For the theremin’s 100th anniversary, Moog unveils the gorgeous Claravox Centennial

It’s been a full century since Leon Theremin created the electronic instrument bearing his name, and to celebrate Moog is releasing what must surely be the best-looking (and may be the best-sounding) theremin of all time: the Claravox Centennial.

With a walnut cabinet, brass antennas and a plethora of wonderful knobs and dials, the Claravox looks like it emerged from a prewar recording studio, as indeed is the intention.

It’s named after Clara Rockmore, the Soviet musician who played the theremin in the 1930s to wide acclaim (and probably puzzlement) and contributed significantly to the fame of the instrument and to its design.

The one she played, however, was a mere toy compared to the ones devised by electronic music trailblazer Bob Moog, who built his own from plans published in a 1949 magazine. Later he would iterate on and improve the instrument to make it the versatile yet distinctive theremin that would become a staple in many genres alongside Moog’s own synthesizers.

The Claravox isn’t meant to be a display piece, though. It’s the ultimate theremin, packed with modern and old-school tech. You can customize and switch between analog and digital oscillators; the wave shaping circuit is from the Etherwave Pro; there’s a built-in delay and preset storage; the inputs and outputs allow for use with lots of sources and controllers; there’s even a matching stand (sold separately).

It works the same as theremins always have: The antennas detect the position of one’s hands (or other objects) in the range of their electric fields, and one controls pitch while the other controls volume. Playing the instrument is as much a performance as the music itself, as this excellent rendition of Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” shows:

Interested (and deep-pocketed) theremin aficionados can pre-order their Claravox Centennial today for $1,499. It should ship in December — just in time for the holidays, if you want to surprise that special, synth-loving someone.

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