The Electric Piano Forum

General => The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano => Topic started by: voltergeist on September 24, 2013, 10:23:43 AM

Title: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on September 24, 2013, 10:23:43 AM
Just scored this baby.  Obviously needs some work, but the piano is in very good condition.  Teardrop hammers and untapered Raymacs.  Missing all original electronics (if you know where to find a Jordan pre- and power amp, please let me know!). 

Even in its current condition it's obvious what all the sparkletop fuss is about- it sounds gorgeous.  Very different from the MkI's. 
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Tim Hodges on September 24, 2013, 11:06:18 AM
I'm sure these guys must still have some Jordan preamps left. Give them a go:

http://ep-forum.com/smf/index.php?topic=6132.msg30156#msg30156

Tim
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Student Rhodes on September 24, 2013, 03:27:05 PM
Or better still, get a Peterson and stick it in there.
They sound better (to some), they're stereo, and that's what Fender did at the end of the Sparkletop era.

Ray
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on September 25, 2013, 11:26:34 AM
I thought about a Peterson solution, but I'm really hoping to put it back to its original configuration.  I understand the Jordan system wasn't that great, anyway, but a different (external) amp could be used regardless of what's installed in the cabinet.  Given its rarity and good condition, I'd rather return it to what it was than create another Frankenstein.  I think all the original Tolex can be kept and repaired, so that's another reason for me not to make major modifications if at all possible.

Working on arrangements to have the legs replated.  Interesting sidenote: Chris at VV said he's never seen legs like are on this piano.  He didn't question that they're original, though.

Kind of agonizing over what to do about cabinet hardware.  The original stuff is in pretty good shape, but new stuff would look (and function, in the case of the hinges and latches) so much better.  Leaning toward replacing the hardware to sharpen the look and improve safety in transport, but keeping the original hardware with the piano.  Thoughts?
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Ben Bove on September 25, 2013, 01:26:18 PM
Very interesting piano - I have seen those legs before, but only on very early sparkle tops.  Not sure if I can locate a picture but I can say they may very well be original.  As a side note - inside the speaker cabinet, on the bottom either on the left or right side, do you see any screw holes where a square amp might have been bolted down? 

The Jordan preamps were a reasonable and good sounding design - it's the power amp section that was pretty poor, just a very early solid state design.  Like you said, a different external amp could be used - perhaps you can power the preamp, have it run into a more modern amplifier in the cabinet through the speakers.

I have a Jordan power amp that is non-functional - it would be good as a face plate and the transformer only... if you wanted to use the faceplate section to run to a different amp.  Let me know
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on September 25, 2013, 01:39:45 PM
I've got a couple leads on fully functioning Jordan amp sets, so I'm going to run those to ground first.  If I can't get a working Jordan set, your faceplate would be just the ticket.  Thanks!

I'll look for screw holes next time I'm at the shop.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Rob A on September 27, 2013, 11:16:40 AM
Was this the one on KC Craigslist? The shots they posted of the hammers looked really nice.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on September 27, 2013, 11:29:04 AM
Yep, it's the one from KC Craigslist.  Paid less than what he was asking on Craigslist, though. :)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on September 27, 2013, 11:38:51 AM
Btw, I need to give kudos to the previous owner.  He had already had a buyer, but wouldn't sell it to him because he knew the guy was planning to part it out.  He also did a good job of keeping the piano intact when it was in his possession, and was purposefully looking to sell to a restorer.  Gold star.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on September 27, 2013, 12:40:15 PM
Kind of agonizing over what to do about cabinet hardware.  The original stuff is in pretty good shape, but new stuff would look (and function, in the case of the hinges and latches) so much better.  Leaning toward replacing the hardware to sharpen the look and improve safety in transport, but keeping the original hardware with the piano.  Thoughts?

http://www.analoguediehard.com/studio/keyboards/fender_rhodes/index.html#restoration (http://www.analoguediehard.com/studio/keyboards/fender_rhodes/index.html#restoration)

Btw, I need to give kudos to the previous owner.  He had already had a buyer, but wouldn't sell it to him because he knew the guy was planning to part it out.  He also did a good job of keeping the piano intact when it was in his possession, and was purposefully looking to sell to a restorer.  Gold star.

Awesome!
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on September 27, 2013, 12:41:36 PM
Speaker cutouts for 2x12 or 1x10 plus 1x12?
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on September 27, 2013, 12:58:30 PM
The player-side baffle is missing, unfortunately.  The audience-side baffle is 2x12.  I'm assuming it was originally a 12/10 configuration, and that's how I'm planning to restore it.

With the corners and handles I'm planning to get the originals replated.  It's not cheap ($10-15 per piece), but I think the finish quality will be better, and it's the best of both worlds- original hardware with show chrome finish.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on September 27, 2013, 01:01:30 PM
To clarify- planning to replate original corners and handle ends.  Hinges planning to use new VV ones.  Latches planning to use the smaller-size twist (butterfly) latches.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on September 27, 2013, 02:20:39 PM
Original hardware was nickel plated, not chrome.

My sparkletop has the amp bottom cabinet with no amp/speakers but the baffles have cutouts for 1x10 and 1x12 speakers.  No Jordan preamp either.  It is a 1967 piano with tapered tines and pedestal bump.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on September 27, 2013, 02:29:26 PM
Can you post a photo of your player side baffle?  I need to build one, but I have no reference what it should look like.

As far as replating, I'm not going for the original finish.  To me the nickel isn't bright enough to look right, even if it is original. I guess if any future owner doesn't like it, they can replate them themself.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on September 27, 2013, 06:10:46 PM
I need to measure to verify the size of the holes on the existing baffle.   I won't have a chance til next week, though.

Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Student Rhodes on September 28, 2013, 12:34:13 AM
Can you post a photo of your player side baffle?  I need to build one, but I have no reference what it should look like.

This seems like an early one.  If I not mistaken, I believe the earliest Sparkle Tops had 12"s in the front, and 10"s on the players side, no?
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Student Rhodes on September 28, 2013, 12:41:33 AM
To clarify- planning to replate original corners and handle ends.  Hinges planning to use new VV ones.  Latches planning to use the smaller-size twist (butterfly) latches.

I can't tell from these photos but didn't the Sparkle Tops have the same latches as the early Stage and Suitcase models?  The ones that look more like luggage latches?  I rather like those.  I'm putting some old ones that I bought off a guy on the FrankenSuitcase I'm doing.  I just think they look classier than what VV is selling.  Here's someone in England selling them on ebay.  I believe these would still be cheaper than replating.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Fender-Rhodes-replacement-latch-early-version-/181208437874?pt=UK_MusicalInstr_Keyboard_RL&hash=item2a30dd5472

I would have bought them had I not already picked up the old ones that are still in pretty good shape.  They probably aren't as stout as the later types, but I'd imagine you're not going to be moving this piano around a lot, so realistically they get used for transport then sit idle while the lid gets put in the garage or storage, so it's not critical.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Tim Hodges on September 28, 2013, 03:13:36 AM
They did use the ones which are in that link you posted Student Rhodes:

(http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2468/3987254037_0e8a7461eb_z.jpg)

For the US it will be cheaper to order from Vintage Vibe

Piano Case Latch Early Style (http://www.vintagevibe.com/p-84-piano-case-latch-early-style.aspx)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on September 28, 2013, 01:53:43 PM
I liked the latches used on later rhodes better.  The early latches didn't hold up well and when I owned a stage they slipped open more than once.

When I replaced the hardware on my sparkletop, I put newer style latches on it.  It originally had only one latch per side, not two.  And the original hinges were bad too.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on September 28, 2013, 03:25:26 PM
Can you post a photo of your player side baffle?  I need to build one, but I have no reference what it should look like.

This seems like an early one.  If I not mistaken, I believe the earliest Sparkle Tops had 12"s in the front, and 10"s on the players side, no?

You are correct.  Pics here:

http://www.analoguediehard.com/studio/keyboards/fender_rhodes/speaker-baffles/ (http://www.analoguediehard.com/studio/keyboards/fender_rhodes/speaker-baffles/)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Student Rhodes on September 28, 2013, 11:16:56 PM
For the US it will be cheaper to order from Vintage Vibe

Right you are.  I didn't know VV had them.  There's also another ebayer that has the proper latch strikes for a buck a piece.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/NOS-Vintage-Fender-Rhodes-Latch-Catch-Piano-Strike-/360177083045?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item53dc3a22a5

I can't decide if I'm going to put four latches on, or two.  I know on the later style, four makes it a bit of a pain to get the top off without the thing relatching.  And like I said, I won't be taking the lid off and on much, as it'll be a set it and forget it piano.  Guess I can always add two more if I decide I need them.

Ray
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 03, 2013, 10:02:03 AM
I'm partial to using small twist latches if I'm replacing.  They're solid, low-profile, and inconspicuous when the cover is off.  When the cover's on, they hold tight and don't come unlatched.  I'd be tempted to keep the originals, but only 2 of the original 4 are there.  I have not seen any repros that are an exact match to the originals (or, at least what's original on this particular piano), so I don't see the point in replacing impractical original latches with impractical new latches that don't match the originals anyway.  To each his own, though.

The former owner came up with the original preamp, believe it or not. 

The existing baffle is cut differently than the one in the photos on this thread.  It has a large rectangular cutout between the speaker holes. 

