Talk Box pioneer and sound system innovator Bob Heil has passed away at 83

Heil created robust and powerful sound systems for live music during a time when others lacked.

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Bob Heil in 2006. In the background is the quad sound system mixer built for The Who's Quadraphenia Tour

Image: Derik Holtmann / Belleville News-Democrat via Getty

Bob Heil, the man behind the Talk Box effect unit, has sadly passed away aged 83. Heil founded Heil Sound in 1966, where he also began to create improved live sound systems compared to what was on the market at the time. He later released the Talk Box in 1973.

According to a post shared by Heil Sound, he passed away peacefully and surrounded by family following a battle with cancer. Many industry figures have paid tribute to the innovator, who also worked with the likes of the Grateful Dead, The Who, Joe Walsh of the Eagles, Jeff Beck and more.

Heil was drafted in to provide a PA for the Grateful Dead’s show at the Fox Theater in St Louis in 1970 when their regular sound operator was unavailable, according to Music Radar. His powerful and uniquely crafted sound system was a huge success, and saw him invited to tour with the band thereafter. Heil also worked for Pete Townshend, and created the quadraphonic sound system used while the band toured their Quadrophenia album.

Walsh, who Heil’s Talk Box was developed for, describes the innovator as an “amazing musician” and “a tireless problem solver” in a statement shared online. He adds, “Bob was our wizard in the Midwest. He was also my friend for more than 50 years… RIP, man. I love you and miss you already. Sending love to Sarah [his wife] and to the world of audioheads you leave behind.”

"So waddya got that doesn't work?" I can hear Bob Heil's voice in the back of my mind. An amazing musician (especially…

Posted by Joe Walsh on Saturday, March 2, 2024

Rock artist Peter Frampton, who famously used Heil’s Talk Box on his successful 1976 record Frampton Comes Alive!, writes on X/Twitter: “I am so sorry to hear of the loss of my friend for so many years, Bob Heil. A musician, inventor, ham radio expert, Heil Sound and microphones. He gave me a very important present [in the] mid seventies. The Heil Talkbox! Can never thank Bob enough. Rest in power my friend.”

You can read more tributes below:


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