Paul Vo puts sustained harmony at your fingertips

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The prototype Wand being demonstrated by its inventor, Paul Vo

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Back on 2012, Paul Vo and Moog revealed a working prototype of a device that took control of acoustic string vibrations to provide a harmonic soundscape behind whatever the player was picking. After making some necessary tweaks, Vo took the newly-named Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizer to Kickstarter for the final push to production. The campaign was successful and the product is now available to buy. Vo has now revealed a handheld single string sustainer prototype that uses the same technology as the Vo-96. Say hello to the Vo Wand.

Though handheld sustainers have been available for quite some time, Vo says that the Wand is much more powerful than anything already on the market. It makes use of a vibration control system invented by Vo and deployed in Moog's Guitar and Lap Steel, and later refined for the Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizer. In fact, it's kind of like a single channel handheld version of that instrument-mounted system.

"This controller emits coherent focused electromagnetic energy in perfect phase with the motion of the guitar string," said Vo. "All of the energy impinging on the string acts to drive the string to resonance and excite harmonics."

The Wand is used like an elongated guitar pick, between the thumb and forefinger of the picking hand, except that the player doesn't touch the strings with the device but rather hovers the Wand above individual strings. Haptic feedback to the musician's index finger will be provided by an actuator which vibrates as the Wand is brought close to a string (which can be deactivated for those who prefer to look rather than feel their way around).

The Wand's control has been made pressure sensitive. As the player increases the pressure between thumb and finger, the sustainer's magnetic energy and frequency profile alter to produce progressively higher string harmonics and more sustain. Note pitch is determined by finger position on the neck and different sounds can be achieved by trying different Wand placement positions between the bridge and neck.

Vo has also included something called a Morphic mode switch, which activates a controller that responds to the motion of the Wand relative to the string. If the device is held still, a steady sustain results. Gentle back and forth movement across the string modulates the harmonics of the note.

The sustain effect works on acoustic, electric and bass guitars and is reported to be very strong and immediate, suffering "no noticeable latency and excellent uniformity for every playable note on the guitar."

The Wand packs a Li-ion battery that should be good for 1.5 hours of continuous harmonic experimentation at full power, though Vo notes that as it's likely to be used intermittently, a single charge will probably last a good deal longer.

The only official video showing the Wand in action can be seen on Paul Vo's Facebook page. The Vo Wand is still in prototyping at present, though we have it on good authority that a production version will be made available shortly for around US$200.

Source: Paul Vo

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