Farfisa VIP 370 Combo Organ

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Following on the heels of the FAST organs, the VIP line was introduced around 1970, and was available at least as late as 1978. By this time, combo organs had all but disappeared from the rock music scene, although a VIP or two has found its way into popular music (See the VIP-255 below for more on this)

Slalom and Syntheslalom were perhaps the most notable (and unusual) features of the VIP series. Slalom is simply a pedal that provides for changing the overall pitch of the organ in real time. The range of the pedal is a full octave downward. This may have been what Led Zeppelin used for the downward sweeping notes in the latter part of "Dancing Days". Syntheslalom is an automated pitch bend. Here's how it works: when switched on, the pitch of any key pressed starts at some point below the correct note for that key, then glides upward until it hits the correct pitch. The Range adjustment determines how far down the pitch starts, up to a full octave below the "correct" note. The Timer adjustment determines the length of time the note takes to reach the correct pitch. Combining Syntheslalom with Percussion, Repeat and Vibrato can produce some really wild effects. Note that this is NOT the same as Portamento, or "Glide", found on analog synths from the same era. With Syntheslalom, the pitch always starts at the same distance below the note pressed and glides upwards, regardless of which note was previously pressed. Syntheslalom is 'retriggering' effect - holding one or more notes down and pressing another causes ALL the pressed notes to start low and glide upward again.

VIP/Professional similarities: Drawbar VIPs follow the same color scheme as the Professionals: Flutes-Green, Percussion-Orange, Special Effects/Sustain-Yellow, and allow each voice group to be mixed in varying amounts. Percussion is switchable between single/multiple triggering.

Description of VIP drawbar mechanism: VIP drawbars are discrete switches(5 positions, including "off"), not continuously variable pots . Jim Birch describes them: "The drawbars are grooved. In the grooves are springs. When you pull the sliders, the spring leaves the groove and makes the contact. If you move past that the next spring makes contact and the previous one falls back down"

Three basic VIP Families

Feature-wise, the VIP organs seem to fall into one of 3 categories: The VIP-255, Early Drawbar VIPs, and Late Drawbar VIPs. My dating conjectures are based on the limited price list and schematic/service manual data I have

VIP-255: Possibly the very first VIP - its schematics have the earliest dates I've seen on any of them (3/70 and 5/70). It's very much different from all the other VIPs, nor does it bear any resemblance to the FAST or Professional lines.

Early Drawbar VIPs: I believe the VIP-233, 345, 370, 400, 500 and 600 were the earlier batch, with the 233 being the first, probably in mid-to-late 1970. It's somewhat different in design and features from the others. The 370 and 500 models seem to be later incarnations of the 345 and 400, respectively.

Late Drawbar VIPs: The VIP-61, 200, 202 and 205 would seem to be the later bunch, The 202R schematics (the only ones I've seen) are dated later than any others ('75 - '76). I've not seen any of these in any price lists, either. The VIP-61 seems to be the odd one of the lot, with the 200, 202 and 205 (and respective "R" versions, which include a Rhythm unit) apparently just minor variations on a theme.

Except for the VIP-61, ALL the VIPs seem to use the same kind of stand (which is also used by the Professional Piano). http://www.combo-organ.com

The VIP-370 is identical to the VIP-345 except for the following:
  • Different body style. Curved, metallic green sides, like the VIP 400/500/600.
  • Sliders rather than knobs for Slalom Range and Repeat Speed.
  • Electric Piano effect drawbar instead of the "Short/Long" Harpsichord modifier.