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Physical Synthesis Cicada

Physical Synthesis Cicada  ·  Source: Physical Synthesis

Physical Synthesis Cicada

Physical Synthesis Cicada  ·  Source: Physical Synthesis

It’s a fascinating device with wings and honeycomb pieces that bridges the boundaries between touch and sound. What is Cicada all about?


The idea, I think, is to provide an interesting way of manipulating sound from your synthesizer or Eurorack. On the one hand, you’re interacting with the material of the Soundboard and on the other, you’re moving the Bridge to find different vibrations. These actions and interactions shape the sound or control of sound in different and possibly unlimited ways.

Cicada contains five primary components: Amp, Pre, Actuator, Bridge and Soundboard. It’s designed to transform acoustically generated vibrations into organic and dynamic sounds. First, you plug some sound into the Actuator which is amplified and carried across the Bridge where they can be transformed into vibrations and modulated by human interaction. The resulting signal is picked up attenuated, filtered and pre-amplified in the Pre module. There are also force-sensitive resistors under the Soundboard which generate CV in response to your touch.

Physical Synthesis Cicada

Physical Synthesis Cicada

You can use different materials and different shapes to create different textures in sound, generate control voltages and manipulate signals. So, it does weird things to audio when you fiddle with it.

How does it sound? Probably a bit weird but in a good and interesting electronic music and experimental way. It’s fascinatingly strange.

You can preorder the “Founders Edition” for €230 which gets you one of each of the parts. For €370 you can double up on the Actuators and Bridge and main unit for an Extended version. However, as has just been pointed out these are mere deposits. The actual price is $2,300 and $3,700 which puts a rather different spin on things. It moves them from the realm of curious gizmos into the realm of artisan instruments.

Update: Physical Synthesis has dropped the price in response to “feedback” which probably translates to an enormous lack of sales.

More details on exactly what’s going on are yet to emerge but it’s an interesting and creative idea.

More information


In this video you can actually witness the effect of something changing in response to movement.

6 responses to “Cicada Acoustic Synthesizer: Tactile pathways to musical imaginings”

  1. Steve says:

    Once you follow the pre-order link, it appears that the prices listed in the article are only 10% deposits. So the two packages are either $2,300 or $3,700.

  2. folker says:

    Unfortunately the videos are pretty uninformative. I cannot tell what sounds from the video are from the Cicada.
    Perhaps sometimes curious gizmos are more accessible when they remain as curious gizmos and not try to be elevated to “artisan instruments” that become so esoteric and cost-prohibitive. But i also understand that these are artists with a vision wishing to make a living with their creative ideas, which is also an extremely important thing to foster in this world.

    • Robin Vincent says:

      Yes they are suffering from beautifully shot videos that tell you nothing. I’ve added another video which at least shows a bit of scraping going on in response to movement but it’s still a mystery. Someone needs to inject some reality in their marketing. At least they’ve dropped the price a bit!

    • pfrf says:

      I have to argue with the idea that the Physical Synthesis company represents “artists with a vision wishing to make a living” unless that’s a euphemism for “con artists with a scheme wishing to take your money.”
      $3700 for a toy so wealthy people can make scraping noises like bugs. It’s no coincidence Cicadas feed only off of sap.
      “Sap, noun- One who is easily deceived or cheated.”

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