Ray- I wouldn't recommend going to two latches unless you also use the heavy-duty hinge.  Also, with two latches (or loose latches), more force is exerted on the back panel of the piano case, which makes the joints prone to separating.  The sparkletops used solid softwood with finger joints, so the joint is stronger than the early Mk1's without corner reinforcements, but by no means indestructible.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 04, 2013, 10:24:47 AM
More photos.  Previous to any work being done.  (you can see the cutouts in the baffle in one of the pics)

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20130923_232546.jpg)(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20130923_231525.jpg)
(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20130923_231205.jpg)
(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20130923_231137.jpg)
(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20130923_231122.jpg)
(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20130923_231108.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Student Rhodes on October 05, 2013, 03:05:33 PM
I'm pretty sure I'm going to go with four latches on my top.

Is that large rectangular cut out on the baffle stock?  I don't recall ever seeing anything like that, but I haven't seen the insides of many Sparkle Tops.

Also, it looks like they put rubber grommets on the tone bars?  Can't really tell from the picture.  I haven't checked my own square tone bars for fit, but are those standard sized grommets or does it look like they just made do with rubber washers or something?

Ray
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 05, 2013, 08:05:38 PM
I'm pretty sure I'm going to go with four latches on my top.

Is that large rectangular cut out on the baffle stock?  I don't recall ever seeing anything like that, but I haven't seen the insides of many Sparkle Tops.

Also, it looks like they put rubber grommets on the tone bars?  Can't really tell from the picture.  I haven't checked my own square tone bars for fit, but are those standard sized grommets or does it look like they just made do with rubber washers or something?

Ray

The baffle does not appear to have been modified.

The grommets are felt.  One row is white and the other black.  They look original.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on October 06, 2013, 01:19:10 AM
(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20130923_232546.jpg)

I need to apply new velvet to the inside of the lid on my sparkletop.  Where did you buy this material and what adhesive did you use?  Looks great.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 06, 2013, 09:28:32 AM
The lid liner is original.  I don't know where to get that material.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on October 06, 2013, 10:19:13 AM
That's the first original liner I've seen of that color, usually they are red.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 06, 2013, 11:38:58 AM
There seem to be a lot of unusual features of this piano.  All the photos so far were taken right after I'd unloaded it - hadn't even cleaned it up yet.  I'm repairing the original tolex and gathering parts to put it back to its original electronics configuration (the previous owner came up with the original preamp, so now I just need the power supply unit).  The existing baffle is original, but it's shot, so I'll be building an exact copy.  Seems unlikely I'll be able to pin down exactly what the missing baffle looked like, so I'll probably duplicate the existing baffle and load it with a set of VV Jensen Special Design 12's.  I'll most likely put it up for sale when it's done, so if you've been looking for one of these rare beauties, watch this space. 
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 08, 2013, 08:46:06 AM
Got the original preamp from the former owner.  Serial number 116.  Haven't tested it yet, but I'm not getting my hopes up.   

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131007_201351.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20131007_201351.jpg.html)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Tim Hodges on October 08, 2013, 09:05:27 AM
Wow that is early!
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 09, 2013, 08:25:52 AM
Done (well, mostly done) with cosmetic rehabilitation of the piano.  Tolex and liner are original.  Replaced all the chrome hardware (VV stuff, decided not to replate corners and handle ends).  Cleaned up nicely.  Replaced the latches with twist latches, and the hinges with Mk1 hinges from VV.  Preamp isn't installed yet.  Used hole plugs where mods were removed on the rail.  Hoping to make some adjustments to flatten out the reflection of the keys in the rail. 

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131008_200052.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20131008_200052.jpg.html)

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131008_200014.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20131008_200014.jpg.html)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 09, 2013, 08:26:11 AM
(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131008_200004.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20131008_200004.jpg.html)

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131008_195931.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20131008_195931.jpg.html)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 09, 2013, 08:26:23 AM
(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131008_195744.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20131008_195744.jpg.html)

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131008_195716.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20131008_195716.jpg.html)

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131008_200145.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20131008_200145.jpg.html)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 09, 2013, 09:33:39 AM
This piano is serial number A-0186 (preamp serial number 0116).  How likely do you think it is that there exists an older Rhodes in better condition?  Certainly possible, but if there are any, I bet there aren't many.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Ben Bove on October 10, 2013, 03:14:08 PM
This is definitely a 1965ish piano.  The orange felt lining definitely original, and definitely early - they were still using this orange on the gold piano basses.  Also the longer tabs on the pickups show it's a very early one, besides the serial numbers.  I have seen the rectangular cutout on one piano before, again was a super early one with the actual silver control knobs from the '65 catalogue.  So, nice rare early piano :).  Looks great!

Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: kphlx2000 on October 10, 2013, 07:28:32 PM
Congrats on purchasing this piano. I have the same piano from '64 with the same velvet color lining in the lid. But it's missing the bottom cabinet and the name rail with vol, treble & bass controls. The legs on your cabinet are original. They were featured on the pianos from '64 - '65. These pianos also featured a tube amp in the cabinet with a vibrato input. If you ever decide to part with this piano w/bottom cabinet, please let me know.

Kenneth
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 10, 2013, 10:44:30 PM
I'll definitely be keeping the piano and cabinet together.  I am planning to part with it once I'm satisfied with its condition.

Anyone have a sparkletop tube amp for sale?  :P

Anyone have an image of that amp, or a schematic? 

Anyone have an image with a good view of the silver knobs? 

Kenneth, can you post some photos of your piano?  Thanks for the info.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on October 11, 2013, 08:59:20 AM
Anyone have a sparkletop tube amp for sale?  :P

They made a handful of "Executone" rhodes that had a tube amp that was just a Vibrolux Reverb or Twin Reverb chassis.  They simply chopped 2/3 of the front panel of the amp and put the panel on the namerail with the amp chassis separately mounted some distance away. 

http://ep-forum.com/smf/index.php?topic=7705.0 (http://ep-forum.com/smf/index.php?topic=7705.0)

But that's a bad design because you have to bundle a couple of feet of wires between the panel and amp chassis, and this creates incurable tone-sucking lead dress issues with the grid wires capacitively coupling to the other bundled wires, resulting in bad tone and/or parasitic oscillation.  Back then the people in charge of Fender (CBS) were clueless about lead dress in tube amps, Leo was forced out of the design decision loop, and too many Fender tube guitar amps left the factory with compromised sound.

There's a reason so few of these pianos with tube amps were made.

Spare yourself the trouble and just use a standard tube guitar amp with direct connection from either the harp or the preamp output.  The silverface Fenders are best suited for Rhodes pianos, Twin Reverb (or head version Dual Showman Reverb) being the loudest and cleanest.  Use the #1 input jack as it is high input impedance which keeps the noise lower.  You could always use the bottom Rhodes cabinet as a speaker cabinet with a simple speaker panel mounted where the power amp was formerly located and just plug the speaker output of the tube amp into the cabinet, which is what I plan to do with my silvertop bottom cabinet.

Quote
Anyone have an image with a good view of the silver knobs?

There appear to be two different varieties of silver knobs.  This 1964 specimen shows concentric knobs

(http://www.iamjeffjack.com/sandbox/drm/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/1964-Silver-Sparkle-Top-Fender-Suitcase-Piano-73-1.jpg)

This 1966 prototype shows the more common silver knobs.  Those knobs were also used on the first (infamous) Fender solid state guitar amps.

(http://www.retrosynth.com/~analoguediehard/studio/keyboards/fender_rhodes/sparkletop-gold-88-1966.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 11, 2013, 09:25:38 AM
Thanks for the pics.  The pot shafts on this piano are solid, so the VV replacements won't work.  I was planning to change out the pots so I could use the knobs available, but now I don't think I'm going to do that.  I'm thinking now of machining reproductions instead.  That is, if I can find an image with enough resolution to enable accurate reproduction.  I asked the previous owner if he has the knobs, but he does not and never did.  He suggested using concentric guitar knobs, which might actually work (and look good), at least as an interim solution. 

If anyone can provide high-res closeups of the original knobs you will be my Short Duration Personal Savior.

Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 11, 2013, 10:23:53 AM
I picked up a pair of Weber California 10's on the local Craigslist, intending to use them as the player-side 10's in the sparkletop.  I am not particularly knowledgeable about the finer points of speakers, but they're obviously high quality 10's, and the price was right.  8 Ohm 80W.

Anyone familiar with these speakers, and have any thoughts about their use in this application? 

My plan is to build a 1U power amp (120W into 8 Ohms bridged) into the player-side baffle (the side with 10's, which is also the side where  the original baffle is MIA).  I think it will be pretty slick, and won't require any modification of the cabinet.  Thanks to bjammerz I've got a Jordan suitcase amp faceplate on the way that will enable me to keep an original look to the exterior of the suitcase cabinet.

So, I therefore also need to identify a good pair of 8 Ohm 12's for the audience-side.  Suggestions?
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 11, 2013, 01:23:36 PM
Another image of the early concentric knobs.  Also hard to tell what exactly they look like.  Probably have to find someone who currently has a set to take close-up photos to have any hope of accurately reproducing them.  I wonder if they were metal or plastic?  Anyone know?

(http://www.fenderrhodes.com/img/models/silvertop/pianobass.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on October 11, 2013, 03:14:49 PM
Here are the knobs on the solid state guitar amps.  I have seen at least two silvertops with knobs like these.  Hard to see, but the edge of the knob is knurled.

