Moog Theremini Theremin

iThereal Theremin App for iPhone and iPad

Zero Crossing iThereal Virtual Theremin

App developer Zero Crossing released their new virtual theremin app iThereal for iPhone and iPad today.  

Unlike similar apps, iThereal can serve as a MIDI instrument over Inter-App Audio, allowing you to control instruments in Garageband, for example.

Setting up iThereal to play is simple. Just pinch/zoom along the bottom bar to set the pitch range, then slide left/right to set the starting note.  Then, to play, just tap the screen and slide your finger left/right for pitch and up/down for volume.  Alternatively, you can set iThereal to be controlled by the gyroscope, allowing control of pitch and volume simply by tilting the device.

At $2.99, iThereal is a fun toy for the theremin-curious, but it probably won't cure your craving for a real theremin.  A few tweaks on our wish list would improve playability.  For starters, manipulating the pitch range at the bottom of the screen is a bit difficult for large fingers on the iPhone screen.  Finally, the MIDI signal sent by iThereal is only 7-bit, so your pitch slides will be a little "chirpy" if you have a wide pitch range set.  It would be great if it sent 14-bit MIDI control changes.  

Let's hope Zero Crossing has more updates in the near future.  In the meantime, give it a try, and feel free to post links to your iThereal creations in SoundCloud in the comments below.

iThereal is available for iPhone and iPad in the iTunes App Store: iThereal - Zero Crossing (iTunes)

Two Etherwave Pro Theremins on eBay

It is somewhat rare to see an Etherwave Pro for sale these days, let alone two at once.  On top of that, one of them is brand new!

As always, we encourage you to take online auction listings at face value and do your own research before making a purchase.

Listing 1 - Brand New Moog Etherwave Pro Theremin with Walnut Back

Brand new Moog Etherwave Pro Theremin with Walnut Back

View:  Brand New Moog Etherwave Pro Theremin with Walnut Back  (eBay.com)

Two things make this auction special: 1) the fact that this is a 10 year old instrument still in it's original box, and 2) the walnut back.  Most of the Etherwave Pro's had a black piano finish back.  A small number (75-80 according to the listing) were made with other materials, including this walnut model.  This item has a buy-it-now price of $6495 USD.


Listing 2 - Theremin Moog Etherwave Pro Rare Hard To Find

Theremin Moog Etherwave Pro Rare Hard To Find

View: Theremin Moog Etherwave Pro Rare Hard To Find (eBay.com)

At the time of posting, this auction has 0 bids and a little over a day left.  The starting bid is $4999 USD, and it has a buy-it-now price of $6999. Unfortunately for this seller, the previous listing is a better deal at the moment.


A Brief History of the Etherwave Pro Theremin

The Moog Etherwave Pro theremin was introduced at the 2004 Winter NAMM show and originally sold for around $1000.  It is believed that only 1500 or so units were produced in total.  It's mold-breaking design won awards, but this also made it complex to manufacture.  Production was discontinued in 2007, and since then there has been an unfortunate lack of professional grade theremins in the market.

See more news about the Etherwave Pro from our archives.

Theremin Summer Academy 2015 in Colmar, France

Theremin Summer Academy 2015

Make your plans now for the Theremin Summer Academy in beautiful Colmar, France!

This year's event features individual and group lessons, chamber music classes, theremin upgrade and repair, and more.  Featuring Carolina Eyck, Thorwald Jorgensen, and Thierry Frenkel.  

More information at www.theremin-academy.org

Vintage Moog Troubador Theremin on eBay

Moog Troubador Theremin (via eBay)

The History Center in Tompkins County New York has posted a Moog Troubadour Theremin for sale on eBay.  The theremin was reportedly loaned to the museum for its exhibition, "Switched-On: The Birth of the Moog Synthesizer" and was later donated for fundraising purposes.

The listing includes a short description of the provenance of this theremin:

"In 1969, my sister and her husband, Walt Siering, moved to a farm near Interlaken along with their three children. He had been working for Walter Kidde in New Jersey, and before that had been with other electronics firms. There being few such operations in Ithaca, he was fortunate to get a position with Robert Moog in Trumansburg. As an electronics engineer/technician (I'm not sure how his position was described) he worked in the Moog factory, probably helping with design and board-level troubleshooting.

