Upgrading the NPW classic sound effects machine

Some years ago, the director of our area at work purchased a bunch of sound effects toys and gave them to staff. We had a lot of projects going on and I presume she wanted to add a bit of fun in the office. These effects toys are produced by NPW and is called the ‘Sound machine‘ or sometimes the ‘Classic sound machine’. It plays 16 different sound effects including a couple of bodily sounds. For a while they were regularly going off at work and we had some fun them. I think the key is to use them sparingly. My tendency was to overuse it.

Recently I was talking to friends about it, got it out and was disappointed that the button cell batteries had gone flat. It uses 3 x LR44/AG13. I don’t have any spares and I thought it would really be a waste to buy some just for this. I had a 3 x AA battery holder from an old string of Christmas lights and connected that to the battery connections. While I was doing that I changed the speaker connections from the tiny built-in speaker to an external 3 inch speaker. What was surprising is how good it sounds with the bigger speaker. I expected it to be less tinny, but I thought it would still be low quality, however, it was far better than expected.

I found some information about it and others on Amazon and I’m including some links. I’m not affiliated with Amazon, it’s just a place I found them for sale. The one I have was AU$37.00 (US$25.15) on the Australian amazon site whereas on the amazon.com US15.00. Perhaps there is a bit of Australia tax being applied.

There are some bold claims on Amazon. “HILARIOUS SOUND MACHINE – With unique, funny sound effects to choose from, you can pull off hilarious pranks on people with the NPW Classic Sound Machine. Be the star of the party with this sound machine toy and make your friends go into a laughing fit” and “This battery sound machine comes with 16 different sound effects – round of applause, classic fart noise, histerical laughter, and more. You can add humor into any situation, liven up the punch line of your jokes, or simply annoy your neighbors.” Yes, and annoy your coworkers and family too if used more than infrequently.

Other versions

NPW have some other versions. There is the Fart Fanfare Sound Machine “With an array of fart sound effects to choose from, you can pull off hilarious pranks on people with the NPW Fart Fanfare Sound Machine. Make your friends, family or coworkers go into a laughing fit with this sound machine toy.”

There is also the Corporate Jargon Sound Machine “Corporate Jargon is the perfect noise maker prank you can use at the next team meeting. Whether you are in a conference or at the cafeteria, sound effects at bizarre timings will always be funny. This battery sound machine comes with 9 different sound effects – “I am at capacity”, “This is a no-brainer”, “Let’s take this offline” and other overly used corporate phrases. You can add humor into any situation, liven up boring meets, or simply annoy your colleagues.” Actually, this one sounds like it could be a bit of fun.

The Cartoon Special Sound Effects is listed on Australian Amazon but is out of stock. The page currently doesn’t include details of it.

Finally there is the F Box which notes “Perfect for office use, phone calls, tedious meetings etc.” and has this description that is listed on the Australian page but not the US one, “Ever struggle for the right word in the heat of the moment? Here are 16 expressive profanities at the touch of a button. Choose the most appropriate swear word for the situation from the F*** Box. Strictly over 18 only! Batteries included. It’s always time to have a laugh with NPW whether it be a birthday, office prank, sleepover, party or just because you want a mega LOL.” I’m not sure that a machine that includes the F word in every sound effect would be appropriate for office use or tedious meetings, at least not where I work. Using it may be as they say, a career limiting move, which wouldn’t be a mega LOL.

Modding it

While a part of me wanted to build one from scratch using an Arduino, I also wanted to make things with what I have and I thought there would be some fun to improve this machine. Other than running it from AA batteries and a bigger speaker, I planned to add it into a timber case. I briefly thought of having separate switches so that the machine was not visible, but that seemed like a lot of effort and I like the idea of having the original case visible.

I started to build a case but I wasn’t happy with the way it was going and in the end just used hot melt glue to put the bits together. I used to hate hot melt glue as it seemed so unprofessional, but it has benefits. As well as being quick and easy a big benefit for me is that it can be quickly and easily removed with isopropyl alcohol.

I have some speakers from our local recycling shop. These are from a small surround sound system. As mentioned earlier the battery holder came from a string of lights and has a built-in switch. I removed the resistor that was in it that had been to limit the current to the string of LEDs.

While I’m reasonably confident running it from external batteries should be ok, they could provide more power than the button cells. The original speaker is 16 ohms and the one I had is 6 ohms. The low impedance of the speaker may be part of the reason it is so loud. Running it this way may end in disaster.

Here’s a demo of a few of the sound effects.

I tried it out in a recent Teams meeting and wouldn’t you know it, it seems that Team’s background noise suppression blocked it out. Even with the mic close, colleagues said they couldn’t hear it.

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