Quote from: jpmas on June 11, 2022, 01:59:31 PMI don't like the keybed of my Mk II and that's the main reason why I want to replace it.
Ok, then right off the bat I'd say you want a piano made after late 1973, that's when Rhodes started getting solid wood keybeds. The earlier models will still feel better than the plastic MK II but if that's your main issue then I'd go for the full wood set. (Also, the 1979-early 81 MK IIs and MK V have wooden keys so that could be another alternative if you still like most of the other MK II features).
Quote from: jpmas on June 11, 2022, 01:59:31 PMDo the earlier models have a mellower sound compared to the 78-79 MK I and MK II?
Just about any Rhodes can be made to sound mellow or bark, 90% of the sound is in the voicing, hammer tips, grommets, and EQ. That being said, most 1971-75 Rhodes will have softer square tips which can sound a bit warm/mellower than later versions which are generally described as being cool/glassy. Also, stage Rhodes will sound mellower simply because they are passive so if that's the sound you want, you can save a bit of $$$ by not buying a suitcase.
Quote from: jpmas on June 11, 2022, 01:59:31 PMI also noticed that you excluded the pianos from mid 75 to 77. Are there any particular reasons why these aren't the "best years" and are there certain things to look out for when buying pianos from this period?
It's not that they are bad but the general consensus is they aren't as desirable as the earlier models.
A few reasons why include:
-In early 1975 they switched from half wood hammers to all plastic which some believe changed the tone
-Aluminum harp supports replaced the solid wooden ones (The wooden harp supports were hand cut which led to some Rhodes sounding great out of the factory and others sounding terrible vs the standardization of the aluminum)
-New hammer tips which had a different "brighter" sound compared to the 71-75s (These can be changed though)
-In 1976 they put felt on the hammer cams which most people replace as its generally considered an inferior design
-The Torrington tines were replaced sometime after 1975 (Torringtons are often considered part of the "secret sauce" in the greatness of the 1971-75 Rhodes)
-After getting rid of the half wood hammers, Rhodes changed the profile of the plastic hammers which helped reduce tine breakage but also made it harder to get the Rhodes to "bark".
-The change from "Fender Rhodes" to "Rhodes" happened in late 1974 and many people simply like the look of the Fender Rhodes cosmetics over the Rhodes versions and are willing to pay a premium to have the "iconic version".
The main reason I included the 78-79s is because they came with the bump mod from the factory. Because of that alone, they are probably the best feeling stock MK I Rhodes.
I will sum all this up by saying, the condition of any particular Rhodes is more important than the year it was made.
That doesn't necessarily mean cosmetic condition either. My 1971 is very "Rhode" worn but plays and sounds amazing while I've seen Rhodes that went straight from the factory to a climate controlled closet for 40 years and still sound horrible.
Personally, I'd recommend that you go year by year and listen to the different models on YouTube so you can hear the differences and see some of the cosmetic changes between them. After that go see a few so you can feel some of the changes in person. The MK I rabbit hole can go as deep as you want it to but you can find a gem in any year of production :)
Everything Spave wrote is spot on advice.
I would further add to the stage (passive) vs suitcase (active) advice by adding that many home players today go directly into their audio interface on their computer and use the virtual amps and pedals (such as on garageband) to get an incredible sound. Suitcases are loud. Pedals and preamps, as well as dedicated Rhodes preamps, abound in today's market. Home amplification can be though monitors. Live amplification can go through pedals and into the P.A. The requirements of the 70s are soon becoming obsolete in the advantages that today's digital and analogue technology offer. And I LOVE amps and cabinets.
I'm glad I went with a stage piano in the end, even if a suitcase is beautiful. Actually, I still plan to find a way to play live and not with headphones. So far, I've got a suitcase preamp with the L/R tremolo. Next step is a stereo amplifier. I already have a 2x12.