Mr. Ray Purchase would like to draw your attention to the Hammond Novachord

HP's’s introductory note: It’s with pleasure that Neil and I welcome Ray back as guest contributor. Those of you who’ve followed his contributions will acknowledge, as indeed we do here in the office that his direct, cogent and compelling writing style is refreshing. Meanwhile as I type this I'm listening to Etta James – Hush Hush. It has no connection to Ray’s post but she and the amazing Novacord are contemporaries and I wanted to share that with you. Nothing wrong with a bit of whimsy I feel.

Anyway, Ray has been VERY prolific of late and has produced a series on speaker design. As is usual with him it’s far from the typical commonplace (and generally dry / tedious) approach to the topic. With Ray, you feel part of the journey; he makes these processes come alive.

Personally speaking, the implications of his experiences could and I think should shake the ‘perch’ on which some of the speaker designers sit. The series starts here on Sunday at around 16:00 GMT. Thank you. HP.


Ray writes as follows: The Hammond Novachord has a claim on being the world's first polyphonic music synthesiser. Weighing 500 lbs it boasted a 72 note keyboard and cost a small fortune. A few examples remain, and enthusiasts have taken on the mammoth task of restoring them to full working order. This fascinating article describes the restoration of an example in the UK and includes audio clips.

Here's an extract.

Like so many vintage synth enthusiasts I had never heard of the Novachord up to only about a year ago. In fact, I stumbled across the instrument whilst searching for information about the 1920's RCA Theremin. Having restored a number of tube amps and radios, I had it in my mind that I wanted to combine my love of vintage electronics with a my obsession for collecting and restoring vintage synths. Like so many others, I was left speechless when I discovered Phil Cirocco's website and the truly incredible wonders of his rebuilt Novachord.

As an electronic design engineer, I really did both feel his want and drive to return such a unique monster to life but at the same time I totally appreciated the hell he must have gone through at times during that project!

It was from this point onwards I became obsessed with the Novachord and I started researching this beast in quite some detail. During my research I discovered Marc Doty's delightful video introduction to the Novachord on Sonic State as part of the Top 20 Weirdest Instruments Series. I was a regular visitor to the excellent forum attributed to Vintage Synth Explorer and one day, quite by accident, I discovered that ...

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