There are several
companies which presently manufacture Theremins and Theremin kits.
There are many cheap models available with poor features, which
are usually very difficult (if not impossible) to play. Unless you're
only planning to use it as a toy, I recommend you get a quality
model from a reputable company. This page attempts to give an overview
of some models which may be found on the market, but I make no effort
here to completely catalog all models ever made. Prices mentioned
here are accurate as of the time of original publication of this
page and may become out of date with time.
You may wish to read about how
to shop online before buying, to help you get a better price.
Manufacturers: If you are not listed here and
wish to be, please let me know and it will be my pleasure to list
you here when I get a moment to freshen the page.
Regardless of manufacturer, any serious Theremin
requires a separate amplifier system. While it's possible
to use an inexpensive guitar amp, a keyboard amp or specialized
Theremin amp is preferable. Theremins tend to put out a very
strong signal that easily overpowers and overdrives a guitar
amp, and guitar amps sometimes have some built in distortion
which may be desirable for a guitar but which alters the output
sound in ways not necessarily desirable with the Theremin.
I have a cheap guitar amp as my amp, but I'm not happy with
it. I recommend the Moog Music theremin amp instead. (See
Most models also require a stand. Usually, this is just an
ordinary microphone stand, which you can get at practically
any music shop. They cost about $15 to $35, depending on the
model and the store. I paid $20 for mine at the guitar store
just down the street from my home.
While there are some Theremins which don't require a stand
because they have attached legs, these are usually more expensive
models which are probably not intended for a beginner.
model is extremely popular among beginners, at about $400,
or an unassembled version for about $350. It's the model I
have, I'm very happy with it, and I recommend it. I also strongly
recommend you buy the $100 amp
that goes with it (it's really a respectable price for an
amp and you'll have the peace of mind of knowing you have
the perfect amp for your Theremin), or even better, just buy
complete set which comes complete with Theremin,
amp, stand, audio cable, and padded
carry bag, at a slight savings for about $560.
As you no doubt see from the links on either side of these
paragraphs, Amazon.com has substantially better prices on
the standard and kit Etherwave Theremins than ordering directly
from Moog Music. Assuming you buy the finished instrument
from Amazon, if you add in the cost of the rest of the contents
of the complete set (using Moog Music's prices for the remaining
items), it would come to about $555. So, if you only want
the instrument, or don't want everything in the complete set
(for example, if you already have an amp), Amazon's price
is a bargain. If you want the complete set, you don't save
much by buying it piecemeal instead of as a set directly from
Here's Randy George playing "My Funny Valentine"
on the Etherwave:
My experience with my own is that it depends a lot on the
amp: on my crummy little amp it sounds tinny and small, while
using my friend's recording studio's pro equipment it sounds
huge, rich, and lavish.
This model is also somewhat popular among beginners because it's
relatively cheap, at about $230 for the kits for both the Theremin
and its case.
On the negative side, I've heard it's very difficult to control.
Also, the Theremax is a kit, not a completed instrument. Unlike
the Etherwave kit, which simply requires you to install the circuit
board in the cabinet and tune it, the Theremax comes as a blank
circuit board and a collection of tiny electronic parts which
must be individually hand-soldered to the circuit board. While
the idea of soldering together a circuit board isn't scary to
those with electronics experience like myself, beginners will
probably find such a complex project daunting, and it's easy for
an inexperienced beginner to make a subtle mistake which will
render the instrument completely nonfunctional. Please note that
the Theremax is substantially more complex than the Jaycar kit
On a more positive note, the Theremax case is somewhat more functional
than the Etherwave case because it provides a place to put your
sheet music while performing. Also, the Theremax has CV (control
voltage) outputs, which allow it to be connected to a CV to MIDI
device if desired, which opens a substantially increased range
of tonal possibilites through connection with a synthesizer.
Kees is taking a break from making theremins for the moment;
you may wish to check his web site to see if he's started again
by the time you're reading this. The instruments he makes are
based on the Jaycar kit, with a bunch of improvements he created,
in a beautiful wood case. He also has a superb reputation for
taking care of his customers. Up until he took his break, they
were selling for about $205 (US).
If I was looking for a Theremin at a lower price than the Moog
Etherwave, I'd consider the Kees Enkelaar theremin.
Jaycar makes a real Theremin, available as a kit
for only about $52, and as a completed
and tested unit for only about $75. (These prices
are in US dollars, converted from prices listed in Australian
dollars, as of August 28, 2006.) Apparently, Kees Enkelaar is
making his instrument by starting with this kit and making some
The immediate problem I see with this unit is that it's much
too small: the case is only 15.5 centimeters long. With the volume
antenna so close to the pitch antenna, there would be no way to
control the pitch without the volume hand interfering with the
pitch control field. This would make it essentially impossible
to play melodic music.
On the other hand, a kit has no such constraints: you could buy
their $52 kit and make your own cabinet to install it in with
more space between the antennas. At such a low price, I decided
to do this just to see how it goes. I've got my kit, I'll publish
an update when I have something assembled and ready to show.
