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Help buying Theremin - Which one?

Posted: Tue Nov 18, 2014 9:37 pm
by BorisYeltsin
There's only one theremin shop where I live. The shop has the following theremins:

Moog Theremini - Etherwave Theremin
Moog Etherwave Theremin Plus
Moog Etherwave Standard Theremin Ask

The Standard Theremin doesn't seem to have any CV out or anything besides from audio out.

Is it possible to play/control other synths with a theremin? If so, exactly what can be controlled? I guess if I want to use the theremin with another synth, there must be CV-out on the theremin?

The Theremini is the cheapest, and the plus is about + 2/3 the price of the Theremini.

I prefer the design of the Plus over the Theremini, but + 2/3 price is "a bit" much just for design. What else does the Plus offer that the Theremini doesn't have?

So, which theremin do I need?

Will there be theremins with midi in the near future? Should I wait?

Re: Help buying Theremin - Which one?

Posted: Thu Nov 20, 2014 1:53 pm
by BorisYeltsin
What are the differences between the Theremini and the Etherwave plus?


Re: Help buying Theremin - Which one?

Posted: Fri Nov 21, 2014 1:07 pm
by Satri
BorisYeltsin wrote:What are the differences between the Theremini and the Etherwave plus?
I'm no Theremin expert, but I got my Theremini last weekend :-). The Theremini is significantly different from the Etherwave Plus.

As a newbie myself in terms of theremins:
* Etherwave Plus: very precise theremin, professional grade, but only a single timbre
* Theremini: less precise, but you can play and modify 30+ presets (Animoog-engine based) that comes with the Theremini

You can play various different sounds with the Theremini, while with Etherwave, you have a precise theremin but can only play the classic theremin timbre, nothing else. So it really depends on what you're looking for, it's two different instruments regarding what comes out of them. To learn more and see them in action, search for both instruments on YouTube. You can also refer to

Hope this helps -- Alex

Re: Help buying Theremin - Which one?

Posted: Sat Nov 22, 2014 4:40 am
by BorisYeltsin
Satri wrote:
BorisYeltsin wrote:Hope this helps -- Alex
Yes, definitely.

Thanks :D

Re: Help buying Theremin - Which one?

Posted: Sat Nov 22, 2014 1:44 pm
by synthguy
Hi Boris:
If you plan to use a theremin to control other synths, then the Theremini will do a much better job. It has a CV out that can be assigned to either the pitch or volume antenna, and each antenna also outputs a Midi CC.
Here's a review I posted at Amazon that describes most of the current features...

Playing a Theremin is hard. Really hard, and this has helped keep this instrument mostly off the radar, and relegated it to obscure cameos in science fiction movies for decades.
This is the instrument that could change all of that. Moog is flexing their software muscles here, and the Theremini has sound generation capabilities fueled by their Animoog sound engine, a powerful software wavetable synthesizer for the IOS platform. There are 32 presets available ranging from the classic Theremin scary Halloween tones to deep Moog bass drones, to interplanetary space ship flybys.
It is tempting to try and compare this new instrument to the traditional Theremin (and believe me, there are those who seem unable to do anything else), but to do so would be missing the point.
Having had a chance to borrow a Moog Etherwave from a friend and practice with it for several months, as a synthesist I found that its rather narrow tonal range, limited ability to interface to other synths and difficulty to play in tune (thanks to my shoddy technique) didn't offer enough incentive for me to seriously pursue it any farther. I'm guessing that the traditional Theremin has always had a limited number of people who are really interested in learning to master this difficult instrument. However, the lure of a gestural-based instrument that could neatly interface with both vintage and modern synths has always been great, and this is just what the new Theremini brings to the table, courtesy of the brilliant engineers at Moog.
When I saw the info for the Theremini, I imagined that this would offer much more of interest to my tastes. This has certainly turned out to be true for me, and I suspect it will for many others as well.

The big news here is the completely variable pitch correction software, and this is what makes it so attractive to the wistful novice Thereminist/Synthesist. With this control turned all the way down, the instrument responds just like a standard Theremin, with pitch infinitely variable as you move you hand close to the pitch antenna. As the control is turned up, the pitch is more closely locked into place with hand movement, until when completely up only the notes of the selected scale are produced, with no wrong or off pitch tones. With the control about halfway up, you can easily hit the right note and still be able to add subtle vibrato and other cool inflections. Having completely adjustable control between the two extremes is an excellent feature, and very liberating. An on board tuner shows you what note is being produced by note name (also functioning as a silent preview before you raise the volume of a note) and a deviation indicator for pitch shows how close to the proper pitch you are for each note. You can choose from 22 different normal and esoteric scales to spice up your creations, and the volume antenna lets you fade sounds in and out, pick out and shape any individual notes or continously glissando through the selected scale.