(http://images03.olx.hu/ui/11/78/61/1304849365_197847761_3-Fender-Solid-State-Twin-Reverb-gitarerosito-elado-Hangszerek.jpg)

(http://www.jedistar.com/images/amp/fender_twinreverb.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on October 11, 2013, 03:20:46 PM
I picked up a pair of Weber California 10's on the local Craigslist, intending to use them as the player-side 10's in the sparkletop.  I am not particularly knowledgeable about the finer points of speakers, but they're obviously high quality 10's, and the price was right.  8 Ohm 80W.

Anyone familiar with these speakers, and have any thoughts about their use in this application? 

My plan is to build a 1U power amp (120W into 8 Ohms bridged) into the player-side baffle (the side with 10's, which is also the side where  the original baffle is MIA).  I think it will be pretty slick, and won't require any modification of the cabinet.  Thanks to bjammerz I've got a Jordan suitcase amp faceplate on the way that will enable me to keep an original look to the exterior of the suitcase cabinet.

So, I therefore also need to identify a good pair of 8 Ohm 12's for the audience-side.  Suggestions?

Hard to go wrong with Webers.  Do you know any guitar players with multiple speaker cabinets that you could experiment with?  Tonal varieties are all over the map with different speakers and if there's a particular sound you seek then it does no good to recommend something.  As a general guide you want a speaker that can reproduce bass without "farting out".
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 11, 2013, 03:28:58 PM
Here are the knobs on the solid state guitar amps.  I have seen at least two silvertops with knobs like these.  Hard to see, but the edge of the knob is knurled.

I saw those, too.  They are different than the concentric knobs, though.  Definately the knobs I need.  This piano has concentric pots with solid shafts, like the '64 specimen you posted.  Those are the knobs I need to find hi res image of.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 11, 2013, 03:30:33 PM
Here are the knobs on the solid state guitar amps.  I have seen at least two silvertops with knobs like these.  Hard to see, but the edge of the knob is knurled.

I saw those, too.  They are different than the concentric knobs, though.  Definately the knobs I need.  This piano has concentric pots with solid shafts, like the '64 specimen you posted.  Those are the knobs I need to find hi res image of.

Sorry, I seem to have left out a key word:  The knobs on the solid state amps are definately *NOT* the knobs I need.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 11, 2013, 04:25:58 PM
Anyone have a sparkletop tube amp for sale?  :P

They made a handful of "Executone" rhodes that had a tube amp that was just a Vibrolux Reverb or Twin Reverb chassis.  They simply chopped 2/3 of the front panel of the amp and put the panel on the namerail with the amp chassis separately mounted some distance away. 


From what I understand, there was a small Jordan tube power amp that pre-dated the Jordan solid state power amp.  Nothing to do with the Executones.  It's this mythical early original sparkletop tube amp that I'm interested in.  If it's true that the early sparkletops had a tube power stage, it would be interesting to know something about it.  And it would probably be the most impossible-to-find of all impossible-to-find Rhodes parts.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Loucas on October 11, 2013, 05:39:44 PM
Hello ,
Welcome to the silver top family with this rare find .
Well done !
Here are the schematics ( chapter 11-17) : http://www.fenderrhodes.com/org/manual/toc.html

A close photo of the knobs: (http://www.freeimagehosting.net/newuploads/gbbyj.jpg) (http://www.freewebproxy.com/)

Also my 1966's silver top cabinet : (http://www.freeimagehosting.net/newuploads/jt9m6.jpg) (http://www.freewebproxy.com/)

Hope will help you .
Loucas
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 11, 2013, 05:55:39 PM
Awesome!  Thanks, Loucas!  I never would have guessed that the player side baffle would look like that.  Are those 10s on the player side?  Thanks for the great shot of the knobs, too. 
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Loucas on October 11, 2013, 06:16:34 PM
You are welcome !
Two facing the player and two facing the crowd.
There are 12'' speakers not 10" and you can see the Jensen's code 220 and the 6 which means 1966 and 45th week (http://www.freeimagehosting.net/newuploads/eefqo.jpg) (http://www.freewebproxy.com/)

Also the amp here: (http://www.freeimagehosting.net/newuploads/hpule.jpg) (http://www.freewebproxy.com/)

And schematics too : (http://www.freeimagehosting.net/newuploads/5chks.jpg) (http://www.freewebproxy.com/)

Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 11, 2013, 07:51:08 PM
I'm well aware of that amp and schematic, but it's been suggested the very earliest ones had a different power amp.  I have no doubt that mine had the same Jordan solid state amp as yours, though.  I'm asking about the rumored tube amp out of curiosity.

Your player side baffle matches mine exactly.  I keep hearing about a 2x12/2×10 configuration, was that then on even earlier ones or later ones, I wonder?

Are the knobs solid aluminum? 

What's the serial number on yours?

Looks like we have different name rails. 
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 11, 2013, 08:25:44 PM
Our baffles and cabinets have the same handwriting of the red number.  Yours is 80, mine is 58.  I'll post the pics when I get a chance.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 12, 2013, 12:05:01 AM
(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131011_202201.jpg)


(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131011_200607.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 12, 2013, 12:21:33 AM
Loucas, can you post a closeup of the kick plate?

Also, can you please post some more closeup photos of the knobs?
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on October 12, 2013, 08:52:54 AM
Anyone have a sparkletop tube amp for sale?  :P

They made a handful of "Executone" rhodes that had a tube amp that was just a Vibrolux Reverb or Twin Reverb chassis.  They simply chopped 2/3 of the front panel of the amp and put the panel on the namerail with the amp chassis separately mounted some distance away. 


From what I understand, there was a small Jordan tube power amp that pre-dated the Jordan solid state power amp.  Nothing to do with the Executones.  It's this mythical early original sparkletop tube amp that I'm interested in.  If it's true that the early sparkletops had a tube power stage, it would be interesting to know something about it.  And it would probably be the most impossible-to-find of all impossible-to-find Rhodes parts.

It may have been this... a student piano with bench that had the tube amp and speakers enclosed.  I saw the piano sans amp at a NAMM show back in 2000, but have not heard of a complete package to surface.

(http://www.fenderrhodes.com/img/models/student/space-age-gold-bench.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on October 12, 2013, 09:00:05 AM
Hey, look what I found on Google

(http://libraryfchistory.fullcoll.edu/director/p.php?a=ISomXl5/eHpnSWdjYHdMfnFjdUV8YmZmbmhuRG53ZGFgfW96aVt6ZWRkcT1ucWwuMjoxOTsmNzc2OS0yPjAgPiMtJjonJjQmOy4jKDQnNzo=&m=1347986950)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Loucas on October 12, 2013, 12:57:31 PM
Nice find Real MC !

voltergeist : I will post you all the photos i have here .
If you need close ups etc. i will have to go to my studio and take a shot again .It will take some time.
Also 2 videos to see how it sounds before i set it up a bit .

(http://www.freeimagehosting.net/newuploads/4i1iz.jpg) (http://www.freewebproxy.com/)
(http://www.freeimagehosting.net/newuploads/8nhzj.jpg) (http://www.freewebproxy.com/)

(http://www.freeimagehosting.net/newuploads/5bp1q.jpg) (http://www.freewebproxy.com/)

(http://www.freeimagehosting.net/newuploads/11xkb.jpg) (http://www.freewebproxy.com/)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jG21TH9KX58

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9C7uA0EwmBA
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 12, 2013, 01:06:19 PM
New audience side baffle.  1/2" birch ply.  Still need to put the edging on.

Thinking about configuring the cabinet for stereo.  Also kicking around some other ideas, like a mono line out and stereo line ins on a plate built into the player side baffle.  Also thinking about building a stereo tremolo into it, and maybe a Phase 90.  Controls would be on the baffle.  Foot switches would also be on a baffle panel.  The player side speakers would be on the sides rather than in the middle.  No modification of the cabinet, cabinet amp panel, or audience side baffle.  Whadaya think?

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131012_115621.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Loucas on October 12, 2013, 02:13:07 PM
SUPERB ! Go fo it !
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on October 12, 2013, 08:17:19 PM
Agree. go for it!
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 12, 2013, 09:10:13 PM
Audience side baffle ready for grill cloth and speakers.


(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131012_193819.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 12, 2013, 09:23:12 PM
Mockup of player side baffle.  I'll make a cutout behind the power amp for cooling.  Built in effects would go in the upper right, foot switches on the lower left.  I'm thinking an EH Stereo Pulsar for tremolo.  I think a Moog 12 Stage Stereo Phaser would be cool as hell, but neither it nor the Pulsar have stereo inputs.  I've thought about using two Phase 90s with a ganged pot to control the rate on both.  The LFOs wouldn't be synced like the Moog, though.  Anyone know of a stereo tremolo with stereo inputs? 

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131012_201755.jpg)


(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131012_202600.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 12, 2013, 09:29:54 PM
The wooden sustain lever was pretty busted up from lateral forces on the sus pedal, so I repaired the wood and cut a piece of aluminum u channel that fits over it to reinforce the wood and act as a big washer.  I plan to polish the pedal before I'm done.


(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131012_194859.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 12, 2013, 09:42:46 PM
This looks like a winner in the cool stereo tremolo with stereo inputs department:


http://www.youngpedals.com/thelooker.html
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Cormac Long on October 13, 2013, 03:30:22 PM
I had an EH Pulsar and returned it because the rate control was way too sensitive. The depth control was also on the over-sensitive side. Make sure you check reviews in this regard before parting with cash.

