Inventor Paul Vo’s latest crazy musical innovation is a hand-held wand that changes the sound of guitars like magic. Hold up to a guitar string, and the string starts to vibrate. Depending how you use the wand, it opens the door to a multitude of new sounds. Vo did it again.
The last time we checked in on Paul Vo he had just launched the Vo-96 acoustic synthesiser, a gadget, which when installed in an acoustic guitar completely alters the way it sounds. It samples the vibrations of the stings and then shoots magnetic waves back at them, altering their wave form. The results are striking and almost too outrageous to believe. It’s not an effect — the very physics of the string’s vibration has been changed.
The Vo wand is once again uses magnetic waves to alter the sound of guitar strangs, but this time it comes in the form of a the Vo wand, which is a “handheld sustainer.” To me it looks a bit like an X-ACTO knife with the blade retracted. As its name implies its the device provides infinite sustain, but that’s not what makes it special. Vo’s last two instruments, the Vo-96 and the Moog Guitar, were both capable of infinite sustain. In fact there is a commonly used hand-held device called the EBow that also provides infinite sustain.
What differentiates the Vo Wand is the level of control the device gives you over the sound. In the pure sustain mode, the Wand causes the guitar strings to vibrate uniformly, using much the same principle as Vo’s other devices: Transducers in the wand sample the frequency of the string vibration and beam waves back at tit to keep it constant. It samples the strings and shoots back waves much faster than the string vibrations and much faster than the string is vibrating so there is no perceptible lags in the sound.
The Wand also has some unique playability features that give it a “feel.” First of all, to solve the problem of needing to get the tip of the wand near the string without actually touching it, the sustainer has haptic vibration feedback that lets you know when you’re where you need to be. This feature is activated with a little switch, so if you don’t want to use it you don’t have to.
Furthermore, there are two playability features you can activate. In “pressure” switch actives allows you to alter how much power the the Wand is injecting into a string by squeezing the wand. With more power, the Wand actually activates higher harmonics in the string’s vibration.
The Morphic mode, meanwhile, allows you to manipulate the Wand a bit like a tremolo bar. Hold the Wand stead, and the sound remains consistent. Rock it a little bit and the wave form will alter as if you were physically manipulating the string with touch.
Vo showed a prototype of the Vo Wand at the annual NAMM show last week. It will be available through a Kickstarter for $US200.
In a lot of ways, this new evolution of Vo’s technology makes a lot of sense: The Vo-96 and the Moog Guitar were awesome technological achievements, but they were too expensive. At $US200, Vo brings his brilliant technology to a much wider user base.