I'm determined to build a theremin.

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I'm determined to build a theremin.

Postby erdabyz » Sun Dec 16, 2012 3:24 pm

Hi folks,

My girlfriend is a musician (well, for now she's a student) and some days ago she came to me saying that a teacher had told the class about some weird electronic instrument that you played without touching it and that was used to make alien sounds for movies. Being the electronics freak I am I automatically knew she was talking about a theremin. She was quite fascinated with it and told me she would like to try one.

So her birthday is relatively near and I'm determined to build her one as a present. But I wanted it to be a true theremin, fully analog, with all its LC oscillating glory... so I searched a bit and found this:
http://www.suonoelettronico.com/downloa ... herwav.pdf

That has an schematic which uses mostly modern components and that uses transconductance amplifiers which should emulate the original valves quite well. Actually that's the schematic of a kit that some folks sell for 400 bucks so you can make your own professional theremin. I also found the schematic it derives from:
http://wiki.joanillo.org/images/a/a0/EMTheremin.pdf
which has some info about the required inductors and that.

Finding the components was a pain in the ass. Virtually no distributor sells adjustable inductors anymore, and high-Q fixed inductors of over 10uH are also hard to find nowadays. Finally found some TOKO FDSV series adjustable inductors and some relatively high Q fixed inductors at RS components. And surprisingly they were SMD (hooray!). Ordered them ASAP. Also surprisingly the 10, 5 and 2.5mH chokes required for the antennas (BOURNS 6300 series) were available everywhere at a price I'd never imagined. I was expecting 5 bucks per coil but they are just 1,35€ each.

Next I ordered everything else from digikey. I have chosen quite premium components. Capacitors related to audio are either tantalum or poliphenylene sulphide film capacitors which are quite expensive but that way audiophiles won't say it sounds bad because my capacitors haven't got enough magic powder inside them. Also there are only a few caps that need to be this good and this is a present for someone I love beyond money so... I also threw in some 10uF 16V 0805 X5R capacitors for decoupling pourposes that weren't in the original schematic but that I think they should be neccesary. 100nF's wouldn't do shit in this design as they have large impedances at the frequencies involved in the circuit. All the other caps are also high quality ceramics or similar but those run for pretty cheap.

LM13600M's were found on ebay.

I decided that unlike in the original desing i'd try to make the board as short as possible and assemble the RF chokes for the antennas in series and in line inside a plastic tube instead of mounting them in the board (well, I have to mount one in the board because of the way it is connected but the rest will be outside). That should improve the way the inductors couple to act like a single but "distributed" inductor with reduced parasitic capacitance and such things.

Next stage: design the PCB. I love squeezing circuits in tight layouts but having in mind a couple of good layout rules. I'm pretty happy with the result. It still needs a bit of touching and I've used overly large trace thicknesses just because and because I could. It's meant to be mounted upside down (the wooden case will have three holes in the bottom that align with the tunable coil's screws so I can tune the thing) and have the large 2200uF caps mounted at right angle. I have to correct that silkscreen, for example.

I'll try to finish the board this christmas and maybe populate one just for testing. The wooden box, the front panel an everything else will be made after I finish my finals.

Here's the current board and schematic. I hate doing schematics so forgive me for the lack of cleanliness... The board is much better done.
I may give away some of the boards when they're done if any of you also wants a theremin.

theremin.zip
(129.55 KiB) Downloaded 507 times
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Re: I'm determined to build a theremin.

Postby ian » Thu Dec 20, 2012 2:32 am

Great writeup! I have always wanted to make a theremin, but besides learning to play the Dr. Who theme I have no idea what I would do with it :)

Looking forward to pics and hearing how it turns out.
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Re: I'm determined to build a theremin.

Postby erdabyz » Wed Dec 26, 2012 11:34 am

PCB is finished and sent to SEEED. As it costs the same to get 10 10x5 boards and 10 10x10 boards I panelized another design (a geiger counter) to fill a 10x10 board.

The geiger counter is based on mightyohm's design. I don't really like the PSU design but this has just been a quick design to fill the extra space and to test a geiger tube I got some time ago so I didn't wanted to think.

Here are the files:
theremin2.zip
(173.13 KiB) Downloaded 348 times


I will post full components list and maybe give some of the PCB's away when they arrive and the first prototype gets assembled. I don't want anyone to try and build this before being sure that it works as intended.
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Re: I'm determined to build a theremin.

Postby ludowique » Thu Dec 27, 2012 4:30 pm

erdabyz wrote:Hi folks,
I may give away some of the boards when they're done if any of you also wants a theremin.


building a theremin was a project years ago. but i stumble on the lack of time. i saw your post via the twitter channel.
will you send one of the Boards to Berlin, Germany?

