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- Pitch correction w/ selectable scales and root noteBuilt in tuner allows you to learn pitch and scales32 Wavetable based presetsBuilt in speakerHeadphone outputTwo 1/4" audio outputsSingle Pitch CV output w/ selectable rangeUser selectable scale and root note (stored per preset)User selectable range: highest note and lowest note (stored per preset)Adjustable Stereo Ping-Pong DelayRemovable pitch antenna - built in storage compartment on bottom-sideBuilt in 3/8" Mic stand and Camera stand adaptor
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The Moog Theremini is amazingly easy to play, even if you've never used a Theremin before. It's got built-in scales you can choose from, and you can easily select the root note so you're always in key. And it's got 32 sound presets based on Moog's Animoog synth engine - you can create classic '50s sci-fi effects, but there are plenty of modern sounds here too. And because it has USB MIDI and Pitch/CV outputs, the Moog Theremini is an incredibly unique way to control your software and hardware synthesizers too!
Top Customer Reviews
Playing a Theremin is hard. Really hard, and this has helped keep this instrument mostly off the radar, and relegated it to obscure cameos in science fiction movies for decades.
This is the instrument that could change all of that. Moog is flexing their software muscles here, and the Theremini has sound generation capabilities fueled by their Animoog sound engine, a powerful software wavetable synthesizer for the IOS platform. There are 32 presets available ranging from the classic Theremin scary Halloween tones to deep Moog bass drones, to interplanetary space ship flybys.
It is tempting to try and compare this new instrument to the traditional Theremin (and believe me, there are those who seem unable to do anything else), but to do so would be missing the point.
Having had a chance to borrow a Moog Etherwave from a friend and practice with it for several months, as a synthesist I found that its rather narrow tonal range, limited ability to interface to other synths and difficulty to play in tune (thanks to my shoddy technique) didn't offer enough incentive for me to seriously pursue it any farther. I'm guessing that the traditional Theremin has always had a limited number of people who are really interested in learning to master this difficult instrument. However, the lure of a gestural-based instrument that could neatly interface with both vintage and modern synths has always been great, and this is just what the new Theremini brings to the table, courtesy of the brilliant engineers at Moog.
When I saw the info for the Theremini, I imagined that this would offer much more of interest to my tastes. This has certainly turned out to be true for me, and I suspect it will for many others as well.
The big news here is the completely variable pitch correction software, and this is what makes it so attractive to the wistful novice Thereminist/Synthesist. With this control turned all the way down, the instrument responds just like a standard Theremin, with pitch infinitely variable as you move you hand close to the pitch antenna. As the control is turned up, the pitch is more closely locked into place with hand movement, until when completely up only the notes of the selected scale are produced, with no wrong or off pitch tones. With the control about halfway up, you can easily hit the right note and still be able to add subtle vibrato and other cool inflections. Having completely adjustable control between the two extremes is an excellent feature, and very liberating. An on board tuner shows you what note is being produced by note name (also functioning as a silent preview before you raise the volume of a note) and a deviation indicator for pitch shows how close to the proper pitch you are for each note. You can choose from 22 different normal and esoteric scales to spice up your creations, and the volume antenna lets you fade sounds in and out, pick out and shape any individual notes or continously glissando through the selected scale.
Be aware that, depending on the scale selected, the tuner will only show the notes available in that scale, and the deviation bar of the tuner shows the distance necessary to reach the next note of the scale (which may be far). This can be confusing to some users, leading them to think that the tuner is inaccurate, because selecting different factory presets on the Theremini also selects different scales, which changes how the tuner responds. Tested against a Peterson strobe tuner, it is actually accurate to about .1 cents, which is very, very good.
Built in stereo digital delay adds depth to the sonic landscape, and I found that after a bit of practice, I was up and creating my own ethereal melodies. Super Fun! As my technique improves with practice, I'll be able to dial down the pitch correction until hopefully at some point I'll be able to hit the proper pitches on my own! The instrument allows you to calibrate both the actual usable playing space, as well as the note range that can be fit inside it, enabling you to fine tune the playing experience to your particular tastes. This is a more complicated calibration procedure than the simple controls provided by a standard Theremin (typically just a single knob) but with some practice and patience it can yield a much more customized playing experience.
