Subtitle

                                         FARFISA

 

 

 
Farfisa is actually an acronym in the Italian language that once translated means 'Accordion Factories United' which, has much to do with the uniting of accordion manufactures that comprised Farfisa. 
Combo organs essentially got their humble beginnings from the accordion and with the development of the transistor came a whole new world of instrument development. 
 
 
The Combo Compact
 
The first combos created by Farfisa were the Compact models from 1964-1969. These were the Mini-Compact, Compact, Compact I, Compact Deluxe, and the Compact Duo. Although, these organs had serial plates it's virtually impossible to date them to their exact year of manufacturing. There was never any correlation between the serial numbers and their year of manufacture. There are some ways to tell if some of the instruments are the early or later made models by some of their functions. Here's some details of each of the Compact series:
 

The Mini-Compact was the smallest of the Compact Series having only four octaves with no bass keys on the early models. The later models had a selector switch to choose bass or acute sound in the lowest octave. Developed with gray natural keys with white sharps in the bass octave. Some of these extended bass models have only 3 voices while later models had up to 6 voices.

  • Tan/Black Tolex
  • Early model (Mini Compact, Mini Deluxe Compact) Three tone switches: Dolce, Principale, Strings
  • Late model (Mini Deluxe I Compact): 16' Bass; 8' Flute, Oboe, String; 4' Flute and Strings
  • Three footages: 16', 8', 4'
  • Multi-tone Booster with knee trigger (also served as expression control).
  • 1/4" Headphone output
  • Swell (expression) pedal (optional)
  • Removable legs which stored inside bottom cover (all other models have folding/pivoting non-removable legs)
Early Model Compact:
  • Red/Black or Grey/Black Tolex
  • One octave of bass with inverse key colors.
  • 16' Bass, Strings
  • 8' Flute, Oboe, Trumpet, Strings
  • 4' Flute, Piccolo, Strings
  • 4 vibrato settings
  • 3 reverb settings
  • 3 rockers for bass volume
  • Multi-Tone Booster
  • Swell (expression) pedal
  • 1/4" Headphone Output
  • Tube preamp (2 12AX7s) and real spring reverb
  • 1/4" bass optional output
  • Independent Bass and Treble 1/4" outputs
  • Back panel adjustments for treble and bass tone as well as bass output volume.
Late Model Compact (Compact I)  
  • Two inferior octaves (one black/white, one gray/white) on the left-hand side of the keyboard; one set of octaves were switch-controllable for choice of a bass or acute sound with bass note sustain and controllable bass percussion.
  • Volume balance control between bass and treble on the front panel (trim pot as opposed to rockers of the earlier version)
  • Sharp and Soft sound for the manual bass
  • Only back panel adjustment is for bass output.

Compact Deluxe
  • Tan/Black Tolex
  • Two inferior octaves (one black/white, one gray/white) on the left-hand side of the keyboard; one set of octaves were switch-controllable for choice of a bass or acute sound.
  • Bass note sustain and soft/sharp controls.
  • Independent controllable percussion for both bass and treble manuals.
  • 16' Bass, Strings
  • 8' Flute, Oboe, Trumpet, Strings
  • 4' Flute, Piccolo, Strings
  • 2-2/3' with independent brilliant tab
  • 4 vibrato settings
  • Tube preamp (2 12AX7s) and real spring reverb
  • 3 reverb settings
  • Multi-Tone Booster
  • Swell (expression) pedal + knee control for Multi-Tone Booster
  • Independent Bass and Treble 1/4" outputs
  • 1/4" Headphone Output
  • Late models (Combo Deluxe Compact I) also includes a Rhythm Section of Brush Cymbal and Drum
Compact Duo
  • Grey/Black Tolex
  • Four-octave upper keyboard with 9 selectors: 16' Bass, Strings; 8' Flute, Oboe, Trumpet, Strings; 4' Flute, Strings; 2-2/3' (Flute), Brilliance
  • Four-octave lower keyboard with three selectors: Dolce, Principale, Ottavo.
  • Two inferior octaves on the left-hand side of the lower keyboard; one set of octaves were switch-controllable for choice of a bass or acute sound.
  • 4 vibrato settings
  • 3 reverb settings
  • Multi-Tone Booster
  • Swell (expression) pedal + knee control for Multi-Tone Booster
  • Bass note volume control, sustain, sharp, and percussion.
  • 1/4" Bass output
  • Lower manual volume control
  • Brilliance control which only works with the 2-2/3 (Flute) Tab.
  • Later models also incorporate tremolo, percussion and repeat functions for both the upper and lower treble manuals independently.
  • Unlike other Compact series organs, the Compat Duo models require a separate power supply/solid-state preamp/real spring reverb unit (called the Farfisa F/AR) to operate. The organ connects to the F/AR via a multi-lead cable. The cable on the American version used a 7-pin Amphenol type connector, while European models used a Pre-multipin. Treble output is only available via the F/AR. The Compact Duos could also operate directly (without the F/AR) with Farfisa Amplifier Models BR80 or Twin 80, which accept the 7-pin connector and provide the organ with power. The organs reverb switches activate the reverb in these two amplifier models. The Twin-80 and BR-80 had a TelRay (Adineko) reverb/echo unit (oilcan) built into the speaker cabinet.

