Music Thing: Singing speech synthesizers

Ryan Block
R. Block|07.22.05

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Ryan Block
July 22nd, 2005
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Music Thing: Singing speech synthesizers image
Music Thing: Singing speech synthesizers image
Each week Tom Whitwell of Music Thing highlights the best of the new music gear that's coming out, as well as noteworthy vintage equipment:

Singing speech synthesizers

So, today I was hoping to provide a roundup of exciting new products launched at the NAMM trade show, which opened in Indianapolis this morning. Unfortunately, so far it seems to be mainly new types of drum heads, and a vile-looking guitar designed by Bono out of U2. Also, Sting has designed some kind of overgrown ukulele that's friendly to the rainforest because it doesn't use much wood.

Instead, the coolest thing I've seen all week is not new at all. It's the $55 Speakjet Development Kit, a DIY, hack-friendly speech synthesizer on a chip, perfect for impersonations from Kraftwerk to Stephen Hawking. It comes with various buttons and LEDs, a serial interface to your PC and numerous digital and analog ins and outs. One MT reader says "The chip sounds very good with delicious robotic feeling," and he's planning to build a "computer controlled musical speech synthesizer" around it. He's not alone. One small company has already built a Speakjet chip into a synthesizer module, which lets it interface with big modular synths for major weirdness.
Obviously, you can do all kinds of speech synthesis in software, but it's just not as much fun.

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