Overview: Types of Theremins

Posted: 2/5/2013 6:13:58 PM

Joined: 2/5/2013

What would be the 'Theremins 101' regarding the types of theremins out there?  It would be great if ou could even say the type of tone they provide and are they beginner or advanced?

Please forgive if this is already on the forums, but I couldn't find such.

Please list your answer in a similiar format to this:
theremin type - skill level - tone produced  - cost (as indicated by number of $$ signs)

$ = under $100 USD
$$ = $100 - $300
$$$ = $301 - $600
$$$ = $601-$1000
$$$$ = >$1001

simple sine wave to a whistle (sci-fi sound)
brass-like tone
human voice

Some types:
tube theremins
solid state
transistor theremins
optical theremins
RCA theremins
Keppinger theremins
Moog Melodia
Kustom Theremin
Skywave H1
terpsetone (similar to a theremin but triggers by the whole body)

If you really want to go above and beyond, what kind of antennas do we have to choose from and how do we determine which one to use?
square aluminum

Kudos to Jeff's posting that gave some of this info: http://www.thereminworld.com/Forums/T/24633/interview-questions-about-theremin

Posted: 2/6/2013 1:40:47 AM

From: Eastleigh, Hampshire, U.K. ................................... Fred Mundell. ................................... Electronics Engineer. (Primarily Analogue) .. CV Synths 1974-1980 .. Theremin developer 2007 to present .. soon to be Developing / Trading as WaveCrafter.com . ...................................

Joined: 12/7/2007

Hi Freedomtech,

First, get rid of the Skywave H1 from your list.. It was a specific construction for a specific show..

Also, the H1 was a pitch-only theremin.. A "true" theremin must incorporate both pitch and volume antennas.. Your questionare should have some means of differentiating this major difference.

 I should never have published the documentation.. The front-end is based on the EPE-2008 and is rubbish .. I did get them to work ok by doing (undocumented) panic alterations to the front end circuit (placing inductor in parallel with tank transformer, increacing tank capacitance, and changing equaliizing inductance) ...

If one removes the oscillators and replaces these with different topology, the rest of the H1 is ok.. Also, the H1 only sounded really good when in its assembly with active speakers - its construction and audio coupling to antenna and internal wires caused FM intermodulation which sounded wonderful - but this was an accident!


Posted: 2/6/2013 1:41:24 AM
Jeff S

From: N.E. Ohio

Joined: 2/14/2005

Thanks.  That was quite a while ago.  I often wonder what the motivations/expectations are of people who post these sorts of questionnaires.

Obviously. a comprehensive list and analysis of every theremin ever made would be a useful feature to have here.  The difficulty is that no one person has experience with every model and any analysis would be subjective to some degree.

Jason has compiled a partial list of theremins, and theremin-like devices, with no analysis here...



Posted: 2/6/2013 10:36:33 AM

From: A Coruña, Spain

Joined: 9/26/2010

Thanks. That was quite a while ago. I often wonder what the motivations/expectations are of people who post these sorts of questionnaires.

I suppose the motivation is to have a straightforward tool to make an informed decision about which theremin to buy.

For this kind of purposes, comparison tables like the ones often seen in Wikipedia are very useful. See for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_e-book_readers

A similar comparison of theremins would be very useful, although of course it only should contain verifiable data (price, number of antennas, whether it uses tubes, wheter it has pitch preview, etc.) The data about "tones" seems too subjective.

Posted: 2/6/2013 1:08:47 PM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

AIKhwarizmi: The data about "tones" seems too subjective.


You're right about that! When it comes to taste, everybody is right. When it comes to FACTS, everybody is not right. What I have always found interesting about the world of the theremin is that fact and opinion are so often confused. In the past, I have occasionally pointed out with my inimitable charm and tact that someone's playing is off key, only to be told angrily by the player that it's a matter of opinion. 

It isn't.

What IS a matter of opinion, is how much deviation flat or sharp of the note is acceptable.

As far as definitions are concerned, I'm not sure anymore what the definition of a theremin is. For many people it is a particular SOUND, and not necessarily a musical instrument at all. 

Posted: 2/6/2013 5:26:47 PM

From: Brooklyn,NY

Joined: 12/1/2009

It might be nice to have a "user review" section -perhaps something like harmony central.  Also it  should distinguish between those theremins that are products and those that are just designs (to be built)-   for the noobs.   

Price dichotomies are irrelevant and arbitrary.   TOY , STUDENT-GRADE and PROFESSIONAL would be a more appropriate categorization.

Posted: 2/6/2013 10:33:56 PM

From: Scotland

Joined: 9/27/2012

Tom Farrell has put together what looks like a fairly comprehensive theremin comparison chart which can be accessed from our very own Theremin World website: http://www.thereminworld.com/Article/13544/tom-farrells-theremin-website

The chart can be accessed from TF's website-I've not put a direct link to it since I guess Tom would want you to visit his site and explore it, not going in via the back door, so to speak.


Posted: 2/15/2013 4:23:04 PM

Joined: 2/5/2013

Absolutely, AlKhwarizmi.  My motivation is to make an informed decision about which one to build, without wasting unneccessary time and money to end up with something we can't use.  We'd like to build a gate for our Mini Maker Faire that has a working theremin disguised inside.  I was thinking the gate could be made of PVC or something else non-conductive, perhaps even clear PVC with LED lights inside for WOW factor.  But that's a conversation for another thread!


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