Posts tagged vintage gear
What is the Difference Between a Wurlitzer 140 and a Wurlitzer 200a or 200?

Wurlitzer in the 140 series are transitional models: more reliable than Wurlitzer’s earlier electronic pianos, but not as portable as later models. On the other hand, the 200-series is the iconic final iteration of Wurlitzer keyboards: smaller, lighter, more chrome. If there’s a Wurlitzer 140 (or any of its many variants, from the 140b to the 145) that has caught your eye, you may be wondering if buying it is a good idea. How does it stack up against the 200a? Does it require more work? What are the practical differences between them? This guide is here to help.

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Would Your Wurlitzer Benefit From Servicing?

Some vintage keyboard are in a state of total dilapidation, and will obviously need a lot of work before they can be played. But others are in better condition. They turn on, sound comes out, all or most of the keys work. Is this enough? When can servicing a keyboard that “works” make it perform much better?

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A Short Guide to Wurlitzer Electronic Piano Sustain Problems

The most common sustain problem on a Wurlitzer 200a (or earlier) keyboard is too much sustain: the note continues to ring out, even when the pedal is not depressed. This is almost always caused by damper felts that are excessively compressed or otherwise deteriorated. In other cases, the Wurlitzer’s sustain pedal doesn’t do anything when depressed, and the piano never has sustain. This is usually because the pedal is not making the proper interior connection. This guide will help you address both problems.

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From the Archives: Wurlitzer 200

We have a soft spot for the 200, because it was our first Wurlitzer electronic piano. Our favorite Wurlitzer model changes from minute to minute, but the 200 always has a strong case. It’s the final iteration, sleek and stripped-down - not an inch of wasted space - with features that have been arguably perfected from the previous versions. Electronically, though, it’s still ancient technology. It’s rough around the edges. The 200a was a necessary upgrade - but that doesn’t mean that we have to like it better.

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In Restoration: Dynavox Rebuild

This Dynavox was originally a so-called widowmaker amplifier. We completely rebuilt it with all-new components, installed a power transformer, and revised the circuit to eliminate the obsolete widowmaker tubes. It is now a safe, functional 1.5 watt practice amplifier. It can be used alone for bedroom practice, or plugged into a second amp for interesting tube overdrive tones.

Here’s some details on how we redesigned this amp.

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What is a widowmaker amplifier?

A widowmaker amplifier has no power transformer or fuse. Instead, the two-prong, non-polar power cord is wired directly to the rectifier tube. It is very unsafe, because under even minor failure conditions (such as a shorted capacitor or even - in some models - plugging the power cord in backwards), the mains voltage might end up on the guitar strings and the user will be shocked/electrocuted.

On the plus(?) side, power transformers are expensive so widowmaker amps could be manufactured and sold at a lower price. This ensured that every aspiring guitarist in America could own a low-fi death trap if that’s what they really wanted.

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Wurlitzer Quick Reference Chart: Things We Included, and Things that We Didn't

Not going to lie: it was hard to narrow down the many variations of a Wurlitzer to create our Wurlitzer Quick Reference chart. We decided to do a quick write-up of all the subtleties that the graphic glosses over. And - let’s be clear - everything about that chart is a subtlety. Every Wurlitzer has that iconic Wurlitzer sound, and any model is capable of being restored to a highly playable, musical state. Amps can be modded for aux outputs and vibrato. Noise can be minimized. Console models can be put on legs. Portable models can be attached to consoles. (We have so many 206 bases. Please help us.) The chart is mostly about where you want to start, and how much work you want to put into your Wurlitzer to make it an exceptional piece of gear in the age of digital recording.

Anyway, here’s a few notes on the chart about the things we included, and the things we left out.

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In Restoration: Four 206 model Wurlitzers

We are extra-excited about this group of four Wurlitzer 200 student pianos because they are clearly of an early manufacture. Three of them had original music racks with the closely-spaced metal bars, which are incredibly rare. Even aside from that great detail, however, all of the keyboards were in great shape. They had clearly been used only lightly and had been stored in a clean, low-humidity area.

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In Restoration: August 2018

We drove through the eastern U.S. on a pickup/delivery run last week. (Little-known fact! We do deliver long-distance. More info here.) We dropped off our gorgeous Wurlitzer 720a, and then picked up a handful of new pieces: a teacher/student 206a/207a pair, a 203w wheeled console Wurlitzer, an extremely rare Wurlitzer 140a, and a Fender Rhodes Mk I.

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