Oh and by the way, the shipping charges are largeish. It was
about $19 to ship my kit to the US. (And that was at a better
exchange rate because it was a while ago before the dollar tanked.
Thanks Mr. Bush.) It's not Jaycar's fault, my Australian friends
tell me that shipping anything to or from Australia costs a lot.
Dan Burns makes a number of pitch-only instruments. They have
a low cost and can be used to play a melody, although they don't
offer volume control. (You could use a third party foot pedal
to control volume.) You can find details on the comparison
The B3 is probably the cheapest real Theremin (with both pitch
and volume antennas) available in the US (I'm excluding the Kees
here because it's an import). As of December 2007, it's $152.
That's cheap. A downside is that it's quite small, which means
you're going to be playing in quite a compressed playing field.
However, it's definitely playable as the following video shows.
Wavefront is a very small quantity Theremin manufacturer that
attempts to focus on instrument quality. I haven't seen or heard
one, but some reputable experts say lovely things about the instruments,
their quality, and their tone. Their portable model - which is
actually built into a briefcase - is $625, and their floor model
is $1350. They are, therefore, not ideally priced for the beginner.
(I believe the briefcase model is no longer in production, but
if you want one, do ask them about it.)
They also sell a CV to MIDI converter for $675, which would allow
use of a Theremin as a MIDI input device. This would theoretically
enable a vastly increased range of tonal possibilities through
the use of MIDI sounds on a synthesizer or computer. I haven't
heard anything, good or bad, about the quality or usefulness of
this particular model of CV to MIDI converter, so I can't comment
I know nothing about the instruments sold by this web site, so
if you have any information to share, do let
me know. I was only able to find one
customer review of their "Elysian" model,
which was negative, but it's only one so I don't feel I have sufficient
information to have an opinion about their quality. They also
make a "pocket theremin", which is pitch-only but could
be a fun toy.
A kind person gave me a Theremaniacs pitch-only instrument
to be given to a friend of mine who is disabled. If I remember
correctly, the gentleman who runs Theremaniacs complained to
me in the past about my remarks about pitch only instruments,
so I want to give him a fair assessment here regarding the device's
quality. Theremaniacs sells inexpensive pitch-only instruments
The instrument I received was basically a circuit board with
attached knob, jack, battery connector, and antenna wire. This
is a model Theremaniacs sells as a kit: I see one on ebay at
the time I'm writing this for $79.95. In addition to the board
and its attached parts, it comes with the actual knob that gets
mounted on the outside of the case, a clip that holds the 9v
battery, a handy screwdriver that is used to tune the circuit
boad, and an antenna. The gentleman who so kindly gave me the
kit to put together for my friend replaced the knob with a more
attractive knob, and enclosed two alternative antennas. Also,
he no longer had the instructions originally enclosed with the
kit, so I was flying blind on how to tune the board.
I bought an unfinished pine jewelry box at the local craft
store for $8, and a bag of 1/4" wood cubes for $2. I bought
a can of wood finish that combines stain and polyurethane at
the hardware store for $5, and some brushes for $1. Using the
wood finish, I gave the outside of the jewelry box five coats.
This was "the hard part". I then took it to a friend.
We decided where on the box to put holes for the knob, the jack,
the antenna, and the battery connector. (I decided to use a
battery eliminator instead of an actual 9v battery. Thus, I
wasn't using the battery clip.) We glued several of the wood
cubes inside the box to mount the circuit board to, drilled
holes in the blocks for screws, and screwed the board into the
blocks. We drilled holes in the box for the knob, jack, antenna,
and battery connector, and some ventilation holes. We then installed
the unit's parts into their respective holes. This was all pretty
easy with some hot glue, a screwdriver, and a drill. We chose
to use one of the alternative antennas that was given to me:
the original antenna from the kit was perfectly okay, but it
would have been inconvenient to mount that particular kind of
antenna in the particular box I was using, and I liked the appearance
of one of the other antennas better anyway.
The resulting unit looks terrific. It'll look even better when
I get the battery eliminator and connect it and place the connection
inside the box, so the 9v battery connector isn't sticking out
the side of the box.
Tuning the unit was a snap. It took me about 30 seconds to
figure out how to tune it (lacking the instructions) and about
5 minutes to tune it to my satisfaction. I then taped the tuning
screwdriver to the inside of the box in case it's ever needed
The sound of the instrument is very simple, almost a sine wave
tone. Its linearity is neither the best nor the worst I've seen:
I think it has about an octave of playable area, and while that
area isn't very linear, it could be dealt with. Having discussed
this with the manufacturer, we believe that the antenna I used
gave it less linearity and less range than it would have had if
I had used the manufacturer's original antenna.
Theremaniacs has kindly offered to provide an evaluation unit,
which I declined, at least for now. This seems to be a good gesture
of good faith and of their belief in their product.
I have insufficient information on this $150 device to make substantial
comments. An anonymous reader wrote to tell me about it: "Basically,
it's better than a toy but not by much. It has very little range
and almost no pitch control, mainly useful for zappy noises. Fun
for a keyboard player to throw on top synth and play with but
not really an instrument per se." Thanks, anonymous
reader, I'd have wrote back to thank you but I don't know your