Review: Vo Wond

March 4, 2016

I’ve been an EBow freak for decades. That strange little pod of infinite sustain has never been absent from my gig bag. It’s a fantastic tool for layering guitar textures, articulating single-note melodies, and conjuring harmonic-feedback-like squalls.

But as much as I love that thing, it’s not like a device that debuted back in 1976 can’t be improved upon. And an engineering mastermind like Paul Vo is just the guy to develop a thrilling new way to indulge my obsession with sustain. Vo, who created his acoustic synthesis technology (or “computationally enhanced physical instruments”) to power the Moog Guitar, Moog Lap Steel, and Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizer, recently brought his latest marvel to market, the Vo Wond ($209 direct).

If you’re familiar with an EBow, then you pretty much know the basic concept of the Vo Wond—well, except that the Wond is a bit more erratic in a good way (that is, if you relish spontaneous creative deviations). You hold the Wond over a guitar string, and the string sustains until you remove the device. You can also squeeze and release the device’s Pinch switch to attack individual notes. Vo utilizes a different technology than the EBow to make this happen (see the “Maker’s Insights” box), and the results flip flop between what you’d expect (bow-like sustain sounds), and what you don’t (ghostly warbles, feral yowls, etc.). I adore all of that stuff, but the real genius of the Wond is in its remarkable performance applications.

Some examples: Haptic-feedback technology makes the Wond undulate the closer you get it to the string, so you can actually feel when you’re driving it. No more straining eyes on dark stages to see if an EBow is efficiently positioned. An LED “headlight” illuminates the string to show you’re “on track,” and also glows purple when driving the string. The hard head of the Wond can be used as a conventional slide, making for fretless-guitar-type parts that resonate for hours.

I used a Les Paul, a Vox AC30, and my pedalboard to craft my own sonic chaos. I ran it across barre chords for swelling (and colliding) notes, “strummed” just over the strings for EDM-style stutter-edit sounds, and punched strings for Tom Morello-inspired attack/hold/sustain effects. The Wond’s occasional unpredictability didn’t throw me at all—it always added something cool and exciting to the performances—but, having said that, if I was being hired to deliver a conventional bowed part on guitar, I’d probably chicken out and grab my EBow. Or not [devilish grin].

At $209, many will consider the Vo Wond a bit expensive for a sustain effect. But I feel the enhanced performance capabilities and technological e-Vo-lution of the Wond make it deserving of an Editors’ Pick Award. I don’t think the test model has left my hand yet!

Kudos Infinite sustain in many ways.
Concerns Tiny Power and Haptic switches.
Contact paulvo.com

MAKER’S INSIGHTS
By Paul Vo

“The Wond is an excursion into analog unpredictability. It drives the string initially with a chaotic series of strong impulses that converge to a coherent drive signal as the string responds with vibration. This gets the string vibrating quickly while the element of chaos tends to randomize timbre. The Wond is based on a patented collocated vibration-control system that establishes coherent two-way communication with a string. It’s a unique analog technology that makes many interesting and expressive things possible.

Other sustainers don’t have this kind of drive signal or behavior. The venerable EBow has long defined the category of the hand held sustainer, but the Wond is very different and may be frustrating if you are expecting another EBow. This is why I advise users to set aside what they know about other sustainers, and to treat the Wond as a new thing to discover.”

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