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Saxxy ™ KAZOO

Saxxy ™ KAZOO

Saxxy Kazoo, Sharper Image, sythesizer kazoo, original packaging

Dr.Ruddock’s Store on

Well this certainly isn’t your grandfather’s kazoo. In 2003 a man by the name of John Jameson pitched the idea of a software-driven kazoo to Sharper Image. This toy would have the ability to convert a child’s hum into digitally rendered versions of saxophone, clarinet, or tuba sounds. Sharper Image liked the idea, and the redesigned Saxxy—as it would be renamed—was launched for the 2003 Christmas season. The price? $50.00 through 140 Sharper Image stores.¹

In what appears to be the original US Patent application (US6653546B2) by Saxxy’s inventor, John Jameson, there is the following description of this synthesizer kazoo:

An electronic, voice-controlled musical instrument called the Vocolo, in which the player hums into the mouthpiece, and the device imitates the sound of a musical instrument whose pitch and volume change in response to the player’s voice is disclosed. The player is given the impression of playing the actual instrument and controlling it intimately with the fine nuances of his voice. The invention comprises techniques for pitch quantization that provide esthetically pleasing note transitions, mechanisms for song recording that are suited for rhythmic repeated playback and performance evaluation of the player’s pitch control, techniques related to expressive control and pitch detection, and techniques for mitigating the effect of pitch detection errors. Embodiments are disclosed for providing finger/hand interaction for expressive control, a microphone enclosure that mitigates audio feedback, and for providing rhythmic feedback to the player through mechanical vibrations induced in the device.

Note that in the abstract, the instrument is called a Vocolo. After Sharper Image owned the rights to the product, they used the same word in their ad copy.

Here is how the Saxxy was described in some of Sharper Image’s original ad copy:

Saxxy™ is the fun new kazoo — a sophisticated electronic musical instrument that makes it easy for anyone to play a horn! All you do is hum into the mouthpiece and patented Vocolo™ [emphasis added] technology responds with accurately synthesized digital sounds of a saxophone, a tuba or a clarinet. Just press a button to pick your horn . . .

With the graceful Saxxy in your hands, you’ll enjoy the satisfying feel of playing an actual instrument — intimately controlling the pitch and volume of notes with fine nuances of voice or humming . . . Select one of three lively synthesized backbeats.

. . . Generate sounds of bebop or big band, marching or Motown, swing or salsa, and more! . . .


As noted above, besides a change in the name from Vocolo to Saxxy, this 21st century kazoo also got redesigned. This is how it was envisioned by its inventor, and depicted in the original Patent application:

Saxxy, synthesizer, patent drawing, Vocolo


The actual Saxxy kazoo that made it to market looked more like a saxophone than the diagram above does—albeit a Saxello. Also, note the difference in mouthpieces.

Saxxy, synthesizer kazoo by Sharper Image

According to one seller on eBay, this high-tech kazoo is 13″ long, with a 3″ diameter speaker. Note that the control buttons on the Saxxy were redesigned as well from the Patented Vocolo.

Saxxy Kazoo, Sharper Image, sythesizer kazoo,

Source: Long Play Games And Records on

Parents would likely have been very appreciative of the earphone jack.

Saxxy Kazoo, Sharper Image, sythesizer kazoo,

Source: Long Play Games And Records on

Saxxy Kazoo, Sharper Image, sythesizer kazoo,

Source: Long Play Games And Records on

Another seller on eBay still had the original instruction manual with this toy instrument.

Source: keb67 on

So what does it sound like you ask? Well thanks to YouTube, you can find out if you want to track down one of these Saxxy instruments for your very own.

In case anyone is interested, here are some photos of the original box that these Saxxy synthesizer kazoos came in.

Source: cyn on


¹ Source: CNN Money article, Why Sharper Image Is Playing The Hits Again  The company got back its cool–and its healthy stock price–by making more down-to-earth products with spectacular profit margins, by Jonathan Thaw.
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