Help on using regular speakers or earphones

Posted: 11/3/2009 8:31:31 PM

From: School of Hard Knocks

Joined: 11/3/2009

hello Theremin fans. I am new to this forum and new to the theremin. I have a question but some quick background first: I picked up a used Etherwave Big Briar Theremin off of ebay recently. the ebay listing mentioned there was no amplifier with the theremin, but I assumed (wrongly), that i could just use regular computer speakers and/or earphones with the proper adapter. I've read the FAQs on this webstie that say you must have an amp. But does anyone know of a cheap/easy way for me to use regular computer speakers (like a plug or adaptor)with my theremin? I dont have the money to spend on a real amp (even one priced at $99). any help would be greatly appreciated. I am dying to play my theremin.
Posted: 11/3/2009 10:19:10 PM
Thomas Grillo

From: Jackson Mississippi

Joined: 8/13/2006

You need some sort of amplification.

You should be able to use a small set of powered speakers for PCs.

You can also get a small amplifier for less than $70 from a guitar shop.

But, you'll get best results with a good stereo system, or a good keyboard rated amp.
Posted: 11/3/2009 11:00:09 PM

From: Asheville, NC

Joined: 1/25/2008

I just hooked up my Etherwave to a single low end walkman/computer speaker. They can be operated passive or powered. I used a stereo 1/4" to 1/8" adaptor. The Etherwave is mono but a stereo plug worked fine, it would only come out one side if using two speakers.

In passive (unpowered, no amplification) mode you could just barely hear the theremin if you put your ear to the speaker.

However, powered up on batteries, the speaker did quite well. I could set it right on top within the pitch field and still play reasonably well (this was a quick test, mind you. I did not let the Etherwave warm up or try to play it a lot). If you can find something with an "on" switch that has to be plugged in or have batteries you should be set.

One thing to keep in mind, if you start practicing your theremin with some big thing (speaker) sitting on top it will affect your pitch field and the way the theremin plays and reacts to your movements. Which will change when you move to a bigger amp/speaker setup (that is not sitting on top of your theremin). So I would advise not positioning a small speaker there.

It was not the best or loudest sound around but I liked the convenience of it. I might have to break this out for playing while the family is asleep (I hate playing anything with headphones).

Posted: 11/4/2009 10:18:10 AM

From: School of Hard Knocks

Joined: 11/3/2009

Thanks for the input guys. i tried the powered speakers that i use for my PC and it did not work. So i am happy/dissappointed that it worked for both of you. My speakers have an on/off button too. i did not try to use just one speaker however. i will give that a try and see how it works. i already have the 1/4" to 1/8" adaptor.
Posted: 11/5/2009 6:26:28 PM
Joe Max

From: Oakland, California

Joined: 1/2/2009

It might be that plugging the stereo (or 'tip-ring-sleeve') (TRS) phone plug into the monophonic ('tip-sleeve') jack of the Etherwave grounds out the signal (shorts the ring to ground) and so it won't work. Strange you'd get nothing at all though.

You could try combining the two stereo channels into a single mono channel like this. You need:

- a single male 1/4" mono plug to two-female RCA jacks 'y'- adapter like this:

- a female 1/8" stereo mini-jack to two male RCA plugs adaptor, like this:

Connect the male RCA plugs to the female RCA jacks, making a double-adapter out of the two. This has the effect of splitting a single mono signal into a pair of "stereo" or dual-mono signals, without shorting anything out.

Now connect the 1/4" mono phone plug to the theremin output, and the 1/8" mini-jack at the other end of the double-adapter will connect to your powered PC speakers.

Most electric music instrument stores will have all the plugs, and if you bring your theremin and your PC speakers with you, I'm sure someone can help you get the plugs you need, and even let you plug the theremin into a regular keyboard amp and confirm that it works.

(In fact, my experience is that most workers in a music store will say, "Ooo, a theremin! Cool! Can we plug it in?")

The quick-and-dirty way to check if the cables work is to plug the combination adaptor into the PC speakers, then before you plug into the theremin, touch the very tip of the bare 1/4" phone plug with your finger (with the volume NOT too high!) You should hear a buzz come out of the speakers while you're touching it. If so, they work. Now plug it into the theremin and try it. If you still get NO sound, you might have a bad theremin.

I hope this helps.
Posted: 11/6/2009 12:34:14 AM

From: Asheville, NC

Joined: 1/25/2008

I figured that might be the problem.

When I first plugged it all up and it worked I didn't think about that aspect (it was late ;)

Thanks for posting the long answer solution.

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