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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sounds Of The Schober Electronic Organ

Sounds Of The Schober Electronic Organ

Demonstration and advertising records can hold musical moments so I pick them up when I find them. In this case, the jacket was appealing with the image of the family excited about the sounds of the electronic organ. As a child, and I was the same age as the boy on the cover when this record was released, I would have found the prospect of playing the organ a nightmare from a horror movie. This is just a matter of how you grow up and what tastes you develop folks.

Anyway, on second glance I saw the phrase "easy-to-assemble kits". The Schober organs were sold as kits and the idea of buying an organ as a box of parts intrigued me.

I found, online, a 1966 Schober ad they ran in Popular Mechanics. The top model, Recital, sold for $1500 (compare that to $2500 for a "ready-built" organ). The ad goes on to state the organ is "easy to assemble" and "You supply only simple hand tools and the time."

Then I found a webpage that describes restoring a Recital model, purchased new by the owner in 1973. One paragraph from that page grabbed my attention: "In 1973, my wife and I bought a Recital organ kit, then spent nine months soldering circuit boards, building the console and pedal clavier, and wiring everything together. We had a big party when we finished, and we were very happy with the results."

So, the "easy-to-assemble" kit didn't arrive as components that would take an afternoon to assemble with a pair of pilers and a screw driver. No, you had to actually solder you own circuit boards!!!

I wonder how many people expected that they would be required do such a total assembly? How many organs were returned and if you started the build, how many folks were defeated by the assembly process and never finished?

Apparently enough organs were sold to keep the company in business for some time. The company was formed in 1954 and went out of business sometime after 1973 (in the 70s).

I'm enough of a collector to know that anything that came as a "kit" is desirable, because not many people had the "time and tools" to mess with this type of high-level assembly. Therefore, there probably aren't that many surviving examples. So, if I may, I'd say a real organ collector couldn't give up the hobby until he or she found a nice Schober organ to show off.


  1. Well, that is just incredible! I had NEVER heard of assemble it yourself organs!!!

  2. They were quite good instruments for the time. The "Recital Organ" was a full-featured instrument with a full two-manual console and pedal board that met AGO (American Guild of Organists) specifications. The sound was surprisingly good. Some of the innovations seem ludicrous now but they were ingenious in the 1960s, like the "reverb-a-tape" system that was essentially just a built-in tape recorder which recorded each note as it was played and then instantly replayed it through the amplifiers a fraction of a second later. The delay could be adjusted with a knob to simulate the acoustics of a small or a large space, and this primitive form of non-electronic "reverb" actually worked very well. I coveted these instruments as a kid and wanted to build one. I played them on a number of occasions, and visited the showroom in Manhattan. Some serious church use of the recital organ took place, with members of congregations pitching in to build the kit. It was a real bargain compared with with other serious electronic organs of the time, and even organ "snobs" often admitted that the quality of the sound was surprisingly good. I can't comment as well on the sound of the theater organ and the even smaller models, but the Recital Organ was a first-rate product of its kind, and musically pleasing beyond all expectation.

    1. OK, I am an organist & electronics tech of over 40 years. I have looked at the paperwork and kits people would have to assemble.
      The quality of the components for the cost of the kits left a lot to be desired even in 1973-4. All resistors were cracked carbon with poor reliability factors. The circuit design was a shambles, reworked germanium transistor circuitry for silicon transistors. Why Dick Dorf didn't redesign for silicon transistors is only because of money. The circuit boards could have been made much smaller even in 1973. In my professional opinion it was not a satisfactory project with many short comings, this applies to all models but particularly to the theatre model which could have been a good project if designed better. Also to say you didn't need to be into electronics is bullshit, you needed to be at least an experienced hobbyist with excellent soldering ability. You needed to have completed at least some basic training or hands on guidance at a radio club and several small to medium projects under your belt in completed working condition.

  3. Ahh!! Don't say that Mark. I just bought what I thought was going to be my last organ (LOL)!
    It is a 1966 Thomas Palace III- a HUGE model that took 4 people to get it into the basement...where it will probably leave someday, but in easy to tote disassembled pieces I hope. To be reassembled of course.

    The Schober on the record sounds very much like a pipe organ, a near impossible feat for a transistor organ. Only the best of the best could accomplish this. It's my understanding that for those who did their research they discovered that in building the organ themselves they were able to end up with an organ on par with the higher end models of the day. I've seen some of the Schober circuits. They were excellent designs. It's no wonder they sound so good on this record. We need more stuff like this offered to families.