After returning it, I replaced it with a used MXR 159 which has a much less sensitive rate pot, stereo inputs as well as shape control which does a great job of emulating the square tremolo if you want that. There's two latch switches, one for bypass and one for toggling pan mode on/off. It runs of 2 9V batteries or 18v DC.. but I run mine from a fx PSU that can only max at 12V and it drives it fine.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHPvAc_NIPA
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 13, 2013, 04:08:09 PM
Thanks, Cormac.  The Young "Looker" is what I'm planning to get.  It has stereo ins, plus tap tempo, which is a great feature given that the controls will not be conveniently located on the rail.  Other cool features, too, like variable waveform LFO.

I'm not planning to build in any other effects.  The line out/line ins will allow someone to do whatever they wish.  I figure I'll build in the stereo tremolo to give it functionality equivalent to a Mk1 suitcase and leave it at that.

I'm thinking now of putting the tremolo pedal on a little door in the baffle that will drop down to expose the pedal in a left-foot, on the floor position. 
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on October 13, 2013, 08:52:12 PM
Keep in mind that the much-loved stereo tremolo on the Peterson preamp used a trapezoidal waveshape not square.  Hopefully the SHAPE knob on the Young pedal can accomplish that.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 14, 2013, 11:52:52 AM
Keep in mind that the much-loved stereo tremolo on the Peterson preamp used a trapezoidal waveshape not square.  Hopefully the SHAPE knob on the Young pedal can accomplish that.

That's a good point.  The Looker has multiple waveforms, but they are not continuously variable.  I'm leaning toward dropping the built-in idea altogether.  The line out/ins are all that's really needed.  Anything else is just gravy, and a lot of extra work.

Having a road-worthy instrument is crucial for a lot of players and customizing a Rhodes to be more robust can be a huge benefit for those players. I don't see any problem modifying a Rhodes in order to meet the needs of a specific player. But that player should be aware that it may have an effect on the value of the instrument when it's being sold to the potential future owner of the instrument as there are many people that expect a sparkletop Rhodes to have all of the parts of a sparkletop Rhodes.

The only real issue that I have is when the modifications are not done for an intentional purpose of that player but simply done for the convenience of the repair.

Another good point (from Max, on a different thread).  Once the Tolex was repaired, it was just too tempting to put on bling, especially since I had a full set of new suitcase hardware on hand.  However, I think it does qualify as a sin of convenience.  I'm planning now to get the original corners and handle ends replated with nickel and put them back on.  A fair amount of additional cost, but I think it's the best way to maintain the historical integrity of the piano without sacrificing cosmetic punch (and really, one has to admit that the sparkletop was designed for cosmetic punch from day 1, and tired-looking hardware, even if original, doesn't exactly honor that design intent).  There was no modification involved in putting on the new corners/handle-ends.

As far as latches and hinges, I view an update as a somewhat regrettable but nonetheless necessary modification to protect the piano.  I doubt that Harold would have used the latches and hinges he did if he were doing it over and had better options available.  It's really agonizing making decisions about a rare instrument like this, and no doubt others may have made different judgements.  At least the modifications I've made are genuine improvements from a practical and objective standpoint.  The price of ensuring structural integrity and safety in transport is a loss of historical integrity.  So be it.  The joints won't separate, and it won't fall out of the case.  That's worth something.

I value others' philosophies and experiences, so if you think I'm doing something stupid here or there, speak up.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Ben Bove on October 14, 2013, 06:07:51 PM
Found the thread with the 1964 tube amp pics.

http://ep-forum.com/smf/index.php?topic=4863.msg23919#msg23919

Flickr photos:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/33536929@N06/3120080587/in/photostream/
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 14, 2013, 07:12:13 PM
Nice!
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 14, 2013, 07:19:37 PM
So, yeah.  Who's got that schematic? 
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on October 14, 2013, 07:23:47 PM
Those pianos were considered prototypes.

If they used a prototype tube amp, there may not be schematics.

If they used a production tube amp, any decent guitar amp tech could decipher what it is.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on October 14, 2013, 09:42:16 PM
Just got home where I can view flickr pics... It's an 80w amp with four 6L6 power tubes.  The only Fender amp with four 6L6 tubes during that era is the Twin Reverb.  That isn't anywhere near a Twin Reverb.  Only other tubes are two 12AX7 dual triodes, one for PI and one for preamp and tone recovery... done.  Simple TONE control, no treble bass or mid.  So it wouldn't have tremolo or reverb.

Definitely a non-production amp chassis.  Hard to tell if it was a Leo job, would not be surprised if it was.

Four speakers... on the player side!!!  Wonder if the audience baffle had four MORE speakers...!  Notice how the hammers were graded along the scale, that would had been REAL labor intensive on a production line.

edit: just saw the other pic showing a better view of the chassis and a THIRD 12AX7.  This single tube would cover tremolo.  That's probably the other yellow knobs - speed and depth.
edit #2: it's definitely an amp made by Leo.  Cap tray with original electrolytics, blue molded capacitors (highly desirable), and white bakelite knobs (now yellow from age) from the early 1960s blond/tan Fender amps.  The metal guides for the mounting screws are also Fender amp traits.  Not a production amp though.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 14, 2013, 10:02:07 PM
Yeah, the four speakers on one side looks badass.  Thanks for finding that thread!
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 14, 2013, 10:08:45 PM
The graded hammers are really interesting.  Yeah, looks like that would take forever.  Looks like it had a lot of attention.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 15, 2013, 10:13:43 AM
What is the jack inside the plastic cup above the panel on the cabinet used for?  My ST cabinet has a cup in the same place. 
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 15, 2013, 01:54:16 PM
I see the red pencil number in that prototype is #9.  Again, same pencil and handwriting as on my #58 and Loucas' #80.  Mine has the cup above the panel, Loucas' does not.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Ben Bove on October 15, 2013, 02:53:49 PM
I believe there was a jack for vibrato pedal?  I seem to remember seeing an early poweramp faceplate that said "Vibrato Pedal" by a jack.  Maybe in a catalogue even.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 15, 2013, 03:20:39 PM
I believe there was a jack for vibrato pedal?  I seem to remember seeing an early poweramp faceplate that said "Vibrato Pedal" by a jack.  Maybe in a catalogue even.

Piano input and vibrato pedal are labeled on the plate, but then there's another jack (unlabeled) in the cup above.  Here's the link:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/33536929@N06/3120080935/in/photostream/
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 15, 2013, 03:23:42 PM
Looks like the external speaker jack.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/33536929@N06/3120080587/sizes/o/in/photostream/
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 19, 2013, 06:05:36 PM
Realized my st has graduated hammers like the prototype.  Were all of them built like that?  I haven't researched it yet.


(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131018_193614.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 19, 2013, 06:07:41 PM
Player side baffle in progress. 


(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131019_170348.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 19, 2013, 06:10:35 PM
Used tone bar grommets to isolate the power amp from baffle vibration.


(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131019_170749.jpg)


(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131019_170758.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 19, 2013, 06:13:21 PM
Almost done.


(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131019_174238.jpg)


(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131019_174357-1.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 19, 2013, 06:14:28 PM
In the cabinet.


(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131019_174600.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: kphlx2000 on October 19, 2013, 11:20:18 PM
Great Work!

Kenneth
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on October 20, 2013, 03:35:07 PM
Correction - there WAS another amp with four 6L6 power tubes = Fender Showman.  The chassis in that prototype looks closer to a Showman.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 23, 2013, 10:44:34 PM
(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131023_192705.jpg)


(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131023_193138.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 23, 2013, 10:46:32 PM
(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131023_192522.jpg)

Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 23, 2013, 10:50:02 PM
(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131023_192536.jpg)


(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131023_192851.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Student Rhodes on October 24, 2013, 12:04:31 AM
I didn't look through all of the posts, but did you elaborate anywhere as to why you decided to use Webers, and Jensen Reissues?
Can't wait to hear sound samples.  If you could mike both sides for comparison, that'd be cool.
Ray
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 24, 2013, 08:24:35 AM
Hey Ray - the Webers were the result of coincidence, more than anything.  A set of four popped up on the local Craigslist, and the price was right.  I'm curious what they'll sound like, myself.  Maybe I'll end up changing them out for reissue 10's, I don't know.  The Webers are HEAVY.  I might end up putting 10's in that student model due to space restrictions, so in that case it would make more sense to put the Webers in the student and get reissue 10's for the sparkletop.  It may be cool to have the different flavors of speakers on each side, since, as you point out, it would provide miking/mixing options in recording situations.  I might be able to fire it up and do a quick-n-dirty soundcheck this weekend.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 24, 2013, 09:08:08 AM
Btw, I belatedly realized I'd forgotten to build in the elements needed for the line out/ins on the player-side baffle before painting it, so that baffle will have to go back under the knife, and I've got a bit more machining to do.  I did end up ordering a Young Pedal Co. "Looker", and I'm still toying with the idea of building it in.  Built in stereo tremolo with tap-tempo still seems like a good addition, but also still looks like a lot of extra effort to design and build a good solution.  It would be trick as hell, though.  Hmm.

The power amp is a Samson Servo 120.  60W/ch @ 4 Ohms stereo (<.05%THD).  Should be loud, clear, and easily repairable/replaceable.   
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Groove4Hire on October 24, 2013, 09:09:01 AM
My sparkletop has serial#141. It is dated september 16 1964. Has all original electronics. Had it for ten years and it is still on my to do list...



