Aetherwellen-Musik.de

Home-brewed Theremins ... and other strange devices

Claravox Centennial (CV-C) Theremin  Review & Improvement

The Claravox Centennial (CV-C) Theremin (Claravox is a trademark of  Moog Music, Inc.) has arrived recently (mid September 2021). The delivery had been delayed by approximately eight months, so it was supposed that the instrument would work as expected after such a long preparation time.


Unfortunately, the Moog Claravox Centennial Theremin #00185 suffers from some issues which will be described below. Probably, some of them may have been fixed already by an update of the Theremin firmware or at later shipment dates.

The CV-C Theremin is intended to be placed at a dedicated Claravox Stand which must be purchased separately. This stand has issues, too.

Please note the following: Most of the proposed remedies for improving the Claravox Centennial Theremin or even making it operational as intended by the manufacturer will void the terms of guarantee because the user shall not perform any kind of manipulations at the instrument. This is entirely reserved for the so called qualified (service) personal e.g. at the Moog factory.

Therefore it is advisable to send Claravox Centennial Theremin units back (manufactured at-least up to mid September 2021), even when it seems to be currently in working condition – this can change quickly; even during a performance!

The author and host of aetherwellen-musik.de, a experienced RF- and electronics graduate engineer and trained qualified professional electrician with over 30 years of professional expertise, has decided to perform the inevitable reworks by himself, pondering the consequences.

Let’s start with the positive thing(s) to report (which are not self-evident for a Theremin):

‘Rockmore Sound’-Setting

In contrast to a not modified Etherwave, it is possible to adjust the Claravox Centennial Theremin close to the advised ‘Rockmore Sound’ pulse-width  (without paying much attention to the volume response).

In TRADITIONAL mode,  the settings of the knobs are as follows:

FILTER: fully clockwise

TIMBRE: '1'

BRIGHTNESS: fully clockwise

WAVE: approx. 1 o’clock (between 7th and 8th stroke - from the left)

DELAY: fully counterclockwise

In MODERN mode, the Claravox App (Claravox Advanced Software Editor by Moog Music Inc.) has to be used to set the appropriate parameters:

Preset Name: Clair de Lune

Tag: Classic Delay Vintage

Group: Grégoire Blanc

Additional knob settings in MODERN mode (after choosing the Preset):

FILTER: fully clockwise

BRIGHTNESS: fully clockwise

DELAY: fully counterclockwise


Issues, Flaws and Improvements of the Moog Claravox Centennial Theremin



1.

Issue:

Loose contact of fully enamel varnish coated brass volume-antenna to antenna-jack’s contact spring, causing unstable operation or complete loss of volume.


Solution:

Carefully apply tiny amounts of acetone liquid to the lower end of the antenna-shaft which fits the antenna-jack (approx. 25mm) to partially remove the coating. The solvent (acetone) can be applied using a soft cloth, wiping off the dissolved varnish coating. To prevent oxidation of the brass, the contact area has to be plated with a thin layer of e.g. tin. Ideally, this is done galvanically during production.

It is even possible to add the tin layer subsequently using a 80W power soldering-iron.


Pictures:






2.

Issue:

Loose contact of fully enamel varnish coated brass pitch-antenna-arm unit to antenna-jack’s contact spring, causing unstable operation or complete loss of pitch performance.


Solution:

Carefully apply tiny amounts of acetone liquid to the pitch antenna’s threads (antenna-rod and -arm) as well as to the lower end of the shaft which fits the antenna-jack (approx. 25mm) to partially remove the coating using e.g. cotton swabs. The dissolved varnish coating can be wiped off by a soft cloth. To prevent oxidation of the brass, the contact area has to be plated with a thin layer of e.g. tin. Ideally, this is done galvanically during production.

It is even possible to add the tin layer subsequently using a 80W power soldering-iron.


Pictures:






3.

