Newcomer - Theremin Etherwave Standard Weird Noise...

Posted: 3/11/2021 8:48:30 PM

Joined: 3/11/2021

Hello everyone,

I am very new to the wonderful world of theremin, and have been trying to play my the Theremin Etherwave Standard for few weeks now. Excuse me in advance for not knowing the vocabulary really well. 
When everything is set and I try to tune it with the pitch knob, the sound stops in the middle between me and the pitch antenna. I also noticed that my theremin sounds like police sire, a saw tooth wave more than a sine. I does not change when I turn the waveform knob. 
I have tried everything from changing the environment, testing every knob positions... Watched youtube videos and make researchs. The sound remains the same so it is pretty difficult for me to practice. 

here's a sample:

Therefore I call today on your help 

Thank you very much in advance,


Posted: 3/11/2021 11:21:58 PM

From: The East of the Netherlands

Joined: 6/18/2019

Hi H and welcome,

First thing that comes to mind is if your setup is properly grounded. Could you tell how exactly do you have things set up and connected?

Posted: 3/12/2021 2:40:43 AM

From: Minnesota USA

Joined: 11/27/2015

That recording actually sounds like one of the many normal tones that a stock Etherwave can produce with wave and brightness settings in the right combination, but the fact that changing those controls doesn't change the tone is odd. Try running both the Brightness and Waveform knobs to various combinations to see if the tone changes.

But more importantly it sounds like the zero-beat (where the sound stops) of the theremin is occurring with your arm somewhat extended instead of near your chest.  Is this correct? Does the Pitch knob affect this at all so that you can move that point closer to your body?  You're going to want that note to go very low in pitch or to silence with your pitch hand close to your chest.

As DreadVox stated above the grounding of the theremin can affect whether you can reach the correct tuning with the Pitch knob.  If you are in the US the theremin grounding is taken care of through the third prong of your power supply adapter.  If you don't have mains ground in your country then you will have to ground the theremin through other means. Tell us where you are located and what you have for mains power.

If you believe that the theremin is grounded properly and you feel that the Pitch knob turned all the way to one end of the range is going in the right direction but can't quite get you to where you want to be, it could be that the theremin needs an internal tweak (but don't do this yet!). Seasonal humidity changes can affect the tuning so that the pitch (or volume) knobs have to be increasingly off-center to the point that they simply run out of range. 

As an experiment you might try placing a some metal (like some coins) or little piece of aluminum foil on the top of the theremin near the pitch antenna just to see how this affects your pitch tuning range or your ability to reach the proper zero-beat.

Post some more information or your results and maybe one of us can help.

Posted: 3/12/2021 5:36:08 AM
CB Thereminist

From: Ontario

Joined: 1/28/2020

I had a similar issue with my first Etherwave Plus after a small drop (this taught me a VERY valuable lesson in handling instruments...). I had exactly the symptoms you describe, and it turns out the impact of that one-foot drop had completely cracked in half the circuit board in the front panel. Internal tuning could get it into a playable range, but none of the knobs functioned, so this could not be adjusted and the timbres were stuck as they were - pretty well with exactly the same sound as yours.

My advice is to follow the steps Pitt and Dread outlined above. If all else fails and you have to open it, find yourself a reference picture of the circuitry inside and start inspecting for any obvious damage. If you haven't exposed it to any impacts or electrical surges or anything else that might damage a delicate electronic, something may have been defective on purchase and you should look into exchanging it for a new one. But we'll go down that road if we come to it. For now, good luck!

Posted: 3/12/2021 10:17:24 AM

Joined: 3/11/2021

Thank you all very much for these answers!!

@DreadVox and @pitts8rh : I set up the theremin on a microphone stand, relatively away from walls and large objects. The first few times I plugged it into a power strip, and an amplifier (also plugged into this outlet). I actually made the recording on this setup, when I go from my chest to the pitch antenna, the sound first goes down instead of up, stops in the middle of the path, then goes up towards the antenna. The pitch knob does not change anything... Then I changed the setup as you recommended with a wall socket and it works beautifully, the sound is increasing from my chest to the antenna as wanted. (I'm in France ) The pitch button works well too, to find the right distance, and now the waveform and brightness buttons change the sound. Nevertheless I tried several setups to find the right sound but unfortunately it seems that this kind of "alarm sound" is always present  

@CB Thereminist : I was very careful not to drop it, or hit it, I am very careful. Maybe it was during the transport when I was sent it? Do you think it could be a problem of this kind now that I have made the right adjustments?

But thank you very much again for the recommendations!

Posted: 3/12/2021 1:12:52 PM

From: Minnesota USA

Joined: 11/27/2015

"now the waveform and brightness buttons change the sound. Nevertheless I tried several setups to find the right sound but unfortunately it seems that this kind of "alarm sound" is always present" - phaxalotl

So your Waveform and Brightness knobs are adjusting the timbre (the tone or character of the sound - harshness or smoothness), but you are saying that it still sounds too harsh?

On my Etherwave with the Brightness set fully counterclockwise and the Waveform set at 9 o'clock the tone is very mellow with very few harmonics.  I should note that my Etherwave has been modified and I don't know if my settings will be the same, but if yours is working correctly you should be able to find a smooth sound with some combination of those two knobs. 

Even having only two adjustments to play with can give you a lot of combinations (infinite number, actually), and with theremins the knobs don't necessarily work like traditional tone controls.  The extremes of smooth to bright sounds won't necessarily be found at the ends of the knob ranges - sometimes they are found with odd combinations of knob settings.

If you were to post a recording like you did previously but with a description here to give some idea of how it sounds with the Waveform and Brightness knobs at various settings we could probably tell you if those controls are working correctly. For example, set Brightness fully CCW and then play continuously as you slowly sweep the Waveform knob from fully CCW to fully CW.  Then set Brightness to mid-range and repeat playing while slowly sweeping the Waveform knob CCW to CW.  Finally, repeat with the Brightness at full CW.

If this is your first exposure to the Etherwave theremin and you haven't played any others, it's possible that there is nothing wrong with the theremin but you were simply expecting a better sound. It's not unusual for people to feel that the stock Etherwave sounds too harsh. Let's first make sure your theremin isn't broken and then we can talk about options to improve the sound if you want.

Glad to hear that you're getting a better tuning range though. Temperature, humidity, and just the passage of time can cause the Etherwave's tuning to change. I just pulled my Etherwave out of its case and set it up to find that it is quite out of tune.  I have to set my Pitch knob almost fully CCW to get the zero-beat to occur at the correct hand position.  That's pretty normal with seasonal changes here in the midwestern US.

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