When I first heard about the AtariVox I wasn't too impressed with the sound quality, and decided not to bother getting one. However, I changed my mind after seeing a demo of Man Goes Down at the vgXpo a few years ago. I realised that the sound quality was a perfect match for the Atari, being broadly equivalent to the quality of speech chips back in the day. I now think it would sound "wrong" if the Atari were to produce high-quality speech, just as it would sound unnatural if Stephen Hawking were to upgrade his speech unit.
I bought an AtariVox when they became available again (in the new casing), but didn't actually use it until today. The main reason being that my Atari gear has been in storage since I last moved, and I'm about to move again. I was able to use the AtariVox now due to the acquisition of the handy AtariVox USB adapter, pictured below:
The USB adapter enables the AtariVox to be used from a normal PC, without the need for an Atari console. This might seem rather pointless, but the main reason for using this adaptor is that it makes AtariVox development much easier. Since the AtariVox is not (yet) supported by any of the emulators, it was previously necessary to write a test program and then upload it to the Atari, e.g. using the Krokodile cart. With the USB adapter, the AtariVox can be programmed directly from the PC. Incidentally, I was grateful for Nathan's review of the AtariVox, since my unit was indeed set to maximum volume. Using the USB adapter is simple - just plug it into the PC, and Windows recognises it as a serial USB device (Mac and Linux users will not be so lucky). The AtariVox can then be programmed using the hacked PhraseALator software or VoxPlay.
It turns out that the AtariVox is not particularly easy to program. It is capable of making a wide range of sounds, but assembling these sounds into recognisable speech can take a lot of trial and error. Fortunately the PhraseALator software has a reasonably large dictionary that can be used in many cases. I also found that I got rapidly better at figuring out the necessary sounds after a bit of practise. Here is a reasonable approximation to "Juno First":
\JH \UW \NO \OWWW \P1 \FF \AXRR \SE \TT
I now think that the AtariVox is quite a cool bit of hardware, and the USB interface makes it much easier to develop for. I'm planning to use it in my future software projects, though I'm not sure I will be able to use it in Juno First, since it requires rather a lot of cycles - perhaps just a few bits of speech during the title screen. Now, if only it was as easy to develop for the Savekey ...