Issue:

The enamel varnish of all coated brass surfaces, like the antennas, will get scratched easily (even by mounting the antennas to the Theremin body), which looks quite unaesthetic. The coating is extremely thin and lacks durability.


Solution:

Carefully wash off all varnish coating from the brass metal surfaces (e.g. antennas) using acetone solvent and protect them by a thin layer of appropriate acid-free conservation-wax, which can be renewed from time to time  


Pictures:






4.

Issue:

Loose pitch-antenna-arm locking screws. The two screws are additionally tightened by counter-grub-screws from the inside of the antenna-arm compartment, but got loose when turning the arm during attach- and detachment anyway.


Solution:

The two screws have to be furnished with locking varnish at the inside thread before screwing them in, preventing them from future loosening.


Pictures:



5.

Issue:

The 12V power connector is predestined to fall of the back of the instrument because it is not secured and sits quite loosely. In addition, the connector has no real strain relieve because the applied connector’s plastic is way to hard and so the used two-wire cable is likely to break at the transition after some time of use.


Solution:

Re-design of the rear-connector PCB (because there is no appropriate pin-compatible outer threaded sleeve jack available); replace simple DC barrel-type power jack and power-unit connector by versions with outer threaded sleeve that screw mates to the chassis mount jack outer thread, providing a secured connection. The connector of the power-unit also has to provide a soft strain relieve to protect the cable from getting shattered.

As a temporary solution (or a general series remedy), a cable fixing bracket is proposed which not just only fixes the 12V power cable but also the other cables (especially the USB cable). It is attached to the CV-C Theremin using two of the four already provided screws which fix the rear cover to the connector panel. The cable fixing bracket shown in the pictures below was manufactured using a standard 3D (PLA) printer. It was painted to appear wooden like.


Pictures:


CAD:

Claravox Cable Fixing Bracket
CAD mesh file (.stl) for 3D printing the Claravox Theremin Cable Fixing Bracket
CVC-CF_04-07.stl (579.67KB)
Claravox Cable Fixing Bracket
CAD mesh file (.stl) for 3D printing the Claravox Theremin Cable Fixing Bracket
CVC-CF_04-07.stl (579.67KB)






6.

Issue:

The 12V power-unit does not provide rubber-foots to hold it in place. Theremin instruments and connected parts and cables have to be kept as fixed to the intended position as possible, moving even accidentally, especially during a performance, has to be prevented under all circumstances.


Solution:

Add four small self-adhesive rubber foots to the lower side of the power-unit (those foots might be additionally fixed by appropriate glue).


Pictures:






7.

Issue:

The small knobs are mounted to high above the front panel, compared to the knobs of bigger diameter, due to incompatibility of potentiometer shaft length and knob hole depth.


Solution:

Replace all the small incompatible knobs by adequate ones or replace the potentiometers with incompatible shaft by correct ones witch match the used knobs.

A temporary solution is to carefully machine partially away about two to three millimeters of the knob’s metal clip-spring and of the torsion limiting boundary inside the knob’s hole, leading to approx. 2..3mm more insertion depth.


Pictures:



8.

Issue:

All knobs have a small brass like plate which is covered by a thin protection plastic film. This film has not been removed after production of the instrument was completed and makes the plate appear somewhat foggy.


Solution:

Carefully remove the protection plastic film from all knobs using e.g. a wooden toothpick.


Pictures:






9.

Issue:

The volume response of the instrument is somewhat sluggish compared to e.g. the modified EW (REB); problematic at staccato playing (refer to 'Diagrams' below). There is no ‘Anschlagdynamik’ (over/undershoot of volume / acceleration of loudness level) noticeable, as already advised in the EW modification documentation.

In addition, it seems that the audio signal cannot be reduced accordingly when playing at very low volume; the cut off distance can not be adjusted properly.

The sensitivity and range of the volume-antenna is to low due to the long flexible cable which interconnects the antenna jack to the volume oscillator / antenna extension-coil board which is positioned to run close to the ground plane of the PCB (refer to 'Factory Condition Pictures' below). This leads to additional unstable capacity between the hot end of the extension coils and ground in parallel to the volume antenna.