Thanks!
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Re: I'm determined to build a theremin.

Postby erdabyz » Thu Dec 27, 2012 7:29 pm

ludowique wrote:
erdabyz wrote:Hi folks,
I may give away some of the boards when they're done if any of you also wants a theremin.


building a theremin was a project years ago. but i stumble on the lack of time. i saw your post via the twitter channel.
will you send one of the Boards to Berlin, Germany?

Thanks!


Yeah, sure. When mine is built and the PCB is tested I'll send you one if you want, and I'll also post the final partslist with some notes on where to get the components. You should be able to get every component in germany, as long as RS components is available there.
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Re: I'm determined to build a theremin.

Postby ludowique » Fri Dec 28, 2012 2:51 am

erdabyz wrote:
ludowique wrote:
erdabyz wrote:Hi folks,
I may give away some of the boards when they're done if any of you also wants a theremin.


building a theremin was a project years ago. but i stumble on the lack of time. i saw your post via the twitter channel.
will you send one of the Boards to Berlin, Germany?

Thanks!


Yeah, sure. When mine is built and the PCB is tested I'll send you one if you want, and I'll also post the final partslist with some notes on where to get the components. You should be able to get every component in germany, as long as RS components is available there.


Well there is reichelt.de and segor.de. Segor is my great hope - it is a little Shop here in Berlin, and till now they got *everything* i want. Just to be sure: those "RS components" are the adjustable Inductors you wrote about in your first post, right? And if you have parts left over - i know where you can get rid of them. ;)
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Re: I'm determined to build a theremin.

Postby 4dolfin » Fri Dec 28, 2012 11:22 am

I tried to buld one from a kit fron Paia. No matter what I did I could never get the volume antenna to work. This was about 15 years ago. Since then I've been itchin to get one to play. I was thinking of getting the kit from Moog and putting it together. But I think this would be more rewarding. I can't wait to see and hear your project when it is complete. Also I would love to get one of these PCBs as well.
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Re: I'm determined to build a theremin.

Postby todro » Sun Dec 30, 2012 11:19 am

Sounds like an interesting project. Saw this instrument first at a Jean Michel Jarre Concert and was really surprised...

If you have a spare pcb available, I'd would be interested too :-)

Thanks for sharing the project.

Greetings,

Torsten
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Re: I'm determined to build a theremin.

Postby erdabyz » Thu Jan 10, 2013 11:16 am

Boards are here. Stay tuned!
Image
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Re: I'm determined to build a theremin.

Postby erdabyz » Sat Jan 19, 2013 9:27 am

Partially assembled board:

Image
It needs to be ultrasonically cleaned, but that will be done after it's fully assembled.
Damn I have too many components. It has taken me much longer than I expected to assemble this because I have to search the components in a way too large pile...8 full boxes and counting...
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Re: I'm determined to build a theremin.

Postby ludowique » Sun Jan 20, 2013 11:22 am

cant wait to build it too. ;) it looks great!
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Re: I'm determined to build a theremin.

Postby erdabyz » Mon Jan 21, 2013 5:16 am

ludowique wrote:cant wait to build it too. ;) it looks great!


My finals period ends february 4th. Then I'll have a spare week to finish this project. Hopefully I'll be able to test the board earlier, and if it works I'll send you one of the spares.
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Re: I'm determined to build a theremin.

Postby todro » Mon Jan 21, 2013 4:01 pm

Great to see the project's progress
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Re: I'm determined to build a theremin.

Postby Sleepwalker3 » Tue Jan 22, 2013 12:05 am

Pity I hadn't caught onto this a bit earlier, might have saved you a lot of searching for parts. Australian Electronics Magazine 'Silicon Chip' did a project for this years ago and later did a Mark II version, it's still available as a kit from Aussie Electronics place 'Jaycar Electronics'.
The Silicon chip articles can be found through here -
http://www.google.com.au/#hl=en&tbo=d&spell=1&q=theremin+site:siliconchip.com.au&sa=X&ei=ABz-UJ2PAaPniAeivYC4DA&ved=0CCwQvwUoAA&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.&bvm=bv.41248874,d.dGY&fp=b987864691354c7e&biw=1280&bih=642

and the kit can be found here for $75 Australian (roughly the same as $USD)
http://www.jaycar.com.au/productView.asp?ID=KC5475

Silicon Chip only allow you to see a part of their article without payment, but the kits come with full printed details.
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Re: I'm determined to build a theremin.

Postby Sleepwalker3 » Tue Jan 22, 2013 12:09 am

A pic
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Theremin.jpg
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