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Messages - The Real MC

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The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: New Vintage Vibe Electric Pianos
« on: November 26, 2021, 10:59:51 PM »
anyway, let me share with you all what I believe to be the ultimate E-Piano home set-up:

the dear sparkle-top active deluxe with two freakin' Ampeg M-15 Amps ( second one came via UPS from Italy today ... )

build in 1959, 20 Watts from two 6L6, 15" Alnico Speakers  :) - these two Amps are upgraded with Altec Lansing 418B's.  :)

Octal pre-amp tubes for all that warmth, shimmer and dynamics one can think of.

these are octal amps that stay clean once turned up in volume, there is nothing like them out there.

non compressed vintage tone, true magical 3D sound.  :)

I play guitar as a 2nd instrument and have a variety of cabinets with different speakers.  I experimented with my sparkletop Rhodes through different speakers.  My favorite for tone are the Celestion alnico "blues" speakers; they're only 15w each, OK for studio recording but you need at least four of them to get enough volume in an ensemble setting.

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Post your Rhodes pics and its story
« on: November 21, 2021, 10:45:22 AM »
Passing along some words of wisdom I got from one of the nation's best vintage keys techs:  Don't replace anything on a Rhodes without having a good reason for doing so.  This isn't just to save you time and money.  There are a lot of bad replacement parts on the market that will change the character of the instrument.  (And for the record, this guy actually manufactures and sells replacement Rhodes parts, so he's speaking against his own financial interests.) 


Truth.  Years ago I bought a remote power supply from CAE Sound for a Peterson preamp.  It caused 60hz hum in the preamp when I used it.  When I opened the power supply, I found out that it was unregulated - useless.  A proper regulated power supply will not cause 60hz hum.

Other Keyboards & Software Synths / Re: Memorymoog DOA
« on: October 11, 2021, 12:28:26 AM »
I restored two MM+.  There's a LOT to go wrong in these things, especially after sitting in a case for 25 years.  Some things can't be fixed over the internet.  This thing should be in the hands of a competent tech.

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Advice on selling Fender Rhodes
« on: August 22, 2021, 11:30:30 AM »
Yes the top lifts off, that's how maintenance is done.  You can take pictures there.

Other than the grill cloth, that's the cleanest silver top piano I have seen.

Restore or sell as is?  I'd say sell as is.  The clean condition will attract buyers.  There's a strong possibility that the felt hammers have worn grooves and will need re-shaving, which is a labor intensive $$$ repair.  Instead of re-shaving, the hammer set can be swapped out for the next generation hammerset with wood/plastic hammers.  They are interchangeable.  Reshave hammers or swap out - leave that option to the buyer, sell the piano as is.

I have a Vox Tonelab SE.  When I tried it with my Rhodes it distorted way too easily.

Tube amps are great with Rhodes as long as they don't distort easy.  That rules out most guitar amps.  Bass tube amps are specifically designed not to distort as quickly and are better for Rhodes pianos.  Usually anything with a 12AU7 or 12AT7 in the first tube stage of the preamp - 12AX7 tubes overdrive too easily.

Another good preamp for Rhodes is the Tubeworks Blue Tube.  It is a 1U rack mount preamp designed for bass.

If you're aiming for a bass combo amp, consider experimenting with different speakers.  I got a lot of mileage swapping different guitar speakers IE Celestion Weber.  If your combo amp has a 12" speaker that opens ups many options for different speakers.  If you don't want loud, my favorite speaker for Rhodes is the Celestion "alnico blue" that was popular in Vox amplifiers - only 15w but fine for low volume.

The pickups on the Rhodes are very sensitive to loading.  The input impedance of any preamp is crucial to noise and tone.

When I got my sparkletop Rhodes, none of the electronics were intact - no preamp, no power amp in the suitcase bottom.  So I experimented with DIs plugged right into the harp.  I had read that a 1Mohm impedance was ideal for that signal chain. 

What I found was that the noise and piano tone varied with different input impedances.  As input impedance goes lower the noise is louder and the tone is negatively affected.  Even my DI with 1Mohm input impedance was not free of noise.

But when I tried a Countryman Type 10 DI with 10Mohm input impedance, the noise was completely gone and I could get a nice full frequency tone.  I got both the fusion bark and bell tone.

I can't guarantee this will work with a '75 Rhodes.  They varied the pickup design over the years.  When I got my sparkletop I also had a '76 stage piano.  I tried the "magic chain" on the '76, and could not get it to sound as good as the sparkletop.  The pickups on the '76 are different than the ones on sparkletop pianos.

