Alpha Entek


Purchase & Care of Classic Musical Instruments.
The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Jungle

Buying a Classic can be rewarding, but there are pitfalls for the unwary.
It is all too easy to pay a lot for a bit of history,
only to discover it is 'history'!

These pages cover such instruments, what to look for and potential problems.

They will be expanded & updated from time to time.

Pianos &
& Tuning

Points to remember: With classics, especially older models, external components are probably not available. This includes Keys, Buttons, Knobs & Case parts etc. In general it is wise to only consider purchase if the instrument is complete & in reasonable cosmetic condition.

As with all things there are exceptions, a few early instruments still enjoy a fair degree of spares support from certain suppliers. You are welcome to check with us if in doubt.

Many instruments listed are not true classsics, merely old, included for historical completeness.

We currently consider that most samplers, sample players, digital pianos etc. fail to fit our perception of what is classic. Many such instruments are landmarks in the evolution of their kind. The pace of that evolution, in part a by-product of rapid advances in computer technology, means that older instruments are quickly outclassed.

Like personal computers, they rapidly become cheap, often almost valueless, secondhand items. Few musicians hanker after early samplers. As with computers, older models are often much better built, heavier & more solid. In the same way however, those leviathans cannot provide the performance expected of today's plastic lightweights.

An example is the Emulator 1. Once very expensive, built like an old time battleship & painted a similar colour. Strong steel case, housing a Z80 8 bit processor, with a small fraction of the memory used in a 30 children's instrument today. How many players get excited at the thought of 8 bit recording?

The PPG Waveterm & Oberheim DMX are two exceptions. A sampler & a sample player. Still with a following, although ever more difficult to maintain. The Linn drum machines, once top dogs, are less popular than the DMX, it is a long time since we saw a 9000. An under developed machine that helped bring the company down. I once described it as 'a box of bugs, held together with hardware'.


Initially, Analogue Synthesisers & Electro-Mechanical instruments are included. Together with a few others of interest. Common abbreviations & acronyms are used.

The major makers of classics are listed, LOGOs link to appropriate pages.

ARP Alan R. Pearlman's company produced several classics. Hammond Ultimate tone wheel classics.
Hohner Clavinet, the classic electric clavichord. Korg Several early analogue classics.
Leslie Rotary speaker cabinets, all others are imitations. Moog Minimoog, the definitive analogue Synthesiser.
Oberheim Makers of many early analogue classics. PPG Palm Products GmbH. Wave series, digital hybrid classics.
Rhodes Classic Electro-Mechanical pianos. Roland Many early analogue classics.
Sequential Prophet Five & a few later classics. VOX Famous for the Continental organ & AC30 amplifier.
Wurlitzer Classic reed pianos.
Yamaha Early analogue classics,
+ the DX7 & CP70/80.


A warning for anyone buying instruments, or looking for service.

Some customers have had minor financial disasters over purchase of a classic instrument. Others have suffered after contacting unscrupulous or incompetent individuals claiming to provide skilled service.

A few guidelines will not go amiss & can save you a lot of money or frustration. Some of these are repeats of comments made earlier, or elsewhere. We suggest that, if this section is relevant to you, it should be read in full. Firstly, regarding purchase, servicing follows on.

When buying a classic instrument, try not to let your heart rule your head. Many are not all that rare, if a tatty or faulty one comes along, stop & think carefully. A better one may show up afterwards, you may finish up kicking yourself.

Many a battered instrument will cost you more to fix up than you can pay for a good example. Our mission includes repairing faulty instruments, tuning, or restoring good ones. We do NOT relish the idea of you spending a fortune on salvaging an instrument that should only be used for spares. We would rather charge you a reasonable amount to improve a good one.

Take Rhodes pianos as an example: Some time ago these went out of fashion, many ended up in damp basements or garages. Now that their true worth is more known they are surfacing, often sold at high prices. It says a lot about the build quality that they even work after years of such treatment, but are they any good?

Often the tines are rusty, damping the sustain, not everyone has the experience to know that they should sound better. A lot of skilled work is needed to correct Keys that have swollen, shrunk or warped. They will never be as good as those that have been looked after.

Pickups may fail, requiring replacement, often this is an ongoing problem, after all they are all the same age. The 'Tolex' may come adrift, requiring recovering. Nickel plated parts are often rusty, replacements are often lower quality. The bottom line is a lot of expense, & it will still not be the best.

Similiar comments, in general, apply to Wurlitzer pianos, remember that their mechanisms are more complex & fragile. Although classic they are fairly common. For either make we suggest that you hold out for the best example that you can afford. Get a second opinion, from someone genuinely knowledgeable regarding the model. Knowing its history helps, provided that you have reason to believe the vendor.