All these models came equipped with Germanium type transistors. Germanium is an element (Ge) and has some pretty unique properties. Germanium has the ability to expand and grow germanium spikes commonly referred to as "whiskers". These whiskers can change the value of the transistor over time and create some strange anomalous behavior in the compacts such as drifting tuning and temporarily cutting out of notes. These problems can also be attributed to other issues as well and normally missing out or cutting out notes can be caused by dirty, misaligned, or broken contacts. Tuning issues can also be created from the out dated electrolytic capacitors associated with the iron core tuning coils. Another note on the original electrolytic caps found in all the compact models; they can explode! Yes, all electrolytic caps are capable of exploding but this is not a common problem under normal operating conditions. The two original caps found in all of the Compacts are of Italian make one type is red in color and called 'Facon' and the other in blue called 'Ducati'. These foil electrolytic caps dry up like most other caps but, when in operation they can expand and burst sending little sparks of hot foil all over the circuits. Not to worry though, this normally doesn't cause any further damage but the probability does exist. Some models are comprised of nothing but one type (brand) of capacitor while others can have a mixture of the two. The iron core tuning coils are quite stable once set in tune but, it makes good practice to place a small melted drop of wax or a bit of fingernail polish onto the adjustable screw piece to further assure the coil won't vibrate out of place when moving the organ. 

 

 Here's a Farfisa Compact!

 

 

 

  Farfisa F.A.S.T.

 

(1968- 1971)

Later on into 68' Farfisa decided to change from using the old Germanium transistors to the use of newer Silicon transistors. This development birthed a whole new line of Farfisa Combos called the F.A.S.T. series. F.A.S.T. stood for (Farfisa All Silicon Transistor). The sound has changed from the compact models with their more 'grunge' like tone to a more fundamental sinusoidal wave type tone that was much smoother. Not to say these guys had no grit too them as they were capable of some pretty enormous grinds but, they were able to produce a better 'truer' organ like tone. The F.A.S.T series of combos included the console models: 2, 3, 4, and 5. Each of these were made of a metal cabinet covered with a vinyl covered plate with plastic edges, chrome fold-up legs, retractable carrying handles, and a music rack. This series also included the "Professional," Duo, and Pianos consoles as well. Here are some specs on each:

 Fast 2, and 3 (3 had swell pedal)

  • Keyboard: 49 notes (C to C)
  • Manual Bass: 12 notes (C to B)
  • Voice Stops (7): Bass, Clarinet, Flute (8"), Oboe, Trumpet, Strings, Flute (4")
  • Vibrato Stops: On/off, Fast/slow
  • Manual Bass Selector: Bass/treble, Piano/forte
  • Swell pedal: Optional
Fast 4,
  • Keyboard: 61 notes
  • Voice Stops (8): Bass, Bass Clarinet, Flute (8"), Oboe, Trumpet, Flute, Oboe, Trumpet, Strings, Flute (4"), Piccolo
  • Mixture Stops (2)
  • Vibrato Stops (3): On/off, Slow/Fast, Light/Heavy
  • Percussion Stops (5): Manual bass on/off, Treble on/off, Long/short, Mixture on/off, Mixture soft/sharp
  • Manual Bass Selector: Bass/treble
  • Pedal and Manual Bass Sound: Soft/Sharp
     

Fast 5,   (features are the same as FAST 4 but, along with):

  • Sustain Stops (3): Celesta, Clavicord, Kinura

 Professional Series (1968 - 1975)

  • Professional (222 and 221) - The original single keyboard organ with gray keys. There are two models, with and without foot pedals. This model later evolved to the VIP 345 and VIP 370.
  • Professional DUO - Double keyboard version with bass pedals and every known option (white keys). There are two models. This model later evolved to the VIP 400, VIP 500, and VIP 600.
  • Professional Piano - There were two models, and a Super Piano series encased in a console with amp and speakers.

