The Parker Steam Synthesizer is finished (and works!)

Lorin Parker’s steam synthesizer was posted earlier, but the information linked was at least 2 years old…

Steam synth in operation

The steam synthesizer has been fully operational for more than a year!!

It generates electronic sound through a modified dynamo, and, well, hisses and clacks like a steam engine.. . No electricity is used to generate an electronic signal. Only fire, heat, steam and metal!

New video, audio and info about the Parker Steam Synthesizer can be found here:

Furthermore, Lorin Parker has recently started Electric Western, a DIY oriented site for the dissemination of deviant and expressive electronic instruments. Many other instruments are showing up there as the site grows, and Electric Western will be providing unique kits and instruments in the near future.

8 thoughts on “The Parker Steam Synthesizer is finished (and works!)”

  1. Yeah, I saw this at the Maker Faire in SF. The Maker also had a vacuum tube theremin, which wasn’t quite as cool sounding as I thought it would be. As a matter of fact, the Theremin was surprisingly harsh.

  2. I’ll take harsh. Indeed, when experimenting with vacuum tubes it’s clear that gritty, harsh, screechy, etc are all sounds vacuum tubes make.

    I think we get a little mis-led by the vacuum tube guitar amplifier into thinking that “smooth” and mellow is a characteristic of all tube audio.

    Just check out Metasonix if you don’t believe me…

    Regardless, at maker faire the differential pair of triodes kept folding over because the filter in the volume circuit was too resonant and the Q was too tight… I’ve adjusted it, and now it doesn’t overdrive the output. I’ve tweaked that now, and am trying a new pentode based detector for the volume circuit.


  3. Lorin, you ought to get a bunch of valves and rig them up to be activated by a row of keys. Then you can play tunes on it. That would be so damn kool.

  4. That would be so damn cool! Consider it in the works. I’ve been wanting to build another one for a while — a little larger, more pressure, etc.

    Next one – pneumatic steam keyboard! I have the valves.

    However, making boilers and engines is intense and very expensive. So don’t hold me to a timeline…

  5. Perhaps instead of building another boiler and engine for each note, it would be possible to get other tones by using one “master oscillator” and then powering other tonewheels using a set of reduction gears?

  6. Also, Lorin, I would very much like to see the schematics for the EW Theremin if you have them available – it looks like it doesn’t use too many coils? I’ve seen some designs for tube theremins, but the ones I have seen kick my helixophobia into high gear.

    It’s too bad there aren’t events like the Maker Faire in New England – I guess people have wanted one in Boston for a while – but despite our liberal leanings this area is in many ways pretty uptight. See the Mooninite fiasco last year and also the apparent inability of the police department to not kill anyone during a sports celebration. I’m sure just about everything at a Maker Faire would send the local authorities into a fit.

  7. I had been arguing about steam boilers with my wife since last Wednesday but since I found: , I do find your point of view quite interesting and, in this case specifically, quite useful.

  8. Wow, wonderful blog site layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your site is great, as well as the content! Neta Santagata

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