Moog Etherwave sounds crappy - and it's not (just) because I'm a lousy player

Posted: 7/8/2009 10:32:46 AM

From: Stockholm, Sweden

Joined: 7/7/2009

Well, I did tell you that I'm a newbie. ;-) Thanks for enlightening me.
Posted: 11/2/2009 4:49:15 AM

From: South Africa

Joined: 11/2/2009

Hi there. Just got my Etherwave Plus on 31st October 2009. I do not have an Amplifier yet so I am playing using a set of headphones. I think I am having a similar problem to the Original Poster.

[P.S.: A poster called Carricre seemed to be describing a similar problem as well, discussed at length starting from the "Shopping Suggestions" thread - 7/31/2009 6:46:05 PM - Please don't say I have to open up the theremin, I am terrified of messing things up inside, it cost me 1.4 times my monthly salary to buy this thing]

Instead of making the "woooo woooo" noise that I expect from theremins, it sounds more like"vrrr vrrr" as if there is some other noise playing on top of the theremin noise. [b]The effect becomes more severe when I turn the brightness knob up[/b] so I have turned the brightness knob fully anti-clockwise, but to get the sound I am looking for [b]it's as if I need to turn the brightness knob even more anti-clockwise than is possible[/b]. The effect is less noticeable at higher notes but I think its because the frequency is too high to notice the "vrrr vrrr".

It is my first time so I am not sure if that is the way the machine is supposed to sound or not. It might also be that it sounds like that because I am using headphones, i don't know. I am in South Africa so I am using a 230V wall wart shipped with the machine. It has the 3 pins on the DIN connector behind the machine, but the wall wart itself is a 2 pin ac adaptor. I hope there's nothing wrong with the machine. Any advice that would reduce my anxiety would be greatly appreciated. If it turns out that the machine is supposed to sound like that, well then I guess I'll have to adjust :-)
Posted: 11/2/2009 12:12:11 PM
Jeff S

From: N.E. Ohio

Joined: 2/14/2005

nutbunny - Don't crack the case open just yet.
When everything is working properly, at no time should the sound (by itself) be harsh or annoying. The effect of the brightness knob only indicates that the offending noise has a higher frequency component.

The first thing to do is to check the headphones with another sound source to make sure they are not the problem. I would also try to find another pair of headphones, or a proper amp, to try out as well.

If you take your theremin to a music store they may let you try it through an amp or two, especially if you lead them to believe you may purchase one in the future.

I am not going to go against our resident electronics wizards, but I've never had a grounding related issue with any of my theremins. None of the power receptacles in my house are grounded.
Posted: 11/2/2009 7:43:10 PM

From: Escondido, CA

Joined: 2/6/2008

Are these players with nasty buzz sounds playing their theremins close to any interfering sources?

For example, a refrigerator motor or A/C system or electric fan? These can cause interference back through the AC mains as well as EMI.

My wife has a little electric fan she brings to gigs. At one of the venues she has to plug it in across the room to keep it from generating noise into our PA system.

House wiring often is split between 2 phases. It's 220 line-to-line with a "neutral" here in the US. So half of the house is wired from neutral to one phase to get 110V and the other half is wired from neutral to the other phase. Thus plugging something into one outlet might be in phase and adding noise while the other would be out of phase and canceling some of the noise.

So as a quick check, try plugging your theremin into different outlets to see if you get less interference.

Posted: 11/2/2009 9:28:35 PM

From: Asheville, NC

Joined: 1/25/2008

The Etherwave does have more of a "vrrr vrrr" sound as compared to some other theremins that go "woo woo", which could be overly emphasized by using headphones as compared to an amplifier.

One could think of it very simply like:

"woo woo" = sine wavy = flute or clean guitar

"vrr vrr" = sine wave + harmonics (higher tones on top of the fundemental "note") = distorted guitar

The brightness knob subtracts the higher harmonics (distorted sound) and would bring it a little closer to a sine wave but also makes it sound a little more "muddy" than a plain sine wave, in my opinion.

This is assuming everything is working properly.

Posted: 11/3/2009 2:16:55 AM

From: South Africa

Joined: 11/2/2009

Thank you for all the advice guys. I did try the theremin at different plug points around the house but it did not affect the tone at all. The headphones are fine as headphones go. I think dae23 is quite correct about the Etherwave having that peculiarity. I am going to a friend this weekend to try out my Etherwave on his amplifier. I am mostly certain (and also hoping) that playing through the amplifier would de-emphasize those extra harmonics that seem to be irritating me, but I shall know for sure once I try the amp out. Will let you guys know the results.
Posted: 11/3/2009 8:53:40 AM

From: Asheville, NC

Joined: 1/25/2008

If you really can't stand the sound I understand the Burns B3 ( theremin has more of a sine wavy tone in a similar price range. I've never played one though. The E-Plus might be the slightly better theremin and it certainly has all the extra bells and whistles.

One could also use the E-Plus's control voltage output with an oscillator (Moog Freqbox or some modular synth modules, somewhat expensive option though).
Posted: 11/3/2009 11:43:36 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Note that not all amps like theremins. In particular some low cost guitar amps don't like the volume levels that the etherwave produces. (I know - I have one; it starts to clip and distort unpleasantly at anything but the softest volumes.)

As a rule, if it can take a synth played with the synth's volume knob at full and you slamming down bunches of keys as hard as you can, then you should be OK with the etherwave.
Posted: 11/4/2009 7:52:48 AM

From: South Africa

Joined: 11/2/2009

HI GordonC. Regarding amps that like the theremin, I know that one should opt for a keyboard amplifier to cover the full range that a theremin produces. However, here in Johannesburg at least, keyboard amps are quite expensive compared to guitar and bass amps and I cannot currently afford to purchase one. Since I am only starting out and am not going to perform professionally for many a year I wanted to know whether I could opt for a bass amp to practice on? Is that a good idea? Is it do-able? Or is the range just too "disabled" by not using a keyboard amp?
Posted: 11/4/2009 8:29:51 AM

From: Colmar, France

Joined: 12/31/2007

There is still another problem with Guitar and Bass amps: Their frequency response is not linear because they compensate the property of magnetic pickups which by physical laws deliver not only a lower signal but also one which is still weaker for lower frequencies and stronger for higher frequencies.
So you do not only risk to overdrive any guitar or bass amp, but also a muddy sound because higher frequencies are less amplified.
I cannot imagine that it is so difficult to get a good and not too expensive keyboard amplifier in a big town like Johannesburg. There is a Behringer Keyboard amp with a 10" Speaker, 40W, 3 inputs and 99 digital effects which is sold in Europe for 160 EUR ~ 235 US$ which is only half the price of an Etherwave. Since this stuff comes from China it shouldn't be more expensive in South Africa, seen that the European Price includes already 19.6% sales tax.

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