A Better Etherwave

Posted: 8/2/2011 5:09:41 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

One of the many highlights of Hands Off 2011 was brought to us by master theremin engineer Thierry Frenkel.

This is his three step plan to improving the range, linearity and sound of your Moog Etherwave Standard or Plus...

1. Professional Tweaking.

Thierry has a technique for adjusting the internal presets of the etherwave which adds one and a half octaves in the upper register. For the sonic explorer (experimentalist/avant-garde player/call it what you will) this gives access to ear piercing frequencies. For the classical or precision player, it moves the useful higher notes away from the pitch rod, and into a more linear region of the playing field. (The notes are most compressed very close to the pitch rod.)

This adjustment requires the use of electronic equipment that most players do not have, so this requires sending the instrument to Thierry.

2. The "Bass Mod"

This is NOT a modification. It is an IMPROVEMENT. Thierry has devised a small circuit which extends the range of the etherwave right down into the subsonic.

This is why: As the two radio frequency oscillators of a theremin's pitch circuit come close to each other (making low notes) they try to synchronise, creating the "zero beat" region of the playing field. This "coupling" restricts the theremin's ability to play very low notes, and makes the achievable low notes sound rather rough and unpleasant. This roughness is perceptible in the octaves above the zero beat zone. It is one of the reasons that many players are not fond of the etherwave's timbre.

Thierry's improvement prevents oscillator coupling. The zero beat zone becomes tiny and the etherwave tone remains silky smooth throughout the range.

It is rather wonderful to play that deep, rich bass. I love it!

(Classical players will probably want to make the field very large and stand inside it to have a reasonable spacing between notes, and step back to play the low notes.)

3. Tuning for linearity.

This is the final step - understanding the operation of the pitch knob on your theremin.

Here is the trick - turning the knob has a very small effect on the high register of your theremin and a big effect in the low register. Try it. Put your hand very near the antenna and turn the pitch knob a bit. Then move your hand away from the pitch rod and turn the pitch knob the same amount as before. Do you see? The knob stretches or contracts the field most at the low end and least at the high end.

So... first make a course tuning by playing an interval in the high register and turning the knob until your hand movement produces the required change in pitch.

Then go down to the middle register and adjust the tuning until the same hand movement produces the same interval as before. This will require a smaller adjustment of the pitch knob, and will not change the interval in the high register very much at all.

Finally go down into a low register and repeat the process a third time. Again, an even smaller adjustment of the pitch knob will be all that is required, the effect on the middle register will be small, and utterly negligible in the high register.

This procedure will give the largest achievable playable range for the instrument.

(Yes, I know that theremins do not have registers in the strict sense, but hopefully you know what I mean...)

We may not all be able to afford or have access to an RCA or an ePro or a tVox or an ethervox, but with these three steps in place I am assured by no less a player than Thorwald Jorgensen that the humble etherwave can be suitable for professional use. (Of course, having Thorwald's amazing skills undoubtedly helps too. :-) )
Posted: 8/2/2011 5:19:08 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Oh, and Moog - if you are listening - if Thierry's bass mod is not incorporated into the etherwave next time you tweak the design, we will want to know why!
Posted: 8/2/2011 7:46:14 PM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008


Congratulations once again on what seems to have been a very successful and much appreciated HANDS OFF 2011. I fear that 'the powers that be' at Moog Music today do not share the late Dr. Bob's passion - dare I say OBSESSION - with the theremin. My guess is that things will continue pretty much as they are now as far as future Etherwaves are concerned.

Alas, Bob is gone - but we do have Thierry Frenkel. In the world of the theremin Thierry will continue where Bob left off.

The King is dead! Long live the King!
Posted: 8/3/2011 2:33:50 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Peter, thank you for your kind words. Hands OFF! is a lot of fun for everyone involved, and that makes it very worthwhile. :-)

Bob Moog's passion and love of theremins may have left the company with him, but I think they still have good financial sense, caring for their primary market, which is not the prestige market of classical thereminists - who are, I am sure, a drop in the ocean compared to the electronic musicians who number Moog gear amongst their armoury, incuding theremins. This is why we got the etherwave plus.

They are selling to a world where awesome bass is a big selling point.

Today I ran my bass modded etherwave through my little delay pedal and the correct word to describe the result is [i]SEISMIC[/i].

But, if Moog decide to pass on this opportunity, then I sincerely hope that Thierry's mod catches on amongst etherwave owners outside the sometimes insular online theremin community. :-)
Posted: 8/14/2011 7:52:55 PM
Thomas Grillo

From: Jackson Mississippi

Joined: 8/13/2006

Hi Gordon! :)

Thanks for passing along the 3 step process for adjusting the Etherwave Standard with Thierry's module installed.

I just finished installing the module on my Standard, and I must say, this little module really takes the Standard to the next level. You should try it with the waveform and brightness near the 3:00 positions. Sounds a lot like the Epro in it's flute mode. When it's set to Waveform at 10:00 and brightness to about 2 or 3:00, it takes on a more vocal tone.

Thierry! Thanks for producing the modules! :)
Posted: 8/15/2011 3:03:20 AM

From: Colmar, France

Joined: 12/31/2007

You're all welcome! This kind of feedback is important for me and motivates me to continue research and development in my rare free time.

I felt really proud during the Hands Off 2011 Sunday evening's concert like a father with many children since more than 80% of the present theremins (and there were a lot) had either gone through my hands for upgrade, repair or tuning, or were at least equipped with one of my modules.

Posted: 8/15/2011 8:37:56 AM

From: paris, france

Joined: 1/16/2007

I'm also a new happy customer.

With Thierry's new module and expertise on the volume and pitch amelioration, it's like I have a new theremin, with sounds and playability, dare I say it, as good as the E-Pro (better?).
I think everyone with an Etherwave and musical ambitions should think of adding the module, and/or sending the theremin to him for expertise, amelioration and repair if needed.
Plus, he managed to repair 2 problems I had since I bought my Big Briar 91-a : the internal speaker needed to be refixed, and the Line Out was not working for some weird reason. (+ he even cleaned and waxed the instrument).
I was happy to drive 5 hours to Colmar for my 2 theremins.
Posted: 8/23/2011 6:57:34 AM

From: Colmar, France

Joined: 12/31/2007

Thomas Grillo has posted a video demonstrating the ESPE01 module: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHi7OjcLhL8

It's very impressive, thank you Thomas!
Posted: 8/23/2011 10:43:35 AM
Thomas Grillo

From: Jackson Mississippi

Joined: 8/13/2006

You're more than welcome Thierry. Credit were due. You deserve it, and anyone who owns an Etherwave deserves this module. Well done. ;)
Posted: 8/24/2011 6:00:48 AM

From: germany, kiel

Joined: 5/10/2007

Hoppla - simply convincingly. Both the Module and the whole demonstration. Wow..

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