The Wurlitzer 203/210, Explained

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Four 8" speakers. Dramatic all-black styling. All the features of an original 200a amplifier. The 210 is truly the Wurlitzer's Wurlitzer. 

Released as the "studio model," this is one of the few Wurlitzer variants designed as a professional keyboard for working musicians or more serious home users. Unlike the 200, the 210 was not intended to be particularly portable. For one, it weighs over 130 pounds. However, the four built-in speakers provide their own kind of convenience. This is loud, and it doesn't need an external amplifier to fill a room. 

The 210 was released in the mid-1970s and was discontinued around 1980. (An earlier version, the 203, is functionally identical except that it has the earlier 200 amplifier instead of the somewhat revamped 200a amplifier.) This is a keyboard that only the 70s could have invented. 

Musicians during the 1970s were obsessed with speakers. This is the era of 7' tall amp cabinets, towering Marshall stacks, and 8x10 speaker configurations. In the 70s, giant speaker setups were the live-in-concert version of rock n roll excess. Now, it's more common to see tiny amps onstage, and line arrays discreetly tucked into the shadows of the venue. Of course, it's hard to know how much of that is due to artistic considerations or sheer lack of budget. If you were a touring band in the 70s, you were more likely to have a record company willing to hire enough staff to drag seventeen amp cabinets from Cleveland to LA and back again. Today, it's your hernia. 

But back to the 210. In the context of a guitar amp, four built-in 8" speakers might not sound like a lot. For a keyboard, though, this is absolutely unheard of. Even Fender generally put Rhodes speakers in matching but detachable cabinets. With its sheer 70s-style volume, the 210 is one of the most powerful keyboards of any era. 

The 210 was designed for multidirectional volume. It is not the kind of piano you'd tuck into a corner like some musical sofa table. Two of the speakers point towards the player, while the other two are mounted on the back. The 210 deserves a central position in the room where it can be played to its fullest potential. 

With half of its speakers pointed towards the performer, the 210 is one of the few instruments that cocoons the user in sound. This is a more tactile experience than a keyboard usually offers. With digital pianos, the sound and the player are physically disconnected: the speaker can be across the room, or the sound could be sent directly to a device somewhere else entirely. But the 210 is designed so that the default sound source is within the body of the instrument itself. In this sense, a 210 is much more similar to an acoustic piano than a digital keyboard. (And it still has all the necessary outputs to be played through headphones or a PA system.) 

If your Wurlitzer will spend most of its time in the studio, the 210 is a fantastic option. It has the updated action and built-in vibrato of a 200-series, but with additional volume. In other words: plenty of classic tone, just a little extra weight. The 210 is an incredibly versatile keyboard with rare vintage style. 

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Further Reading

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