The talk box is a unique guitar effect that's been used over the decades by many artists such as David Gilmour, Richie Sambora, etc. Probably the most famous recorded example is the introduction to Bon Jovi's classic hit Livin' on a Prayer.
In this article we'll show you how to build a talk box from a pair of old PC speakers with just a few basic tools and a little bit of patience!
Tools you will need
- Soldering iron
- Craft knife
- Wire cutters
- Glue gun
- Silicon (and gun)
- Half a plastic water bottle
- Some old PC speakers!
- Mono female 6.35mm socket
- Super glue
- A garden hose (or similar)
Don't worry if you don't have every one of these tools, you should still be able to make your talk box if have most of them. PC speakers vary so you may need to taylor the steps below to your own speakers. We'll describe the process using the speakers that we have here in the images.
Start with the speaker that has the power button, volume knob and headphone output.
Carefully remove any fabric covering the speaker. Remove any screws if there are any, and open up the speaker.
In our speaker, the speaker cone is mounted with an additional four screws. Remove these as well.
This black lead goes from the 3.5mm socket (that you would normally plug your computer into) to the circuit board (speaker amp). We need to replace the 3.5mm socket with the 6.35mm socket so we can plug our guitar into it. Carefully cut the lead near the socket, strip the end of the lead to expose the copper and solder it to the 6.35mm socket.
In this speaker, the cable has three wires: white, red and ground. We will only use red and ground to connect the new socket as the white one is used to connect the second speaker, which we don't need at this stage.
The volume pot has to be turned up to maximum, and must remain like this permanantly.
Using the hot soldering iron, enlarge the hole in the plastic casing that the 3.5mm socket was fitted through, so that we can now fit our 6.35mm socket into it. Be careful to make sure the new socket fits without touching the transformer.
Take the plastic bottle and cut using the craft knife, as shown, so that you have a cone that will fit neatly over the speaker. Glue the plastic bottle onto the speaker as shown using either a glue gun or silicon. The glue gun is the best option because this type of glue dries much quicker than silicon.
Cut the nozzle from the silicon cartridge so that it's about 6-10cm in length.
Next use a hot soldering iron to make a hole in the bottle top so that you can fit the nozzle from your silicon cartridge as shown. Make sure the hole is the right size so that there is a nice tight fit.
Then, glue all around the joint between the nozzle and bottle top using superglue so that it is completely sealed.
Now carefully screw the bottle top (with the fitted nozzle) onto the bottle that you glued to the speaker.
Now we need to insulate the speaker and bottle. Take some plastic packaging material such as that shown in the image, and wrap it tightly around the speaker and cone being careful not to damage either of them. Fix the material to the cone using gaffer tape or silicon or both. The joint must be a very good seal in order to keep all the sound in.
Take some foam packaging like the material shown in the image and carefully press the material against the inside of the speaker casing.
You can now fit the speaker and cone into the casing using silicon as shown.
Now carefully dismantle the second speaker - the one that does not have an amplifier in it - in the same way as the first. We're going to use the casing of this speaker to seal up the first one.
Remove the speaker completely. We're not going to use it but keep it anyway as a spare in case you burn out the first one!
Using the the hot soldering iron again, you need to carefully melt a hole in this second speaker casing so that the nozzle points out of it as shown. You need to be careful not to make the hole too big. Use some insulation or packaging to make a nice tight seal if there is any space between the nozzle and casing.
Glue the two halves of your speaker casing together using either the glue gun or superglue.
All you need to do now is fit any kind of hose, such as a garden hose, to the nozzle that is now pointing out of your casing. Cut the hose long enough so that it could be wrapped around a mic stand to be positioned next to a microhone, ready for use on gigs!
This is what your final product should look like.
Congratulations, you've just made your very own talk box!
Connecting the Talk Box
This model works as a clean channel unit on its own. In order to get the real talk box effect, you need to use an overdrive or a distortion pedal with it. It would be useful if you connect an A/B switch pedal so that you can control talk box channel and one without it. This picture shows a simple setup how to connect your talk box with other pedals.