I was recently given an excellent article on the history of the Cordovox electronic accordions. There's good stuff in there about their relation to Farfisa, and you'll see the names CMI and Lowrey mentioned, along with names of many others who were intimately connected with the early history of Combo Organs in Italy. It was written by Mr. Fabio G. Giotta, President & Chief Executive Officer of Caffe Trieste Incorporated. Click here to read the article. Some of what's there may render what I've written below (and elsewhere on this site) incorrect - I'll do my best to correct it all at some time in the future.
The Cordovox name is probably more well-known for accordions. According to at least one nameplate I've seen, they were "made" (or more accurately, "distributed") by CMI (Chicago Musical Instrument Company), which also distributed Farfisa organs in the US. I believe the CDX models were made by CRB Elettronica, with the exception of the "Moog" model, the CDX-0652, which was made by EME (makers of most Italian Vox organs). The CRD-0610 was built by Elex, a manufacturer I know nothing about, except that according to the Mitatechs Organ Tradenames page, they're "Excelsior Musical Instruments, New York, NY".
There's been some speculation that the CDX organs were related to some Farfisa. The tabs and drawbars on a couple of models are reminiscent of the Farfisa VIP series, and "Astro Sound" is apparently the same effect as Farfisa's "Synthslalom". Also, some of the Cordovox accordions look suspiciously similar to some Farfisa accordions. Coincidence? Perhaps. However, I've also seen a copy of a memo from Cordovox that encouraged their dealers to steer customers away from the Farfisa organs. In all the following sections, the first picture links to a picture of a full-page brochure for each model. On some, you can see where the competing Farfisa model was written on the page. I base my assertion that they're CRB-built on the fact that all of the schematics (except those of the "Moog" model) have the "CRB-in-a-circle" logo, and the word "Ancona", which was home-base for CRB. Of course, there were so many relationships among all those Italian accordion/organ manufacturers, back then, we may never know what the real story is.
The most well-known and sought-after Cordovox model would have to be the CDX-0652 with built-in Moog synthesizer. Note the ultra-cool plastic (fiberglass?) cases - George Jetson would be proud. These are sometimes referred to as "White Elephants"
The rock Group "Beck" has been seen with what appears to be a White Elephant of some sort, and some have noticed that the "business end" of the instrument is always hidden from view. Here's what Roger, the keyboardist, has to say about that:
win the $10,000,000.00 question. Yes this is a CDX shell that has been gutted.
Fortunately the remains went to repairing my working CDX Organ/Synth. Anyway it
houses three boring Roland 4 octave midi controllers which go to three boring
sound modules. This was the only visually exciting way to pull off the sounds
from the "Midnight Vultures" album. There was no way I was bringing my
vintage collection out on the road. Fortunately my employer, Beck, agreed. No
attempts have ever been made to conceal the reality of this situation. Don't put
so much credence in the great Rock & Roll myth machine"
Has built in 20-watt amp and two 7" speakers, 17-note bass section. The tab panel lights up (I suspect the other CDX's have this feature, too)
1975 List Price: $675
Same as the 0612, but adds Vibrato Delay, drawbars for voices, Percussion and Repeat.
1975 List Price: $895
Same as 0622, but no built-in amp/speakers. Adds Chord Accompaniment (not sure what that is), String Bass voice, Flute drawbars in multiple footages instead of single footage voice tabs, Sustain, multiple footages for Percussion, Phase Shifter, Wow-Wow. Will accept a pedalboard, too.
I was told once that the Phase Shifter was actually just Vibrato, but later heard from another owner that it actually is a Phase Shifter. I have a feature description sheet from Cordovox says that it's the same as the Maestro Phase shifter, so it probably is just that. Although some phase shifter circuits can be modified to produce straight vibrato, so who knows. I can't imagine why anyone would make a Combo Organ without true vibrato - maybe they thought they were competing with the "Leslie" sound instead - fat chance.
