About this project
Hooray! We have crossed the line and are officially funded! But we are not stopping here. Please read Update #6 for some exciting news and incentives!
( Click "Updates" above the video ^^ )
We continue to receive more coverage! Scroll down to find links to Gizmag, Guitar Player, & many others! .....And our Video Gallery! ....And FAQ!
Tyler Ramsey was kind enough to let us record while he tried out some of the different behaviors and sounds of the Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizer. Clips of the unrehearsed footage are shown just as it happened with only stereo reverberation added to the mono recordings. Audio was recorded directly into the camera with the single large-diaphragm condenser microphone visible in some of the shots. We were thrilled by Tyler’s playing and intuitive command of the Vo-96!
We wish it were possible for everyone to personally try out a Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizer. Holding and playing a standard steel-string acoustic guitar equipped with the Vo-96 immediately conveys the truth that this is something completely new – categorically new.
The experience wakens an intense sense of entering the unknown. You hold a familiar instrument yet it sounds and feels very different. Play and you are rewarded with fascinating, idea-generating sounds. Like Tyler found, you just want to keep playing and playing. You find sounds that go with music you already perform. You start to get ideas for new music and you try those. Soon there is no question: you definitely want one!
Here is another video. In this one, a range of guitarists react to their first experience trying the Vo-96:
Every movement must have a beginning. Whoever you are and wherever you are in the world you can reach out and connect with us through this campaign. Make a pledge. Become a backer of Acoustic Synthesis. Help spread the word to other innovative guitarists by sharing our Kickstarter page, YouTube videos and website.
If you are such a guitarist we invite you to become one of the very first to experience this instrument. Join us and make history. The Vo-96 feature set and behavior is software defined. Future plans for software will be determined by guitarists’ actual experiences with these earliest Vo-96 equipped instruments – your experiences. Your ideas will be encoded!
Get on the edge. Make the pledge that rewards you with a Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizer!
The Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizer - by Paul Vo:
The Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizer is based on a key invention that enables accurate control of acoustic vibrations. I'm the inventor. My technology was behind the well-known Moog Guitar and the Moog lap steel -- instruments based on the same key principle. Since then I've been advancing this invention towards its full potential. Now I'm going ahead with the Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizer. It's my full 'inventor's version' product and will be produced by my design company Vo Inventions LLC.
The Vo-96 was never intended to be a retail type of product. It is a concept product that takes the technology to the max and demonstrates what's really possible with acoustic synthesis. It's the “inventor's cut” and it leaves nothing out -- which makes it impractical to sell through the standard retail channels with their customary price mark-ups. Making the Vo-96 available through Kickstarter allows us to maximize the value to you and provide the most powerful product for the price; and there is simply nothing else available at any price that does what the Vo-96 does.
Our goal is to launch Acoustic Synthesis technology with a bang. We want to put the most powerful instrument possible into the hands of as many forward-thinking guitarists as possible and listen to the new music you all create. This is where Kickstarter really shines! I'm thrilled to have found a way to offer the Vo-96 directly to you at the fairest price possible - about half what it would cost as a retail product!
To your right, check out the pledge levels that reward you with a Vo-96. Imagine it installed in a sweet-sounding guitar in your collection, or into a new guitar purchased just for this opportunity. In either case, you’ll be exploring new sounds and cutting edge technology, driven by your two hands, six strings and a fret board. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination, and as familiar as your favorite instrument.
Tested and ready to produce:
Vo Inventions has a great relationship with the Moog Music company. Last year testing was conducted by Moog Music whose relationships with artists allowed deep experimentation with this technology concept through a BETA test phase code-named LEV-96. Learning from the results, I made some important improvements to the electronics, user interface and particularly the mechanical design.
The Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizer has over 1200 components, three high bandwidth digital signal processors, 12 channels of sub-microsecond analog sampling, 12 physical full bridge transducer drives and 96 virtual channels of vibration control. Wireless communication via Bluetooth lets it connect yet remain portable. There is an optional but highly recommended battery subsystem that makes it completely portable - just like an acoustic instrument is supposed to be!
