At the 2015 NAMM Show, inventor Paul VO introduced the Vo Wand – a handheld sustain device that’s designed to give you direct control over the harmonics of strings.
The Wand is part of Vo’s broader interest in ‘acoustic synthesis’, implemented previously with the Moog Guitar, Moog Lap Steel Guitar and Vo 96 guitar.
Vo’s acoustic synthesis tools explore the idea of using electronics to control the amplitude of individual harmonics within vibrating strings. By controlling the harmonics within a guitar string over time, for example, you can synthesize new types of sounds that still are immediately recognizable as being ‘guitar’ sounds.
While the primary audience for the Vo Wand will be guitarists, Vo mentioned to us that it could be used for sound design with other string instruments and for experimenting with other objects that respond to electromagnetic energy.
The Vo Wand
At the heart of the Vo Wand is a single instance of Vo’s collocated vibration control system. This controller emits coherent focused electromagnetic energy in perfect phase with the motion of the guitar string. All of the energy impinging on the string acts to drive the string to resonance and excite harmonics.
The sustain effect is very strong and immediate, with no noticeable latency and excellent uniformity for every playable note on the guitar.
Here’s a performance demonstration by Vo, filmed live at the NAMM Show. It combines the acoustic synthesis capabilities of the Vo 96, looping and infinite sustained leads, using the Vo Wand.
When using a handheld sustainer, it is necessary to bring the active transducer surface of the sustainer close to but not into contact with the vibrating guitar string. The Vo Wand helps the player do this intuitively with haptic feedback; an actuator underneath the user’s index finger vibrates as the wand approaches the guitar string. The wand is then positioned by “feel”. It is as though the magnetic field is given substance and transmits the string’s vibration to the finger of the player to indicate where the wand is relative to the string. This feature is turned on and off with the “Haptic” switch.
To better articulate the note timbre, the wand is pressure sensitive; as the user applies more pressure between thumb and forefinger, the Wand’s magnetic energy and frequency profile are both shifted upwards engaging progressively higher string harmonics and unleashing greater sustaining force. This feature is enabled with the “Pressure” switch.
The Wand’s “Morphic” mode switch engages a subsonic controller driven by the motion of the wand relative to the string. When the wand is held still relative to the string, steady sustain occurs but moving the wand slightly back-and-forth across the string undulates and morphs the harmonics, giving the player a whole new way to articulate each note.
A rechargeable lithium ion battery provides 1 1/2 hours of continuous use at full power ,but because the wand is used intermittently, in practice one charge lasts for a long session time, at least for an entire gig.
Retail pricing for the Vo Wand will be about $200. Vo expects to have it available for pre-order ‘soon’.