Antiquity Music Intros Wheelharp String Keyboard

wheelharp

At the 2013 NAMM Show: Antiquity Music is premiering the Wheelharp, a keyboard musical instrument that gives the player the ability to ‘orchestrate’ with a chromatic scale of sixty-one 61 actual bowed strings at one’s own fingertips.

In other words – it’s sort of a steampunk version of an orchestral sound library.

How The Wheelharp Works:

When the player presses any key on the Wheelharp, the action moves the selected key’s respective string toward a rotating wheel with a rosined edge, thereby bowing the string.

With the right pedal, the player controls the speed of a motor that turns the wheel, which varies the bowing speed of the wheel against the string and thus changes the dynamic effect. For instance, the wheel speed and the key depth can both be used to create swells and decrescendos. The action for each note can easily be removed as necessary for maintenance or string replacement.

The left pedal controls a full damper system that extends across the strings. An electromagnetic pickup floats above the strings and a piezoelectric pickup is mounted to the soundboard, allowing for the player to fully control the amplified timbre of the Wheelharp.

Here’s a demonstration of the Wheelharp in action:

According to Antiquity Music, “string instrument sampling and string synthesizers have yielded innovative results that come close to, but frequently fall short of, creating convincing, authentic bowed-string sounds.The Wheelharp vastly improves upon these mechanical instruments by combining a surprisingly efficient design with extensive dynamic control and a full chromatic scale, giving the player a rich sound palette of actual bowed strings that cannot be equaled by synthesis or sampling.”

Here are some audio demos of the Wheelharp:

Pricing (Linear Model or Radial Model):

  • 5-octave range: $11,900
  • 4-octave range: $10,900
  • 3-octave range: $9,900

Manufacturing of Wheelharps is expected to begin in June 2013. See the Antiquity Music site for more info.

Check out the Wheelharp and let us now what you think of it!


30 thoughts on “Antiquity Music Intros Wheelharp String Keyboard

  1. Crazy expensive, but an impressive sound. If had cash to burn I’d love to have one of these, it’ll probably still be working in 200 years.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

    • While I agree with you completely… I doubt this thing will make it 15 years before it need maintenance of some kind. Might even need to be tuned after shipping. Which to me is very different from “working for 200 years.” For sure, it will last that long, but only because it’s easier to replace some strings as needed or reconnect a damper pedal than it is to rebuild the guts of an MS-20 after a power spike.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  2. Wow, this is so amazing! Very unique instrument with a great sound. If only I had that kinda money just lying around… :(

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  3. Amazing! Would be nice to hear how it sounds in stereo. Probably very easy to accomplish, just needs a second mike on the right side of the barrel…

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  4. Sounds very metallic and “world instrumentality” to my ears. Nice concept. though, maybe I am just to used to hearing super smooth synth strings!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    • Pretty much what I was thinking.
      Low end sounds nice, but it’s kind of raspy and grating. Also didn’t sound very well in tune in some of the examples.

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  5. Hans zimmer’s next toy for sure :-)

    I am not sure why people think it is too expensive. we are talking about a first generation product with all the cost of R&D built into it. A great Steinway cost a lot too and how many years of development that instrument took?
    Unlike the Telharmonium it will fit in most homes and still be playable after a post apocalyptic electricity-less world for 100s of years (in caves too)…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      • …especially when you realize that you DO need electricity to run the bowing motor. Or you could rig it up to an exercise bike…

        Personally, I’d burn it and build a “Dark Star” style bottle organ.

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  6. the video shows a delay between action and audio. I wonder if his is the instrument. would make it very difficult to play in a band/ensemble.

    other thant hat it’s super cool. it’s great to see people being creative with what an instrument can be.

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  7. the video shows a delay between action and audio. I wonder if this is the instrument? would make it very difficult to play in a band/ensemble.

    other than that it’s super cool. it’s great to see people being creative with what an instrument can be.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  8. the video shows a delay between action and audio. I wonder if this is the instrument? would make it very difficult to play in a band/ensemble

    it’s super cool. it’s great to see people being creative with what an instrument can be.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  9. Interesting! Cool sound.

    If I had that kind of money to burn I’d get a guqin, a decent 2nd-hand piano, a better MIDI keyboard, a short vacation and quite a few beers.

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  10. I can’t belive nobody has mentioned the mellotron yet. Not saying they’re the same thing. But both are really mechanically complex, very wooden, and have a specific type of sound in mind.

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