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Audio Innovator Bob Heil Dies

Gave a unique sound to Frampton and was known in radio, audio and ham radio

Bob Heil has died, according to the company he founded. He was 83.

“Bob fought a valiant, year-long battle with cancer, and passed peacefully surrounded by his family,” Heil Sound posted on Facebook.

“Driven by a lifelong passion for sound, Bob’s pioneering work revolutionized how concertgoers experienced live sound.” [Here is his official obituary.]

Heil was the inventor of the famous Heil Talk Box used memorably by musicians like Joe Walsh, Peter Frampton, Slash, Richie Sambora and others. He was invited to exhibit his innovations at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He also was an active member of the amateur radio community.

In 2022 Bob and Sarah Heil transferred ownership of their company to President/CEO Ash Levitt and Director of Operations Steve Warford, Radio World reported at the time. “Sarah Heil has retired, but Bob will continue to do outreach work and product design within the amateur radio space under the title Founder and CEO Emeritus,” it stated then.

Bob Heil began his audio career as a teenager performing concerts as the house player on the Wurlitzer theater organ at the Fox Theater in St. Louis. According to a company bio he was also deeply involved in ham radio and began tinkering with electronics and electronic design.

Click on the photo to view more pictures of Bob Heil. 

He opened “Ye Olde Music Shoppe” in Marissa, Ill., in the early 1960s and found success catering to professional touring bands. Heil Sound was formed in 1966 to provide pro touring gear and systems, and system design and equipment for music festivals.

Among his innovations is the famous Talk Box used by Joe Walsh and Peter Frampton, the quadrophonic mixer for the Who, and modular mixing consoles. The company entered mic manufacturing in the 1990s based in part on the prompting of Bob Heil’s friend the musician Joe Walsh.

In the 2022 announcement the company quoted Bob Heil saying, “My life has been about achieving great sound, whether on the concert stage or in the amateur radio world … This company has been my passion but it is time for me to step aside.”

Read our 2006 interview with Heil about his career including his work with the Grateful Dead, the Who, Peter Frampton and many other notables.

Listen to a podcast about the creation of the Heil Talk Box.