June 21, 2006

A Lemon? No problem...

by Chris Randall

Here's the code, should you need it:

if (life == lemons)


lemonade = lemons + elbow_grease;


This Wurlitzer 112 I bought from Mike Fisher, while fun for a minute, is basically useless. Since I got it in November, my rather aggressive playing style has resulted in me replacing 7 tines (at $40 a throw) and gluing those little felt pads back on at least two dozen times, never mind retubing the amp and tuning the fucking thing (a process that took the better part of a week.)

My opinion on this instrument is that, while good looking and of historical significance, it is basically unplayable, and useless on stage, which is where I need it. This is not necessarily true of all Wurli 112s, but it is definitely true for this one. I don't really want to sell it, because I'm not going to get what I put in to it (over $700 at this point; I could have got a 200A for that if I was patient) and I don't really want to inflict this albatross on anyone else. So, thinking cap time...

The goal is not necessarily to have a good recording instrument, since the 112 is singularly unsuited for that. Rather, the goal is to have an electric piano I can play on stage that doesn't weigh a metric fucktonne, and stays in tune, and doesn't buzz. So, I decided to take the keybed and sound-bar-tine-contraption out of the 112, replace it with a MIDI controller, and run a laptop with either a really good Wurli sample set or one of the various soft-Wurlis out there. After several days of experimentation, I found that running Logic's EVP88, with some extensive programming, directly in to the amp of the 112 produced a sound almost identical to that of the 112 coming out of the same speaker, with the added benefit that I can run guitar pedals in the signal chain.

Here's an image of the build "sticker" on the soundbar tine contraption. November 2nd, 1955. That's nice. I took out the entire keybed, and now I need to scare up a MIDI controller that can give itself to the cause. I'm thinking one of those white Roland jobbies would be the best. It definitely needs to be one with absolutely no bells and whistles. (And by bells and whistles I mean knobs and sliders.) The nice thing about this whole operation is that there is a lot of room inside the case, so I can put all the appropriate power, the audio and MIDI interface (a Presonus Firebox in this case), and the power supply for the laptop, which will sit on top of the unit. I can run the FW and power cables through one of the sound holes in the top, and the only cable will be the power. All the jacks and such on the side of the Wurli will still work, and in order to use guitar pedals, I'll just take the "Recording" output, and go back in to the amp input. If I don't have the pedals plugged in, sound will come out the speaker like normal.

This is gonna be nifty. Now to find a controller. The caveat here is that the original Wurli keybed has 62 keys, but all modern MIDI controllers have 61. So either a fake key at one end, or a little bit of overhang that will need to be covered with some carpentry. No matter.



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Jun.21.2006 @ 8:09 PM
penzoil washington
mmmm, I hate to see a wurly bite the dust. I had a 112, and they are great when maintained (easier said than done, as CR knows all too well). The 140 and 140B (which I also had) are more refined, but have a different sound, and of course the 200 is again quite different. Now I have only a 200a, which is in minty-beautiful condition, but I do miss the 112 and 140B. The 112, by the way, is all over early Sun Ra records. He was the first to record the Wurly, sorry brother Ray.

ps: i've never heard a wurly sample which held a candle to the real thing, and I've tried them all.

pps: when you're shopping for a cheap midi controller, make sure it's velocity response is decent. some of the cheap shit out there today like Edirol seems to put out only about 5 velocity values.

ppps: any ribbon mic news???


Jun.21.2006 @ 8:34 PM
Chris Randall
It would be easily reassembled, should I desire to do so. There are absolutely no physical changes to the shell required to pull this off; the MIDI controller keybed will be attached to a clone of the original keybed, so as far as the Wurli is concerned, all is well. The wiring changes consist of replacing the quarter-inch jacks with normalling jacks, which will enable the guitar pedalboard bypass. Otherwise, it will be exactly the same.

I agree that the EVP88 clone I've made doesn't sound _exactly_ like the 112 it is replacing. (There is no 112 model in the EVP88, so I had to get a bit creative with EQ and the available controls on the softsynth.) But it definitely sounds so close that someone that doesn't own a 112 wouldn't know. I a/b'd extensively before I took out the keybed. The unit will be mic'd the same way, and in a live situation, there will literally be none the wiser. Unless they read this. The soundman doesn't even have to know. As far as he's concerned, he'll be micing a 112.

In any case, the unit is about 40 lbs lighter without all the mechanicals in it. There's something to be said for that!

As far as the ribbon mics go, they'll be shipping the last week of July or the first week of August, apparently.



Jun.21.2006 @ 11:10 PM
Presonus Firebox eh? I got one of those and I cant say I love it. Sounds good enough, but it really draws alot of CPU when its plugged in. Bunch of other people on osxaudio have reported the same thing. Problem seems to be with Apple's Core Audio drivers. Dunno if that is fixed under macintel or not.

Jun.21.2006 @ 11:33 PM
Chris Randall
Works fine on my Intel iMac; no CPU load to speak of. I wouldn't use it for recording at all; it isn't a pro interface by any stretch of the imagination. But for live purposes, it'll work fine for me. It has all the outputs I need (one for the E.P., two for synth, and two for backing tracks), plus MIDI. I have no complaints. But like I said, I wouldn't use it in a studio situation.

I should, at this juncture, expound on my theory that on stage, sound quality doesn't matter near as much as performance. I've said this for years, and won't miss another opportunity to say it again: the audience, by and large, wouldn't know good sound if it hit them upside the head with a 2x4. But they know a shitty performance when they see it every time. They don't go to hear a show. They go to see it.

Thus, the FireBox will be fine in this context, which is all about smoke and mirrors.



Jun.22.2006 @ 12:57 AM
For what I do in Logic I need those CPU cycles much more than I need "pristine sound" so I'm thinking to replace the firebox when I have some scratch.

Jun.22.2006 @ 2:27 AM
Suit & Tie Guy
> ps: i've never heard a wurly sample which held a candle to the real thing, and I've tried them all.


however the Korg Z1 wurli preset sounded so close to my 200 (actually a 206 rebuilt to be a 200) that i sold it.

and this is a guy who gigs with a real Hammond talking.


Jun.22.2006 @ 6:59 AM
Any chance you'd be interested in just selling the key bed? I have an empty chassis here for a Wurli 112, and this looks like it would be a match made in heaven.


Jun.22.2006 @ 9:30 AM
Chris Randall
I could, of course, but seriously, it's probably more trouble than it is worth. There's only one broken tine (which you can see in the picture, Bb below middle C) currently, the eighth, which put me over the edge. Also, you wouldn't be getting the amp, which I'm keeping regardless.

Too bad we couldn't have just traded your empty chassis for my "working" 112. Would have been easier.



Jun.22.2006 @ 10:03 AM
Chris Randall
Oh, and, S&TG is right about one thing: as a long-time Z1 owner (I no longer have one, but did have one before they were ever released, back when I was rich and famous and a Korg endorsee), I can say unequivicably that the the Wurli patch in the Z1, while not close enough to fool anybody familiar with the instrument, is definitely Close Enough to get the job done. It is, far and away, the best sound in the Z1 factory compliment.



Jun.22.2006 @ 11:23 AM
penzoil washington
I forgot about the Z1 ! Looks like they're real cheap now. Maybe I should have gotten one of those rather than the CME UF7. Glad to hear the Wurly can be brought back at your whim.

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