The Therevox ET-4 Synthesizer (Sneak Preview)

Therevox synthesizer

Therevox has introduced the Therevox ET-4 – a new continuous pitch analog synthesizer that is expected to ship in January of 2012.

The Therevox ET-4 is inspired by the Ondes Martenot’s “au ruban” controller .Pitch is controlled by moving an adjustable finger-ring, while amplitude is controlled by two pressure-sensitive keys.

The ET-4 can interface with external synthesizer gear through Control Voltage (CV) outputs for the ring controller and amplitude keys.

A wide range of sounds can also be created with the ET-4’s dual analog oscillators, each with 6 waveforms and 6 octave positions, along with low-pass filtering and real spring reverb. The ET-4 plugs directly into an amplifier and has a separate output for a tuner, for easy and silent tuning changes.

Features & Specs:

  • three octave continuous-pitch controller with CV output (1V/oct)
  • two pressure-sensitive keys for oscillator amplitude with CV outputs
  • two analog oscillators with 6 waveforms including sine, triangle, rectified-sine (similar to “octiviant” on the Ondes Martenot), 50% square, 30% square, 10% square (or white noise on oscillator 2)
  • 6 octave settings for each oscillator
  • oscillator sync
  • low-pass filter with cutoff control via knob and external expression pedal
  • spring reverb
  • silent tuner output with oscillator selector
  • 110/120V or 220/240V available

The Therevox ET-4 will retail for US $1199. Details at the Therevox site.

20 thoughts on “The Therevox ET-4 Synthesizer (Sneak Preview)

    1. Tell me about it!

      All that talk about analog oscillator settings, continuous pitch controllers and control voltage outputs got me quite ready for some serious synth action! And only then do I realize there’s no video!

      A friggin’ tease.

  1. wow, something different! the spring reverb is a nice touch, though I’d think an analog delay would be more appropriate/versatile

  2. Spring reverb or tape delay seem like they’d make sense if you meant a traditional sound.

    The cv outs would let you do anything you like.

  3. The Therevox ET-4 Synthesizer is on its way to become a household name. The Therevox ET-4 Synthesizer is an affordable alternative to the Ondes Martenot. With continued improvements and finessing later generations will undoubtedly become more elegant and streamlined. Particularly, the “dummy keyboard” in relation to the divits and sparsely spaced oversized control switches. The Therevox ET-4 possesses a stunning “au ruban” or ring. The spring reverb feature is unique. The general design of the keyboard is compact, transportable, and attractive.

    (Wish List)
    One crystal touche d’intensité
    Analog Reverb and Delay
    Elegant Streamlined Features

  4. This instrument requires more development and constructional refinement before being brought to market. To quote Peter Pringle, “This product seems to me to be in a marketing no-man’s-land: a bit too expensive for a toy, not quite sophisticated enough for professional use,” (Pringle, Peter, alias Coalport, 2011). Streamlined and compact features have come to represent contemporary synthesizers and keyboards. The qualities that make the Ondes Martenot enchanting such as its attractive cabinetry, the “single touche d’intensité, and the “tiroir,” or controller drawer, seem lost in the Therevox ET-4. The ET-4’s controls are large and bulky; the wooden pressure -sensitive keys are loud, unattractive, and gimmicky. Even for a prototype that will be representing the “final product,” the Therevox ET-4 doesn’t feel polished or sophisticated enough for professional use. There is a market for an Ondes Martenot alternative that is compact and affordable that can be used professionally. With some work, the Therevox ET-4 has great potential in succeeding those goals but not for almost $1200.00.

    References
    Peter Pringle a.k.a. (Coalport), 2011. Theremin World, Meet the Therevox ET-4, 2011. Retrieved on December 17, 2011 12:22 AM. http://www.thereminworld.com/Article/14246/meet-the-therevox-et-4#commentList

  5. To Mike The Inventor: Please Keep an Open Mind as this message is meant to Help not hurt. When I first heard that someone was constructing a compact analog synthesizer replicating the playing interface of the Ondes Martenot I became very interested in how such an instrument would manifest. Not knowing what to expect when I saw the initial prototype with its subdued militaristic grayish coloration—I felt nauseous—perhaps naïvely hoping for something more aesthetically sophisticated and pleasing to the eye. However, mentally, I told myself, “This is only a prototype—let’s examine what its other features are.” What impressed me immediately was the semblance of a traditional synthesizer (e.g., the beautiful exterior wood cabinetry, the built-in oscillators, and reverb controls).

    The wooden pressure sensitive keys that were presented in the original audiovisual demonstration made a horrible clacking sound whenever one of the keys were vigorously pressed. The wire that held the ‘au ruban’ or ring also made a very noticeable loud noise as the player accessed the tonal capabilities of the instrument shifting the ring from left to right. Additionally, a very important feature of the instrument that is used to denote musical pitch (i.e., The Keyboard Overlay) appears to be stenciled or drawn by hand—is there any way that concept or process could be refined as to complement the finer and professional qualities of the instrument? Could a more professional keyboard overlay be constructed for every Therevox ET-4? Overall, I really do admire what Mike has created. The uniqueness and possibilities of the ET-4 is very inspirational.

