When browsing the Moog website, quite naturally I was drawn to the Claravox Centennial Theremin as my “if I could have anything, I would want that” choice, only to be disappointed to learn that it was discontinued as an actively produced instrument. Mike, my best friend, now deceased, and I had discussed for many years getting a Theremin, what made a good one, whether we would buy a kit and build it or whether we would buy a pre-made one, but his declining health made such discussions merely academic towards the end.


I was not really interested in buying one second-hand: call me pretentious but I do not want to buy an electronic instrument that someone else wanted to get rid of, my experience is that they want to get rid of it for a reason. I was new to me, it had to be new new.

vox box

I bought a Etherwave Theremini because of the extra synthesiser/editor functions, and still love it for being a gentle “in” to the highly opinionated and secular field of Theremin playing. It’s digital re-creation of the Theremin experience is fascinating, yet widely reviled in the same community for whatever vapid reasons.

vox box open

Early the 2021-2022 Xmas holidays I began browsing my music vendor’s website for a mixer and amplified speaker to add to my gear and noticed, to my astonishment that the MOOCLARA was listed, and accepting orders. I checked in with Moog, via email, and they said they had finally the parts to honour limited orders again (the global pandemic has eviscerated the electronics industry), so I placed an order, fully expecting (because of the discussion about this very thing on Reddit) to be told, down the track, that I was unsuccessful in placing an order

vox paperwork

A month passed, the “accepting orders” remained but the caption now read “LEFT HANDED” and a cold dread passed over me thinking I had ordered a Theremin with the antennae on “backwards” – they do make a version for “southpaws”, but i am most definitely right handed. I panicked and contacted the store, who initially did not see the problem with a picture of a right-handed theremin labelled left-handed, and could not understand my initial concern that i had just forked out a shed-load of money for an instrument I either could not play, or was forced to play backwards.

vox at rest in packaging

The shop tried to assure me that the code MOOCLARA is a “standard” right-handed theremin and apologised, fixing the page title (but then leaving the same picture on their LEFT HANDED CLARA page also (which would confuse southpaws no end I assume). I then checked with Moog, who in the end, were actually fulfilling my order and confirmed it was a standard right-handed model, much to my relief.

vox bits ready to assemble

Two more months passed, no information, I got an email from the merchant apologising for no movement on the order and asking if I wanted to choose something else from their catalog instead – lol – I just sought clarification that there would actually, eventually, be stock to fulfil my order, when they (and Moog) said yes, but they were waiting on components, I knew I had to be patient.

2 weeks ago I received an email saying my order had been finalised and shipped – my heart skipped a beat as I excitedly followed the tracking from docklands to mail centre to my workplace (it had to be signed for, and I was working, and I wanted to avoid no one being home and it being sent to some far off post office for later retrieval). Friday, the final day of term, a box arrived, I carried it home then finished packing for a weeks interstate holiday we were leaving for at stupid o’clock on Saturday.

Returning from a week interstate, being as patient as possible, I finally got around to the almost religious experience of un-boxing my new Theremin. What a lovely journey that was – the packaging is all class, it guides you to the instrument reveal, and shows you how to assemble it, mount it on a stand, plug it in and calibrate it before playing.

vox set up, ready to be plugged in

I took my time, enjoyed the process and then, nervously, plugged it in, turned it on, let it warm up (yes, that is a thing – the analogue circuitry needs to warm up to be stable) and then make my first noises using the instrument’s antennae. I was unprepared for the visceral experience of the smoooooooooth sound it generates and the lush chocolatey bass down near the zero-beat, remembering the sensation still gives me goose pimples.

It is early days, and i have a LOT to learn about how to use the actual instrument on 3 levels. Firstly, from a performance perspective, the way the antennae work is different to my Theremini : the “linearity” is noticeable – notes from deepest to highest are arranged as absolute distance from the pitch antennae, and there feels like there is more room and their spacing is much more evenly distributed along the glissando (unlike the Theremini where notes closer to the antennae are “compressed” into a smaller distance). The volume loop is also much more granular, I can chop notes off sharply (stoccato style) or softly with deft touch, this changes everything. I am choosing to stay in “Classic” mode – full analog, and will get the hang of the control set for this mode before turning to the “dark side” of digital Thereminology again.

“Modern” mode is a re-working of the digital Theremin, and it has a whole world control knobs, features, effects and modifiers. It also has it’s own separate electronics in the instrument, and i have not ventured there, yet.

The Claravox has a downloadable “editor” that is similar but way more extensive in feature set to the Theremini editor, and affords the ability to sculpt a sound and determine how it is controlled and modified by interacting with the antennae – a brave new world.

The Claravox is touted as a “generation” instrument, designed to give a lifetime of concert-level performance, that is hand-downable. It’s finish and componentry are lush and beautiful. I look forward to experimenting and learning how to drive it in predictable ways.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.