Meet the Theremini, retro reimagining of early electronic instrument

Theremini diagonal - black

The Theremin's spacey electronic whine, controlled by waving one's hand near metal antennas, became the signature sound of midcentury sci-fi. Nearly a century after its 1920 introduction, Moog Music is reimagining it as the Theremini, a beautiful and bizarre modern take on the famously-difficult instrument.

Everything is included in a realtively small, pill-shaped unit: traditional heterodyning oscillator, controls, modern synthesizer presets, removable antenna and speaker. It has two 1/4" audio outputs and a headphone port, a built-in tuner for learning pitch and scales, and MIDI output over USB.

Unlike the original, though, the Theremini comes with the promise of "immediate success to any player at any skill level," with pitch correction controls to make it impossible to play a bum note. It's $300 to preorder at Amazon.

Here's Dorit Chrysler, co-founder of the New York Theremin Society, demonstrating the new instrument:

Wired's Michael Calore took it for a spin:

I’m happy to report it plays just like a regular theremin when you want it to. There’s a little speaker on top, along with all manner of connections on the back for plugging it into a computer or an amp. But all the glory of Leo’s original design—waving your hands around and evoking the deepest astral melancholy—is here. The new additions like the pitch control and built-in echo make it easier to play alongside other musicians, and they make the instrument far more endearing to listen to on its own, no matter how terrible you are at it.

Perhaps the best addition, though, is the selection of voices. The Moog team pulled some of its best-loved synth voices from the Animoog, it’s super-popular and super-fun iOS instrument, and baked them into the Theremini. So in addition to the classic theremin whoop, you get over 30 presets of synthy skronks, Taurus tubas, percussive plunks, and polyphonic pitter-patter. Groovy, baby.

Notable Replies

  1. Ever since I tried on two seperate occasions to build a theremin, failing each time, the lure of just buying one has slowly grown. This only burgeons it further...

  2. I should sell my old theramin ... I haven't touched it in years!

  3. That's what I love about Animoog. It looks physical, but there would be almost no way to recreate it in a physical form and keep it affordable. The closest thing I can think of would be like a very long kaossilator for the "key bed" (with an embedded custom-made screen underneath to show the key spacing), and an iPad-like-thing for the main screen. Once you add in all the knobs, it would probably cost as much as most houses.

    They took the iPad's essential trade-off (a highly responsive multitouch surface AT&T he expense of any physical buttons) and just ran with it.

    And now I also need 300 bucks. Excuse me while I rummage around my basement for something to eBay.

  4. enso says:

    My wife has said to prepare for divorce if I begin playing a theramin.

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