This piano is serial number A-0186 (preamp serial number 0116).  How likely do you think it is that there exists an older Rhodes in better condition?  Certainly possible, but if there are any, I bet there aren't many.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 24, 2013, 09:14:20 AM
My sparkletop has serial#141. It is dated september 16 1964. Has all original electronics. Had it for ten years and it is still on my to do list...

Awesome.  Original cabinet?  Do you know what the red number is in your cab?  How did you determine the date?  What work needs to be done on it?
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Groove4Hire on October 24, 2013, 09:30:33 AM
It's been in storage for a few years and I don't recall any red number... I took out the bottom left key where it was a green stamp with the date and year. It is in decent shape, has the red linercloth in the lid (had another sparkletop with the yellow cloth same as yours too but sold it) but I'd like to retolex it. I also bought a set of new graded teardrop felt hammertips many years ago that I plan on installing... Some day when time permits I'll start working on it...
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Ben Bove on October 24, 2013, 08:33:14 PM
I have a pair of those Jensens, and they're great.  I put them in place of 2 factory speakers from a late 70's cabinet and there was definitely more mid-range present.  Great speaker.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 26, 2013, 09:00:58 PM
Did a full functional test on the piano and cabinet today.  Original preamp fully functional.  Had to troubleshoot and repair a power amp channel, but got that fixed (four hours later).  Cabinet sounds great.  Good definition, low noise, plenty of volume.  Tried some stereo tremolo with the Looker, too.  Definitely glad I went stereo.  I like the sine LFO on the Looker.  It gives nice smooth motion, not as ping-pongy as square or trapezoid- a bit more subtle.  More work to do, but it sure felt good to fire it up and play a bit. 
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on October 31, 2013, 02:00:07 PM
Connecting the sparkletop preamp directly to the power amp turned out to have a couple significant shortcomings:
1.  The max output level of the st preamp is too low to make full use of the available power
2.  The preamp output has a significant DC offset that results in terribly loud "pops" when a true-bypass effect is bypassed

I resolved both problems by connecting the preamp output to a BBE Boosta Grande clean gain pedal.  The pedal does not pass the DC offset and provides additional clean gain to get full power from the power amp.  Works great.  The pedal really is pretty transparent (at least until the top third of the gain control, where it will break up pretty nicely), and full volume of the cabinet is LOUD.  Overall tone of the cabinet is very good up to moderate volumes.  At high volumes some mechanical/acoustic issues become apparent, as I'll describe below.

I'm planning fasten the gain pedal to the inside of the baffle and connect it between the piano input and the pre-amp output.  The gain control would not be accessible on the outside of the cabinet, but would instead be 'set it and forget it'. 

Once I was able to get full power from the power amp (which is pretty frickin' loud), it also became clear that additional baffle screws will be required to keep the baffle from rattling against the cabinet.  The cabinet also resonates strongly on some low notes, so I think some "tuning" work needs to be done to even out the response of the cabinet.  Anyone especially knowledgeable about cabinet tuning?  The player side baffle is not ported, so I'm thinking appropriate ports on that baffle would be the best way to deal with the issue, if that would do the trick.

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131030_200933.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20131030_200933.jpg.html)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on November 01, 2013, 09:48:01 AM
Below is the block of aluminum I'll be machining into a kickplate.

After some more testing, I determined that the Boosta Grande is not breaking up, it was overdriving the inputs on the Looker. 

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131031_194629.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20131031_194629.jpg.html)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on November 01, 2013, 11:50:53 PM
Got some machining done tonight. 


(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131101_205648.jpg)


(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131101_215537.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on November 02, 2013, 02:13:19 PM
Kick plate surfaced, drilled, countersunk, and milled out the back.  Still need to take another 3/32 off the back and polish it.


(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131102_104718.jpg)

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131102_113148.jpg)

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131102_131140.jpg)

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131102_133351.jpg)

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131102_133408.jpg)

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131102_133500.jpg)
(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131102_110822.jpg)

Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on November 02, 2013, 10:37:54 PM
Thanks to bjammerz I've got an original faceplate for it.

Had an aha! moment today when I connected a few facts:
1. The single external speaker jack is of no use.
2. The cup above the faceplate was originally intended to house the external speaker jack.
3.  That's two potential jacks, but I need one for line out and two for line ins
4.  I could use a dual-switch stereo jack (Rhodes headphone jack) to get the stereo line ins.
5.  Aha!  I can have all my line in/outs without building an additional jack plate into the baffle.

I was pleased to discover the original lamp still works on the faceplate.

I guess this thread is a bit like "watching the sausage being made".  Or perhaps like watching paint dry given the likely duration of the project.

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131102_182438.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on November 04, 2013, 02:27:00 PM
I've further refined my I/O plan.  Rather than having a single line out, I'm planning to make it a mono send/return instead (also using a headphone switching jack).  This way, if one wanted to hook up a mono guitar pedal like a Phase 90, it could be brought back in mono, so no splitter and/or additional level boost would be needed as would be required to bring the signal back in on power amp inputs.  The send/return is before the level boost via the Boosta Grande, so the send level will be compatible with guitar effects pedals, and the return would still be boosted to appropriate line level.  A mono-out stereo-in setup would still be possible, too.  The mono send would be on the tip, so a mono cable could be used if one is not using the return (i.e. using the stereo power amp inputs to bring the signal back in instead).  Also, in a live situation where one wanted an out to a DI but still use the cabinet, the send would go to the DI, the DI split would go back in the return, and there you go. 

Here's the schem:

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131104_141319.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20131104_141319.jpg.html)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Ben Bove on November 04, 2013, 02:54:08 PM
Hey the amp block looks good on there!  Glad it worked out, the project is coming along!
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on November 04, 2013, 03:04:28 PM
Hey the amp block looks good on there!  Glad it worked out, the project is coming along!

Yeah, thanks again, Ben.  That was a key part!
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on November 04, 2013, 10:18:19 PM
Got some AC power going on.


(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131104_193906.jpg)


(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131104_194714.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on November 04, 2013, 10:35:19 PM
Wired up a PlugLock to the AC input for power distribution.  Made a panel-mount bottom plate for the Boosta Grande and got that installed.

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131104_194627.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on November 16, 2013, 01:10:18 AM
Wired up.

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131115_212526.jpg)

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131115_210146.jpg)

Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on November 16, 2013, 01:18:31 AM
Phase 90 in the insert.

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131115_210136.jpg)

Out the send and into the stereo power amp inputs.

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131115_213850.jpg)







Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on November 16, 2013, 01:23:29 AM
Reassembled with temporary legs.

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131115_223313.jpg)

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131115_223422.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on November 16, 2013, 01:28:17 AM
(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131115_223657.jpg)

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131115_223901.jpg)

Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on December 27, 2013, 09:54:47 PM
Kick plate and pedal polished and buffed.
(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131227_211931.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: goldphinga on December 28, 2013, 07:42:50 AM
amazing work, really enjoying watching the progress!! superb
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on January 27, 2014, 10:28:22 AM
Buffed all the keys.  Photo below shows before/after buffing (buffed starting at the lowest key).

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20131125_205507.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20131125_205507.jpg.html)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on January 27, 2014, 10:29:43 AM
Hammers after sanding out the grooves.

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20140124_220545.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20140124_220545.jpg.html)

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20140124_220528.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20140124_220528.jpg.html)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Student Rhodes on January 27, 2014, 03:05:56 PM
Looks great!
I'm hoping I'll be able to salvage the hammers on one of my student models.
Did you take strike point location into account when you reshaped the felt head?
Ray
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on January 27, 2014, 03:32:03 PM
Looks great!
I'm hoping I'll be able to salvage the hammers on one of my student models.
Did you take strike point location into account when you reshaped the felt head?
Ray
Thanks!  Yeah, I tried to maintain the hammer shape and strike point as much as possible.  I've got the lowest 3/4 of the piano sounding and playing really well, so I think my hammer sanding came out ok.  Sanding the hammers had a noticeable positive impact, solving some poorly ringing notes and dull tone.     

The high 1/4 is a royal PITA.  The highest 1/4 was trouble before sanding and I had hoped removing the grooves would solve some of the problems, but I didn't really notice a change for better or worse.  Still struggling with those high notes.  Dialing in the high notes on Mk1/Mk2's can suck, but this thing is much worse.  Maybe I just haven't found the trick.

Setting the dampers is key, and another PITA on these pianos.  You can really feel it in the action if the bridle strap tension isn't there when the key is first depressed.  There's no harp hinge, so it's a pain to even get to the dampers.  I ended up going across the piano and putting tape on the key, either on one end of the key or the other, to indicate which way to adjust the damper.  Then I'd adjust, test, and repeat.  When a damper was adjusted correctly, I removed the tape.  I got them all adjusted after about 5 times through this cycle.   
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Student Rhodes on January 27, 2014, 03:37:22 PM
Setting the dampers is key, and another PITA on these pianos.  You can really feel it in the action if the bridle strap tension isn't there when the key is first depressed.  There's no harp hinge, so it's a pain to even get to the dampers.  I ended up going across the piano and putting tape on the key, either on one end of the key or the other, to indicate which way to adjust the damper.  Then I'd adjust, test, and repeat.  When a damper was adjusted correctly, I removed the tape.  I got them all adjusted after about 5 times through this cycle.   

I think these are just some of the reasons techs hate the silver Sparkle tops.

I looked through your photobucket and found this picture...
http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20131125_201222.jpg.html

I noticed the key numbers are very dark.  Did you color them in with a pen or something?  Looks good, and would probably come in handy with my old eyes.

