Playing speech without arduino

I know, this is an arduino forum, but there will be plenty of arduino action in other parts of the project :slight_smile:

I’m working on a wireless doorbell system for my house, and need to make several “ringers” to put in different rooms. Rather than bells/buzzers/etc., I’d like the unit to say “front door”, “back door”, and “side door” (as appropriate). This will be determined by output from an xBee radio, but that’s not important for this question - just assume it’s a system with 3 push-buttons, each button playing one message.

I know I can easily do this with an Arduino, either using a voice synthesizer chip (SpeakJet), or a sound file player (such as the SOMO-14D), etc. But that means that each of these units (I need at least 3) I will have to have a full-up Arduino (or other microcontroller, I guess) and at least one other expensive chip, bringing the total cost of each unit to more than $60 (there’ll also be an xBee in each unit).

Both of these solutions seem like overkill - they are great if you need to be able to vary your output, or play long clips, or be able to change the clips at will, but in my application I just need to play one of 3 short audio clips.

Is there a simpler/cheaper/better solution?

I’m very, very new to this, and my background is software, not hardware, but it seems there ought to be a way to do this with three small non-volatile memory chips and some sort of sound processor, so the “pushbuttons” just select which memory chip dumps its data into the processor. Any thoughts or suggestions?


Certainly cheaper would be one FM transmitter to send the voice messages and cheap FM receivers to receive them. Plug-in FM radios, usually including a clock and alarm features, are available from thrift stores for a few dollars. That eliminates the Xbee modules.

Something to keep in mind is that the SpeakJet is a software synthesizer run in a PIC microcontroller. You could conceivably do something similar using a standalone Arduino:

Note that the above is basically a "proof-of-concept"; you would still have a lot of work to do to make it work like the SpeakJet.

An FM solution might be workable, but is not optimal, for 2 reasons:

1) I need an xBee in those location anyway, as they form necessary links in the mesh.

2) Wouldn't an always-on FM radio produce a constant hum? I know when I tune a radio to a dead frequency, there's sound coming from the speaker. I suppose some sort of squelch control might fix that, I don't really know analog/audio electronics at all.

What I was envisioning is something like one of those talking toys with several buttons, each one having a phrase or sound associated with it, something like this:

(though that one may only do one phrase, not sure).

I think I may have found a solution:

Voice Recorder Breakout - ISD1932

Operated in direct mode, it seems that I can just attach an xBee's digital out pin in place of the "buttons" on the sample schematic (I haven't checked current draws or voltages, so I may need a relay or transistor between the 2).

Anyone have any experience with this chip? Seems like a cheap and easy way to do what I want..