Instructables

How To Get a Free Synthesizer

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Want a music synthesizer but short on cash? Did you know you can get one for very little (< $50) or perhaps even free? Read on and see how...
 
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Step 1: The Secret

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OK you knew there was a catch - you aren't getting an Oberheim, Arp or Moog for cheap here. But you do get a lot, especially if you need parts, like to experiment or want to relive a bygone era of cheesy middle-class entertainment and analog sounds.

The secret is: look for synthesizers called "home organs."

Home organs were popular in the West during the post-WWII era up to the early 1980s. You know, back before the internet and cell phones, when people did social things together for entertainment - like playing music, or at least that was the idea sold at the time.

Anyhow, with the advent of modern forms of electronic entertainment and the collapse of the western middle class, home organs have plummeted in value. What was once (vastly overpriced) thousands of dollars is now essentially worthless. No "normal" person wants these things. However, they are excellent as a source of parts, for hacking and many of them are still pretty good at making music.

Pictured below are two good examples of what you can easily find for next to nothing or free. On the left we have a Lowrey Holiday H-100 from 1977 and on the right a Viscount F20 from about 1979. These are both squarewave, top-divider synths built with TTL waveform generating logic and analog filtering. More on that in the next parts.
HA! no joke. there are actually several on craigslist!
El_Axelinio2 years ago
Hey, i have a thomas organ monticello 372, the moog presets are working, but not properly, some of the slides are broken, is it worth fixing?
the rest of the organ works well.
uhclem (author)  El_Axelinio2 years ago
Possibly. You can ask over at www.organforum.com. A short look there reveals it is possible to make the moog part polyphonic with a simple mod.
I liked this instructable, but I have one question. When you say that transistor home organs are "worthless," do you mean that they have no financial value, or that they will be of no use to someone who is looking for an analog synth to hack and play around with?
uhclem (author)  no food please2 years ago
Yeah financially worthless. Old organs are great for taking apart for parts, modifying and hacking. They were built during a time of though-hole, human-scale components and, as a high-price item, designed to be a least somewhat repairable.

Glad you liked the instructable!