The Electric Piano Forum

General => The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano => Topic started by: Mister Bailey on July 15, 2017, 07:28:59 AM

Title: Low volume and hiss on my MK 1 Stage
Post by: Mister Bailey on July 15, 2017, 07:28:59 AM

I have a 1979 mk 1 73 stage Rhodes which I bought a few months ago. I've not owned one before so am not sure if this is to be expected but the output volume is low to the point that I have to turn the volume on my amp (a KC-110) to full.  There is also an annoying hiss when a note is played which dissappears as the note fades.  This is especially noticeable when I use my Small Stone Phaser which "pulses" the hiss.  I have tried connecting directly to the harp RCA jack but this does not improve the quality of the output.

Possibly unrelated, I have seen photos online where a "grounding" wire runs from the RCA to a screw in the metal of the damper rail.  I do not have this cable on my Rhodes and do not an obvious appropriate screw on the rail.  However, I've read that not all models have this wire.

Any recommendations on how I might fix the hiss and volume issues would be greatly appreciated.  :)  It is ruining my enjoyment of my Rhodes.  >:(
Title: Re: Low volume and hiss on my MK 1 Stage
Post by: sean on July 15, 2017, 09:58:27 PM

The Rhodes has much much lower output than any modern electronic keyboard.  The Rhodes output is similar to electric guitar output.

Channel 1 on the KC-110 has more gain than channel 2 and 3, so try plugging the Rhodes into channel 1.  But you quite likely will not get your Rhodes as loud as the other keyboards.

In this situation, you will probably be happy adding some gain with a little preamp.  An MXR Micro Amp. or similar, will work with your off-grid battery-powered lifestyle.  Lots of other effect pedals have a little bit of gain that might help.   With the amp gain set in their middle ranges instead of the top of their headroom limits, the hiss problem should go away.

On my 79 Mark I, there is no ground wire to from the harp to the damper bar.


Title: Re: Low volume and hiss on my MK 1 Stage
Post by: Ben Bove on July 17, 2017, 01:57:31 PM
Try channel 1 as Sean recommends, I'm not familiar with the KC-110 (I think I had a KC 350?).  But without a doubt, no 30W keyboard amplifier should have to be at full volume.  The hiss I'm sure is coming from the amp being at full volume.  Let us know if that changes anything.

If not, it would initially be checking out the RCA cable / jack contact, stage controls, and pickup wiring.  The sustain grounding wire eliminates a grounding buzz not a hiss, so the piano would sound like a fluorescent light.  This was only for pianos before late 1975 when they switched to aluminum action frames, and the metal grounds itself.
Title: Re: Low volume and hiss on my MK 1 Stage
Post by: Mister Bailey on July 20, 2017, 09:18:00 AM
Thanks Ben & Sean,

Using channel 1 on my amp has helped a little.

I think that I will investigate the pickup wiring.  Soldering looks a bit dodgy in places.

Title: Re: Low volume and hiss on my MK 1 Stage
Post by: David Aubke on July 21, 2017, 08:20:12 AM
Rhodes do make a relatively weak signal but any standard guitar amplifier from a practice amp to a Marshall stack should be able to make a reasonable sound.

As suggested, check the RCA jack at the rear of the harp. The signal is ready to go directly into an amplifier from that point so if you have an RCA-to-1/4" adapter, you can test from there. The controls on the name rail are passive, the same as on an electric guitar. All they do is remove volume and/or treble. Some folks bypass them altogether and control volume and tone at the amplifier.

So, if you get a good signal from the RCA, you know your name rail controls are the problem. If not, you at least know where to start your investigation.. and the jack itself should probably be Suspect #1.
Title: Re: Low volume and hiss on my MK 1 Stage
Post by: The Real MC on July 30, 2017, 10:58:28 PM
Rhodes with no active preamp (stage pianos or direct off the RCA socket on the harp) are very sensitive to input impedances.  Not all keyboard or guitar amps work well with them and the wrong ones will load down the pickups enough to create noise and a low output.  If you have other amps, try them.

You may also have a defective RCA socket.  I have gigged since 1981 and have banned the damn things from my arsenal as they have proven to be unreliable.  I replaced the RCA socket on my Rhodes with a 1/4" socket.
Title: Re: Low volume and hiss on my MK 1 Stage
Post by: mrchibbs on November 30, 2017, 11:06:50 PM
I know this reply is delayed, but I've had the same issue on a 1973 piano, and installing a ground wire to the damper rail does NOT fix the issue.

In my case, going straight off the harp helped things a little, but it's still not perfect.
Title: Re: Low volume and hiss on my MK 1 Stage
Post by: Mister Bailey on February 09, 2018, 04:04:57 PM
Thanks Mr Chibbs,

It’s nice to have another “Mr” on the forum.   :)

I’ve not touched the Rhodes for a while (recently got a Moog synth which is getting all my attention :D) but I’ll post something here if I find anything that helps solve the issue.

If it actually is an issue, of course.

Mr Bailey
Title: Re: Low volume and hiss on my MK 1 Stage
Post by: pnoboy on February 09, 2018, 04:51:03 PM
There's got to be something wrong.  The Rhodes puts out plenty of volume to make any guitar amp sound fine.  Can you borrow another amp from a friend to connect to your Rhodes?  If that test also shows a problem, then you definitely have to trouble shoot your piano.
Title: Re: Low volume and hiss on my MK 1 Stage
Post by: Mister Bailey on February 25, 2018, 02:13:53 PM
Yes, I suspect this is the case.

I plan to ship my Rhodes off for a professional service as I think doing this myself is beyond my capability.
Title: Re: Low volume and hiss on my MK 1 Stage
Post by: Julkey73 on March 02, 2018, 06:47:44 AM
Hallo there MB. Having read your post some days ago, and hoping that you are making progress, my amplified Rhodes mk II stage 73 just started cutting out during a warm up home session, thankfully it was not in the middle of some gig or other. Looking for a dodgy connection on my Rhodes is always a fun, though sometimes in public, a humbling challenge and part of living with it. Cutting to the chase, I agree with all the above helpful replies and here is some of what I look for: checking the ohms resistance figure of each pickup, that they are up there in the 170+ region, hopefully. I am no pro' and so I tolerate my own efforts of pickup rewinds reading below that, my harp having a real mix of whites, reds and amateur re-wounds. This last time, the cut out was through an electro-mechanical join where a few of the pickup mounting plates were not "earthing" to the foil strip, so they all got an extra crank down nip from a trusty socket. And then the black wire plates either end of the row of pickups got a refreshing jiggle and another twist from the the philips screwdriver. For good measure, I checked the Ohms at the phono socket, unplugged and get a reading of 1321 Ohms on a good day,
though I have no idea if that's near the proper average.
These words are from a forum newbie, still getting surprised by these rewarding instruments both through playing and maintaining.
My respects anyone who works with them inside and out.
Cheers from Julkey73.