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Moog Music develops LEV-96 pickup harmonizer

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November 14, 2012

Moog Music is currently beta testing its LEV-96 prototype sensoriactuator

Moog Music is currently beta testing its LEV-96 prototype sensoriactuator

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Marking something of a diversion from the company's more familiar analog synths, tonesmiths at Moog Music are in the early prototype stages of a novel technology capable of activating and controlling the natural harmonics and resonant frequencies of the strings of an acoustic instrument, and placing them at the disposal of the player. The LEV-96 sensoriactuator is currently installed at the sound hole of an acoustic guitar for beta testing, and features touch-enabled sliders and buttons for precise sonic tweaking and adjustment.

The LEV-96 is centered with the bridge of the guitar so that two electromagnetic pickup channels are positioned under each of the instrument's six strings. The installation is non-invasive and doesn't damage the guitar. Each channel is capable of controlling eight harmonics within each string simultaneously to make a total of 96 harmonics available at any one time.

Angled view of the electromagnetic pickups

Moog's Trent Thompson told us that the LEV-96 is a part of a concept. "In the case of an acoustic guitar, there are so many complex harmonics available that we decided to try and control every harmonic of every string," he said. "The electromagnets under each string are adding energy to or taking energy away from the strings at different harmonics in order to create new sounds. The result is anywhere from a string that barely moves to a string that sustains infinitely."

Above the sensors are capacitive swipe touch controls for adjusting intensity, harmonics and note duration and additional touch points for choosing presets, arpeggios, and modulation tweaking including tremolo and random harmonics. The brightness of built-in LEDs indicate slider position. There's also a lock key to prevent accidental change of the settings mid-strum.

The bulk of the device's electronics are hidden from view inside the body of the guitar. The unit is currently powered via a cable from a wall socket, although Moog is currently testing a version sporting an internally-mounted battery. The user activates the LEV-96 by touching the far edge of the pickup housing, closest to the guitar's high E string.

The installation of the LEV-96 is non-invasive and doesn't damage the guitar

The device searches for and registers each string's natural harmonics and is able to simultaneously "play" up to 96 of these sounds to provide a harmonic backdrop for the player's string picking. Thompson explains that "you could also think of this like a black-and-white movie that has been color corrected. We have complete control of the hue, saturation and color of each string's sound and resonance."

"The harmonic's pitch relies upon the player's chording position and follows that," he said. "All the sound is generated acoustically, though an acoustic with piezo or internal pickup can be used at the same time."

Although Moog has chosen an acoustic guitar to demonstrate its early prototype, the company sees the technology being used with other acoustic instruments and even being fixed to almost any surface or material. Thompson also told us that "in the right package we could control the resonance of a window" of an electric guitar or bass, too.

The company took the opportunity offered by October's Moog Fest in North Carolina to show off the new technology, and has kindly shared the following video demonstration with us.

Source: Moog Music

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag.   All articles by Paul Ridden
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