The Peterson preamp has a FET input for high input impedance, but to my ears the Peterson (I have a surplus one) is not as effective as the Countryman DI.  I have no idea of the topology of the Countryman as the components are potted in epoxy.  The built in LPF of the Peterson serves to cut noise but at the expense of the bell tone.

Also consider that Rhodes put really crappy speakers on the suitcase bottom.  Since my piano did not have any speakers in the suitcase bottom I experimented with others.  You can get a big improvement in tone using guitar speakers like Celestion 75w like those used in Marshall cabinets (why should guitar players have all the fun?).  That's what I installed in my suitcase cabinet.  I got awesome tone with Celestion alnico speakers like the G12s or "alnico blues" but they weren't hefty enough to handle the wattage.  Weber makes higher wattage alnico speakers but I haven't tried them.

You gotta experiment... your mileage will vary.

Interesting how the tone bar twist is reversed for the 54. I doubt this would make a difference, though does this imply a different manufacturer? is there any other differences between them. Might be interesting the swap the tonebars to see if they have an affect.

Pretty safe bet that Fender changed vendors for the resonators.  The engineers complained that the bean counters were always looking for cheaper vendors but at the expense of quality.  Often the original vendor had something unique about their process that didn't get passed onto the cheaper vendor.

The resonator is supposed to be the same frequency of the tine.  If they're out of tolerance then this causes sustain issues.  The new vendor may had neglected this.

Primary culprit is wiring of the pickups.  54 is different from 73.  The pickups are very sensitive to loading, and the different wiring is going to result in a different sound. 

The preamp is going to sound different compared to the passive Rhodes (54 or stage piano).

If you want a true A/B comparison, use the harp output (the RCA jack).

Tine sustain problems are usually due to worn/degraded rubber gromlets on the mounting screws for the tonebar/tine assembly.

For Sale / FS Wood/plastic hammer assembly for 73 note Rhodes piano
« on: April 22, 2021, 11:19:30 AM »
no longer available

does anybody know what kinds of changes there were in design and parts during that era (1983)? What changed besides the plastic keys and smaller hammer throw from earlier Mark II's and Mark I's?

Pickups.  Different coil wire, different magnet poles.  Yes they do sound different.

The OEM of the tines changed over the years.  Raymacs were used until about 1971.  Then Torringtons.  Schagler tines were the last and most durable, and are more bell tone with less bark.

Resonators.  First generation were square resonators, replaced in 1969 with the cold rolled flat resonators to reduce weight.  They are not interchangeable.

Fender was ALWAYS changing suppliers, for two reasons.  One, they wanted a second source as a back up in case the first ran into supply or quality issues.  Two, the CBS beancounters were aggressively looking for cheaper and cheaper suppliers which drove the engineering department nuts when a new source did not make the new parts correctly or with inferior quality.

This is why it is futile to nail "the best year" for Rhodes pianos.

After listening to your audio sample, I think the piano sounds good.  You could really benefit from a different amp.  Tube amps work really well with Rhodes pianos.

The Mark II does not have the dreaded white tape pickups, but if that piano has the fiberglass keyset (white or black color plastic key shanks instead of wood) with plastic key guides, run away from it.  That keyset is prone to breaking.

The major tone difference between the pianos is the Mark II is more bell tone while the Mark I is more of the fusion style "bark".

If the Mark II has the integral pedestal bump, the action will play really good.  The Mark I is likely to have soggy action and harder to play.

As for market value, I haven't kept up with recent prices.  Ebay is a poor indicator.

Buying / Re: Looking for Rhodes Bass Pre-Cbs!
« on: February 18, 2021, 10:33:08 PM »
Prepare to be disappointed.

Those pre-CBS piano basses used an integrated one piece resonator/tine assembly that had short life.  You will have a very very hard time replacing any broken ones.

And they did not sound very good.

I think someone needs to design a modular synth in the form of a Rhodes name rail.

This would be close - Moog Polymoog.  IMO the best synth interface ever invented, yet was never duplicated.

But a modular in that format?  The patch cords would drape over the keyboard.

The reason was economics not technical.  A sanding procedure would had added to the production expense, and we're talking about a company whose bean counters were searching everywhere to cut production costs.  Fender was changing vendors all the time which frustrated the designers because the new vendor could not make the components with the same quality as the previous one.  It was not a good situation for quality product.

