Pre-assembled kit vs. making your own

Posted: 11/26/2008 4:11:29 PM

Joined: 11/26/2008

Hey all. I am in need of some help. I know close to nothing about theremins, and my husband has been wanting to make a theremin since we got married about 9 months ago. I would love to get him a little kit for Christmas, whether I buy it online or put all the components together and let him do it all from scratch. I know that he wants to build his own. He's done soldering and circuit boards and all of that stuff, so I don't think it would be too hard for him.

I'm not sure if I should get him the pre-made kits, or if I should just get him all the stuff he will need to make a theremin. Which is cheaper? What is a good kit to buy for a reasonable price? I've looked into the Harrison 101 kit and the Jaycar kit mostly. How hard is it to put these kits together? And if I should just get him all the parts instead of a kit, what are the best places to buy them? Any input would be awesome! Thanks!
Posted: 11/27/2008 5:39:42 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Hi Lauren, welcome to Theremin World. I see that Christmas is coming, and people are inspired to gift theremins. Ain't love a beautiful thing. :-)

Your choice depends on a number of things - your budget, your husband's skill level with electronics and the intended purpose of the finished theremin.

If, for instance, you have a sizeable budget and a husband with experience in tube technology and carpentry and with classical music skills then the key word here is Keppinger. Building a Keppinger theremin is a project of monumental proportions, but will end with a beautiful piece of furniture, not too dissimilar from the original RCA Victor theremins. This is the aspirational theremin for theremin builders.

For a lower budget, minimal build time and a theremin that is suitable for live performances - concerts and gigs - the Moog Etherwave theremin is available in mostly-made kit form - put the pieces together and paint or stain the box.

For less money and a good amount of building required, the Paia Theremax theremin is a less playable instrument for classical music, but with particular advantages for the electronic musician already in possession of analogue synthesis equipment - the Theremax includes "Control Voltage" outputs which means it can be used to control an analogue or modular synthesiser.

The economy option is the Jaycar - less daunting to build than a Theremax but still with plenty of soldering, and suitable for keeping in a cupboard and for scaring small children and elderly relatives.

As a pitch only theremin (i.e. it plays at a constant, unvarying volume) the Harrison minimum theremin is strictly limited as a musical instrument, but people seem to have a lot of fun designing novel enclosures for it, and it is popular as a science fair project.

Various modifications are documented on this website and elsewhere for both the Theremax and the Jaycar theremins which improve the playability and tone of the instruments to a greater or lesser extent.

Where you should buy kits or parts depends largely on where you live.
Posted: 11/27/2008 10:26:46 AM
RS Theremin

From: 60 mi. N of San Diego CA

Joined: 2/15/2005

Hello Lauren,

When people ask me which theremin to buy, I unconsciously cringe. The instrument uses fascinating physics that designers still need to focus on, refine and make cost effective.

As a gift I would never force a build upon someone I care about ;( whose goal is to just play theremin. The people who do build their own theremins have an unquenchable thirst for “electronic exploration” and definitely like to “suffer”. Building your own does not save money compared to what you could purchase finished and tested for the same finished costs (some hidden). Building can also lead to months of frustration of why your build doesn’t work as expected and it might be forced kicking and “not screaming” into the closet along with the newlywed. Theremins are the other women, remember where you heard this!

The EtherWave Standard is the best value for the money and resale value. If you bought one used you could easily get your money back or more in a year or two if resold.

Gordan’s advice is excellent and your decision will be influence in which country you live. I might steal Gordan’s writing for a recommendation webpage. ‘-)

What should be mentioned is the B3 Deluxe ( endorsed by the talented Thomas Grillo. This is half the cost of the EtherWave and is a finished instrument you should consider if your budget is tight. Dan Burns has created an exciting cost effective design which has evolved from his inspired research.

Posted: 11/27/2008 2:29:50 PM

Joined: 11/26/2008

Thank you for all of the advice!

My husband doesn't want a finished theremin, he wants to build it himself. He enjoys "electrical exploration." He's made his own circuit boards and things, and he doesn't mind that his projects take a lot of time.

Has anyone built their own from scratch before? How much did it end up costing in the end?

Also, I live in the USA.
Posted: 11/27/2008 5:00:04 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

It sounds like either the theremax or the keppinger. :-)

Here's some youTube viewing to pass the time while we wait for some more of our theremin builders to log on...

Mark Keppinger, talking about his theremin. here (

Gabriella, a Keppinger theremin, going through her paces. here (

A couple of guys who know doodly about theremins, building a theremax. here (

A nice looking theremax in a custom enclosure being played by a novice, having been recently completed. here (

(Christopher, steal away.)
Posted: 12/1/2008 6:43:38 PM

From: Escondido, CA

Joined: 2/6/2008

"How much did it end up costing in the end?"

Ouch! That's a painful question. LOL

I'm still not at "the end" yet and lots of dollars in the making! But it HAS been fun!

Buying one of the kits others have recommended is the better way to go. Building from scratch will mean a husband vanished into the workshop for most of his free time. :) Fortunately for me there's one night a week that is usually open for this adventure.


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