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The Black Box

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cover image Flingco's tombstone shaped speaker might be the perfect gadget for scaring children during Halloween celebrations this year. Actually, among its nine loops I've found a couple capable of unnerving unsuspecting adults. Put it in the right environment and chances are someone will find one of its various outputs less than comfortable. Part toy, part loop machine, and part gimmick, the Black Box is an entertaining gizmo with contributions from Cristal, Haptic, Wrnlrd, and Annie Feldmeier Adams.


Flingco Sound System

My first reaction to the Black Box was a pretty loud laugh. The second it comes on a voice begins to repeat, "Today, I will not kill myself" over and over. The voice is empty and without energy, like the speaker is trying to convince himself that today is not a good day for suicide. Coming out of a tombstone-shaped device these words aren't exactly what you'd expect to hear. Then again, I wasn't sure what to expect when it arrived in the mail. Equipped with a volume control dial that doubles as an on/off switch, a forward button for skipping loops, a headphone jack, a small speaker, and a 4.5 volt jack for a power adapter, the Black Box is a simple device about two inches wide and three and a half inches high. It puts out a substantial amount of sound through a small speaker in its rear, but doesn't emit much in the way of low end frequencies. As it turns out, none of the loops have much to offer in the way of bass, so the speaker's quality is suitable for the box's contents. Each fragment of sound loops in a seamless fashion and will do so for as long as it has power. In order to get to the next loop, the forward button has to be pressed.

After the initial vocal sample, a hazy buzz of unidentifiable noise can be found. It lasts just a few seconds, but when left on for a longer period of time it acquires a kind of numbing quality; it becomes impossible to locate where the loop ends and begins. That's the feature that makes the Black Box most fun. While some of the loops emit the kind of noise you might expect at a live show, many of the sounds employed are atmospheric effects. When left on for long periods of time they become a part of the room and compliment low lighting perfectly. Toss in candles, bad weather, and scary costumes and it becomes a fright machine. One or two of the loops contain samples expected to hear outside in the rain, but they're accompanied by distortion or radio interference or some other synthetic noise. When hidden properly, the sounds can cause most sane people to become anxious, fidgety, or otherwise annoyed. I tried keeping it under a pillow one night as I went to bed and was happy to discover that one of the loops accompanied the sound of traffic outside of my window perfectly. After awhile I had to turn it off, not because the noise was keeping me awake, but because I couldn't tell which sounds were coming from the speaker and which were real. Placing it behind a bookshelf, I let it play at very low levels when a friend came over only to find him a little creeped out by the pulse coming from inside the room. When he couldn't decide where the sound was coming from (and when I feigned ignorance), he became a little irked and opted to step outside and wait for me. I don't think I've confessed to that prank yet. 

The Black Box is a great device for part-time pranksters and, with a little work, might be the best way to scare little kids knocking at your door looking for candy. With an iPhone application on the way, this merry gloom-making toy could potentially go anywhere and cause havoc without the presence a conspicuous gravestone device. Freaking people out on the bus and in restaurants might become a regular hobby of mine in that case. 


Last Updated on Sunday, 18 October 2009 12:46  


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