Very basic advice needed.....

Posted: 2/15/2008 11:44:19 AM

From: England

Joined: 2/15/2008


I've been reading this site for some time, together with information found at various of the links you helpfully provide.

While all of the information is extremely well presented, I still find myself unable quite to place an order for any particular theremin.

I'm buying as a gift for my husband who has been enthusiastic about these instruments for many years. He is fairly experienced in electronics (probably that is an understatement but perhaps it is best to be conservative)and so I'm sure he would be quite capable of building a kit.

First of all I was ready to buy from I spoke to them by telephone and they were very friendly but this was an expensive option as I was told I needed both the Elysian theremin and their midi device.

Then I read on this site that a good theremin should have two antenna. This ruled out the Elysian. I found the Theremax Theremin in kit form and thought it seemed reasonable but no mention of midi interfaces.

I looked at the various video clips around and everyone serious seemed to be playing something that looked at least like the Moog Etherwave.

So - sorry for this long rambling message - but the basic question is should I buy my husband an Etherwave in kit form. If so, does anyone know if this can be delivered to a UK address (I note reported delivery problems in other parts of this forum, but I do understand that Theremin World doesn't sell instruments directly!!! This is just to ask for advice)

Does anyone have experience of the Theremax Theremin? It isn't hugely cheaper than the Moog so I guess I can find the additional dollars if necessary.

I would be very grateful for any help that anyone on this forum might offer in terms of advice. As you will have worked out I am extremely ignorant in terms of both theremins and electronics and I don't want to make an expensive mistake if it can be avoided.

Many many thanks in advance to anyone kind enough to help.

Posted: 2/15/2008 1:17:01 PM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005

If you want a LOT of hands-on soldering, if you like to "tinker" then the Theremax is a good option.

However, for playability, definately go with the Etherwave. On Ebay you can find new Etherwave kits starting at $307 USD.

Make sure you order one with a UK power supply.

-- Kevin
Posted: 2/15/2008 5:01:52 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Welcome to Theremin World, Diana.

The Elysian [i]is[/i] a two antenna theremin. You don't need the MCV1a. (If you're the target market for the instrument you probably do. See below.)

While it is more expensive than an etherwave it is equipped with an internal speaker, so is playable straight from the box. And it has a headphone out too. If you have been watching youTube videos you probably understand why this is a very good thing. :-)

The design is a tadge more elegant than the etherwave in my opinion and quicker to put together at a gig. It even includes a clip at the back to hold the pitch rod when dismantled. The model illustrated on the website is not the current model - it lacks the design details, such as the top extending out over the knobs to protect them from beer spills, of the most recent iteration.

However, Jake Rothman's target market is not [i]thereminists[/i] so much as eletronica musicians who are surrounded by equipment and use the theremin as a part of their performance rather than the central focus. To this end the volume antenna is a plate on the upper surface of the instrument, rather than a protruding loop, and the logic of the antenna is reversed, so that it is loudest when the hand is closest to the plate, and can be safely left alone to play instruments located near the pitch rod.

While he does make Elysians with the volume logic the way most thereminists prefer - raise the hand, raise the volume - my personal feeling is that a loop is preferable.

It is a single timbre theremin - again on the assumption that the owner will be well equipped with ways of changing the sound. The tone is optimal for the MCV1a to accurately translate the audio output of the instrument into MIDI data to send to a synthesiser or computer.

The "ring mod" effect is... uh, [i]interesting[/i]. Essentially it is a circuit bend that Jake discovered accidentally, and is included because it costs precisely one switch and two pieces of wire to manufacture.

Back to the plus side. As a one man operation you get the benefits of service that you may not get from a reseller. Also, last year Jake took the opportunity to attend the Hands Off theremin symposium and get feedback on the design from a lot of top notch players. He said he would be making changes to the instrument to better accommodate the needs of thereminists, but what these entail I do not know.

The Moog Etherwave is the instrument of choice for the vast majority of players. It is available in the UK, from Turnkey ( and Soundcontrol ( for £199. (Soundcontrol is "coming soon", and has been since January 15th when I first noticed it.) I had no problems in getting delivery from Turnkey. It came with a UK power supply. I don't think they do the kit form, and my opinion is that it is a small saving for a lot of extra work.

