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Vintage Vibe Deluxe 73

Electro-mechanical Piano By Gordon Reid
Published March 2023

Vintage Vibe Deluxe 73

Vintage Vibe’s Rhodes recreation just keeps getting better.

From the late 1960s to the early 1980s, you had just one choice of manufacturer if you wanted the sound of a Rhodes piano. Rhodes. Other electro‑mechanical pianos existed in the form of the Wurlitzer EP200, rarities such as the Hohner Electra‑Piano, the Weltmeister Claviset, and even various Pianets if you didn’t mind the lack of a sustain pedal, but only a Rhodes sounded like a Rhodes, and it ruled. Then Yamaha launched the DX7, Kurzweil released the K250, and these, plus the numerous digital pianos that appeared soon after, propelled the bulky, heavy and sometimes troublesome Rhodes toward the fringes of popular music. But some players’ love for it never waned and in 2007, more than 20 years after the demise of the Mark V, the Rhodes Mark 7 appeared. (I wonder what happened to the Mark 6?) If you never saw or heard one of these, I’m not surprised; it came and went without leaving a ripple on the surface of the music industry. But its spiritual successor, the Rhodes Mark 8, has now entered production, guaranteeing that the Rhodes name lives on, albeit outside of the mainstream that it dominated 50 years ago.

Meanwhile, former rental company and repair shop Vintage Vibe also released a range of 44‑, 64‑ and 73‑note Rhodes‑inspired pianos. I reviewed the 64‑note sparkle‑top version for Sound On Sound in April 2013 and was impressed. Curvy and sexy like a Wurlitzer EP200 on the outside but with the soul of a Rhodes on the inside, it was beautifully built, its keyboard was more even than that of my vintage Rhodes, and it sounded superb. Since then, Vintage Vibe have deleted the 44‑note model while introducing two improvements to both the 64‑ and 73‑note models: new hammer tips distributed across multiple zones to create an even better response, and an updated preamp with a revised EQ and tremolo circuit. But today, there’s a much more significant update called Variable Voice Control, and it’s this that makes it worth revisiting the Vintage Vibe piano in 2023.

Variable Voice Control

To appreciate Variable Voice Control, you have to understand how the Rhodes mechanism and the sound it produces can be adjusted to suit the player. You’ve probably noticed that some Rhodes pianos have a warm, rounded sound, while others of the same model and age can sound much brighter with more ‘bark’. This isn’t an accident, it’s a consequence of the spatial relationships between the piano’s tines and pickups; if you’re willing to attack these with a selection of screwdrivers and spanners, you can revoice it by adjusting the height of each tine and its associated tone bar. It’s not really a job for an untrained amateur because obtaining consistency across the width of the keyboard can be tricky, but it can be done. Unfortunately, this operation also changes the ‘feel’ of the piano slightly because the distance travelled by the hammer to strike each tine is affected, as is each tine’s relationship with the damping mechanism. In the late 1970s, a company named Dyno‑My‑Piano simplified the revoicing procedure by devising a mechanism that shifted the whole harp assembly in relation to the pickups but, now that I’ve seen what Vintage Vibe have invented, I’m gobsmacked that no‑one previously thought of it because it’s clearly a better solution. It works like this...

The controller for the Variable Voice Control mechanism is nothing more than a slider mounted next to the preamp panel. Behind the scenes, this moves a physical ramp that adjusts the height of a short metal rod. This rod then pushes against a bar that adjusts the angle of the frame on which...

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