(During this same time period, Farfisa also produced a line of effect pedals: the Repeat/Volume pedal (in orange), the Wah-Wah/Volume pedal (in green), and the Sferasound pedal (in blue). There was a high-end amplifier called the 80 or S-80, which came with speaker cabinets, either the Twin-80, or the BR-80.)

 

Farfisa F.A.S.T. 5

 

 Farfisa V.I.P.

 

The V.I.P. series were basically the F.A.S.T. model line up with a boost of a few extra features and a better constructed housing. These were to be the main Flagships of the day. Still utilizing the silicon transistors and keeping up with the organist purists who needed portability. These organs ushered in the 1970's for Farfisa.

However popular these organs were, there was a change in the gigging keyboardists rig of the day; an old friend had began to make a new appearance in the rock arenas, the Hammond B3! With the popularity of the Hammond B3 starting to creep its way into rock shows with the advent of jazz/ rock fusion bands the popularity of the 'gig friendly' Combos were starting to exit stage left. There were some artists who just couldn't completely let go of their old combo friends and so removed the legs, stands, and a few pedestals from their combos so to prop the instruments atop of their monstrous 500 plus pound B3's. Ever wonder why so many of these organs are missing their legs?

So, was the V.I.P. series a day late and a dollar short? Well, not too much so, as they were used by some major artists such as: John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, Edger Froese of Tangerine Dream, Sly & the Family Stone, Susan Dey a.k.a. "Laurie Partridge," Sun Ra, Micheal MacNeil of Simple Minds, and a host of others that popularized the V.I.P. and Professional series combos.

Here's a list of the V.I.P. series line up:

  • VIP 200
  • VIP 202
  • VIP 233 
  • VIP 345 (redesigned Professional) 
  • VIP 255 
  • VIP 370 (redesigned VIP345)
  • VIP 400 (redesigned Professional DUO) 
  • VIP 500 (improved VIP 400)
  • VIP 600 (improved VIP 500)


Farfisa V.I.P. 233
This is the machine John Paul Jones used 
on the album 'Houses of the Holy'



As the 70's progressed Farfisa decided to try a different approach to development and thought it to be a wise decision to try and cash in on the home- organ market which, was booming business at that time. They needed an edge to really capture the market off guard and offer up something new. With all the large cumbersome, ornate wooden boxes all these other home organ companies were offering up that were becoming more popular with church's and granny's than young musicians the Farfisa company thought it best to approach the market with something portable, affordable, and not so overly ornate. From that moment the Matador was born!

 

 

Farfisa Matador

 

The Matador was released in 1972 to be an affordable, portable, and attractive instrument for the young and aspiring organist. There were a few models made that were all essentially slight modifications of the first. It came with internal speakers and a few simple tone selections and a vibrato. The vibrato was no more than a preset rocker switch with no variable control until later models came along and added a variable potentiometer to control the speed. These were all housed in the pseudo wood casings or plastic with wood 'looking' contact paper. Stands were optional with all these models but, was mainly marketed as a 'desk-top' type instrument.

Although these instruments were limited on features it did in fact create a very interesting timbre that was all of its own. Hooking up a nice Wah-Wah to this organ can certainly capture some attention!

 

 

 Farfisa Matador (R- model)

 

 Farfisa Syntorchestra

 

Well, before Farfisa decided to change its aim from the music industry to commercial home theater systems and intercoms they came to the conclusion that it would only be proper to introduce their own synthesizer! A synthesizer is exactly what it was too, not an organ with 'synth-type' features but a true synthesizer!

The Syntorchestra had a three octave keyboard, and a Monophonic and Polyphonic section with the poly section having four timbres: Trombone, Trumpet, Piano, and Viola. The Mono section is the "synthesizer" half of the machine containing nine timbres: Tuba, Trombone, Trumpet, Baritone Sax, Alto Sax, Bass Flute, Flute, Piccolo, and Violin. The mono section was a high note priority meaning that, what ever key pressed the next note higher would sound. It could also be modified by two envelope controls, and a Wha-Wha control, there was also a variable portomento. However, only one timbre from each section could be used at a time. each section has a brilliance control which, adds more top end to the over all tone and a variable speed vibrato, which has a delay function for delayed vibrato effects. The Syntorchestra also has separate outputs for each of its two sections in effect making it a stereo unit!

 

Farfisa Syntorchestra (wooden housing)

There was also one in all metal plate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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