Ray
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on January 27, 2014, 04:18:40 PM

I looked through your photobucket and found this picture...
http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20131125_201222.jpg.html

I noticed the key numbers are very dark.  Did you color them in with a pen or something?  Looks good, and would probably come in handy with my old eyes.

Yeah, I use a fine tip marker to draw in the numbers before I take the keys out to make them easier to read. 
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on January 27, 2014, 11:25:05 PM
I think these are just some of the reasons techs hate the silver Sparkle tops.

...and I for one am glad not to deal with that problem, for a former owner had replaced the felt hammer set in my sparkletop with plastic/wood set.

Quote
I looked through your photobucket and found this picture...
http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20131125_201222.jpg.html

Those look like the Wurlitzer full wood key sets.  Don't see those often.  I had a set of Pratt-Read full wood sets and there is a difference.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Student Rhodes on January 28, 2014, 12:39:21 PM
Those look like the Wurlitzer full wood key sets.  Don't see those often.  I had a set of Pratt-Read full wood sets and there is a difference.

Didn't Wurli do the run of 76/77 keys that crack like nobody's business?  Maybe the later keys?  Those keys definitely have a different feel than the 74/75 full wood P-R keys.    The problem with the P-R full wood keys is the discoloration of the front skirt plastic from UV light, but I'll take that over cracking any day.

These also look like they've been lacquered.  Voltergeist, did you lacquer you keys as well?  I like the look.
Ray
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on January 28, 2014, 03:37:32 PM
These also look like they've been lacquered.  Voltergeist, did you lacquer you keys as well?  I like the look.
Ray

No lacquer.  Just buffed.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on January 29, 2014, 12:42:11 PM
Making some progress dialing in the top 1/4 of the harp.  I tried doubling up the grommet felts, which seemed to help.  I also found they would ring better with the player-side tonebar screw turned down pretty far and hardly any downpressure from the audience-side tonebar screw. 

The original hardware comes back from re-plating tomorrow (according to UPS tracking).  It took a few calls to find someone who could do bright nickel on pieces as large as those '64 legs.  These are the guys I ended up going with, I guess tomorrow I'll get to see how they did:

http://www.badgermetalfinishing.com/
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Loucas on January 29, 2014, 01:19:58 PM
Just AMAZING work over the piano my friend.
And those rare legs ......i look them more than my wife's:D !
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Student Rhodes on January 29, 2014, 02:54:01 PM
These also look like they've been lacquered.  Voltergeist, did you lacquer you keys as well?  I like the look.
Ray

No lacquer.  Just buffed.

I meant the wooden key stem, not the tops.  They look like they have a matte finish on the.  Did you buff the wood as well?
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on January 29, 2014, 03:03:01 PM
These also look like they've been lacquered.  Voltergeist, did you lacquer you keys as well?  I like the look.
Ray

No lacquer.  Just buffed.

I meant the wooden key stem, not the tops.  They look like they have a matte finish on the.  Did you buff the wood as well?

Oh, that's just buffing compound dust in the wood.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on January 29, 2014, 08:16:28 PM
I also found they would ring better with the player-side tonebar screw turned down pretty far and hardly any downpressure from the audience-side tonebar screw.

I have found the same thing on some tonebars, not all.  Sparkletops are finicky pianos, more finicky than Mark I and later rhodes.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on January 30, 2014, 08:54:15 AM
I also found they would ring better with the player-side tonebar screw turned down pretty far and hardly any downpressure from the audience-side tonebar screw.

I have found the same thing on some tonebars, not all.  Sparkletops are finicky pianos, more finicky than Mark I and later rhodes.

Yes, that's consistent with what I've found.  What works on some, or most, doesn't work on all.  And yes, very finicky.  I've made some good progress on the high notes in the last few days, though.

I think doubling up grommet felts provides a real improvement.  High note ringing became more controllable and forgiving.   Haven't tried it on areas of the harp other than the high notes (and I'm currently out of balance rail felts), but I suspect it may be an improvement across the board (to be determined). 

I also found that MkI/II tonebar clips *can* be applied to the square tonebars.  I ground off the bottom lips of the clip to make them take up less space, and used a slip ring tool to hold the clip open when applying them.  I'm not entirely sure of the efficacy of using tonebar clips on square tonebars, though.  They don't slide like they do on MkI/II tonebars, so determining optimal position is difficult and tedious.  As I refine the harp adjustments I hope to get a better idea as to whether or not there's a real benefit from the clips.  More to come.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 03, 2014, 04:03:49 PM
Original hardware back from re-plating.  Looks good, except one leg came back with a significant flaw.  The other one turned out well.  All the small hardware looks good, though I haven't finished inspecting them all.  The plater agreed to re-do the flawed leg no charge, so no big deal other than some extra hassle.

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20140130_202746.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20140130_202746.jpg.html)

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20140130_205116.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20140130_205116.jpg.html)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: kphlx2000 on February 05, 2014, 07:55:06 PM
Man, the hardware looks beautiful. I wish you could get those legs replicated for me. ;)

Kenneth
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Student Rhodes on February 05, 2014, 08:18:37 PM
Original hardware back from re-plating.

What did this cost you?  I just took the legs I had made for my Gold Sparkle 73 to be chromed, and they wanted a hundred bucks each.  Here in California, there just aren't as many places doing that work because of EPA standards.
Ray
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 06, 2014, 09:42:32 AM

What did this cost you?  I just took the legs I had made for my Gold Sparkle 73 to be chromed, and they wanted a hundred bucks each.  Here in California, there just aren't as many places doing that work because of EPA standards.
Ray

Yeah, it was not cheap.  I had all the corners (qty 16), all the handle ends (qty 12), and the legs (qty 2) replated.  Total was around $500.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 06, 2014, 09:57:02 AM
Man, the hardware looks beautiful. I wish you could get those legs replicated for me. ;)

Kenneth

Thanks, Kenneth.  I would think they'd be straightforward to fabricate, at least in theory.  It's just tubing with two bends, a few holes, the ends of the tube pressed flat, and plated.  I think they're better looking than the aluminum legs, myself.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 09, 2014, 12:56:06 PM
Got the high notes ringing.  The harp is sounding good, and the piano plays well.  The old girl is getting close to returning to the world of the living.  Still refining the harp, but oh how far it's come.  See video below for demo.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFVKu-NWzuc&feature=youtube_gdata_player (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFVKu-NWzuc&feature=youtube_gdata_player)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on February 09, 2014, 04:40:56 PM
Sounds good.  Try a shim under the bass end of the harp, it improves the bass notes with more "fur" on the tone like the later pianos.  If you like it then you have to adjust the dampers to the new position.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 09, 2014, 05:55:29 PM
I had a breakthrough today.  Anyone with a sparkletop should watch this vid:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yiiCJttk60&feature=youtube_gdata_player (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yiiCJttk60&feature=youtube_gdata_player)

Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 09, 2014, 07:00:41 PM
I had a breakthrough today.  Anyone with a sparkletop should watch this vid:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yiiCJttk60&feature=youtube_gdata_player (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yiiCJttk60&feature=youtube_gdata_player)

This tone bar screw/grommet/washer arrangement (on the right in the photo below) is the real deal.    When I made this change the high notes rang pure and strong- and I had previously struggled to get them to ring at all.  I still can't quite believe the difference.  The whole harp seems to benefit from from this arrangement.  It appears to significantly reduce damping of the tonebars by the screw and grommet, resulting in improved sustain, volume, definition, and bite.

  I'll post a separate thread on the subject after I've done some more experimenting.

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20140209_155949.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Tine-E on February 09, 2014, 08:17:14 PM
This setup could be worth trying on the other Rhodes...
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 09, 2014, 09:14:07 PM
Washers on both screws even better.  This mod is gold. 
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 09, 2014, 09:18:18 PM
This setup could be worth trying on the other Rhodes...

Yeah, that would be interesting.  I wouldn't expect as much of a benefit when applied to a MkI/II, but it's worth trying.  A little better is still better.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Student Rhodes on February 10, 2014, 12:09:59 AM
Do you have any footage of the piano before the mod?
It'd be interesting to hear the tonal difference and compare.
I'm going to be re-doing a mid-'60s Raymac/Teardrop piano, and I'm anticipating a lot of work to get proper sound out of it.
Hope you post another clip when you're done.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 10, 2014, 09:23:43 AM
Do you have any footage of the piano before the mod?
It'd be interesting to hear the tonal difference and compare.
I'm going to be re-doing a mid-'60s Raymac/Teardrop piano, and I'm anticipating a lot of work to get proper sound out of it.
Hope you post another clip when you're done.

The first vid I posted is before the mod:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFVKu-NWzuc&feature=youtube_gdata_player (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFVKu-NWzuc&feature=youtube_gdata_player)

The second vid demonstrates before and after, though on middle notes only:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yiiCJttk60&feature=youtube_gdata_player (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yiiCJttk60&feature=youtube_gdata_player)

Another thing I did to the high notes (and I'll do to the rest of the harp when more felts arrive) was to double up the grommet felts.  Both the washer mod and the double felts serve the same purpose; to improve the mechanical isolation of the tonebar, thus reducing the dampening effects of the mounting system.  This improves sustain and tone, since the tonebar is more free to vibrate.  What you get is the real sound of the tonebar, with the sustain and overtones that are normally stunted by the mounting arrangement. 

