Inventor Paul Vo, On Acoustic Synthesis & The Vo-96 Guitar

When we have covered the Vo-96 Guitar on Synthtopia, readers’ comments have focused on ‘infinite sustain’ as the key feature, and compared the Vo Guitar’s technology to other sustain technologies.

But inventor Paul Vo‘s vision for ‘acoustic synthesis’ is much deeper than infinite sustain.

Vo wants to give musicians the same type of control over the sounds they generate with acoustic instruments that electronic synthesizers offer – the ability to control the amplitude of the individual harmonics of a sound over time.

In this informal video, filmed at his home office in Asheville, NC,, Paul Vo explains how acoustic synthesis works, gives some technical demonstrations and shows how the new capabilities offered by acoustic synthesis open up new performance options for musicians.

At the time of the interview, Vo was working on the initial batch of Vo-96 Guitars, sold during a Kickstarter campaign. Since then, he’s wrapped that up and also introduced a new device, based on some of the same technology, the Vo Wond.

More information on Paul Vo and his inventions can be found at his site.

14 thoughts on “Inventor Paul Vo, On Acoustic Synthesis & The Vo-96 Guitar

  1. Guitarists (I am one too) are notoriously conservative and close-minded when it comes to their instruments and tone. But so are pianists and synthesists, so people who throw around PBR insults as if somehow your side of the fence doesn’t have even more of its share of 5xl pokemon shirts covered in Doritos dust and sugar stains, very ignorant, arrogant, and foolish. Guitarists debating Klons vs amps vs apps, all doing the same “basic” tone, for example, or Martin and Fender and Gibson doing variants on the same exact designs for the last 50+ years. It’s the same thing as Nord VA worship or 90% of the analog instruments made in the last 15 years, copying the same 60’s and 70’s designs. As if a synth manufacturing company cloning Buchla ideas from 1965 is any more innovative than someone refining a classical guitar shape. It’s ridiculous on its face. Look at the world of acoustic pianos and synths and the same lack of “true innovation”, and the same internet opinions, and it starts to look very similar to the way guitarists behave. The vast majority of musicians still want the same “classic” tones and shapes, because, they work. No need to put square wheels on a car “just to be innovative.” This is why we still see dreadnaught, les paul, and stratocaster guitars, and why real acoustic pianos still sell, and why every dumb digital synth has a ac piano sound in it. The “innovations” people have been gushing about over the last ten years for the most part have been rehashes and refining of old ideas (touchplates, synchronization, etc) and it’s been more an innovation of the quality of components or lower price. So I for one encourage both Paul Vo and his new, INNOVATIVE ideas, AND the continued production of *proven classics*, for adults who need this stuff to work, to compose, and to make a life, and not someone stalling adulthood in their dorm playing the same bleeps & sweeps on Instagram.

    1. I am someone that straddles fences for sure – there is definitely ridiculous complaints on both sides of the fence (if you want an example search mini keys and read comments) I agree that innovation i needed and everyone needs to drop the attitude on both sides….. I really want this guy’s wond – though I really want it to be cheaper…. I really want it to play chimes and bells….

    1. or make a kit – that would be awesome – with like 2 octaves or so worth of actuators and those slide controls – so you could but them on anything – I would love to outfit a kids xylophone piano with them

  2. Is it possible to change the attack time of the effect? (as well as the release time which Paul Vo demonstrates in the video).

    And the mix level?

    In my head I’m comparing this to some of the effects I can get out of the Strymon BigSky reverb.

    Would be good to hear how this tracks pitch & pitch-bending the strings.

    1. In the video, be does emphasize that they are just scratching the surface of what’s possible in terms of sound design on this thing.

      It seems like one should be able to create things like a phase shifter or chorus easily with this approach, or effects that simulate filter sweeps and resonance.

      It looks like the main sound design limitations would be not being able to make very rapid harmonic changes, just because your dealing with a physical string instead of current or an algorithm, and being limited to harmonics that a string can physically produce.

      1. In the video, Vo does demonstrate some glissando and even vibrato playing, which are just different types of pitch bend, and it doesn’t seem to have any problem with it.

  3. I still don’t understand how this thing excites the string. How does he do it? Is the string actually touched? Magnets? Electrical impulses?

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