1929–30 Theremin

1929–30 Theremin

Who Commissioned This Instrument?

Unverified, possibly RCA.

Who Owned This Instrument?


Where is This Instrument Now?

This theremin is owned by Gene Segal of Wavefront Technologies.

What Do We Know About This Instrument?

Electronically, this theremin is very similar to the RCA Theremin, employing the same tube complement, similar oscillator frequencies, and same principles for generating sound and controlling volume.

All of the electronics are mounted to the same wooden breadboard style chassis including the power supply, which on the RCA production is mounted to the floor of the instrument's cabinet. The pitch and volume resonant coils are wound on cardboard tubes, hand-painted black at the exposed ends. The passive electronic parts are atypical of the RCA production, being high quality and sometimes laboratory-grade components, thoughtfully selected from independent suppliers of the day.

Why is it Special?

The early date of construction, combined with certain construction details make it a likely candidate to be one of the two prototypes that Lev made for RCA ca. May 1929. It is also possible that this instrument is one of the ten Victor Theremins that performed at Carnegie Hall in 1930 (albeit with custom-built internals).

Supporting the RCA prototype supposition is that Lev's hand-written designations are more carefully and completely applied than his marks on other surviving instruments. Furthermore, this theremin is housed in a professionally made, near duplicate of the factory-built RCA cabinet (which was made for RCA by Jamestown Mantel Co.), and has numerous details that approximately match the factory-built cabinets. These and additional details further support the theory that this theremin is one of the two RCA prototypes.

The grille cloth and metal woven grille covering the RCA 106 Loudspeaker mounted in the lower cabinet is the same material that is found on the only known, fully intact, original diamond speaker which accompanies Clara Rockmore's RCA Theremin.

Tube Complement:


Not currently available, but predominately similar to the RCA factory schematic, with minor differences.