The only downside to the mod I can see is that you lose the self-centering effect of the screw head sitting in the countersink.  The self-centering keeps the tonebar from directly contacting the screw.  The felts in my arrangement (especially when doubled) seem to keep the tonebar in a stable position relative to the screws, so it doesn't seem to be a problem.  It's something I'm keeping an eye on, though.  The ideal washer would have a cone-shaped bottom and a flat top, I think (unless some of the benefit of the mod derives from NOT having the grommet seated in the countersink).
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on February 10, 2014, 01:06:32 PM
Be careful how much ringing you bring out.  I used my sparkletop with the jazz band and the trumpet player said that the high notes were overbearing.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 10, 2014, 02:00:00 PM
Be careful how much ringing you bring out.  I used my sparkletop with the jazz band and the trumpet player said that the high notes were overbearing.

That sounds like a relative volume issue (or perhaps an amplification/eq issue), not a sustain or ringing issue (unless they weren't ringing true and didn't sound pleasing). 

I tend to make a distinction between sustain and ringing.  Sustain referring how long the note rings (of course), "Ringing" referring to the tonal quality.  Sparkletops seem to be especially prone to nasty harmonics on the high notes.  That's why I'm so keen on this mod-  both the sustain and the tonal quality are improved.  The high notes in the second vid are textbook high-note tone; pure and pleasing with >3 second sustain.  Anyone who's tried to get good tone and sustain out of a sparkletop's high octave should realize what an accomplishment that is.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Tine-E on February 10, 2014, 09:51:02 PM
This setup could be worth trying on the other Rhodes...

Yeah, that would be interesting.  I wouldn't expect as much of a benefit when applied to a MkI/II, but it's worth trying.  A little better is still better.

WILL TRY IT ON MY 1977 STAGE 73! AND IF IT DOES RING BETTER, WILL DO IT ON MY 72 STAGE 88.

I WOULD HAVE THOUGHT THAT A SOFT MATERIAL SUCH AS FELT WOULD ABSORB VIBRATIONAL ENERGY AND DISSIPATE THE RINGING....BUT THIS PROVES OTHERWISE!
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Student Rhodes on February 10, 2014, 10:15:57 PM
Has anyone ever tried rubber grommets on a Sparkle Top? 
I wonder if grommets from a Mk I would fit...
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 11, 2014, 08:53:53 AM
This setup could be worth trying on the other Rhodes...

Yeah, that would be interesting.  I wouldn't expect as much of a benefit when applied to a MkI/II, but it's worth trying.  A little better is still better.

WILL TRY IT ON MY 1977 STAGE 73! AND IF IT DOES RING BETTER, WILL DO IT ON MY 72 STAGE 88.

I WOULD HAVE THOUGHT THAT A SOFT MATERIAL SUCH AS FELT WOULD ABSORB VIBRATIONAL ENERGY AND DISSIPATE THE RINGING....BUT THIS PROVES OTHERWISE!

I would start by just replacing the screws with wood screws and see if that's an improvement.  Focus on high note(s)- a mix of ones that sound ok/good and poorly ringing ones (if you only focus on problem notes you may not be evaluating the mod properly, since the problem could be something unrelated to tonebar isolation).  Next I might try combining a felt with the rubber grommet, say between the rubber grommet and the washer.  I might also try a stackup of rubber grommet/washer/felt(s)/washer/screw.  I'll probably experiment with this, too.  If you try it, let us know what you did and what, if any, effect it had.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 11, 2014, 09:47:10 AM
I did some more work last night (more felts arrived), and settled on a high-octave tonebar isolation arrangement:  three felts and a washer. 

For the high notes, basically I found that a washer combined with a felt was (much) better than just felt.  Then, I found two felts and a washer was better than one felt and a washer.  Then, I found that three felts and a washer was better than two felts and a washer.

Two felts and a washer on both screws seems to do the trick for the rest of the harp.  So, now I've got two felts and a washer on the bottom 3/4 of the harp, and three felts and a washer on the top 1/4 of the harp. 

On the low octave, I'm going to try going back to just one felt and a washer on the player-side screw (keeping two felts and a washer on the audience-side screw).  Tone and sustain are really good with the current arrangement, but I want to see if stiffer mounting on the player-side of bass notes improves tine stability (say, like the way "tine stabilizers" benefit low notes on a MkI/II).  Given how the isolation arrangement varies from low-to-high (springs heavy to light), it seems reasonable that the optimal arrangement for the lowest notes may not be identical to the optimal arrangment for the highest notes.  To be determined.

So, still some work to do to determine the optimal arrangement by zone, but the fact remains that this mod is a significant improvement to the sparkletop harp. 
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 11, 2014, 09:50:56 AM
Has anyone ever tried rubber grommets on a Sparkle Top? 
I wonder if grommets from a Mk I would fit...

That's a good thought, but the rubber grommets definately don't "fit", per se.  The square tonebars have a conical countersink to fit the head of a wood screw. 
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 12, 2014, 09:12:32 AM
Here's the harp with the mod fully incorporated.  Below the top bracket I used two thick felts per screw.  Above the top bracket I used two thick felts and one medium.

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20140211_215305.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20140211_215305.jpg.html)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 12, 2014, 10:05:34 AM
I ordered a pair of Jensen C10Q's to replace the Weber Californias.  The Webers sound good, but they add too much weight and their power handling is overkill. 
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Student Rhodes on February 12, 2014, 11:18:22 AM
Here's the harp with the mod fully incorporated.

Yes!

Now some sound clips?

Ray
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 12, 2014, 12:54:06 PM
Here's the harp with the mod fully incorporated.

Yes!

Now some sound clips?

Ray

Here's another demo vid.  It's another "in-progress" vid, though, made as I was implementing the mod.  I've got some work to do before posting an 'after' vid with the mod on the whole harp.  I had to remove all the tonebars to incorporate the mod, so that un-did a lot of the adjustments I'd already made, and it will take some time to get it all squared away again. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgvid21V35w&feature=share&list=UURBmRCrOHTxaZ1NJ05RB9xQ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgvid21V35w&feature=share&list=UURBmRCrOHTxaZ1NJ05RB9xQ)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on February 12, 2014, 01:01:14 PM
Has anyone ever tried rubber grommets on a Sparkle Top? 
I wonder if grommets from a Mk I would fit...

I did.  The mounting screws are bigger on the sparkletop and won't clear the hole in the grommets.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Tine-E on February 12, 2014, 08:39:14 PM


I would start by just replacing the screws with wood screws and see if that's an improvement.  Focus on high note(s)- a mix of ones that sound ok/good and poorly ringing ones (if you only focus on problem notes you may not be evaluating the mod properly, since the problem could be something unrelated to tonebar isolation).  Next I might try combining a felt with the rubber grommet, say between the rubber grommet and the washer.  I might also try a stackup of rubber grommet/washer/felt(s)/washer/screw.  I'll probably experiment with this, too.  If you try it, let us know what you did and what, if any, effect it had.
[/quote]

My initial concern here would be finding a countersunk wood screw having an exact diameter (and pitch) with the VV tonebar screw so that if this mod does not make a difference I would still be able to re-install the VV tonebar screw without the problems of the hole being enlarged, stripped or pitch-misaligned.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 13, 2014, 08:27:33 AM

My initial concern here would be finding a countersunk wood screw having an exact diameter (and pitch) with the VV tonebar screw so that if this mod does not make a difference I would still be able to re-install the VV tonebar screw without the problems of the hole being enlarged, stripped or pitch-misaligned.

Exactly right.  It may be very difficult to find the right screw.  A junked harp to test on would be ideal, since screw diameter and pitch would not be critical.  I suppose if the mod was beneficial to the point that going back to the original screw was not a concern, identical diameter and pitch would not be as critical.  Even then, though, the diameter would have to be very close.  I haven't started looking for an appropriate screw myself, so I don't really know how tall an order that is. 

I suppose one could machine a little "washer" with a conical bottom and flat top that would sit between the original screw head and the original washer.  That might provide the upsides (if there are any) without the downside.  Though, I suppose there is still a downside in having to machine little specialized washers. 
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 13, 2014, 11:06:05 AM
My initial concern here would be finding a countersunk wood screw having an exact diameter (and pitch) with the VV tonebar screw so that if this mod does not make a difference I would still be able to re-install the VV tonebar screw without the problems of the hole being enlarged, stripped or pitch-misaligned.

Whether or not I'm able to find an appropriate screw, I plan to experiment with combining felts with the MkI/II rubber grommet configuration in the high octave (of a MkI).  The name of the game is improving the mechanical isolation of the tonebar.  Anyway, experimenting with different felt/rubber/washer configurations is one avenue to pursue that doesn't require a new screw.

Another idea I've had for sparkletops that may apply to MkI/II's is a way to decouple spring tension from escapement.  Higher spring tension helps with tine stability, and therefore tone.  However, to get more spring tension, the screw has to be turned down, which affects escapement and strike line.  So it can be a tradeoff.  However, if one adds shims (washers and/or felts) under the springs, spring tension can be increased independent of the height of the tonebar. 

