The String Armonica Electro-Acoustic Synthesizer (Sneak Preview)

Merkaba Electronics shared this preview of a new electro-acoustic synthesizer, the String Armonica.

The String Armonica is a MIDI instrument that uses electromagnets to resonate twelve strings. Using the power of harmonic resonance, it can play up to 48 notes of full polyphony.

All the sounds that the instrument produces originate solely from the vibrations of the strings themselves. Nested within the body of the instrument lies a a polyphonic synthesizer, which outputs notes that resonate the strings and their octave harmonics.

Here’s how they explain it:

“The String Armonica works differently than how a guitar sustainer works. In a sustainer (Sound Stone, Ebow, etc), it will resonate a string regardless of its tuning. In order for the String Armonica to correctly work, the strings must be tuned so that they match the resonant frequency of the internal synthesizer. By adjusting the tuning pegs, you’re able to “voice” the loudness of each octave and can make certain octaves louder than others or of equal volume.

When you listen through headphones, the stereophonic output becomes evident as one set of strings is panned to the left and another to the right, creating a rich, immersive experience. However, a monophonic option is available as well.

The name of the instrument, The String Armonica, pays homage to the rare Glass Armonica, an exquisite crystal glass instrument invented by Benjamin Franklin. The resemblance in the sound produced by our instrument to that of a Glass Armonica is very similar which is why we thought of this name.

In our improvisation demonstration, we explore the instrument’s potential by adjusting the volume with an expression pedal and using the mod wheel of the MIDI controller to generate a staccato tremolo effect.

It’s important to note that this is a prototype. In its current state, it may appear a bit rough around the edges due to several adjustments and changes we’ve made along the way. The final manufactured version will be significantly more refined and less crude.”

Details on pricing and availability are still to be determined. Merkaba has a form on their site to sign up to get more information and to be notified when the instrument is available to pre-order.

15 thoughts on “The String Armonica Electro-Acoustic Synthesizer (Sneak Preview)

  1. God, I hope they are planning to put some electrical drone motors in it in the future. When I first saw the motor synth thingie, I thought it was a practical joke. Good to see something that comes around that appears even more worthless. Again, there is no sound that this thing can produce (except maybe, the exact sounds made when beating it with a sledgehammer) that can’t be made with almost any of the poly synths in my studio. Even the concept seems ridiculous, although not really more so than the motor synth.

    1. Your comment is about as true as claiming that sampled instruments produce exactly the same sound as the real thing, which is very not true in a surprising number of cases, particularly with multi-stringed instruments with soundboards or amplification, like pianos, harps, and guitars, especially mega-string ones like dobros – indeed, nothing could be further from the truth, as sympathetic resonance gives all these instruments character and depth too complex to achieve simply with multisampling, as the sound depends on what other notes are held and for how long, especially when played by a skilled player who uses control of the ‘damper-off’ capabilities of many of these types of instruments. This becomes especially apparent when anything is ‘a little off’ about the instrument, especially tuning of multistring instruments per note like pianos. The ear instinctively dislikes absolute perfection in sound – the best-selling piano record of all time, Jarrett’s live performance in Cologne, was played on a piano with so many problems Jarret was originally going to cancel the show.

    2. Though some grouchy, why-bother type criticisms might be at least partially valid; there is reasonable cause to celebrate these types of instruments.

      First of all, creating a working prototype represents a massive triumph of design. These problems and obstacles require herculean cleverness to arrive at this point.

      Secondly, these acoustic hybrids like this String Armonica and Korg’s Phase5, represent baby steps into these acoustic/synthetic hybrids. These hybrids could eventually go to more worthwhile places, but the ultimate results of these explorations isn’t easy to predict.

      What is the worst that can happen? Some creative designer wastes their time making an instrument that can be replicated with digital acoustic modeling? Some artist spends more money than they should on a device with a limited range of sonic possibilities?

      It might just all boil down to user experience. Some artists prefer analog to digital for reasons that aren’t 100% about the sound. Some artists prefer physical knobs & sliders to rubbing on the same glass surface they are trying to look at. Some artists prefer tangible physical objects and bespoke steam-punk technology to always relying on a computer or smart device to make everything happen. Again, it is largely about the user experience which is subjective and not always results-oriented.

      There’s a meme about a person reacting to Lord of the Rings saying, “That s**t’s none of my business.” I suppose some will just want to dismiss this stuff, which is fine. But no need to get too angry. Us humans make stuff, some of it is kinda odd.

      As a note, it might be cool if the synth could send an inverted cancellation wave to to dampen string — to allow short releases or some kind of ring-mod type effects

  2. the ebow effect is nice. i would really be psyched for this if they also implemented a pluck mechanism, and ‘rotatory’ strum.

    this is cool.

  3. what fun! i think that sometimes we can forget that making music is about creating human enjoyment, which this thing certainly does. even a high school kid playing acoustic guitar at a house party creates more human enjoyment than a cumudgeonly old geezer in his room full of polysynths making all his nowhere plans for nobody

    1. as long as he’s enjoying it, and not doing anyone harm – it’s great. music is music. exposition has nothing to do with it.

  4. when I first saw it I was wondering if it worked like a sustainer and then I noticed the logo -it is pretty cool tha tit is from sound stone – I use their ebow-ish sustainer already

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