Theremin & Eurorack

Inspired by the thread CV controlling Plaits with a theremin i got two Doepfer A-178 Theremin. Oh wow, it’s so difficult, but also so much fun. Amazing Flageolet String sounds with Rings, also Plaits’ Robot tried to follow in the famous Over The Rainbow footsteps (left Antenna to Morph and Volume, right to V/oct), so amazing (and cute). But i decided that it’s not for me right now and returned the modules.

Not the main reason, but also because the range was very difficult. Yes, you can sort of adjust the response with the respective knob, but there was just one setting where the repsonse made any sense, allthough it was still very difficult to play. Mostly because the range is pretty weird. I don’t know if this is normal Theremin behaviour – the lowest notes are spaced pretty comfortably, like 5 semitones are ok, but then the distances became ridiculously small, impossible to play and looking a lot harder than in every video i watched about any Theremin. But i saw some A-178 videos, where people seem to struggle with the same problem.

Also the advice in the thread linked above ‘Theremin should be outside your rack, far away from everything’ is correct. Ok, i could build a mini case and leave it aside. Because in the longterm i find playing Theremin leads over ambient or ambient-techno a very interesting topic. Theremin in general is yet a quite fascinating controller. Ok, the Haken stuff covers a similar territory, but also is a lot more expensive.

Now to the question: In the long run i likely want to include a Theremin into my rack, of course patching it not the conventional way only. What options do you know beside the A-178 to connect with Eurorack?


Cool. Thanks for reporting your experiences!

With my Etherwave, the distances do get tighter towards the antenna as well, but maybe the proximity of a big case makes it worse in the Doepfer modules. I can cover a couple of octaves before it gets really difficult.

I usually set the pitch range so that when I stand almost at arms length from the antenna, I can reach the lowest point (“zero beat”) when I move my right hand back near my chest. The idea is that you can cover the entire range by moving your forearm/hand while the rest of your body stays perfectly still. But you can also set the range wider, beyond your standing position: that way you can’t cover it entirely by just moving your arm forward, but the part you do cover is a little more stretched out, and therefore more forgiving.

For theremin-style control inside your rack, the traditional antenna system will probably always be problematic. It senses in all directions, so your rack itself and anything you do in front of it – wiggling, playing, patching – will affect it. I would imagine that the infrared light system in the Koma Kommander described in the other thread is a little more directional, only registering what happens directly in front of the sensors, and therefore more playable in a cramped setting? But I don’t know if something similar exists as a module.

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The Moog theremins have CV out, at least I know the Theremini does for sure, I imagine they’d be quite a bit easier to play (and they look and sound gorgeous).

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Maybe you could stick it through a scaler or cv quantizer?

I monitored pitch cv via Arpitecht, but just for some test reasons. In the end what makes Theremin interesting to me is the probably not perfect intonation, fretless style. Further a good vibrato is not only what brings the voice to life, it also covers slight pitch inaccuracies beautifully.
Yes, you can add a slew limitier before or after the quantizer, but yeah…

In other words i think going down the quantized route a Keyboard+Glide+Vibrato (be it touch control on the keyboard UI or through other modules) controller system seems more direct.

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Well the other thing about a scaler would be to be more forgiving on the range controls, at the expense of pitch range. I was thinking of doing what you are trying to do so please keep us updated on what your experiments come up with!

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I felt exactly the same way. After finally getting the CV out on my theremin to work, of course one of the things I wanted to try was quantization, just because it was now possible (it isn’t when using the Etherwave’s own oscillator). It was fun being able to wave discrete and precise notes around, but it sounded nothing like a theremin anymore. When I added some slewing through Maths, it lacked that direct response to the slightest hand movement, there was no vibrato and no natural movement between the notes. In other words: no added value from using the theremin…

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I really like the linnstrument because it’s simple to play (you can understand it and play some first nice melodies within minutes) yet it allows for great expressivity and a continuous pitch like a theremin. I find the intelligent quantitize feature to be really effective: it just works and you never notice it doing its job, which is a remarkable achievement. Of all expressive synth controllers I have tried, it is by far the best for me (Haken continuum is also good but not as flexible when it comes to connecting it to other gear like the modular)

I think the linnstrument can really be a great alternative to a theremin style of controller because it allows to play with a continuous pitch, but is much easier to learn and quicker to adopt to


The larger antennae of a serious theremin like the Etherwave is pretty hard to beat with a rinky-dink little AM radio style antenna. A good friend of mine has an Etherwave and a Theremini, and I built a PAIA kit theremin many decades ago, and the Etherwave is hands down way better than any of the others in terms of control/range. I’ve also played with optical sensors but it’s just not the same, you need a lot of throw to have the best control.

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I have never seen a Etherwave , but I have an old PAIA Theremax.
Although I liked the velocity output and the fact that it has both a gate output and S-trigger (short) output, it was still hard to “play” as I imagine most Theremins are.
Then I discovered the Doepfer A-198 Trautonium Ribbon Controller.
The 198 has only one CV output, but it is so much easier to make a melody like sound with it.
I satisfied my longing for Theramin sounds by using both the gate and CV outputs of a Theramin as control voltage sources for other modules.
So essentially I am playing both at one time.

An old PAIA Theremax?, but of course I also built a PAIA 2720/4720-4740 modular conglomeration with custom panels etc…

Anyway, a plug for the Doepfer A-198 ribbon controller.