Inventor Paul Vo's latest crazy musical innovation is a hand-held wand that changes the sound of guitars like magic.
Hold it up to a guitar string, and it'll vibrate forever. Depending how you use the wand, it can sound like a perpetual flute or maybe a harp. With more advanced practice, you can make your guitar sound completely different than any other instrument in history. Vo did it again.
The last time we checked in on Paul Vo he had just launched the Vo-96 acoustic synthesizer, a gadget that had to be custom installed under the strings of an acoustic guitar at considerable cost. But if you bought in, your guitar would never sound the same. The Vo-96 samples the vibrations of the strings and then shoots magnetic waves back at them, altering their wave form in a variety of ways.
The results are striking and almost too outrageous to believe. The Vo-96's improbable effect isn't produced by processing the sound of the guitar after the fact—the very physics of string vibration have been changed.
The Vo Wand builds on the same principles as the earlier tech, but this time the device comes in the form of a "handheld sustainer." To me the palm-sized gadget looks a bit like an X-ACTO knife with the blade retracted.
As the previous description implies, the Wand induces infinite sustain in guitar strings, but that's not what makes it special or new. Vo's last two innovations, the Vo-96 and the Moog Guitar, could make guitar strings ring infinitely, and there is a commonly used hand-held device called the EBow that will keep a string vibrating forever—or at least until it runs out of batteries.
What differentiates the Vo Wand from a $100 EBow is the level of control the palette knife-like stick affords musicians. At its most basic level, in the pure sustain mode, the Wand causes guitar strings to vibrate uniformly when you bring it close. The Wand harnesses the same principle tech as Vo's other devices: Transducers in the Wand sample the frequency of the string vibration and beam waves back to keep the tone constant. The Wand samples the strings and shoots back waves much faster than the strings vibrate so there is no perceptible lag in the sound.
The Wand also has some unique playability features that give it a "feel," and make it easier to use. First of all, you can set the Wand to give you haptic feedback based on how far away you are from the guitar string you're trying to manipulate.
Other settings change how the Wand's waves wiggle the physics. A "pressure" switch allows you to control how much power the the Wand is injecting into a string by squeezing the stick. With more power, the Wand 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 steady, and the sound remains consistent. Rock it against the plane of the guitar, and the sound will modulate a bit, 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'll be available through a Kickstarter campaign for $200 in the near future.
This new evolution of Vo's technology finally makes Vo's lofty brilliance consumer friendly: The Vo-96 and the Moog Guitar were awesome technological achievements, but they were too expensive for average folks. At $200, the Wand is accessible to a much wider audience.
Video and images courtesy of 'Vo LLC