Be aware that, depending on the scale selected, the tuner will only show the notes available in that scale, and the deviation bar of the tuner shows the distance necessary to reach the next note of the scale (which may be far). This can be confusing to some users, leading them to think that the tuner is inaccurate, because selecting different factory presets on the Theremini also selects different scales, which changes how the tuner responds. Tested against a Peterson strobe tuner, it is actually accurate to about .1 cents, which is very, very good.

Built in stereo digital delay adds depth to the sonic landscape, and I found that after a bit of practice, I was up and creating my own ethereal melodies. Super Fun! As my technique improves with practice, I'll be able to dial down the pitch correction until hopefully at some point I'll be able to hit the proper pitches on my own! The instrument allows you to calibrate both the actual usable playing space, as well as the note range that can be fit inside it, enabling you to fine tune the playing experience to your particular tastes. This is a more complicated calibration procedure than the simple controls provided by a standard Theremin (typically just a single knob) but with some practice and patience it can yield a much more customized playing experience.

For many decades now, the true beauty of most Moog instruments is that they have offered a wealth of features and capabilities available to those that choose to dig deeper, and the Theremini is certainly no exception in this regard. As a stand-alone instrument, the Theremini frankly seems kind of limited at first glance. There isn't much available to the user past selecting the presets and some rudimentary editing (and this has seemed to frustrate some less experienced users), but there are a large number of "under the hood" goodies that can be easily and powerfully accessed via Midi, and these will allow you to customize how you choose to interact with the instrument. Pitch Quantization, note scales, note range and root key (and much more!) are all under instant Midi control, as are the filter, delay and wavetable controls. Using a typical set of Midi pedals and switches allows you completely re-shape the instrument and playing experience on the fly while performing. Placing the Pitch Quantization under Midi pedal control is especially satisfying, as it lets you precisely control how much it affects the pitch, while leaving your hands free for better control. If you're using a Midi-capable sequencer for backing accompaniment, this even allows you to tie exact control of the instrument directly to the musical score, freeing the performer up to concentrate on precise antenna control.

The small built-in mono speaker is nice for easy practice, but be sure to connect the stereo line outs on the back to a decent amplification system to get a taste of what the Animoog-powered synth engine can really deliver! The built in headphone jack disconnects the speaker and allows for late-night playing without disturbing anyone (very thoughtful inclusion, and true stereo performance here as well).

Some quibbles with the unit are that it feels a little cheaply made, to be expected I guess with so much packed into it at such a low price point (this unit costs just a bit more than the cheapest Moogerfooger pedal!!!). The knobs feel a little wobbly, but seem to work well enough. There's a volume knob, but it only affects the volume of the built in speaker and headphone amp, and has no effect on the main stereo outputs (which can be controlled via Midi, of course). It's handy to have immediate control of the overall volume, and hopefully this can be added in a future software update.

Speaking of updates, a USB port on the back allows for connection to a computer for this and other activities. An editor is in the works and should be available shortly (it's now available, see below) to let you create or modify your own presets as well as access other under the hood features. A MIDI interface can be connected here as well to allow control of modern synths via Theremin, and a CV out jack on the back helps you interface it's Theremini Goodness to more old school instruments. Each antenna can be assigned to your choice of a Midi CC number. The CV out jack can be assigned to follow either antenna, and can be externally scaled to allow a standard 1V/oct synth to track it for more than 6 octaves, effectively turning the Theremini into an absolute analog monster. These are the touches that really propel this unit beyond the standard Theremin capabilities.

Although there's a stand connector on the bottom of the unit, it fits the smaller European stand connector, which is admittedly kind of weird. An adapter is easily available for around $3, however. Having it on a stand is a definite advantage, although the grippy rubber feet on the bottom allow it to perch quite nicely on a tabletop as well, which is where my unit spent its first few weeks until I got an adapter from Ebay.

As a final thought about the relationship between the new Theremini and a standard Theremin, although they do share some similarities (mainly gestural control) they really are very different instruments. If you really like what the Theremin does ( look, sound and play like a Theremin) then that's likely the instrument for you, and Moog and others make some fine ones. However, if you're interested in an instrument that goes way beyond those boundaries in just about every direction, then you may find that the new Theremini is just what you've been looking for. In my experience, thinking of the Theremini as a replacement Theremin is like thinking of a MiniMoog as a replacement Harpsichord.
This is a serious reimagining of a classic instrument, and Moog has brought a lot to the table in a cool looking instrument that brings the power of the Theremin to everyone, even a novice like me!
Kudos Moog!
Edit: Moog has already released a firmware update that fixes a problem where sometimes the volume antenna would not work. This would cause the unit to turn on, but not make any sound. Although I didn't have this problem with my unit, I noticed that one of the reviewers here seemed to have this exact problem, and their unit would likely be fixed by downloading and installing the newest update. Also worth mentioning is that the USB connector on the back is a mini-style connector so you will probably need an appropriate adapter cable to interface the Theremini with your computer or IPad.
Moog has now released their FREE editor for the IPad (Windows and OSX versions to follow) and this really will make a great addition to the capabilities of the unit. All of the current editing possibilities are brought out to a very nice graphic interface, and this allows for creation and editing of as many presets as you want. A librarian is included with a bunch of new cool presets, and this also gives you the capability to store your new creations, and email them for archival purposes (or even share them with like-minded individuals). Presets can be easily swapped between the librarian and the 32 user preset slots on the Theremin, allowing you to precisely set your unit up for stand alone live performance.

