Canadian Red Box

The construction, possession, and/or operation of this device may be a criminal offence where you live. This information is presented because it is common and readily available.

What is a Red Box?

A Red Box is any device that reproduces the tones that a payphone uses to signal its Central Office (CO) that coins have been deposited. These tones will be accepted as money deposited on certain payphones thereby allowing free phone calls to be made.

The problems with many Red Box tutorials include:

  1. They use tones that are incompatible with Canadian payphones (i.e. ACTS instead of N-ACTS).
  2. The tones are not reproduced with enough accuracy (i.e. methods which require you to record the tones in an analog format such as with a tape-recorder).

How to make a Red Box

Items you will need
  • Computer with sound card.
  • Digital Recorder - MICRONTA Digital Recorder (Radio Shack #63-8023) or any quality digital recording device.
  • 1/8" Headphone audio plug.
  • Soldering gun and solder.
  • Digitally generated Red Box tone. Sorry, I'll have to let you make that yourself. Just grab an audio editing app like Cool Edit and use the specs below to create a wav.

    Nickel2200hz0.06s on
    Dime2200hz0.06s on, 0.06s off, twice repeating
    Quarter2200hz33ms on, 33ms off, 5 times repeating


    It is necessary to record the tones directly through the sound card headphone jack. This method ensures pure quality and timing of the tones.

    If you record the tones by holding the recorder in front of your speaker, the tones will lose quality and will not work. Don't even think of using a tape recorder. Variances in tape speed as well as the terrible quality doom this method to failure.


  1. Remove the screws and open up the digital recorder. Don't lose the switch/spring mechanisms.
  2. Identify where the wire leads from the microphone attach to the printed circuit board.
  3. Carefully solder the stripped wire leads from your audio plug to the circuit board where the microphone wires attach as shown in the diagram. WARNING: Too much heat will cook the circuit. Alternatively, use alligator clips to attach the wires.
  4. Re-assemble the unit leaving the audio plug hanging out.
  5. Plug the unit into your sound card headphone jack.
  6. To record the tones onto the recorder, open the wav file and press play while holding the record button on the recorder.
  7. For the purposes of testing, it is a good idea to generate and record a DTMF phone number onto the recorder. Try using the recorder to dial the number. If it doesn't work you may need to adjust your sound volume and/or quality.
  8. When you have the audio settings dialed in open the Red Box wav file you created and record a couple dollars worth of tones.
  9. Now, carefully remove the audio jack, put the recorder back together, and the Red Box is complete.

Other Methods

  • Create the tones as MP3 and use a portable MP3 player.
  • Burn the tones on CDR and use a portable CD player.
  • Use a PalmOS compatible handheld and my Red Box software RedPalm++ or (requires cbasPad).

How to use a Red Box

Long Distance

  1. Dial a long distance number.
  2. You will be connected with an electronic or human operator telling you how much money to deposit. Hold the Red Box up to the phone's mouthpiece and play the required number of tones.
  3. When more money is required play more tones into the mouthpiece.

Local Calls

  1. Dial information or an operator and ask them to place your call for you. If they ask why, come up with a unique excuse. "The 4 key isn't working" or "someone smeared gum all over the keypad and I don't want to touch it." Be creative, if they hear the same excuse all the time they are going to be suspicious.
  2. She will ask for money. Insert 5 cents first and then use your Red Box. This prevents the operator from "seeing" that you are using a Red Box. This may or may not be necessary. Experiment.

International Calls

  1. Dial an international phone number.
  2. An operator will ask for money. Insert 5 cents first and then use your Red Box. This prevents the operator from "seeing" that you are using a Red Box. This may or may not be necessary. Experiment.
  3. When more money is required play more tones into the mouthpiece.

Additional Notes

  • Background noise may tip-off a live operator to what you are doing. Choose a quiet location.
  • Rumour has it that Millennium payphones disable the mouthpiece when coins are to be deposited, thereby preventing the use of a Red Box. I have also heard that it IS possible to get the phone into a state where tones CAN be sent through the handset. See Redboxing Millennium Payphones and Millennium Hardware Modification for the purpose of Redboxing.
  • Vary the delay between the tones. This will make it seem like a human is depositing the coins, as opposed to a machine generating them at even intervals.
  • Never use your name on the phone if you're boxing. If an operator questions what you are doing, threatens you, or starts asking you questions, hang up the phone and walk away.
  • The phone company has been known to stake out regularly abused payphones. Make sure you don't abuse a single phone too often. Random calling patterns are always a good idea.
  • Telco security could harass the person you are calling and even try to make them pay for the cost of the call. (This has never happened to anyone I know.) Make sure the people you call are trustworthy and aware of what you are doing. They can simply pretend to be ignorant or say it was some telemarketer. Of course this is not necessary if the person you are calling has no idea who you are.
  • Additional information about payphones can be found at Hack Canada - Canadian H/P - Payphones.

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