volume antenna response for different theremins

Posted: 9/6/2006 7:39:30 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

I have been wondering how the volume antennae responses vary on different theremins.

My Kees Enkelaar, for instance, has a distance of about 2cm between silence and full volume when played with the hand above the loop, and about 1cm with the hand to the side of the loop. (The position of the intermediate zone is altered by adjusting the volume knob, but not its thickness.)

This makes it easy to play notes with a fast attack and decay, but difficult to get fine control for more expressive playing. I can compensate for this to some extent by using the output volume knob to set the maximum volume for a piece, so I can still use the full thickness (such as it is) for quieter, more expressive pieces, or turn the volume up to max for loud, punchy pieces.

Recent experience with an Etherwave suggested it has a thicker intermediate zone, making it more suitable for subtle expression. (But no output volume control - although this could be added in the form of, say, a pedal - if required.) I was not in a position to spend a minute figuring out just how thick, but it has made me curious. I also recall a comment made by Charlie D about the snappy response of the etherwave Pro.

Posted: 9/6/2006 12:43:07 PM

From: Undisclosed location without Dick Cheney

Joined: 2/21/2005

It's a little hard to tell with my Etherwave because my crummy amp acts overdriven if you sneeze at it, but my best guess is that the "thickness" of its volume response area is about 8 inches.
Posted: 9/7/2006 4:29:30 PM

From: Morrisville, PA

Joined: 10/19/2005

My Kees is definitely to-the-max on the snappiness of attack. However, using Kees's instructions for setting zero beat, I was able to get the threshhold between silence and noise at about ten centimeters above the volume antenna. From there, I can ease from silence to full volume within a range of about another ten. I just fiddled with it until it worked. I'm sure you must already be doing this, but:

Before turning the Kees theremin on I turn the front volume knob as far clockwise as it will go and I set all other dials to "midnight." I turn the theremin on and then play with the little knob in the BACK until I get the LOWEST and LOUDEST sound possible. I then place my hand over the volume antenna at a height of about ten centimeters and turn the volume knob on the front counterclockwise, slowly, until I get silence. From there, everything works well, and I can get a decent range in volume from gradually soft to loud.

The standard Etherwave is ideal, can get very subtle and gradual from soft to loud over the course of about 12 inches.

My E-Pro WAS doing well, but over the course of the last six months or so, something's changed and I need to adjust the volume pot located just by the volume antenna. It's snap has muddied considerably over time and needs a tweak or two.

....came back in - it;s hours later and the E-Pro adjustments worked like a charm. Snappy again as ever.
Posted: 9/8/2006 12:01:23 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Hmm, tried your routine on the Kees, but to no avail. (My usual route is to tune the back knob to zero beat, and then use the front for minor adjustments.) I assume there is some variability in the manufacture of Kees theremins. Wonder what other people's experiences are.

I've spoken to Kees about extending the range, and he's working on it.
Posted: 9/9/2006 1:23:29 AM
Jeff S

From: N.E. Ohio

Joined: 2/14/2005

I've heard people use the word "snappy" to describe both the all too sudden initiation of sound and an overall quick response of the entire range.

The Kees Enkelaar seems to have both. It sounds like most Kees theremins have a similar volume response.

I've even opened mine up to manipulate the variable inductors but did not get any significant improvement. I can get a fairly decent response by tuning the volume knob to the left (which reduces the overall sound output) and turning up the amp to compensate.

I rarely need or use a "snappy" volume response and I must admit I'm hopelessly spoiled by my E-Pro. I've seriously considered selling my Kees and getting an Etherwave instead. Or perhaps Mark Keppinger is actually working on a new solid state design as I once heard.

Over the last year I've contacted Kees on two occasions a few months apart to ask if he would try to come up with some correction for this very issue, but I've received no response from him. I have not pressed him further as I do not wish to harass the man. I'd be very interested to hear if you get a response.
Posted: 9/9/2006 8:10:32 AM

From: Kingston, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

I play an EWPro.

The volume antennae has been a lengthy adventure.
Initially it was way too snappy for me,
in a bad way.

I could not play a smooth fade in no matter what
the settings were and playing softly was
extremely difficult.

I finally had the volume mod. done on it.
It felt better after that and played much more smoothly.

The final change was to adjust that super sensitive
little pot under the antennae to place the start of sound point a little higher, a little farther from the antennae.

Currently it feels just right and I've been able to get
more nuance with less arm movement along with good sharp
attacks when the vol. knob is adjusted upwards.

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