For many decades now, the true beauty of most Moog instruments is that they have offered a wealth of features and capabilities available to those that choose to dig deeper, and the Theremini is certainly no exception in this regard. As a stand-alone instrument, the Theremini frankly seems kind of limited at first glance. There isn't much available to the user past selecting the presets and some rudimentary editing (and this has seemed to frustrate some less experienced users), but there are a large number of "under the hood" goodies that can be easily and powerfully accessed via Midi, and these will allow you to customize how you choose to interact with the instrument. Pitch Quantization, note scales, note range and root key (and much more!) are all under instant Midi control, as are the filter, delay and wavetable controls. Using a typical set of Midi pedals and switches allows you completely re-shape the instrument and playing experience on the fly while performing. Placing the Pitch Quantization under Midi pedal control is especially satisfying, as it lets you precisely control how much it affects the pitch, while leaving your hands free for better control. If you're using a Midi-capable sequencer for backing accompaniment, this even allows you to tie exact control of the instrument directly to the musical score, freeing the performer up to concentrate on precise antenna control.
The small built-in mono speaker is nice for easy practice, but be sure to connect the stereo line outs on the back to a decent amplification system to get a taste of what the Animoog-powered synth engine can really deliver! The built in headphone jack disconnects the speaker and allows for late-night playing without disturbing anyone (very thoughtful inclusion, and true stereo performance here as well).
Some quibbles with the unit are that it feels a little cheaply made, to be expected I guess with so much packed into it at such a low price point (this unit costs just a bit more than the cheapest Moogerfooger pedal!!!). The knobs feel a little wobbly, but seem to work well enough. There's a volume knob, but it only affects the volume of the built in speaker and headphone amp, and has no effect on the main stereo outputs (which can be controlled via Midi, of course). It's handy to have immediate control of the overall volume, and hopefully this can be added in a future software update.
Speaking of updates, a USB port on the back allows for connection to a computer for this and other activities. An editor is in the works and should be available shortly (it's now available, see below) to let you create or modify your own presets as well as access other under the hood features. A MIDI interface can be connected here as well to allow control of modern synths via Theremin, and a CV out jack on the back helps you interface it's Theremini Goodness to more old school instruments. Each antenna can be assigned to your choice of a Midi CC number. The CV out jack can be assigned to follow either antenna, and can be externally scaled to allow a standard 1V/oct synth to track it for more than 6 octaves, effectively turning the Theremini into an absolute analog monster. These are the touches that really propel this unit beyond the standard Theremin capabilities.
Although there's a stand connector on the bottom of the unit, it fits the smaller European stand connector, which is admittedly kind of weird. An adapter is easily available for around $3, however. Having it on a stand is a definite advantage, although the grippy rubber feet on the bottom allow it to perch quite nicely on a tabletop as well, which is where my unit spent its first few weeks until I got an adapter from Ebay.
As a final thought about the relationship between the new Theremini and a standard Theremin, although they do share some similarities (mainly gestural control) they really are very different instruments. If you really like what the Theremin does ( look, sound and play like a Theremin) then that's likely the instrument for you, and Moog and others make some fine ones. However, if you're interested in an instrument that goes way beyond those boundaries in just about every direction, then you may find that the new Theremini is just what you've been looking for. In my experience, thinking of the Theremini as a replacement Theremin is like thinking of a MiniMoog as a replacement Harpsichord.
This is a serious reimagining of a classic instrument, and Moog has brought a lot to the table in a cool looking instrument that brings the power of the Theremin to everyone, even a novice like me!
Edit: Moog has already released a firmware update that fixes a problem where sometimes the volume antenna would not work. This would cause the unit to turn on, but not make any sound. Although I didn't have this problem with my unit, I noticed that one of the reviewers here seemed to have this exact problem, and their unit would likely be fixed by downloading and installing the newest update. Also worth mentioning is that the USB connector on the back is a mini-style connector so you will probably need an appropriate adapter cable to interface the Theremini with your computer or IPad.
Moog has now released their FREE editor for the IPad (Windows and OSX versions to follow) and this really will make a great addition to the capabilities of the unit. All of the current editing possibilities are brought out to a very nice graphic interface, and this allows for creation and editing of as many presets as you want. A librarian is included with a bunch of new cool presets, and this also gives you the capability to store your new creations, and email them for archival purposes (or even share them with like-minded individuals). Presets can be easily swapped between the librarian and the 32 user preset slots on the Theremin, allowing you to precisely set your unit up for stand alone live performance.
Keep in mind that since this unit has user updateable firmware, all of this just represents the capabilities of the unit RIGHT NOW. Who knows what goodies the future holds in store?
Theremini makes a decent student grade, to entry / intermediate instrument since rev 1.1.0 of Theremini's firmware update.
When the Theremini was first released, it had serious problems with regards to latency, and responsiveness.
When I tried an early version of Theremini in my studio before the fixes, I was unimpressed, and wanted nothing to do with the device, because it was so unplayable at the time, I did not regard It as a "musical" instrument.