The initial "LEV" beta test version of the Vo-96, (12 units), have been out there and working for some months now, which gives us a lot of confidence about the integrity of the electronic design, the current revision of firmware and the overall instrument.
When you become a backer of the Vo-96, you make it possible for me to incorporate important final mechanical design improvements that will make the synth interface even easier to attach to a guitar - one of the main things we learned in field testing. I'll make a 3D model to verify the new assembly and then officially advance the design. This will be the product we ship to you.
The power of your pledge:
As an inventor I'm fascinated by the invention of Kickstarter and crowd funding in general. One of the hardest things to achieve is to create something that has never before existed and successfully have it manufactured and sold to customers. The more innovative a project is the harder it can be to find backers. Kickstarter makes it possible to reach the best kind of backer, that special person who will fuel the manufacture of my invention with a treasured combination of goodwill and the desire to own one of the first Acoustic Synthesizers ever made.
Each pledge you make here on Kickstarter creates a strong commitment and ongoing relationship between us that goes well beyond merely buying and selling something. It's not unlike the relationship involved in commissioning a work of art, but it's actually something completely new and I commend Kickstarter for leading the way forward.
Your pledge has power: Pledging at any level is very meaningful and significant to us. I think you'll enjoy owning the artistic rewards we offer! As an original backer you'll always be remembered. You'll be able to watch, listen and share ideas on the Acoustic Synthesis Forum, and you'll always be among the first to hear of new developments.
We have sub-assembly manufacturers all lined up and ready to begin production. All we need is the funding to turn all this on. Final assembly will be done under my direct supervision and I will personally test and sign each and every Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizer we ship to you.
With your backing, clearing the $50,000 hurdle will enable us to complete this final revision to the Vo-96 hardware and get the minimal quantity manufactured - at that level it is possible to go forward. If this campaign raises more than $200,000 we'll be able to fund faster software development and speed up the rate of updates for the owners of Vo-96 acoustic synthesis instruments. It comes down to this: the more you pledge, the more creativity will flow into acoustic synthesis and more incredible music and new invention will emerge.
Vo Inventions is offering up to 350 Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizers here on Kickstarter. It would be so great to see them all in the hands of guitarists!
My Pledge of Quality:
Today if you don't cut corners it's possible to design electronic equipment that will last for decades. That philosophy has guided my design choices with the Vo-96. There are no moving parts to wear out and no quickly degrading components such as electrolytic capacitors. Your Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizer should keep working as long as your acoustic guitar remains playable.
I've used the best available battery technology - a newer and reportedly safer battery than what you find in most laptop computers today. With the battery comes a sophisticated charger subsystem. The battery technology is called lithium iron phosphate - please look it up on Wikipedia where there is an excellent in-depth article.
Software and the future:
Vo-96 behavior is software defined and still evolving. New features can be installed wirelessly. The current software, (it's actually called firmware), already defines an instrument that is great fun to play, but there is so much more to come. I mean it when I say we're on a journey of discovery together. Your Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizer will be expanded and refined via updates. It will become even more amazing and rewarding to play. Your own ideas may about it may even become part of its future identity.
More information about the Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizer:
Every owner of a Vo-96 is invited to be a member of a community of explorers. We are exploring acoustic synthesis and sharing impressions and ideas. You will help define the future of this instrument because we will be listening to you. Over the next weeks, we'll launch our forum and get ready for what I'm sure will be some lively discussions!
Much more information about the Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizer is available online. Please visit our web site, voinventions.com and also our affiliated site experimentalsynth.com – and watch for articles.
And here are some of the articles...
Download the Artist's User Manual for the Vo-96 > HERE.
Thank you to Tyler Ramsey for giving us his endorsement and permission for video footage.
Thank you to Kickstarter for being here.
Thank you to the people of Moog Music for believing in my work.
Chris Stack has worked tirelessly creating and distributing our promotional materials as Marketing Director at VoInventions LLC.
