Thursday, May 16, 2013

Philicorda for sale

I am selling my Philicorda 751, a combo organ. It is one of the early compact single manual models, from the early 1960's with the spring reverb and the removable metal legs (not one of the cumbersome later Philicorda Rhythm models), and it has some unique features. It sounds awesome and the Scandinavian-aesthetic woodwork is in good condition and looks lovely. I've used this Philicorda on all the Gravenhurst albums.

The Philicorda is a unique transistor organ with a sound all of its own; sonically it's closer to a Vox Jaguar or a Farfisa Compact than a Hammond organ, but it is capable of a much more powerful and thick sound than either. It has found favour with producers in recent times; one was used on Adele's '19' album by producer Jim Abiss, but perhaps more interestingly it's a favourite instrument of many bands including The Coral (who take two of them on tour apparently), The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, Movietone, Crescent and Gravenhurst (naturally). I sought out the Philicorda because I loved the sound of it on Crescent's classic albums Electronic Sound Constructions, Collected Songs and By the Roads and the Fields. I wanted that sound for Gravenhurst and after a couple of years of searching I finally got hold of one. If you hear any organ sounds from Flashlight Seasons through to The Ghost In Daylight, it's this. It's been used for a large range of sounds, from full-on speaker frying psychedelia ('See My Friends') to subdued, mournful and mellow ('Nicole'). It's also regarded as the most beautiful looking combo organ there is. While that's not that difficult given how dodgy and plastic most of the competition look, there's no doubt it's a rare bird.

The instrument has a built in spring reverb, vibrato and 5 switchable stops. There is also an extra ‘voxchord’ setting, which splits the lower half of the keyboard into single-key chords, for left hand accompaniment. Lots of different tones can be had by different combinations of switches. Also, unknown to many, if you turn up the internal speakers to maximum you can get the spring reverb to start feeding back on itself, which makes an incredible roar. Also banging the unit lightly with your fist gets the spring going with an amazing sound. Loads of the distant clanking sounds on Fires In Distant Buildings were created by this method. Most 751 models only had the old-fashioned DIN output connectors, but this 751 has a normal quarter inch jack output for easy connection to recording equipment, so you don't have to use the internal speakers; this gives you loads of scope for production/engineering possibilities; it also has a switch that turns the speakers off so you can play silently, with the signal only coming through the jack output. This addition of a regular jack output  must be a modification because according to all the sources I've seen, this jack output only existed on the later 753 model. So that's another reason this one is unique – you can record it silently.

One of the eccentricities of this organ is that it was originally sold with a bunch of vinyl LPs, "Philips rhythm/accompaniment records" which you could play along to, and actually plug a record player into the organ and have the sound of the record coming through the Phili's speakers along with your accompaniment. This raises an interesting possibility: if you seek out or wire up a DIN cable you could even feed other sounds into the Philicorda, using its reverb and speakers, instantly making anything sound fifty years old.

The vinyl that came with mine is long-lost, as is the volume pedal, and the sheet music stand. Also, the 'power on' light doesn't light up. None of this effects the playability though. The foot pedal adjusted the volume of the bass to lead, but this can be done with the balance dial. According to one review, posted below, finding a Philicorda with the spring reverb working is rare – so this one is a find.

To recap, here are the main points of interest:

* 751 model with a switch to turn off the internal speakers
* quarter inch jack output - unique modification feature of this particular unit
* spring reverb which can be made to overload and feed back
* DIN input socket allows sounds to be fed into the reverb and speakers
* variable vibrato dial
* five voice switches giving loads of tone combinations
*3 bass switch settings:
position 1: The whole keyboard plays treble voices - no bass section   
position 2: Converts the first 17 notes to a polyphonic bass section
position 3: Drops the pitch of the bass section an octave, and alters the timbre
* balance knob controls the relative volume between the bass ('foot') and treble sections.
* lovely Scandinavian-looking wood finish
* unique history; used on every Gravenhurst album

  • Detailed technical info on the Philicorda can be found here:

    More info from the Sonic State site

    The entry from user Professor Spodnick says
    "The early single manual Philicorda is probably one of the coolest 60's transister organs,unfortunately they were replaced by the ghastly double manual 'philicorda rhythm' The singles sounds range from the sublimely delicate to full on speaker frying depending on the mix of vox and foot settings,a variable vibrato and spring (reverbio),add effect,the keyboard can play either full organ,split lead/bass or a thundering one finger chord bass with lead, The early philicorda is quite portable but be careful of the wood case which marks easily, but gives it that scandinavian retro/designer looks which other keys would die for!
    Exellent 60,s organs sounds 8,4,2 plus 5 vox switch,has vibrato and spring reverb,but I not found one with its spring reverb still workingsounds variable on vox and footage,from delicate to exteeeme powerful(bury's vox or farfisa duo) "

The Philicorda is currently in Bristol and it can be collected or sent by courier.
Send a message via the Gravenhurst Facebook page if you're interested:

Price £500

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