Solution:

Include volume-control improvements as already advised in the  EW modification documentation according to the original designs of Leon Theremin all is now included at the CVC-Theremin VREB-10-2021 (Volume Rockmorizer Extension-Board), refer to simulation, pictures and volume-response graphs below.

For the 'Optimal' configuration which corrects the factory installation, the long flexible cable which interconnects the antenna jack to the volume oscillator / antenna extension-coil board (refer to 'Factory Conditon Pictures' below) has to be re-positioned to run as far away as possible to the ground plane of the PCB. In addition, the cable can be tied up by e.g. a cable-tie to reduce its effective length and surface area (refer to 'Optimal Modification Pictures' below). This minimizes additional unstable capacity between the ‘hot’ end of the extension-coils and ground in parallel to the volume antenna, leading to higher volume antenna sensitivity. The volume-oscillator has to be re-adjusted when the cable position has been corrected. The same long interconnection cable is used at the pitch-antenna-arm jack, but has little effect because it is located at the ‘cold’ end of the pitch-antenna extension-coil which sits inside the pitch-antenna arm compartment.

Note: The volume behavior can be somewhat improved by adjusting the VOLUME RESPONSE knob in MODERN mode without having to modify the hardware, but will not achieve the performance of the installed VREB.


Factory Condition
Pictures:


Optimal Modification
Pictures:


Factory/ Optimal Diagrams:


CVC-T VREB-10-20201
Simulation:



CVC-T VREB-10-20201 Pictures:


CVC-T VREB-10-20201 Diagrams:



10.

Issue:

When the position of the TIMBRE knob shall be changed, e.g. in TRADITIONAL mode from position ‘1’ to ‘2’-’6’, the firmware concept dictates to store the actually adjusted values before changing the TIMBRE knob position by pressing and holding the STORE button. If the values have not been stored, they are lost, because when resetting the TIMBRE knob to position ‘1’, the originally adjusted values, even when the knob positions of e.g. BRIGHTNESS and WAVEFORM have been left unchanged in the meantime, are not recovered. The actual knob values are overwritten by the stored values of TIMBRE ‘1’, the actual knob settings - the shown values of the knobs - are not the values which represent the recovered values and knob settings! A strange behavior can be noted when a timbre has been selected by the dedicated knob and e.g. the WAVEFORM knob is turned sightly – the timbre jumps from the actual recovered setting to the actually adjusted value.


Solution:

Firmware-Update; change operational concept of Claravox Centennial Theremin. The ‘1’ position of the TIMBRE knob shall be reserved for the ‘real-time’ adjustments at the knobs, this means each time timbre ‘1’ is selected, the set values actually defined by the positions of all control knobs are in effect. For storing the found values to the remaining five TIMBRE knob positions ‘2’-’6’, the STORE button shall be pressed and the switch position has to be changed to the one where the new timbre shall be stored. The switch position has to be selected during the STORE button ‘blinking three times’ period. The measures do not change the behavior for TIMBRE knob positions ‘2’-’6’, to be able to sort of modify stored values.

Only position ‘1’ is exclusively reserved for the actual knob settings and cannot be used for storage. This prevents the values to jump from the stored to the actual set ones when slightly turning a knob by switching the TIMBRE knob to position ‘1’ first. Now one can switch between timbres (even the actually adjusted) without the need of saving, which makes the handling of the instrument much more comfortable.






11.

Issue:

Slack cabling, especially the USB cable and its EMI ferrite is not appropriately tightened; two connected cable-ties have been used. At the top USB jack, no additional fixing is existent. The harnesses of cables near the antennas, connecting the antenna-oscillator boards, are quite lengthy and can change their positions because they are not fixed or tightened anywhere. This may cause changed antenna calibration after vibrations due to transportation.  