Several friends reviewed and gave guidance about the campaign – an ongoing process!
I also want to thank all the people I know in the city of Asheville North Carolina for making me feel like this is exactly and naturally what I ought to be doing!
Risks and challenges
I've been a professional inventor since 2004 and a product developer and senior executive with two major audio industry companies, Yorkville Sound and QSC Audio Products from 1984 to 2004. With all that experience I can simply say this: I do know how to turn an idea into a finished, polished and professional product. I have a deep and strong track record for designing and producing reliable and successful products for the music industry.
Things can always go wrong. I've had that kind of experience too. The biggest benefit of experience is knowing how to overcome such problems. In the case of the Vo-96, we are ordering several subsystems from several suppliers and there is always a chance of a lead time being extended. I won't really know when the Vo-96 is can be delivered until we activate the orders we have waiting with our suppliers and get their updated delivery estimates. There could be parts shortages -- such things happen from time to time in the electronics industry. It would take a long time to detail everything that could possibly go wrong, but that's what I'm here for at this stage. Whatever happens I will deal with it.
These kinds of problems could cause a delay but they will not derail the project and they will not prevent me from delivering the Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizers I have promised our backers. This is a complex project, but the funding we are seeking here on Kickstarter comes in towards the end of it. Most of the really difficult things have already been sorted out. Nothing is completely certain when it comes to product development but this project is pretty darn solid!
You can help! The more backing we have, the more power to overcome obstacles and to speed things along. Spread the word because every pledge helps, not just the pledges that have a Vo-96 as the reward. The smaller pledges show that people are interested and have goodwill towards this project and our work. That weighs positively with our investors and ripples outward to raise us upward! Spread the word!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
The Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizer does not work with nylon strings.
I can't resist adding that I do have an idea for overcoming this, but it's an idea that it will require a little time, effort and funding to experiment with. If the idea works, then there will be the issue of the smaller sound hole....
Yes it is, fully compatible with all of the piezo-type pickups and anything that relies on that basic principle. The overwhelming majority of acoustic guitars that have built-in pickup systems use systems of this compatible type.
There are some guitars - some of the newer top-end guitars from Taylor and others - where manufacturers are experimenting with various combinations of internal pickup technologies including electromagnetic pickups and dynamic microphones. As far as I know, these are all deployed in combination with some kind of under the saddle pickup system. For that reason, I think that there will always be some setting of the internal sound system that will be compatible. However, if there is an electromagnetic pickup system in the acoustic guitar, or an electromagnetic microphone element, there exists the possibility that this pickup will respond directly to the magnetic fields modulating the string vibration. This would be especially true if it happened to be deployed close to the Vo-96 transducers.
These instruments would have to be evaluated on an individual basis. However, the instrument electronics could not possibly be harmed in any way by picking up some of the direct magnetic energy from the Vo-96 transducers. It would be just spurious magnetic coupling - the same kind of thing that gives you hum in the pickup of conventional electric guitars. And it might sound kind of cool and be useful in some limited situations - you'd be listening to the control signal rather than the output, but that signal is not an-harmonic. As long as you have some settings that worked, things might be just fine - keeping in mind also that with the Vo-96 turned off or with the power slider turned to minimum, no field is omitted and so that could not be any interference with anything in the guitar.
Please see update number one on the update page, which is reached by clicking the update tab way at the top of this page! I've supplied a written answer there, and I'm still working on creating some pictures. Most guitars are compatible, but you do of course need to be certain!
What does the installation entail? Will this be permanently attached to my guitar? Can it easily be added & removed?
The installation is surprisingly easy.
- You remove the strings of your guitar.
- You lower the assembly down through the sound hole.
- Like we do every time we do it , you experience amazement that it actually all fits. :)
- You position the transducer down towards the bridge and center it.
- You put back the E1 and E6 strings just slightly tightened.
- You eyeball the centering to see that the transducer pickups are centered properly and adjust back and forth as required.
- You tighten one screw - well actually you're losing a screw which allows a spring
to exert a controlled clamping force to hold the Vo-96 in place.
