What is VOX on a Walkie Talkie?


Written by

Rafeal Hart


Fact-checked by

Norris Howe

what is vox on a walkie talkie

A familiar scene in action films is a walkie-talkie getting the main characters out of a deadly spot. Case in point: while trapped behind cover, a character desperately yells for reinforcements onto a two-way radio while being relentlessly blasted by heavy fire.

What happens if he/she forgets to switch the voice mic ON before speaking? Faulty multitasking could be the cause of fatal accidents.

Experts in the radio industry have anticipated such that exact problem (i.e., forgetting to click the PTT button). How? Better ask: what is VOX on a walkie talkie?

What Does VOX Mean on a Walkie Talkie?


Considering the specific scenario described earlier, it is possible for a person to carry his or her voice message in real-time to the other end of the two-way communication even if they forget to click the push-to-talk (PTT) button.

Certain walkie-talkie units have been working fine thanks to the precursor of voice-operated exchange (simply known as VOX) technology first applied in 1957.

Now you know that there are two kinds of walkie-talkies.

  • The standard two-way device always has a PTT button. Not all the units in commercial circulation include a VOX mode.

1. How VOX works on Walkie Talkies?

Normally, when you think about voice-operated technology, one of the first things that comes into mind are virtual assistance apps like Siri (2010) and Alexa (2012). It is hard for younger people (below 25 years old) to imagine what voice-operated technology looks like before these eponymous female-sounding programs.

Nevertheless, one can arguably say that their earliest predecessor is the VOX function in radio speakers and other sound amplifiers. A similar general principle works for both the earlier radio technology and the latter contemporary online mechanization.

  • Instead of manually opening the channels to broadcast sound signals across ultra high frequency channels, it is the radio operator’s voice that triggers that mechanism – hence broadcasting the audio message automatically.

This is why the term “handless radio” is also synonymous with VOX radio, meaning you don’t need to press the PTT button at all.

2. Benefits of VOX on Walkie Talkies


  • Considering (again) the specific scenario described earlier, one of the biggest advantages of a voice-activated transmission feature in a walkie-talkie is that it completely eliminates the need for multi-tasking (even at a semi-instinctual level).

If a person in distress is already desperately screaming for help, completely forgetting to push the PTT button during the heat of the moment should never be a fatal mistake.

  • Another benefit can be derived from the same related scenario that is exponentially more distressing. Case in point: a radio operator is in a helpless state and, during the heat of the moment, suffers from extreme panic attacks that render him or her speechless and immobile.

This time, the operator not only fails to press the PTT button but also fails to get the vocal cords working. Even in such a dismal state, it is still possible for the radio operator to signal for help from the other end if it has VOX capability.

This setting can instantly pick up the most audible background sound, alerting the other person about the possible cause of non-response.

It is important to note that what makes VOX setting on walkie talkie beneficial can also be the same principle that deems it counter-productive.

The main difference depends on the specific situation when such a device is used. Case in point: a confidential discussion is being held in a quiet room, and the details got leaked (disastrously) via the other end of the walkie-talkie.

This is why it is standard protocol for security staff to be posted outside the room of a VIP conference room. Accidental wiretapping sounds ridiculous, but it can happen when one is not careful. If conversations can be stolen and exposed several decades ago, imagine what today’s more advanced voice-operated technology can do.

When to Use VOX on a Walkie Talkie?


Anyone who has seen a decent action film set in modern times can appreciate the positive appeal of gritty special forces (i.e., Tears of the Sun) and/or shady secret agents (i.e., Hitman) wearing tactical headsets or sleek earpieces and facial microphones.

While these accessories seem to add a touch of sophistication, a practical necessity governs that design.

This fashion, as depicted in movies, is based on how exactly a VOX mode two-way device is supposed to be set up (worn and used) in reality.

    • Experts would advise using VOX mode only when you already have a purpose-built headset or earpiece with a noise-canceling facial microphone.

    Operating VOX-capable 2 way radios can be convenient, but setting it up can be tricky, especially when you haven’t figured out ways to master your device in terms of audio-sensitivity.

    • Nevertheless, there is a general set of guidelines you need to observe and practice as a habit when it comes to all types of radio communication. Any ‘intended’ time can be the best time to use VOX on a walkie talkie provided that these protocols already function naturally for you.


The iconic first lady Eleanor Roosevelt once said that, “small minds discuss people, average minds discuss events, and great minds discuss ideas.” Consider the value of this wisdom-filled quote the next time you’re stuck in a ‘downtime conversation’ across a two-way walkie-talkie with someone.

Given all the details you have read from this article, at least you won’t be left absent-mindedly scratching your head when some curious individual asks you “what is VOX on a walkie talkie?”

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