    Organs might seem creepy etc. etc., but I implore everyone to listen to various types of organ music for 1 week. If after the end of that week you haven't discovered a new fondness for at least some type of organ music, well, you are simply unfortunate. It really is the instrument that is found in all types of music.
    For starters listen to Klaus Wunderlich, Lenny Dee, and even though I personally feel that the Hammond B3 played in the Jimmy Smith style has done more to hurt the instrument than help it because so many limit their tastes, I'll say listen to Jimmy Smith anyway. Even though I like Lenny Dee way more.

    I have posted to youtube( I'm paulj0557 on youtube)a very rare record from a gentleman from Connecticut named Harry Wach. It was recorded in the 70's on the Cardinal label. It's entitled HARRY WACH CALIFORNIAN HERE I COME ( on account that he plays a Thomas Californian 262). Even though I have posted both sides of the record to youtube, I can't find a stock image of the cover, my camera is missing the chord, but I uploaded some images of the Thomas organs like the 262 he played.The album cover has Harry sitting on a piece of luggage next to a Thomas Californian organ and it's taken in front of a train track with a couple of box cars. My son is into graffiti ( ugh!) and he pointed out that ' they quit making those short box cars dad'...go figure.
    At any rate, Harry is a master arranger and keyboard technician, and plays many great standards of the day. Including...well just check it out you won't be sorry. The back cover says " Harry was the first person to direct 'Hello Dolly' after it closed on Broadway"

    1. Truly you were better off buying a fully assembled organ secondhand. dealers always made huge profits on new organs.
      Some here in Melbourne Australia still try to with the older Analogue Conn organs from the 1970's . Try this for a Rip off, a Conn 652 Theatre organ for $6,000 AU. I have bought one secondhand for $900 AU and still it was too much but I fell in love didn't I, and the previous owner knew it. It took a week to iron out all the faults but is now quite playable.

  4. Thanks Paul! I'm a hugh Korla Pandit fan. So I agree there is an organ "sound" out there for everyone! And I will check out the YT video you mention. Mark

  5. DIY kit organs were somewhat common, there was Schober, Kinsman, and several other US brands plus Wersi in Germany. Organ dealers hated them. The primary market for home organs was always people too old to want to take on this kind of project themselves and rich enough they didn't have to. It's a usually dishonest business. They prey on lonely affluent geriatrics, the less musically knowledgeable or trained the better.

    I like most demo organ records (except Lowrey's) but the best are usually Allen's. Those were never kits but can be had now reasonable. The tube amps in the Gyro cabs are valuable for hi-fi. They are equal to Mcintosh or Marantz tube amps or later Audio Research or VTL or Conrad Johnson.

    Allen Organ, despite being close to McIntosh never used Mcintosh amps but some makers of carillions and electronic chimes and bells did. These are excellent too.

  6. Speaking of organ recordings that demo a brand- the Magnavox organ was a fine product in the mid-sixties and a demo record was made by NY organist Larry McNear, one of the finest musicians in the country.
    Can anyone post some tracks from this LP? His arrangement of Another Openin' Another Show will blow you away, guaranteed. --- Ike Reeves

  7. The Schobers were designed and built by Richard Dorf, who wrote a book on e-orgs circa 1961. They had flexible voicing and a few desireable features, but they were "divider" organs, and thus, had that sterile sound for serious music. The biggest mess with the Schoberes were that they were direct audio keyed, which caused the infamous "keyclick" problem common with Hammonds. The more overtones, the worse the "keyclick." The strings and reeds got pretty nasty indeed. The quick fix was to slather the contacts with graphite-bearing pot grease, which would cause a very quick attenuation-to-full-amplitude feature that helped a bit. Hammond used the same thing on the H-100 series, due to the four extra "harmonics" in that model. As a theater organ, they were pretty convincing at times, but the Artisans (Conn-based Hartley oscillators and LOTS of voicing and channels) were the best. I played a custom 4 manual Artisan that an old gent never finished, and I got the extra 3 ranks of oscillators hooked up and it was better than the big Conn 652 at the time. The console was HUGE...3 stop rails!

  8. Mark,me desculpe mais não posso deixar de lhe fazer a seria pergunta,você disponibiliza algum link pra baixar,te agradeço por sua atenção.obrigado.

  9. My stepfather built one of these back around 1970, and being the perfectionist he was, made sure it was picture-perfect. He recently passed away, and it is my sad duty to determine the fate of this beautiful work of technology. I inspected it to find he had added MIDI capability and a computer to use distros downloaded from the internet to emulate all sorts of other organs. I honestly don't know what I will do with it in the end.


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