Solution:

Directly fix the EMI ferrite of the USB cable by directly connecting the provided lugs of the ferrite-core housing and the mounting bracket at the theremin chassis using a single appropriate cable-tie. The ferrite shall not move when shaken. The upper end of the USB-cable can be fixed in place by feeding it through a suitable fastening-eye or using a similar fixing solution as already applied for the EMI ferrite-core.


Factory Condition Pictures:

 



Modification Pictures:






12.

Issue:

Peak volume of  MODERN mode is much louder than of TRADITIONAL mode.


Solution:

Rise amplification factor of TRADITIONAL mode by changing hardware, or change volume of MODERN mode by lowering digital DAC output amplitude (firmware-update) to match TRADITIONAL mode when switching between modes.
This is currently under examination!






13.

Issue:

The CV-C Theremin produces a loud pop noise (at the Main Output), especially when switched off.


Solution:

Implement a hardware switch-off pop-noise muting circuit, e.g by using a simple relay which delayed connects the audio jacks at power on and immediately disconnects the jacks at power off (before the supply voltage has fallen to much, producing the pop noise); partial hardware re-design.
This is currently under examination!






14.

Issue:

The CV-C Theremin produces squeak noises when the volume is close to cut-off (mute) while the hand is very close to the volume antenna shortly touching it while wiggling.


Description:

 


It was assumed, that this behavior is possibly caused by the very small capacitor value (220pF) of the SMD capacitor located at the Volume-Oscillator board, connected in series to the volume-antenna and extension coil L15 (5mH), providing DC decoupling and high-pass filtering to reduce mains low frequency modulation interference. When to small, the capacitor effectively will serve as ‘shortening capacitor’ to the antenna extension-coil, reducing its value. This may lead to frequency jumps to unintended values when touching the volume-antenna, causing the derived volume-control voltage to jump, too. Frequency jumps of the antenna resonator- and oscillator circuits (of both - volume or pitch circuits) have to be prevented under all circumstances because e.g. the oscillators might get locked to this wrong frequency. When locked, usually the antenna has to be touched or the supply voltage has to be interrupted to get the oscillator back to its intended frequency. The locking may even appear when switching on a theremin (especially with high antenna sensitivity meaning wide pitch- and volume-range), e.g. when grounding conditions have changed extremely, probably because the location of the instrument has been changed.

Frequency  jumps as described above cannot appear this way at the CV-C Theremin volume-control due to the application of the volume oscillator- and antenna-resonator detector designed by R. Moog and already applied e.g. at the EW-S/+ Theremin. This circuit does not use the small-bandwidth (oscillator frequency deviation < 5kHz) configuration as originally developed by L. Theremin and used in the Rockmore/Rosen Theremin instruments. The circuit located at the volume-oscillator board of the CV-C Theremin relies on a wide frequency deviation of the antenna resonator (antenna and extension coil) from approx. 510kHz to < 320kHz. The highest resonance frequency of the antenna resonator occurs when the hand is far away from the volume-antenna. When the hand is very close, slightly touching the enamel covered brass volume-antenna loop, approx. 320kHz is reached. Unfortunately, this frequency is equivalent to the frequency of the CV-C Theremin’s pitch oscillator! The pitch control hand and the body of the player pick up the high-frequency signal of the pitch-oscillator as transmitted by the pitch antenna resonator and conduct it to the hand near the volume antenna. When this hand comes close to the volume-antenna, the volume resonator lowers its frequency until at some point very close, it resonates at the typical 320kHz pitch oscillator frequency which is now converted to a noticeable control voltage leading to a sharp rise in volume, even when normally close to cut-off. Because the volume-antenna is varnished, the hand does not make direct electrical contact to it which would effectively ground it which is the case e.g. at the EW-S/+ Theremin. The grounding would prevent lots of pitch oscillator RF from penetrating the volume resonator/detector circuit; thus the volume-control would behave normal (very low volume when hand close to antenna, no sudden jumps in level of sound). This can also be observed when the player is specially grounded to earth (PE).