Posted: 2/15/2008 6:40:15 PM

From: Connecticut

Joined: 10/10/2007

I have to say, if you can get your hands on an Etherwave kit GO FOR IT! Almost anyone can put it together and it's practically the highest quality theremin you can get.
Posted: 2/16/2008 4:12:13 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Diana, please excuse me while I hijack your thread for a moment. A new mySpace pal of mine has asked me a related question, so I am directing him here rather than retype a lot of what I wrote yesterday. I just need to add a few extra notes.

Hi Macusa. :-)

Opto-theremins are low end devices suitable for the lo-fi & circuit-bent market. There is one person I know of that makes high end optical theremins, but they are still in the prototype stage, and it may well be a while before anything commercial appears. In the meantime it might be worth watching his eBay site ( as he regularly sells a funky little optical theremin style midi controller that his customers rate very highly.

The U.S. based Wavefront Technologies ( make a theremin-->CV/MIDI controller which is, as far as I can tell, identical to the MCV1a, and a theremin in a briefcase that I have heard good reports about.
Posted: 2/16/2008 3:39:06 PM

Joined: 2/21/2005

If your husband is a hobbyist and likes to solder things, I would recommend the Theremax as the best full-featured theremin in its price range. However, I must point out that the Etherwave is the choice of most serious musicians and professionals who wish to add this instrument to their repertoire. If you are not working on a budget, the Etherwave is hand-down the best theremin buy out there.

Oh, and don't forget... most theremins do NOT have speakers; you must use either an appropriate amplifier (guitar, keyboard) or a headset. Good hunting.
Posted: 2/17/2008 8:49:43 AM

From: England

Joined: 2/15/2008

Many thanks for all of the very detailed advice given in response to my question. I think I will wait a day or two to give myself time to reflect on what has been said.

I had also written to the guys at Theremax and received a very detailed response from them concerning their machine. They responded quickly to my initial mail and promise that if there are problems during the build they will offer support.

I don't doubt my husband's ability to follow build instructions but of course it is always a plus if there is someone able to offer advice should something be less than obvious during the project.

I thought I had found the ideal yesterday when I visited the site zZsounds (there is a link to them somewhere on the Theremin World site) - they had an Etherwave 'warehouse resealed' for 339 dollars - only ten dollars more than the kit. Then I found that they will only ship within the USA.... It is still on the site today (they say they only have one) so I thought it worth mentioning here in case anyone is interested.

Having now looked at the owner's manual for the Elysian I can see the second antenna (a plate) that I had missed before. From the responses to my initial query it seems that this is again a serious contender.

The internal speaker seems a good 'plus' as while we do have a couple of amps it is perhaps more likely that Ron will persevere beyond the preliminary difficult stages if he doesn't have to drag an amp out each time he wants to play.

I'll follow up the links in your replies to this thread and try to be decisive...

Many thanks again for all the information you have provided - I'll post once I've placed an order to let you know what we end up with !
Posted: 2/17/2008 10:54:41 AM

From: England

Joined: 2/15/2008

The more I read the more this gets complicated !

Ron, my husband and recipient of which ever theremin I buy, is left handed. I read praise for the Theremax on the basis it is simple to switch things around to make it suitable for a left handed player.

Are any of you left handed? Does being left handed rule out any of the main theremin models?

As an aside, in the email I received from the people at PAiA Theremax is a link to a video of a guy building their kit. It is well made and I enjoyed watching it:

Again, thanks in advance for your help !
Posted: 2/17/2008 12:48:08 PM

From: new haven ct.

Joined: 7/8/2005

I'm left handed. All the companies offer left handed models, usually for a price and a little bit more of a wait. The etherwave kit comes with instructions for building it left handed.

Posted: 2/17/2008 8:44:50 PM

From: Colmar, France

Joined: 12/31/2007

I'm not sure if a left-handed version of a theremin is really needed.

Ok, I'm right-handed, but I learnt (as everybody who learns to play violin) to hold my instrument in the left hand, using the fingers of my left hand to fix the pitch of the tones.
Now I play theremin and moving the right hand to change pitch seems strange to me and I should perhaps prefer an "inverted" instrument, but I will continue practizing until it will work.
I think it is a question of how one started with something and which habits one formed.

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