Pedals & legs etc. are expensive. Don't be tempted to buy a three legged piano, as some customers have, or one minus its pedal (unless reflected in the price). Would you buy a three wheeled Porsche or Rolls Royce?

Clavinets will require a set of 'hammers', unless these have been recently replaced. If kept in damp conditions they will require new strings. Pianets kept in damp places should simply be avoided.

With regard to synthesisers etc. remember that they usually use printed circuits. These do not survive years in a damp environment, there may be nothing left worth saving, even if it 'sort of' works.

Take particular care when buying an instrument advertised as 'restored', verify the credentials of the person who did the work. It may be genuine, gleaming in its original glory & sounding as it should, or it may be like the 'Yellow peril' in our "Rogues' Gallery".

We can often give advice, but realistically, need to see the instrument.

Star Servicing of classics, or other instruments Star

Servicing may be required, once an instrument has been purchased, or after a lot of use. Great care should be taken at this point, many repairers around the World are reputable & genuinely experienced. Some others are simply 'jumping on the bandwagon' of classic instruments' Renaissance.

I feel that, if one can not say anything good about someone, one should say nothing. However a situation has arisen with one particular 'repairer' that needs addressing.

For obvoius reasons he can not be named, however he should be avoided, or at least treated with considerable caution. We have now had a number of jobs in to put right, after his attentions.

In the latest case, some of the work required to fully correct the instrument, an EP200A, was not practical. One pair of pickup shields & a damper mechanism had to be replaced. Followed by a full tune & set up. Repairs took a days work, the piano had previously been in good condition, apart from some unbalanced levels.

The moral is: Take care to ensure that a repairer, picked from a Web search, is genuine. Anyone can claim to have years of experience, anyone with time on his or her hands can maintain an impressive Web site & manipulate its search engine ranking.

Ensure that whoever you choose has a proven track record. That he or she knows the theory & practice of their art. That they genuinely know your instrument & how to get the best from it. Anyone who puts pliers to piano pickups & glues layers of felt on keys should be avoided.

A guitar tuning gadget is not sufficient to tune & intonate a piano. It is a job requiring a good ear & years of experience. Key bushings can not be tightened with a chisel, this merely ruins the keys.

Take care & enjoy your classic. When they are gone they will not come back or be made again.

Star Star

Care needs to be taken when buying old analogue instruments. In the general market there is a fine distinction betwwen antiques & junk. Being old is no guarantee of quality.

Pop music from the rock era is frequently considered better than much current stuff. But listen to some of it, today's youngsters will laugh at the banal lyrics, poor singing & 3 chord backings. 'Is that what you call great' they may say, not a good advert.

The same with old synthesisers, analogue is not another word for marvelous. No one realistically called the Farfisa Syntorchestra good when it was new. An unstable & weedy mono synth. Playing together with a basic 'comb & paper' polyphonic section. The latter showing up the poor tuning of the former. If any survived they shouldn't have.

Many more are best avoided, ARP Solus, ARP Quadra, ARP Quartet, ARP 2/16 Voice Pianos, Jen SX1000, Korg Trident MK1, Moog Rogue, Octave Kitten, the list goes on.

Others are not exceptional. For example, Korg's chipboard Poly-61, Poly-Six & Monopoly have poor keyboards, bad contacts & spares problems. Sound is nothing special.

We may lose friends insulting something they think is great. We would be less popular advising people to buy things that belong in a skip. The best is very good, much is not.

A pink printed panel, like this one, means we don't rate it a hit.

A classic that really made music, click to enlarge the image.
Bertha, Built by Ron Lebar. 1979 Moto Guzzi 992 cc, 90 degree V twin, 86 BHP, twin oil pumps, semi oil cooled, 130 MPH when carrying 4. Ohlins shocks, leading arm forks, Spada fairing. 2 seat Squire saloon sidecar, safety glass all round, including opening sun roof. 1,050 pounds weight. All spares available.

All LOGOs, Brand & Model names are Trademarks and/or Copyright of their respective owners.

All opinions are those of the author, Ron Lebar.

Information given is generally brief & is based on our experience. If you spot any factual mistakes or 'typos' please feel free to let us know. We are not quite perfect & promise not to sulk over constructive criticism.

If you need more information on models listed or can suggest another instrument to add let us know & we will do our best. From time to time we may include comprehensive details of specific models.

For Technical queries, advice on operational problems etc. you are welcome to E-Mail us.

Home Start

Our prime directive is the pursuit & maintenance of excellence in music technology.

For Tuning, Service & Repairs etc. call: +44 (0)207 288 0037

E-Mail us for hire, repairs, orders etc.

Classics. Edited 11-7-12. Ron Lebar, Author.