Rows of chattering teeth bring vocal synthesizer to life

We’ve long been admirers of the work of Swedish designer Love Hultén, who has frequently paid tribute to the worlds of retro gaming and classic computing with beautiful hand-crafted creations. Back in 2018, he wandered off the beaten track for a, quite frankly, nightmarish speech synthesizer name Mr Typo. And now he’s done it again with the bizarre Voc-25 chatterbox.

Like Mr Typo and Sam Battle’s gloriously creepy Furby Organ, the Voc-25 is a fun project, but one that could also result in bad dreams. Hultén has chosen a simple color palette of pale pink, blood red and shining white, split between a boxy keyboard module, a display comprising 25 sets of plastic teeth and a control console base unit.

Inspired by the look of a desktop computer, with the three components housed in wood, the vocal synthesizer is built around an Axoloti Core circuit board with stereo audio ins and outs, analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters and a microcontroller ready to tackle digital audio processing.

The vocal samples making up the audio bank are supplied over USB, and it’s sounds are selected using the knobs on the angular base – ranging from sweet vocal tones that can be combined into angelic harmonies to spine-tingling screams. A MIDI keyboard is used to access the voice bank, and reverb and delay effects can be added to the mix, too.

Each key on the MIDI keyboard causes a solenoid to open a set of hinged plastic teeth on the display out front
Each key on the MIDI keyboard causes a solenoid to open a set of hinged plastic teeth on the display out front

Love Hultén

Each output is also converted into DC current to drive a set of hinged teeth connected to its own solenoid, which is at once visually appealing and oddly disturbing. There are built-in speakers for standalone use, and mono outputs around back for cabling up external monitors – which Hultén says is a good way to lessen the mechanical noise of the setup.

The idea was inspired by a concept from Swedish inventor, maker, roboticist and YouTuber Simone Giertz, with Hultén adding vocal synthesis as well as his own retro stylings. You can see and hear the Voc-25 in the video below.

VOC-25 – A conceptual vocal synthesizer

Project page: Voc-25