Amps, Effects & Recording Techniques / Re: Mic and Cabinet Emulators?
« on: October 31, 2020, 12:23:26 PM »
I use a cabinet simulator for recording and for gigs.  They would work for apartments.

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: How best to record suitcase
« on: October 04, 2020, 09:43:54 AM »
The Accessory jacks on the piano are intended for effects loop.   The top one (effects send) is 'normalled' to the bottom one (effects return).  If you only use the top jack then it will interrupt the signal flow to the preamp.

If your DI has a thru jack you can connect this to the bottom accessory jack.

However the accessory jack is wired directly to the pickups and they are extremely sensitive to input impedance on outboard devices like a DI box.  Meaning the tone can change drastically.  If the impedance is too low - such as a passive DI box - your tone will be muddy with high end and it can be noisy.  I had read of the impedance problem and they recommend no less than 1Mohm.  I tried the DI boxes in my collection and the best one was CountryMan Type 10 which has a 10Mohm input impedance.  There was zero noise and the tone was excellent.  Not even my active Radial DI could perform that well.

Keep in mind that pickup design of Rhodes pianos have changed over the years.  Some eras (IE 1976) have pickups which won't have ANY high end.

I never owned a stock Suitcase piano so I have no experience micing it.  But one way to improve the sound is to change to different speakers.  The stock speakers are real dogs, changing to better ones goes a long way to achieving that "sweet spot" than micing techniques.  I also play guitar and found that good guitar speakers can really improve the sound of the Rhodes.  I like the Celestion 75w speakers (stay away from Celestion 70w speakers they don't sound good with ANYTHING).

My brother had a 212 HD ~30 years ago, he played guitar.  I do not remember playing my Rhodes through it, but the MusicMan amps were designed to distort whereas the Twin Reverb were too clean for most guitar players.

As for Rhodes, it's a subjective issue.  Some folks like an amp that distort, some folks like an amp that is clean.

Buying / Re: Handles for Oberheim 4 Voice
« on: September 20, 2020, 02:20:05 AM »
Any web store that sells tolex will also sell handles identical to the 4 voice.

Buying / Re: Handles for Oberheim 4 Voice
« on: September 19, 2020, 09:37:06 AM »
Most guitar supply websites have them.  Google for tolex and check the results.

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: shiny or original?
« on: May 02, 2020, 06:01:32 PM »
Don't try to equate vintage guitars with vintage keys.

I've own four Rhodes pianos since 1978.  The first three were bone stock and they were dogs.  They had spongy action that hurt my hands and I was never happy with the sound.

The fourth one I currently own is a '67 sparkletop piano.  When I bought it the original electronics and speakers were missing, and a previous owner had changed out the original felt hammers for early-70s wood/plastic hammers with neoprene hammer tips. 

Did I care that it was not original?  No I did not.  I have played other sparkletop pianos and the original electronics sounded awful, and the felt hammers are my least favorite keyset.  The combination of parts from different eras gave it a sound that I loved, and the action is really nice to play.

I had no intention to seek out original electronics as the active devices are PNP germanium transistors which have been out of production for decades.  They were very poor transistors and it is not worth the effort to seek them out.  Even with good transistors, the electronics distorted too easily.  In fact the electronics were intentionally designed to cut off high end to mask the noise of the pickups.  The pickups are very sensitive to loading, if the input impedance is not high enough the pickups are noisy and their tone is not optimal.  Using a Fender tube amp from the same era, you want to use the jack labeled input 1 as the pickups work well there.  Today a pro audio DI like the Countryman Type 10 works wonders to eliminate the noise and bring out a tone that has been hiding in these things for years.  I can get everything from the fusion bark to bell tone just from playing dynamics.  I could not get the same tone from my newer Rhodes so I sold it.

Back in the late 60s, Fender was installing dog-s**t speakers in these things - Oxford, etc.  Again, the selection was intentional to mask the noise.  I made new speaker baffles for the suitcase bottom and installed four Celestion 75w speakers, same speakers used in Marshall guitar cabinets.  They sound much better.

In my experience I got the best sound from a piano that was not original.  Others may find value in an all-original stock piano.  Frankly there is no agreement on the "best era" of Rhodes pianos.  The factory did a sloppy job of assembling them, players didn't know better, and good Rhodes pianos were few and far between.  It just takes some cherry-picking to find the good ones, but they don't turn up often as owners hang onto them.