On a MkI/II, tine stabilizers do the trick, however they limit flexibility when setting escapement.  So there may be cases where on doesn't want to use a stabilizer, but maintaining tonebar height while adding spring tension may be beneficial.  It may also be that shimming under springs offers a benefit in the zone above where one would use stabilizers but where tonebar assemblies still benefit from greater spring tension.  I don't know- haven't tried it. 
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Tine-E on February 13, 2014, 10:02:29 PM
A lot of experimentation is in order.....!
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 14, 2014, 11:11:40 AM
Replaced the Webers with Jensen C10Q's last night.  The Webers sounded really good, but were overkill and added too much weight.  The C10Q's sound good, too.  Definately sounds more "Fendery" with the Jensens, and the high harmonics are smoothed out more- a bit creamier.   The Webers had better definition and clarity. 

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20140213_194700.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20140213_194700.jpg.html)

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20140213_195034.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20140213_195034.jpg.html)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 17, 2014, 09:22:46 AM
A couple more demo vids.  I consider the harp pretty much done at this point, except one pickup is still out for repair.  Most likely I'll still make some tweaks here and there, though.

Note by note demo:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YblG0YJomt4&feature=share&list=UURBmRCrOHTxaZ1NJ05RB9xQ&index=1 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YblG0YJomt4&feature=share&list=UURBmRCrOHTxaZ1NJ05RB9xQ&index=1)

Sunday I set up all my pianos for a couple friends who were stopping by.  This is one of them checking out the sparkletop:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YblG0YJomt4&feature=share&list=UURBmRCrOHTxaZ1NJ05RB9xQ&index=1 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YblG0YJomt4&feature=share&list=UURBmRCrOHTxaZ1NJ05RB9xQ&index=1)

A couple pics from Rhodes geek-out day:

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20140216_134244.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20140216_134244.jpg.html)

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20140216_134315.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20140216_134315.jpg.html)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Student Rhodes on February 17, 2014, 11:01:25 AM
You posted the same link twice.
I'd love to see the Sparkletop getting worked.
Ray
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 17, 2014, 11:05:01 AM
You posted the same link twice.
I'd love to see the Sparkletop getting worked.
Ray

Oops, thanks!  Ok, here's my buddy checking out the sparkletop:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfgR3U1b3ec&feature=share&list=UURBmRCrOHTxaZ1NJ05RB9xQ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfgR3U1b3ec&feature=share&list=UURBmRCrOHTxaZ1NJ05RB9xQ)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on February 17, 2014, 05:53:25 PM
That dead pickup may be an easy fix.  I forgot to mention on my webpage that one of my dead pickups had a busted coil wire to the terminal.  I simply unwound the coil wire one revolution, stripped the insulation, resoldered to the terminal, and it worked.  Removing the pickup was the harder job as you have to remove the grounding buss wire connecting the series.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 18, 2014, 08:34:42 AM
That dead pickup may be an easy fix.  I forgot to mention on my webpage that one of my dead pickups had a busted coil wire to the terminal.  I simply unwound the coil wire one revolution, stripped the insulation, resoldered to the terminal, and it worked.  Removing the pickup was the harder job as you have to remove the grounding buss wire connecting the series.

In this case "the pickup is out" was meant in the literal sense - it had been removed and sent off for repair.  I couldn't see any visible breaks in the wire, and I didn't want to deal with it, so I sent it off to http://smithpianoservicing.com/ (http://smithpianoservicing.com/). 
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 23, 2014, 07:30:42 PM
Put grill cloth on today.  Pretty happy with how it turned out.  Now I'm just waiting for the other leg to come back from plating and the pickup to come back from repair.

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20140223_163510.jpg)

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20140223_163453.jpg)





Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 23, 2014, 07:47:38 PM
Put grill cloth on the '78 suitcase this weekend,  too.

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20140222_212724.jpg)

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20140222_214249.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on February 23, 2014, 07:49:52 PM
Nice work!  I've seen too many DIY speaker panel jobs where the grill cloth pattern isn't straight at the edges, NOT an easy job.

I want to have 2x15 speaker panels built for my sparkletop bottom cabinet - found some Jensens that sound really good.  Planning on an external amp so the cabinet will be solely a speaker cabinet.  But I want a professional job on the grill cloth, and ideally would like the wheat colored grillcloth not the blue stripe colored grillcloth.

What's with the funky legs on the suitcase to the right in the top picture...?
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 23, 2014, 07:59:36 PM
Nice work!  I've seen too many DIY speaker panel jobs where the grill cloth pattern isn't straight at the edges, NOT an easy job.

What's with the funky legs on the suitcase to the right in the top picture...?

Thanks, Ray!  I paid close attention to the lines.

The piano with the funky legs is the first restoration I did.  The legs are my own design, and I manually machined them myself.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 23, 2014, 08:02:09 PM
(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/IMG_20111129_200453.jpg)

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/IMG_20111214_210637.jpg)

Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on February 23, 2014, 10:46:29 PM
Nice work!  I've seen too many DIY speaker panel jobs where the grill cloth pattern isn't straight at the edges, NOT an easy job.

What's with the funky legs on the suitcase to the right in the top picture...?

Thanks, Ray!  I paid close attention to the lines.

The piano with the funky legs is the first restoration I did.  The legs are my own design, and I manually machined them myself.

What are you gonna do, stand on that thing like Keith Emerson?  LOL
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on February 24, 2014, 09:39:14 AM
What are you gonna do, stand on that thing like Keith Emerson?  LOL

I suppose those legs would afford me the option, if the opportunity presented itself. 

Yeah, they're over-engineered, but the originals were under-engineered.  At the time I did the restoration, no one seemed to be selling high-quality replacements (or, if anyone was, I hadn't found them), the pair from my piano were bent and beat up, and I didn't care for the way the original legs flex under load and mar the front lip of the cabinet when they're folded in.  So, I wanted legs that wouldn't flex and would have a positive stop to prevent banging up the cabinet.  The design I came up with works aesthetically (to my eyes, at least), works mechanically, doesn't add much weight, protects the cabinet, and makes the piano one-of-a-kind.  But the legs are much stronger than they need to be.  Oh well.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on April 07, 2014, 11:02:18 AM
The '64 sparkletop is done and will be heading to its new home with its new owner this week. 

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20140406_181620.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20140406_181620.jpg.html)

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20140406_181521.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20140406_181521.jpg.html)

Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on April 07, 2014, 11:08:17 AM
And a family photo before they start going their separate ways...

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/20140406_183534.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/20140406_183534.jpg.html)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on April 14, 2014, 08:56:54 AM
Here's the sparkletop's new owner checking it out before taking it home:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBggnrYvw1E&list=UURBmRCrOHTxaZ1NJ05RB9xQ&feature=share (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBggnrYvw1E&list=UURBmRCrOHTxaZ1NJ05RB9xQ&feature=share)

Sad to see it go, but glad it's got a good home.  Kind of gratifying to see it go from sitting in a garage next to torn-down mopeds to sitting on hardwood floors next to a baby grand.  Here's a pic of it in its new home:

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg197/Insectoid_Control/IMG_2441.jpg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/Insectoid_Control/media/IMG_2441.jpg.html)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Student Rhodes on April 14, 2014, 03:07:52 PM
Wow, that's great.
As I've said before, I'm really a guitar player, who's been dabbling in piano for a few years now.  In that time, I've seen so many Rhodes pianos in trashed condition, yet for each of them I've felt that with time and care they could be resurrected.

I've had the same experience with many old guitar and cars. In fact, I've got several of my own that are in varying states of rebirth.
So great job, man.  You've turned a parts piano candidate into a truly special piece.  I see you as a kindred spirit.
Ray
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: voltergeist on April 14, 2014, 03:50:27 PM
Wow, that's great.
As I've said before, I'm really a guitar player, who's been dabbling in piano for a few years now.  In that time, I've seen so many Rhodes pianos in trashed condition, yet for each or them I've felt that with time and care they could be resurrected.

I've had the same experience with so many old guitar and cars. In fact, I've got several of my own that are in varying states of rebirth.
So great job, man.  You've turned a parts piano candidate into a truly special piece.  I see you as a kindred spirit.
Ray

Thanks, Ray, I appreciate that.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Tim Hodges on March 13, 2017, 10:55:30 AM

It may have been this... a student piano with bench that had the tube amp and speakers enclosed.  I saw the piano sans amp at a NAMM show back in 2000, but have not heard of a complete package to surface.

(http://www.fenderrhodes.com/img/models/student/space-age-gold-bench.jpg)

I should say that one has surfaced in Paris. Complete with the amp cabinet. It belongs to composer Stan Laferrière who is asking 12,000 euros for it. Ouch!

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/602/33420162605_7c770631b4_z.jpg)

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2909/33291920861_35fab93aab_z.jpg)

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/4/3816/33291920991_37129bbb9e_z.jpg)

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2880/33291921041_78c827ee07_z.jpg)
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Student Rhodes on March 21, 2017, 10:27:42 AM
So cool.  Would love to know what's going on with the pre-amp on that thing.  Lots of knobs.
It looks at though that amp/piano may have vibrato?  That's kind of surprising for a Student piano.
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: Ben Bove on March 21, 2017, 12:21:57 PM
I can only guess it's Vol, Treb, Bass, Intensity and speed?  It's wild that nothing is labeled
Title: Re: Just scored an early Sparkletop!
Post by: The Real MC on March 21, 2017, 06:44:59 PM
The amp chassis is obviously a guitar amp mounted upside down.  It would be a model with vibrato given the rear panel control for vibrato speed.

As for the controls, it may be possible that concentric controls weren't available at the time or there were so few of this model made that they opted to use existing stock rather than buy a large quantity.  It is anybody's guess what the controls do, whether it is a preamp or just extensions of the controls that used to be on the adapted guitar amp.

That's a cool find though!