Kickstarting The Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizer

April 12, 2013
ASHEVILLE, NC In the same way that recent developments in 3D printing have brought the focus of the tech world back to real manufacturable objects, the Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizer brings the creation of new sounds and expressive techniques back from the realm of analog and digital abstractions into the world of vibrating physical objects.  Astonishingly, it does this with a device that fits seamlessly on any standard steel-string acoustic guitar.
Since the dawn of the electronic age, advances in technology have taken musical instrument design down the same paths as many other hi-tech products. Early synthesizers created music with analog circuits similar to those found in radios and televisions.  A few years later, the first digital synths used computer technology to construct and process sound, advancing to the point where laptops are now a common sight on stage. Today, a new advance in musical instrument design brings sonic exploration full circle, back to where it all began.

Paul Vo, the inventor of the technology behind the award winning Moog Guitar and Moog Lap Steel instruments has for some years been imagining, experimenting and developing a radical music synthesis tool that operates by a new method of sound design: Acoustic Synthesis™. Unlike traditional methods of analog and digital sound generation, acoustic synthesis creates new sounds and methods of musical expression by controlling the vibrations of actual physical objects.

The most advanced version of this paradigm-shifting technology is now poised to enter production. Called the Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizer™, it augments and controls the vibration of guitar strings, dramatically expanding the sonic capabilities of the standard acoustic guitar.  
Kickstarting Acoustic Synthesis

Radically new methods of synthesis come along once in a generation. In order to allow as many people as possible to be a part of this turning point in music technology, Vo-96 sales and production are being managed through a Kickstarter campaign. The campaign’s open structure and multiple contribution levels can accommodate everyone from guitarists wanting a Vo-96 for themselves to enthusiasts just wanting to help bring this technology to the world and participate of musical history.

Paul has worked as a freelance design consultant; product development manager at Yorkville Sound Ltd.; director of research and development at QSC Audio Products; and now as a professional inventor. He has created the Vo-96 as a full-power platform for developing the concepts of acoustic synthesis. It’s designed with reams of flexibility and vast extra computational headroom for exploring endless ideas, new features and instrument behaviors. As the "inventor's cut" product the Vo-96 is not a limited implementation, but rather a high-powered platform for exploring this new musical space.

Early 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, important tweaks and improvements were made to the electronics, user interface and mechanical design. Now with Moog's blessing, the Vo-96 Acoustic Synthesizer is being offered through this Kickstarter campaign by Paul’s design company, Vo Inventions LLC.

Hardware and Software

The Vo-96 system consists of two hardware elements, a powerful analog and digital signal processing (DSP) vibration control engine called the Core-96, and a transducer “pickup” with an attached user interface. Once installed you see only the transducer/interface, the rest is hidden safely inside the guitar.

The Vo-96’s operating software (firmware) at its current revision already defines an instrument that is powerful, deep, and great fun to play. Future firmware updates will be based on guitarists’ feedback. Customers who connect with us through this Kickstarter campaign will take part in defining the future of acoustic synthesis.

The Vo-96 hardware design is set, tested, very powerful, and will not change prior to the ship date.  Hardware changes are a big reason why some crowd-funding projects end up shipping late. There are no plans to change the hardware in the future, but the Vo-96 behaviors and features will continue to evolve for some time to come.

  • 12 physical sensoriactuator channels, 2 per string
  • 96 virtual channels of harmonic control, 16 per string
  • Capacitive touch interface with LED status indication and lock-out
  • Power, harmonic blend and note duration touch-sliders
  • Adjustable modulation effects with instant preset save/recall
  • 6 quick-change presets in 3 sets of 2 using odd, even and all harmonics
  • 3 harmonic arpeggios unique to six presets independently triggered on 6 strings
  • Hex random harmonic modulation with average rate and amplitude adjust
  • Hex Tremolo with separate triggers per string and rate touch-slider
  • Bluetooth Wireless connectivity for firmware updates and TBD advanced features
  • No moving parts - built to last as long as your guitar
  • Attaches and removes without marring your guitar
  • Designed to run on optional internal battery power or external power adaptor
  • Optional 4/hr advanced LiFePo4 battery with integral charging
  • Hardware platform has large uncommitted resources for firmware expansion

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