an autotune is done through a computer and straight to the mic to correct the tune of the singer nowadays, autotune is common. 

Talk BoxVocoder
Sound Source Is AnalogMore Guitar-Like Sound
Heavy (4-5 KG)Very Light
Not Easy To AttachPlug And Play
Extra Output Signal Source Voice Needed
Microphone NeededMicrophone Needed
A Comparison Between Talk Box And Vocoder


  • In the end, both of the products are completely different but are used for almost the same thing. They both are used to change the voice or speech of a person through some sort of medium in a talk box it’s a tube that acts as a carrier between the speaker and the vocoder, it analyzes the human voice through a modulator signal. 
  • Many musicians use both most of them are rock genre musicians which helps them to make that demonic sound for their music. However, the talk box is used by most musicians. 
  • In my opinion, they both are different as both of them are used in different fields of work, as a vocoder is used for comparatively serious work and a talk box is used for more musical work. 

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