Sleek and iconic, the 70s-era 200-series is arguably the most classic Wurlitzer.
When you think "Wurlitzer," the plastic-top, chrome-leg Wurlitzer 200 (or 200a) is probably the first image that comes to mind. First released in the late 1960s, the Wurlitzer 200-series is the final iteration of Wurlitzers. Their pared-down, slim body allows easy access to mechanical parts, and it contains a state-of-the-art (for the time) solid state amplifier. Vibrato now comes standard, the final puzzle piece to the iconic Wurlitzer sound.
After several years, Wurlitzer released the 200a, an update that mostly affected the amplifier. Advances in solid state technology gave the Wurlitzer a more modern printed circuit board, as well as smaller electronic components. Bias-shifting tremolo was replaced by a circuit that featured an optocoupler. This was a return to a technique used in the earlier 140b, except with updated components such as silicon transistors. Finally, instead of mounting the speakers to the amp rail, the speakers in the 200a were mounted directly to the plastic lid with four flower-head screws.
In addition to the portable studio models, Wurlitzer released a series of console keyboards for studio use. These models are identical to the 200/200a, but instead of legs the keyboard is attached to a speaker cabinet containing four 8" speakers. Two are in the front, facing the player, and the other two are in the back. The oval 4x8 speakers found under the lid of the 200/200a Wurlitzers are absent in the console models.
Thanks to their generous speaker complement, studio models have a fuller sound and are able to reproduce a more complete spectrum of frequencies. In our opinion, the studio model is the best representation of how a Wurlitzer is meant to sound, without relying on external amplification. And although obviously larger than the 200/200a model, studio Wurlitzers are still relatively compact for a keyboard of the period. At 120 lbs, they are twice as heavy as a Wurlitzer 200, but still a few pounds lighter than a Rhodes Stage Piano. (The cabinet model of the Rhodes weighs approximately 240 lbs.)
Studio models include the 203 and 203W (which is the same as the 203, but with wheels instead of feet). Both contain the same amplifier as the 200. Later, the 210 was released as the console version of the 200a.
Wurlitzer also released a series of console models intended for schools. These looked similar to the studio console models, but had beige tolex and beige grill cloth. Model numbers were 206 (corresponding to the 200 amplifier) and 206a (the 200a version). An exception to the all-beige rule was the Wurlitzer 214, a student model that resembled an avocado green 203W.
Student models had the same circuitry as the 200/200a Wurlitzers, with a few notable exceptions. First, every Wurlitzer in the classroom was connected to one another. Second, the vibrato circuit was disabled (in the case of the 206) or completely absent (in the case of the 206a). Instead, each piano had a self/ensemble knob. In "ensemble" mode, the player's music would play from the speakers of every Wurlitzer in the room. The teacher's Wurlitzer had additional controls that allowed him or her enable or disable the volume of the students' pianos.
There was some variation in the speaker complement of 206/206a Wurlitzers, but they generally had two round 8" speakers in the front. (One early iteration of the 206 has two oval 4x6” speakers mounted to the amp rail, as in a Wurlitzer 200. The cabinet is otherwise identical, but the front panel is covered in tolex instead of speaker cloth.) Above the speakers, below the keyboard, there was also a shelf where the hardwired headphones would rest. Unlike the 203/210 studio Wurlitzers, the back had no speakers and was instead completely tolexed.
The two round 8" speakers are certainly an improvement on the oval 4x8" speakers in the 200/200a Wurlitzers. However, they do lack the volume and frequency response of the four-speaker studio models. So, although we would only refinish a rare 203/210/214 if it were in completely dilapidated condition, we will occasionally retolex 206/206a student model or even convert it into a 200/200a with legs. Student models are extremely common because they were sold in bulk to schools. Besides, that, they were also intended to be functional. So if "chopping" or refinishing it makes the instrument more appealing and functional to today's musicians, we feel that the change is justified. In fact, it arguably furthers the 206's ultimate purpose in being an instrument that is both high-quality and extremely practical.
Wurlitzer was a major company throughout the 20th century. They had multiple factories and a production line that prioritized efficiency and speed of manufacture. Therefore, all 200-series Wurlitzers shared a majority of the exact same parts. For instance, the 200, 206, and 203 have the same amplifier. The only difference was that certain capacitors were disconnected from the circuit (although they were present on the board) depending on which model the amplifier was intended for, and whether it was supposed to have features like vibrato or an aux output. Any one of these models can be converted into a fully-functional 200-style model with just a few minor changes.
Wurlitzer 206a Conversion
When Wurlitzer "upgraded" to the 200a amplifier, they took efficiency one step further. Although the 200a, 206a, and 210 have the same printed circuit board, each one only has the components necessary for their various features. For instance, the 200a has vibrato, a headphone output and an aux output, but is missing the capacitors and other components necessary for the 206a's self/ensemble features. The 206a has the components for the self/ensemble, but the areas meant for vibrato and the aux output are empty. So, although a 206a can be easily converted to a fully-functional 200a-style amplifier, the individual components must be sourced and installed in the printed circuit board.
Vibrato is our favorite feature of Wurlitzer electronic pianos and an aux output is undeniably useful, so we usually install a vibrato and aux out in all 206-model Wurlitzers whether or not we leave it on the cabinet.
Finally, every 200-series Wurlitzer has the exact same mechanical parts housed in the exact same physical body. The top of the 203/210/206a is the same as the 200/200a top - the only difference is that it is screwed to the cabinet. Therefore, it is possible to unscrew a console Wurlitzer and convert it into a 200/200a Wurlitzer just by adding legs, speakers, and a power cord. We absolutely do not recommend doing this to a 203, 210, or 214 model due to their rarity. If you have a 203, 210 or 214 and you are tempted to convert it into a 200/200a-style Wurlitzer because you need the portability, we advise trading it for a 200/200a model instead of removing it from the cabinet.