    Musically, as we shift our lenses to contemporary electronic music whose primary focus and mode of expression is centered on ‘beats’ and dance music—surprisingly—virtually none of the major synthesizer manufacturers are willing to resurrect or venture to something retro (i.e., the Ondes Martenot), which is unfortunate—as several capabilities of the Ondes Martenot have not been surpassed even by contemporary synthesizers. Instruments like Theremins, the Trautonium, and the Ondes Martenot are fairly obscure to the general public—of which the general public has unfairly categorized such ethereal instruments and their sonic capabilities as a ‘sci-fi musical effect’, but not as serious musical instruments which has been a very frustrating stigma to overcome.

    Furthermore, modern synthesizer manufacturers are no longer run by individuals of creative vision, but by corporations and investors—that is very troubling. For the major synthesizer manufacturers such as Korg, Yamaha, Roland, and even newer companies like Arturia or M-Audio the primary focus is on what sells not innovative concepts or products. These multimillion-dollar companies that have the manpower, engineers, and various development teams could easily afford to create an intuitive product that people actually want instead of generating gaudy and inferior synthesizers that become obsolete within a year or two. However, nobody listens or respects the public and that’s the problem—because it is public dollars that buys these instruments. Nevertheless, there is a growing number of musicians, artists, and intellectuals that want something more than just beats and dance music.

    I am not an engineer, I am a composer and musician who works in the conservative world of symphonic concert music and I know from personal experience that in my own field that is very traditional—people are looking for something new, but also something that is substantial, accessible, professional, and cutting-edge. It cannot be stressed enough how desperately we need products like the ET-4 given the commercial saturation of inferior synthesizers. I will be the first to admit that I was a skeptic, but every generation of the Therevox ET-4 since the initial prototype has improved—that says something. I don’t know if you have filed for copyright ownership and protection of your original concept, if you have not you should—because as this project develops with new innovations, models, or generations people or representatives of different synthesizer manufacturers are going to become interested in purchasing this concept from you.

    In conclusion, I am quite impressed with the Therevox ET-4 and would love to explore its capabilities.

    Best regards,
    O.M.

  6. Dear Olivier:

    I recently saw the “little” (20 bars) piano piece you composed to test students’ sight reading abilities in 1934. The world sure has changed in 70 years. Not only could I not sight-read the piece, but I would have to enter it into a computer program and let the program play it for me to even perform the piece as a study exercise. I hope someone makes a synthesizer exactly as you want one because you are incredible.

    Respectfully, markLouis

    P.S. Nowadays, you know, we can record birdsongs digitally and use the actual songs themselves to “gate” soft-synths playing in a DAW. Birdsongs combined with granular synthesis. You must be working on amazing stuff, these days, and I can’t wait to hear it.

    1. Messiaen’s music increasingly requires a spiritual connection that has since become an anachronism in an age obsessed with science and reason. While technology is a useful tool, in aiding expressivity, it must be tempered with caution—for the mechanization of creativity has a dulling effect on the intimacy and oneness with the absolute. While our human faculties can perceive reality and our space-time relation to our immediate environment and the experience of what we determine with absolute knowledge to be ‘real’ the challenge that Messiaen presents is one of a spiritual nature that demands that we look outside of our fleshly experience to become aware of the all encompassing flow of eternity.

      Messiaen’s music much like the work of Stockhausen or Leo Ornstein becomes increasingly complex beyond the scope of human capability of which our souls and our very being is expected to evolve to a higher dimension of understanding as to relate to the cosmic force of being. What is needed is a new sensory organ; body, mind, and soul that can rival even the greatest computer in the cosmos and is one with the cosmos. Perhaps, maybe one day, humankind will reach such an amazing feat of understanding as to open a rapid fluctuation of space-time dimension of which all eternity is presented in rapturous ever-flowing bliss. The dissolution of time, death, and this mortal coil.

      A synthesizer of any stripe is only as good as the performer or programmer behind it, but even then, such experiences are only relative. The transcendence of man into bliss is a greater dimensional experience—oneness with the absolute—for it is everything, as you and I are part of everything. The spiritual deadness of this dimension cheats human beings from achieving joy as to make this earth a heaven. Most go through life feeling numb—never realizing their destiny or knowing their purpose in any significant manner—simply waiting for the next great thing. We have become a culture of observers that have given up our dreams and have exchanged our souls for a life of anonymous drudgery—beset by brief moments of transcendent joy.

      Just as the most difficult composition transcends human capabilities, the soul transcends the sorrow of the world. Messiaen found that peace of which we can all admire, study, and practice forever. His life as an inspiration and is a testament to his faith in God. I mean no disrespect in my admiration of Messiaen for there are many similarities between both of our lives. Yet, it ultimately is the intimacy of art of which we as musicians, composers, and inventors partake in the act of creation that is essential for every artist. There is no rulebook or theory to be learned of which instinct and nature could not teach. In relation to the time of which we occupy there are more opportunities for artists to express their most deepest insight than in any other time in history.

      Despite all pessimism and doubt as connected with the age—this is a golden era of creativity.

      Best regards,
      O.M.

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