When I first discovered the Telephone Voice Transformer from Spy Gadgets, I thought it would be a fun gadget to have. While it does what it’s supposed to, I can’t find a practical use for the device. However, if you’re in law enforcement or a wannabe James Bond, this is for you.
The premise behind the Voice Changer is to change, in real-time, your voice so that’s it’s unrecognizable by the listener. It does this by not only changing the pitch, but several other sound parameters, giving a more natural sound than most voice changers. These changes can be done on the fly, or you can program a voice and save it for later use. Moving between an artificial voice and your natural voice is as simple as flipping a switch.
The package comes complete with the cables and accessories you need. The device itself is built ruggedly and looks like it will take some abuse. I’m sure some of you recognize this device. It’s a Boss Audio VE-20 Vocal Processor modified for the voice changer application. The good folks at Shomer-Tec include the VE-20 manual, so if you’re of the musical mind, you can use the unit for your vocals, but I’m limiting the review to voice changing application. In truth, you really don’t want to hear me sing
There’s a lot of connectors on the back, but only the power switch is used for the voice transformer.
On the front there are the addition of audio output jacks.
The left side has cord with a standard telephone plug at the end.
The right side has been modified with jacks for the included headset.
The Voice Transformer is configured to be used with a “standard” telephone. This means one needs a corded phone with a handset that plugs into the side of the telephone using a modular plug. The keypad dial cannot be in the handset. In other words, this device does not support cordless, dial-in-handsets or cell phones.However, according to the instruction sheet, a cell phone adapter in in development. Thankfully, there is also provision for connecting to a computer, so I was able make calls using Skype and Skype out. The requisite cables are provided.
After installing the batteries and reading the one page instructions, I was ready to create my first voice. This is a simple process and there are only two parameters that need be adjusted: GENDER and OCTAVE. I installed the “programing plug” on the end of the modular cord. This appears to be a loop back connector the allows one to hear the effects of creating the voice in the headset. I found it difficult to hear the modified voice via the earphones. It was overpowered by hearing my natural voice. What worked for me was to record the output using voice recorder on the PC and playing back the results.
The gender parameter can be adjusted between -10 and +10 with minus ten being the most male and plus ten being the most female. The other adjustment is an octave parameter that can raise and lower one octave. Adjusting the 2 parameters provides many different voices that can then be stored for later use. Obviously, different people will have different results dependent upon their voices, so if there are multiple users of the device storing voices is helpful.
I’ve provided some samples above of the voices I created using the extremes of the parameters. There are many more iterations possible and with patience I was able to get some that sounded almost normal. I say almost, because no matter what I did, there seemed to be a very slight mechanical flavor to the voices. That being said, I decided to call multiple people on Skype to see if I could fool them.
My first test was a call to my brother using Skype. I used a female voice expecting to fake him out, but he knew who it was by the Skype caller ID (duh!). After some small dialog, he did attest that the manufactured voice did sound reasonably normal. I told him I couldn’t come up with a practical use for the Voice Transformer and he suggested it would be great for crank calls. Great idea if I was in Junior High!
Next I placed a call to my wife, telling her to answer using Skype on her laptop. Due to a miscommunication (amazing, because this rarely happens between married couples), she thought I was transferring a call from someone else and didn’t realize it was me and my female voice. I then made Skype Out calls to landline phones to find out if that was also as natural sounding as web calls. It again passed a critical test from the multitude of people I called. Those that didn’t hang up on me, were impressed by the voice changing capability and didn’t know it was me.
Some final thoughts. This device is not a toy. It is marketed for use in law enforcement and military applications. There are an almost unlimited number of adjustments that can be made to the sound output, but are kept to a manageable minimum for the voice application. Also, if you’re musically inclined, because the hardware of the Voice Transformer is derived from a device for augmenting a singing voice, you too might get on American Idol. In my case, try as hard as I could, I wasn’t able to emulate the sounds of the late Roy Orbison. For the targeted market, the Voice Transformer merits serious consideration.