At the time, I was working in New Jersey as a broadcast engineer at WPAT-FM/AM. In, probably, 1971, he presented me with a Moog Theremin, undoubtedly constructed in Trumansburg, complete with gold-colored antenna rod and walnut case. The story I heard was that Bob Moog had acquired a couple of walnut trees, had them sawn and dried, and they were used for most of the instruments built at the Trumansburg factory.

For most of its life, this theremin lived either in my music/recording room, or, for the past three years, was in a storage locker less than a mile from the Trumansburg Moog factory. When I brought it out to loan to The History Center, I fired it up (gently — paying attention to aging electronics and possible problems) — and found it still played. I had last used it for demonstrations to classes in recording technology at Ithaca College. I suspect some of the components could use replacing, since it seems to lack some sensitivity, but then it has always behaved like this. One is reluctant to make changes in a genuine vintage instrument. 

As far as I know, all parts are original. However, it may be a one-off, since I believe the circuit board is breadboarded (have not looked inside in a while) and not a production line item. I'm not sure Moog was turning out theremins for sale in the early 1970s."

The mention of the breadboard is noteworthy; either this was a prototype unit of some sort, or the original board was replaced at some point. Unfortunately, there are no photos of the inside of the unit for us to evaluate.  As always, with any online auction, we suggest doing a bit of research on your own to make sure you're buying a legitimate item.

As you can tell from the photo, the Troubador theremin bears a striking resemblance to the modern day Etherwave Theremin.  The Troubador was an evolution of the earlier Moog Melodia kit theremin and added a front panel with knobs to adjust volume, timbre, and pitch.  The volume antenna was a brass plate on the left side of the unit.

As of this posting, bidding for this item has reached $707.  A similar Troubador theremin sold back in 2005 for a little over $1000.  Not a bad markup, as these originally sold for $160 according to MoogArchives.com.

Many thanks to the readers who pointed this sale out to us!

View the auction: Moog Troubadour Theremin (c. 1961) (eBay.com)

A Visit to the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention

Spark Museum of Electrical Innovation

The Spark Museum of Electrical Invention in Bellingham, Washington is home to an outstanding collection of electronics history.  My son and I stopped by this week during Spring Break to check out their exhibits.  

The museum has an incredible collection of scientific instruments, antique radios, phonographs, televisions, microphones, batteries, motors, telegraphs, telephones, and other gadgets.  An electronics history buff could literally spend days examining all the devices on display.  Many of the items are actually for sale as well!  They have an equally impressive overflow archive of items not on display, including LPs, old issues of electronics magazines, and other devices.  Is it wrong that I want to live in this museum?

Got tubes?

Vintage radios at the Spark Museum

Of course, the highlight (and our main reason for visiting) was their theremin display.  Spark has both a Signature Series Etherwave theremin and an original RCA theremin (#200085, via RCATheremin.com).  The RCA is connected to a Model 106 speaker and is in working condition.  Normally it's not turned on for the public, but the staff graciously accepted my request to try it out.  It sounds beautiful, but I found the volume response to be a little too soft and the pitch antenna had a bit of latency.  There was also a slight gurgle in the bass register.  Still... what a treat to get to play a working RCA!  A group of students was visiting the museum that day, so I also got to give a brief impromptu demonstration for some of them.  Hopefully at least one will be inspired to try out the theremin themselves.  

(Yes, I realize the volume antenna is upside down - we'll work on getting that fixed).  

I'd like to give a special thanks to Operations Director Tana Granack and Co-Founder & Curator Jonathan Winter for their hospitality and for letting us try out the RCA theremin.  They also let us sit in on a demonstration of their singing Tesla Coil "Elvis".  Trust me, watching 400,000 volts of lighting belt out "Purple Haze" is something you simply must see to believe. 

Learn more about the museum at SparkMuseum.org, and be sure to check it out if you're in the Seattle/Bellingham/Vancouver BC area!  And while you're there, be sure to stop at Rocket Donuts across the street to hang with Gort! 

Gort at Rocket Donuts