The Vo-96 as a tacky under-surface that will not slip on the top surface of your guitar
even with only minor controlled clamping force.
- You put the strings back on.
- you adjust three set screws to set the height of the transducers under the strings. you are trying to get the transducer tops pretty much as close and parallel to the strings as possible without the strings buzzing against them.
Now plug in the external power, and start playing!
It really is surprisingly easy!
There is a detailed manual for the operation of the Vo-96 itself.
When installing the professional installation with the battery pack, the above steps still apply except that the power connection is now made differently. The installation of the battery pack and the rear power connection does require that a battery holder clamp be screwed to the thick wood where the neck joins the body on the inside of the guitar and this should be done by a qualified guitar technician or luthier. It's not a big deal but it is something that can affect your instrument. The same goes for drilling the small hole for the power connector at the back of your guitar, next to where the strap post usually is.
(The strap post is probably also an audio output from your guitar if it has a built-in saddle pickup, so we're not going to try to mess with that and cram power through the same connector.)
So the bottom line is this: the basic installation installs and removes without you needing to mar or change your guitar in any way at all. You can put it on, try it out, take it off, and you will never know was there. (Of course this presupposes that you are careful in the doing of it. Try not to scratch the instrument - obviously. What I'm saying is, the there are no deliberate alterations required for that portion of the installation.)
Mounting the battery and the power jack obviously does alter your instrument slightly. This is one of the reasons why we offer two versions of the Vo-96. However, it already seems that most people are going for the full professional installation - which believe me makes the most sense because it's a joy just to pick up the guitar and use the system battery powered without having to think about wires!
And note this: With a full professional installation, you can still temporarily install it into a guitar and give it a try without mounting the battery and the power jack first. If you decide to remove it, no harm done.
It was a primary focus of mine to make it possible for people to install this with the absolute minimum alteration required.
One more thing. If you install this on your guitar and then some long time later you decide to remove it, there will almost certainly be an ultraviolet age shadow on your instrument where the Vo-96 prevented the ambient light from aging the finish. Different finishes age at different rates, so how long it will take before a shadow becomes visible I cannot say. I'm thinking probably at least six months and maybe not until a couple of years. Alas, nothing can possibly be done to prevent that.
We will be providing pictures to illustrate this installation procedure. In fact, we have a movie awaiting editing. This is one of the many things will be preparing while you're Vo-96 is being manufactured.
The Vo-96 operates best with our special Acoustic Synthesis strings. These are wound with a magnetically active iron-silver wire that is treated to look just like ordinary acoustic guitar strings. They are durable, age very slowly and retain their excellent characteristics for a long time.
Standard acoustic strings are not very magnetically responsive. If you try a standard acoustic set with the Vo-96 you’ll quickly see what I mean.
Acoustic Synthesis Strings are designed to look, feel and sound like standard acoustic strings but have exactly the right magnetic properties for the Vo-96.
These strings will be available for sale on the Vo Inventions site and from our supplier on their site. Volume and price is still being worked out, but I promise you these will not be obnoxiously expensive. They will be priced competitively with other premium acoustic strings. In fact, anyone playing an ordinary acoustic with a magnetic sound hole pickup may want to give these strings a try - they are very "ferrofriendly" !
The plain strings are always steel – almost any plain E and B string of the right gauge will perform very well.
Steel-wound like those used on the Moog Guitar can be used - they don't sound quite as good on an acoustic and they don't look right, but they are widely available from several string brands - they'll do in a pinch for sure.
We'll have a list of acceptable string sources on our site.
There is no mirror-image unit, but it is certainly possible to just turn the whole thing around and mount it on a left-handed guitar. The controls would then be located away from you below the strings.
This orientation of the touch-pad has been proposed as a superior alternate; I was not convinced, but I'd like to hear from left-handed players once they have some experience with it. Remember the touch-pad can be easily locked out, so in any orientation it is possible to invoke presets without accidentally changing settings.