As of late November, and early December of 2014, Moog Music has revised the Theremini's firmware to resolve the latency, and responsiveness issues. Moog Music released the revision of Theremini's firmware in late December of 2014, and most of the horrible latency, and responsiveness issues have been addressed.
I recently had a chance to try the Theremini again with it's latest revision of firmware while giving a concert at 14 Pews, in Houston, Texas in early December, 2014 where one of the other thereminists brought the revised Theremini.
I was pleasantly surprised at how much more playable Theremini is since the firmware update. Although I'm still not impressed with the visual appearance of Theremini's white plastic pill shaped cabinet, and small volume antenna, I now consider this instrument to be musically playable in studio settings, and maybe some stage settings.
There is still a minor issue regarding situations where unclean power sources may cause some jittery artifacts, affecting playability, however, according to the latest documentation, this can be filtered out to some extent in Theremini's control menu settings. It works well on "fast" filter setting, as long as you don't have poor grounding. Oh, that's what the ground (gnd) screw is for on the back of Theremini.
I have just purchased the Theremini. Just came in today, and it's much better than it was a couple of months prior to this review.
The built in speaker is a nice touch for those wanting to take Theremini to a small gathering for quick demos, or just practicing without an amp in private.
I am glad to know the firmware can be flashed using the USB port. I flashed my Theremini shortly after unboxing. The process went smoothly. You just need to download a zip file from Moog Music, extract it, and follow the instructions. I flashed to 1.1.0 of the firmware.
Moog Music has also just released an iOS app which allows users to create their own sounds which can be stored in Theremini's memory. You will need to buy a usb cable to go from PC/Mac to the Theremini, and an adaptor to go between the ipad, and usb cable connected to Theremini. You may also want to get a clamp on tablet holder to attach the ipad to the stand your Theremini is on so as to save space in the studio. Don't forget to recalibrate for the presence of the ipad.
As an instructor of the theremin, I now find Theremini to be playable, and stable enough to provide lessons on for those students using the Theremini as a first theremin.
There are currently 32 preset sounds / effects. They're pretty cool. If you don't want to use the quantization (pitch correction), you can override that by simply turning the pitch correction knob slightly to the right, and then back to full left again. This allows for more theremin like playing of all of the preset sounds.
A few of the presets actually sound very nice, and usable as stand alone theremin tones. Most are more effects oriented.
The pitch rod is removable, and you simply slip it into the pitch rod's hole in the Theremini. It's held in by friction. The volume antenna is not removable. I wish it were. It's also a little too small for my preferences. I would prefer classic style volume antennas which are larger, and not as easy to snag when doing fast staccatos.
The screen is very small. I have to use a magnifier to read it when calibrating, and accessing menus.
The calibration process is a bit annoying, but not as bad as when Theremini first came out. You just have to follow a few prompts, and move your hands and body to a couple of places, near, and far from each antenna, and then you're done.
Because of this calibration, I wouldn't recommend performing in public spaces where it's likely someone will get too close, causing a recalibration to have to be done. However, that said, I've been learning how to use the new theremin mode (not to be confused with the preset named Classic Theremin). You access theremin mode via the advanced setup menu, and turn it on. When theremin mode is on, you can use two of the knobs on the panel to adjust the pitch, and volume antennas like you would on a real theremin. In public, you may want theremin mode on, as this may allow you to make fast minor adjustments to the pitch field. You can also use the knob for volume antenna response to mute the Theremini while in theremin mode. While in theremin mode, you can switch between the antenna adjustment screen, and the preset / scale adjustment screen with the press of the setup button. Backing out of theremin mode can be a bit confusing, though. Keep in mind, you may still need to go through the calibration menus from time to time, even in theremin mode. The knob layout is reversed from the way real world theremins' knobs are, in most cases.
For this reason, Theremini is best suited for studio work, and only those public performances where neither audience, nor fellow band members will get too close.
Unlike conventional theremins the calibration process takes a couple of minutes to use, but after a while, you'll get the hang of it.
As of this rev, 1.1.0 of Theremini's firmware update, I have discovered a minor artifact in the form of a faint glissando which can be heard only between staccatos involving wide interval jumps, and a short amount of time between the notes. It's faint, and not too big a deal, unless you're doing a professional recording, or public performance on a loud speaker system. I've alerted Moog Music regarding this minor artifact. I believe it has to do with latency in the volume loop side of the software. I'm sure they'll get that problem licked soon, ad I'll update accordingly.
I'm not really crazy about the cabinet the Theremini is in, so I plan to dismantle her, and move the bits over into a nicer looking custom built wooden cabinet at some point.
It was a painful start for Theremini, and there are still minor issues for Moog Music to work out, but at least progress has been made which warranted the revision of this review, in all fairness.
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