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Cicada in-depth

Let us take you on a new musical journey where the physical coexists with the virtual.


Breaking the Modular Mold

Cicada has been in development for the last five years. Unlike a traditional synthesizer or electric piano, where electronic components produce the tones, Cicada uses vibrations created by electrical signals which are affected by different materials. Physical movement and touch come into play, much like a traditional or acoustic instrument, offering the user a completely new way of approaching sound design and music creation. 


Cicada uses a bridge that acts as a tuned mass amplifier. When driven, it oscillates producing intermittent contact with the material soundboard (filter). This intermittent interaction is what produces controllable acoustic modulation synthesis.

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Bringing Together the Pieces of the Synth Puzzle

Cicada brings together five key components; AMP, PRE, Actuator, Bridge, and Soundboard. These five pieces of the puzzle work together to convert the virtual into the physical.


Vibrations are produced by the Actuator from up to three input signals which are generated by the AMP module.


These vibrations are carried across the bridge and are transformed into nonlinear tip surface interactions onto the Soundboard, resulting in acoustic synthesis. The soundboard contains an acoustic pickup capturing the arthroscopic events on the soundboard.


The signal from the pickup is attenuated, filtered, and preamplified via the PRE module.


Finally, force sensitive resistors in the soundboard turn Cicada into a control voltage (CV) controller. Offering you the ability to incorporate touch control back into your experimental beats, soundscapes, and sound design.

Vibrations Across the Board


Cicada technology works with unique transducers that have been rethought. Designed in such a way that the DC offset can be very precise. These transducers work in harmony and are in coherent balance with the other components.


Unlike other transducer-based devices that drive the material strictly as a physical filter, Cicada uses a bridge that acts as a tuned mass amplifier. When driven, it oscillates producing intermittent contact with a material soundboard that acts as a filter. This intermittent interaction is what produces controllable acoustic modulation synthesis.


The bridges have a range of tipped ends, such as neoprene, wood, and metal, each creating different voices as they vibrate on each soundboard.


Cicada soundboards work similarly to those of a piano or violin. Radiating vibrations over a wide frequency range.


By crafting the soundboards from different materials, you can unlock the versatile and unique sound properties of each material, whether it be wood, polycarbonate, or other available materials. Opening up the possibilities for original sound creation. 

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Physical Synth Control

As a musician, you love getting physically involved with the creation of sound. Whether it be strumming a guitar, blowing a horn, or running your fingers across a keyboard. We all have that drive to use movement and touch in order to effect a change in tone and sound. 

By moving the bridges so they vibrate on different parts of the soundboard you produce different sonic results.  


Further control is possible via the DC offset feature of Cicada, which allows the user to raise and lower the bridge electronically by submillimeter distances. This results in expressive automation of signal-driven effects as well as precise sample-and-hold methods.


And by pressing or touching on different parts of the soundboard, you can change and manipulate the sound, bringing the Cicada back to the physical musical world. 

Expansion and Exploration

Each module can be expanded with further Cicada engineered components and technology, enabling you to push the sonic capabilities of each unit.


Cicada soundboards can be made from a range of materials, and are currently available in wood, EVA foam, and polycarbonate.


Multiple bridges can be used and arrive with a selection of tipped ends (Neoprene, wood, and metal) which produce completely different tones and voices.


Cicada is an ever-growing sound system controlled by you.

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The Future of Cicada

Cicada opens up future possibilities for unlimited sonic adventures and musical discoveries.

We look forward to additional soundboards with alternative materials, expanded modules, and fresh synth ideas. 


At Physical Synthesis, we want our products to be consumed by our community because, after all, you are the future of us, and it starts with Cicada. 

Sounds Made with Cicada

In collaboration with our community of artists, composers, and producers, Cicada has been used to create sounds of different genres and styles in a constantly evolving discovery of different work practices.

These tracks are artistic in nature, but highlight the output from Cicada. 

If you would like to become a Cicada Artist, please contact us for consideration here


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