When you hear the words “Do you feel,” what comes to mind? If you’re of a certain age demographic, you know how ubiquitous Peter Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive was in the 1970s. It made Frampton an international mega-star.
Commercial success aside, Frampton’s abilities with the guitar are somewhat underappreciated. He wrote great tunes and fronted his band with aplomb. And whether with Humble Pie or solo, his guitar tone was always incredible.
With the help of “Do You Feel Like We Do,” from Comes Alive, Frampton put the talkbox effect on the map. And more recently, he put it back into the guitar mainstream when his high-end effects/accessories company, Framptone, launched its Talk Box.
What can I call the talk box? Is it a pedal? Is it an effect? Regardless, it’s basically a speaker driver without a basket, in a box, hooked between a guitar amp and speaker cab. One end of a vinyl tube is connected to the driver, the other end to a player’s mic stand, right in front of the mic. The mic end of the tube is inserted partially into the player’s mouth (watch the gag factor!). While playing, the player changes the cavity of their mouth using the tongue and lips, while their mouth is next to their mic. The talkbox then produces wah-type (among other) effects through the PA. It’s strange, but it works – and sounds very cool!
The Framptone Talkbox is housed in a near-bullet-proof pyramid-shaped powdercoated steel box. Inside is a custom-designed Alnico/phenolic speaker driver. A 250-volt mylar capacitor provides a smooth, warm frequency crossover. At the top of the pyramid is the connector that can be changed to accommodate different-size hoses. The box has speaker input and output jacks and an on/off switch with two LEDs. All components are of the highest grade. The LEDs are powered by a 9-volt battery, and peeking inside one finds very neat workmanship designed to be roadworthy (there’s even a bumper under the driver, to support its weight).
I ran the Framptone between our all-tube Peavey Butcher head and a 2×12″ speaker cab. Playing an Ibanez Artist, I set up the amp for clean tones, grabbed the tube with my mouth and started playing. Just moving my tongue in different ways gave me an incredible range of wah-like effects. Opening and closing my lips enhanced it. If you can coordinate your mouth for rhythm you could do the into of “Voodoo Child, Slight Return” without a wah. Of course, the unit can reproduce Frampton’s talkbox effect to a T. It’ll also do a number of robotic effects by talking and just playing the same note. My dog freaked and started barking when I called his name.
Next, I set the amp to overdrive. Wow! That’s where the Framptone really shines. I could get an Octavia-like effect, plus numerous wah effects that a wah pedal or envelope filter couldn’t touch.
The Framptone Talk box offers tons of tonal possibilities. I had far more fun with it than I could’ve anticipated. And it’s built like a tank, using top-quality components. Grab one, and see if you don’t feel like I do.
Features Powder-coated steel chassis, custom-built Alnico/phenolic driver, 250-volt Mylar capacitor, steel-milled “sound transference chamber,” high-intensity LED indicators.
Contact Framptone Manufacturing, 113 Dictum Court, Brooklyn, NY 11229; phone (718) 934-4196; www.framptone.com.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s July ’05 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.