Solution:

Insert Wave Blocker device to prevent pitch-oscillator signal (320kHz) from entering the volume-antenna resonator, which can resonate at 320kHz when hand is very close to the antenna. It consists of a additional parallel resonator circuit (1.1mH / 220pF) connected in series to the cold end of the volume-antenna resonator extension coil (L15). Because the volume control circuit of the CV-C Theremin is extremely sensitive to deviations of mechanical and electrical tolerances, inserting the proposed Wave Blocker is likely to change the cut-off position of the hand near the volume-antenna. It was noticed that complete cut-off did not occur and was not adjustable at the volume-oscillator tank or the volume control-voltage amplitude defining trimmer R57, located at the volume-oscillator board. A somewhat similar behavior had been already noticed at the general volume-control issue 9. which was caused by the additional parallel capacity to the volume-antenna (slovenly cable positioning).

To overcome all this, a dedicated piggy-back board (CV-C Theremin VREB-10-2021) was designed to minimize the additional stray capacitance, provide at least trimmers for cut-off (R59) and control-voltage amplitude (R57), hold the antenna extension-coil (L15) and the 320kHz blocking parallel-resonator (2x 470uH / 220pF). The overall coil inductance of the parallel-resonator can be adjusted by bending the coils changing the distance to each other.

The CV-C Theremin will now (probably for the first time) work correctly applying the Wave-Blocker, when volume-oscillator tank, volume control-voltage amplitude trimmer R57 and especially the cut-off trimmer R59, which has a big influence on the low-level volume response, are adjusted correctly.


Pictures:


Isues, Flaws and Improvements of the Moog Claravox Stand



1.

Issue:

It is not advisable to mount the Claravox Centennial Theremin to the dedicated Claravox Stand because the legs of the stand cannot be fixed tightly to the base. There are four securing lock hooks at each leg to fix it to the base when the hook is snapped-in to its counterpart. The two outer counterparts are missing; so the legs only loosely grip to the fittings; a ‘Fehlkonstruktion‘ (faulty design). Originally, the legs had to press-fit the base of the stand. Because the wood of the legs was not dried properly before production, the legs shrink while the wood is slowly drying. Because the shrinking process had already started during production, a thin self-adhesive black plastics plate was added between one of the plastic lock-plates; but the shrinking has been continued and the thickness of the self-adhesive plate was not appropriate any  more to give the appropriate push-fitting. When lifting the stand, the legs are likely to fall off by themselves and get damaged. In addition, the fixing hooks and their counterparts are made of relatively flexible plastics, meaning the stand is not designed to be much operated and maneuvered. It is completely unsuitable for rugged stage use.


Solution:

To fix the legs tightly, appropriate rubber-rings have to be placed between the two lock-plastic plates, at least two on each side. This gives some additional thickness of the wooden leg, leading to the correct press-fit push fitting. The rubber-ring type may have to be adapted from time to time (shrinking of the wood) according to the needed additional distance. At the #00185 CV-C Theremin, manufactured in August 2021, rubber-rings type #R-05 (ID 7,1mm / SD 1,8mm) have been appropriate.


Pictures:



2.

Issue:

Placing the Claravox Stand on wooden- or ceramic tile floor is not advisable because the applied glides consist of hard plastics (black) which may cause scratches on the floor. In addition, the CV-C Theremin instrument slides even when slightly pushed because there is no grip provided (even on carpet) by the glides (as the name indicates). Theremin instruments have to be kept as fixed to the intended position as possible, moving even accidentally, especially during a performance, has to be prevented under all circumstances.


Solution:

All glides have to be replaced by standard soft-rubber foots (gray) as used e.g. for electrical equipment. Those foots can even be tightened using standard wood screws through the metal thread-hull because it is not closed at the inner end.


Pictures:

 

 


TOP