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: 1982, the best year?
« on: March 30, 2020, 12:53:05 AM »
There is no universal agreement on "best year".

Specialized music equipment - especially those no longer in production - are not usually covered in homeowners insurance as they are not considered typical household fixtures like home piano, furniture, TV, stereo, refrigerator, etc.  You can easily replace typical household fixtures but not vintage gear.

You should look into a personal artifacts rider specifically designed to cover non-typical household fixtures.  They have these for unusual personal collections such as stamps, sports memorabilia, artwork, etc.

Also check your policy very carefully for terms IE most policies will not cover loss if it leaves the dwelling IE gigging with vintage gear.

What's this come out of? I bet they found it easier throwing a clip on bump rather than integrating the bump in the manufacturing of the key pedestals themselves.

These are in my 1967 sparkletop piano

How does your rhodes handle double striking? Teardrop hammers?

Previous owner had swapped out the teardrop hammer set for wood/plastic from early 70s piano.  The service manual recommends this if the felt hammers wear out.

Wood/plaster hammers in a 60s sparkletop is a lovely combination.  I get everything from fusion bark to bell tone.  The square resonators from the 60s do have a unique sound, as do the pickups.  I discovered that the pickup can saturate, so with optimum positioning I can saturate the pickup with hard playing which imparts a pleasant thump transient to the sound.

To get the best tone out of it I used a DI right off the harp assembly.

I had a '76 Rhodes when I got that sparkletop and tried the same techniques - nowhere near the same sound.  I sold the '76.

None of my student models have a factory bump, but I do have a sparkle top that has a metal clip with a factory bump that clips on the on the key ped.
I'll try to get a photo.

from my webpage

Buying / Re: ITALIAN Vox Continental Leg Braces
« on: February 18, 2020, 11:00:53 PM » was making repros years ago but I don't see them now.

"Classic Keys" just arrived yesterday.

I bought the hard cover version. The book was bigger than I expected. The photos are excellent quality, there are lots of them, the paper stock is very good quality. I have some guitar books made out of nice paper stock with excellent photos, and I have to say it is about damn time we had a keyboard book with similar quality. The book "Prophet of Silicon Valley" started this trend, this book elevates it to another level.

I shared my dad's passion with trains; when he passed away I inherited his collection of over 1000 long-out-of-print books on railroad history. Many are over fifty years old; books from that era were top quality which were constructed from hard cover and heavy paper optimized for photo reproduction. When I first held "Classic Keys" in my hand I recognized the same quality.

From what little I have read so far, there was a LOT of research that went into the history of the instruments. Even well-read seasoned pros (like me) will find themselves saying "I did not know that" as they read along.

"Classic Keys" fills in gaps long overlooked; electro-mechanical instruments (hohners, mellotrons, hammonds, rhodes, wurlitzers, electric grands, etc) and early electronic keyboards (RMI, combo organs, electronic pianos, K250, etc). Although many have long been out of production, the authors dug into factory records and interviewed artists, former employees, and dedicated enthusiasts on the history behind these instruments. The attention to detail is equal to those with hands-on experience with these classic keyboards. The assessment of the instruments are unashamedly honest; they discuss the pros as well as the cons, such as which era has better playing sound/action and cautions on locating replacement parts. For instance if you are shopping for a Rhodes piano with a particular sound in mind, this is a valuable resource.

Well worth the money. Excellent resource and fascinating reading.

I found my Vox Continental 301-E in a pawnshop back in ~1995.  Has all the original components including the volume pedal.  Only needed a cap replaced in the power supply. 

You don't want to know what I paid for it.

Other Keyboards & Software Synths / Re: My "practice rig" Kustom 88
« on: January 13, 2020, 12:20:51 AM »
I thought that the cover somehow folds to turn into a stand for these?

Yes but he's probably missing the original support brackets.

B******** is a curse word

Please don't plaster this forum with B******** ads disguised as "threads", there's too much of that on other discussion forums and I don't want to see them here.

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano / Re: Rhodes Stage MKI Hiss
« on: January 18, 2019, 10:14:42 PM »
Since it's a stage piano, you're going to need a DI with input impedance of at least 1Mohm.  The pickups in Rhodes pianos are very sensitive to impedance loads, and if it is too low then hiss is created.  The wrong impedance greatly affect the tone too.

I had a real problem with hiss and it took a Countryman Type 10 DI to get rid of it.

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