1975 List Price: $1,295
This one seems to be identical to the 0632, except for the lower keyboard, with it's own hefty complement of three (count 'em, THREE!) whole voices (and likely, in typical Farfisa fashion, they're all 8' only). This is also very much like the Farfisa VIP series, where the lower keyboard is practically useless, with all the nice features only available on the upper one. The Sustain tabs add an after-key-release sustain with different sustain times. Another neat feature is an "Arpeggio/Glissando" switch, located between the keyboards. There is a strip next to the switch that you can run your finger across. With the switch set to "Arpeggio", you can hold a chord on the lower manual, and the bar will arpeggiate the chord using only the Sustain voices. In "Glissando" position, the bar acts as a chromatic keyboard using only the Sustain voices. I think the Yamaha YC-30 and YC-45D are the only other organs I've seen with this feature.
1975 List Price: $1,795
A dual-manual combo organ with a Moog Satellite grafted onto it. I understand that the Satellite had a very thin sound, nothing like the MiniMoog. It had only a single oscillator and several preset sounds, similar to other semi-preset synths like the Arp Pro Soloist and the Roland SH-2000.
Thomas bought the rights to the Satellite from Moog. The CDX-0652 was designed by Thomas in cooperation with Cordovox. A Thomas version of the Satellite (the "Synthi 1055) and the CDX-0652 were both manufactured by EME, the same outfit that made most Italian Vox organs. Thomas also marketed the Satellite under the "Orbit" name on some of their home organs.
The synthesizer voices play only on the upper manual, organ voices play on both. Organ and synth voices may be played simultaneously on the upper manual. It includes a batch of 9 preset synthesizer voices that don't appear on a Satellite. Unlike the 0642, this one seems to have all of the organ features (many of which seem identical to the 0642) available on both keyboards.
Left of Upper Keyboard:
Left of Lower Keyboard:
Right of Lower Keyboard:
* These controls are also found on a Moog Satellite. Click here for pictures of them.
Click here for a web site with a pretty good Real Audio file showing what this thing can do.
The CDX-0652 also has a brother: the Thomas Moog organ
1975 List Price: $2,195
This one looks like the others, but is actually an electronic piano. Which leads me to think that the other model names were actually Oxxx (Oh) for Organ rather than 0xxx (zero) - O-Organ, P-Piano - get it? It has a built-in amp and speaker. Here are some editorial comments from the owner of this one:
"...of all the villefied electronic "pianos" from that horrible time period, this has got to be the worst-sounding. There's one tone generator and the Piano/Harpsichord/Honky-Tonk controls are merely tone filters for the same sound, the Honky-Tonk of course being between the single bright harpsichord sound and the heavily filtered piano sound. They put it in the flimsiest of Yamaha synth boxes, so of course, it's not working perfectly but every now and then it lets out a howl of indescribable quality, as if all the notes were pressed down at once.. this sound is very cool, and one I will definitely use!!!! I could probably fix it, but then I'd have to tape down all the keys to get the cool sound!!!"
Controls: Drawbars: Volume, Tone, Piano, Harpsichord, Honky-Tonk
(Picture courtesy of Roxy's Music)
1975 List Price: $595
Not a White Elephant, but definitely a combo organ. Also has a built-in amp and two 3"x4" speakers.
Thanks to James for this "player's perspective:
"The sound of this instrument is along the lines of your standard "Farfisa" style combo organ, perhaps a little cheesier, but useful... The voices range from "fuzzy" on the strings tab to nasally on brass, mellow on flute, etc...the vibrato is kind of exaggerated, but could probably be toned down by finding and adjusting the correct pot inside."
Left of Keyboard:
And here's a picture from a 1977 Sears catalog:
1975 List Price: $450, optional legs and bag: $50
1977 Sears price: $499 (Not sure if that included the legs/bag or not)
The only reason I include this here is for completeness. It's an Electronic Piano, similar in style to the CRD-0610 organ.
1975 List Price: $595, optional legs and bag: $60