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Embrace my 79 Stage timbre, or start ripping things apart?

Started by Willis, June 25, 2020, 07:47:32 AM

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I was going to title this thread "Longtime Korg SV1 Owner Buys Rhodes, is Disappointed".

I recently picked up a 1979 mk1 Stage in good condition, it had been in long term storage. It had always been some kind of dream of mine to own a real rhodes, and while I thought the SV1 was an adequate stop-gap, I would never be truly satisfied until I had the real thing.

I had some awareness of the difference in timbre across the different model years, (my preferences are firmly on the older, darker, bark-ier side)though I didn't expect such a dramatic difference. In short I am not super keen on the clean, more bell like tone that the newer models produce, that my particular piano produces.

So far I have replaced all the grommets and screws, scraped off the factory shims and replaced them with slightly thinner pieces of solid wood, experimented with several voicing settings, and while I am able to get some of the nice dark, barking tones in the low and mid-range, the high end is still very chime-y.

I feel like the next step would be replacing the neoprene hammer tips with felt tips but I'm unsure if even this will give me the sound I am looking for. I read that even the tines from older models are different and contribute to that sound, though some argue not.

Any suggestions?

pianotuner steveo

The neoprene tips last much longer than the felt. Felt may give you more of the sound you want, but the felt does wear much faster.
1960 Wurlitzer model 700 EP
1968 Gibson G101 Combo organ
1975 Rhodes Piano Bass
1979 Wurlitzer 206A EP
1980 Wurlitzer 270 Butterfly Grand
2009 73A Rhodes Mark 7
2009 Korg SV-1 73
2017 Yamaha P255
2020 Kawai CA99
....and a few guitars...


I'm in a similar situation. I've been playing emulations in Logic Pro and iOS and wanted the real thing.
I bought a 1980 mkII stage because it was in great shape and available.
Did grommets and hammer tips already because many of them looked or felt like the rubber was starting to degrade.

I've also worked on voicing and I'm pretty happy with the sound now. I bought the 6 zone hammer tips from vv and I'm thinking about buying more zone 5 tips to replace the zone 6 tips. There's a little too much "tink" in those keys for my taste. Like you, I'm also looking for a darker sound.

If you wanted to see how much difference the hammer tips/felts make you could always buy a couple of singles. With some finesse I think you could get the existing tips off in good enough shape that they could be glued back on again if you wanted to revert. Most of mine snapped right off cleanly but some needed to be sliced off. Still have all my fingers but a couple have band-aids on them!

I have a DIY Peterson amp PCB on it's way from Finland and I'll report back once that's operational.


Appreciate the replies guys.

Please do get back on the Peterson amp. I have a cheap mic pre that I'm using now, just for a clean boost. I was giving much consideration to some sort of amp modeling pedal, I find the amp modeling section on the SV1 goes some distance in getting a dirtier sound.


I've spent a LOT of time with my mkII now, and I said I would report back, so here are my thoughts.

The diy peterson pre-amp is very nice. It has a great tremolo but it does not perform magic and doesn't change the core sound of your piano. I was looking for a magic bullet and I think I had my expectations set a little high. Definitely still glad I have it though.

I was able to get much closer to the sound I was looking for by moving all the pickups as close as possible to the tines. I started by making a spacer out of some stiff, thin plastic and I used that as a guide to get a consistent starting gap. My mkII had a huge gap between tine and pickup so there was a lot of room for improvement.

Some tines/pickups were louder than others so once all keys were in the ballpark I had to fine tune by ear to get everything sounding consistent.
I still have some adjustments to make so when I hear a key that's off, I put a little round sticker behind it on the name rail and tackle a few at a time when I have the lid off.

I had a few tines that were mounted slightly diagonally and offset due to incorrectly drilled holes. (After reading Mike Peterson's blog, I picture a rickety drill press in Ensenada every time I see them). This offset seemed to make an even larger difference when the pickup was moved up close so I got a 3/8 crescent wrench and twisted the tine block in relation to the tone bar to get the tines lined up.

As a side note, the close proximity of the pickup caused it to interfere with the damper on a couple of keys so I had to trim the felt in order for it to clear the pickup.

Another detail of note is that some pickup mounting screws are still located slightly too far to the rear to allow for full adjustment so my next move is to remove a couple of pickups and file the rear of the slot to extend it by a few mms.

Finally, since I only play at a moderate level in my living room, the sound of hammer-on-tine leaking through the lid always bugged me, especially on the higher notes. I had some leftover dynamat in the garage so I put a couple of layers inside the lid and now I barely hear it.

I can't claim that I made a mkII sound like an early mkI but I can definitely get that nice raunchy twang out of it even with moderate pressure on the keys. I understand that Rhodes changed the hammer geometry at some point to decrease the velocity so the only way I can get around that is to play harder!

Major Bloodnok

AndyP, I was interested to note your report of adventures with Dynamat. I would also like to tame the acoustic leakage, or 'Schroeder effect'. This has prompted me to post an invitation to comment on Rhodes soundproofing.
Since that would be a bit off-topic in a discussion of 79 Stage or MarkII timbre. I will post that as a new thread, and try to include a link if I can work out how.
Growing old disgracefully with a 1972 MkI Stage 73, a Prophet '08+Tetr4 and a Korg SP250.


So to update this thread, I ultimately did replace all my hammer tips with felt, and still didn't really hear what I was hoping for. I would say the felts were an improvement, but still that certain something was lacking. This was a few years ago now and my Rhodes has mostly been collecting dust since then.

Now several days ago I happened on to a great deal for a beat up 1972 Stage and picked it up. I have a bunch of work to do on the '72, tons of corrosion, dirt and dust. It is way out of tune and the voicing is a mess, but even so I knew from the first Maj7 chord that I struck: this is IT! It barks, it bites, it simply just sings in a way my '79 never could. I can only guess now that this sound I have been seeking is in the tines themselves; the 1972 alloy has that MOJO admixure I guess? Whatever it is, I'm very pleased with this new piano and look forward to how great it will sound after an intensive tune up.

EDIT: Turns out it's a Buz Watson. Explains the extra mojo.