Keep in mind that since this unit has user updateable firmware, all of this just represents the capabilities of the unit RIGHT NOW. Who knows what goodies the future holds in store?

I hope this helps, Boris!

Re: Help buying Theremin - Which one?

Posted: Sat Nov 22, 2014 8:41 pm
by Bald Eagle
@synthguy ... Thanks for sharing that detailed review. I had never seriously considered a theremin before but now it has my interest.

It is my understanding that Animoog patches can't be loaded into the Theremini, but are there any issues using the Theremini as a controller for the Animoog on the iPad?

Re: Help buying Theremin - Which one?

Posted: Mon Nov 24, 2014 2:41 pm
by BorisYeltsin
Thanks Synthguy!

Re: Help buying Theremin - Which one?

Posted: Mon Nov 24, 2014 4:27 pm
by synthguy
Glad to be of help. I've been having a tremendous amount of fun with my Theremini, and looking forward to what the future has in store for this very cool little guy.

You can interface the Theremini to the Animoog app on the IPad very easily by just plugging in the USB output of the Theremini into a USB adapter for your particular IPad (lightning connector for the newer ones, and the 30 pin camera connector for older models).
You'll see the Theremini show up in the Animoog Midi source menu, and you can assign the CC numbers that the antennas are set to to control the various destinations available in the Animoog app.

If you want to control external Midi devices, you'll need a USB Midi interface and a USB hub to connect it all together. I've been using the super cheap "hockey puck" type USB interfaces you can find on EBay (about $3 shipped!) and they work just fine. In fact, I just bought another one to tear apart to see how it works, and it looks like it could easily be repackaged into a sturdier housing and wired to add an additional Midi output (according to the data sheet for the chip used to power it). This is a possible future project.

I've found that the IPad MIdiBridge app is very useful in setting up more complex Midi routings for several different devices at once, and it also lets you usefully modify the Midi data to suit your purposes, as the Theremini currently only transmits and receives Midi data on channel one. A steep learning curve for this, but well worth the effort.

Midisequencer on the IPad is another great app that works very well with the Theremini. It not only sequences Midi notes (which the Theremini does not recognize) but also CC data (which the Theremini does recognize). It allows you to sequence all sorts of wonderful things, even the pitch if you use it to sequence the Transpose CC. This allows you to set up a note sequence that you can transpose using the pitch antenna, and it will even follow the selected scale, transposing your sequence's root pitch through just the notes specified by the scale. Add some digital delay, and you have a very musical pattern generator under gestural control. Many other tricks, like sequencing the wavetable or the high and low note limits are possible as well.
You'll like it.

Re: Help buying Theremin - Which one?

Posted: Mon Nov 24, 2014 7:34 pm
by Bald Eagle
To bad the Theremini doesn't have MIDI DIN out. I route all midi into a MOTU MIDI Express. Will have to figure out how to integrate this.

Re: Help buying Theremin - Which one?

Posted: Tue Nov 25, 2014 1:43 am
by slabwax
I don't know if it would work but try a Kenton usb to din it is a midi host. I use one with my microbrute. It allows me to use the microbrute as a controller. So in theory it should work.

Re: Help buying Theremin - Which one?

Posted: Tue Nov 25, 2014 1:57 pm
by synthguy
If you plug the Theremini into the USB port of your computer, it should show up in the source and destination slots for the MOTU. Curious to see how this actually works.

Re: Help buying Theremin - Which one?

Posted: Wed Nov 26, 2014 2:21 am
by Bald Eagle
Thanks for the info ... All good ideas ... I was hoping to avoid having to require a Windows PC for the performance interface but I think I will have to bite the bullet and get a lightweight PC at this point. Maybe the MS Surface will work out for that. It's not much bigger than an iPad anyway.

The Theremini seems to have quite a long back order time so it will be some time before I can try.

Re: Help buying Theremin - Which one?

Posted: Wed Nov 26, 2014 5:06 am
by synthguy
Check Amazon or EBay. In stock there. I got mine right away from EBay when they first came out.