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).
I've presented these below in "numerical" sequence, rather than chronological, or in "families"
|This is the only VIP-61 I've ever seen, and the only
VIP I know of, that uses rocker tabs. The Rhythm unit (panel on the left) looks almost identical
to that on the VIP-205R (below). It actually looks more like it's
related to the Professional 88 than any of the VIPs.
This is the only decent picture of a VIP-61 that I have. I'm not sure why, but I believe the tabs are adorned with that horrid script-style lettering that was popular on home organs from the late 70s/early 80s.
I have managed to procure a single page(!) from the VIP-61 service manual, a Parts List, from which I gleaned the following:
Tabs: Split Keyboard, Bass, Chords, Flute 16', Flute 8', Flute 4', Brass, Clarinet, Oboe, Harmonica, Strings, Sustain, Piano, Harpsichord, Vibes, Percussion 8', Percussion 4', Short/Long, Repeat, Vibrato Off/On, Vibrato Slow/Fast, Vibrato Delay
From the way they are grouped, I wouldn't be at all surprised if they're listed in the same order, left-to-right, as on the organ.
Knobs: Bass and Chords Volume, Sustain Length, Tempo, Volume, and an unidentified slider pot.
Built-in speaker (and, one would presume, amplifier)
Mercifully, there was no detail on the controls for the Rhythm unit!
|The VIP-200 and its brethren have a detachable speaker box that also functions as the crosspiece for the legs. Apparently, a straight crosspiece was also supplied (or available, or perhaps the speaker box was an option), so the organ could be set up without the speakers.|
ACCOMP: Bass Attack Chords Split
TREBLE: Flute Horn Brass Reed Quint Brilliance
PERCUSSION: 8' 2 2/3' Decay Repeat
VIBRATO: Speed Delay
WHA WHA: Chords Treble Timer
|The "Rhythm unit" version of the VIP-200|
|I have little information on this one, other than what's
pictured. I do have a service manual, however. It has dates
of 10/16/75, 8/19/76 on the schematics. Studying it allowed me to
put together the list of controls shown below.
It uses ICs for the Oscillator and Divider circuits. The volume pedal is an Optical (LDR) type, with Compact-style 3-pin DIN plug. There's also an unexplained multi-pin connector labeled "To Partner 14".
Percussion/Repeat switch, Percussion Decay drawbar
Wah-Wah (selectable for either Treble section or Chords section)
Voice drawbars: Flute, Horn, Brass, Reed, Quint, Brilliance
Headphone jack, Slalom pedal
Click here to read a user review at Harmony-Central
And the "rhythm unit" (blecch!)
The only reference I have to this one is in the service manual, which covers the 202, 202R and 202CR. As nearly as I can tell, the "C" must stand for "Console", as the connector to the speaker box and the outboard volume pedal are different, seeming to imply that the two are housed in the same cabinet. Also, the VIP-202CR doesn't have a separate headphone preamp (like the 202/202R), but drives the headphone jack off the same power amp used for the speakers.
|Apparently a somewhat upgraded version of the
VIP-202R. It has a rather unusual (for a combo organ)
"Chords" feature. When activated, pressing any key in
the first two octaves plays a chord (1st octave: Major, 2nd octave:
Minor). The chord continues to sound after key release until you
press another "chord" key. This
feature, together with the Rhythm Unit, REALLY puts it into that
also has Slalom and bass pedals.
As you can see, the controls are virtually identical to the VIP-200, but the colors are different. I have, however, seen another that had colors identical to those on the VIP-200
ACCOMP Bass Attack Chords Split
TREBLE Flute Horn Brass Reed Quint Brilliance
PERCUSSION 8' 2-2/3' Quint Repeat
VIBRATO Speed Delay
WHA WHA Chords Treble Timer
|Two 49-note manuals.
The upper manual has a good selection of three voices (Flutes, Clarinets
and Percussion), each in 4 ranks (16', 8', 5-1/3', 4'). The Clarinet
voices are not found on any of the other VIP drawbar organs. The lower manual,
in typical Farfisa fashion, features a whopping TWO voices (both 8'), but does provide
a 17-key manual bass section with two voices and selectable attack. Throw in the
Slalom pedal, and it's not a bad deal.
Feature-wise, the VIP-233 is pretty similar to the other "early" drawbar VIPs, but its styling, with the all brushed aluminum surfaces, is noticeably different
Pricing/Dating: 1972 List Price: $975, 1975 List Price: $1,195. Schematics are dated July 29, 1970. It appeared in a German flyer with a 1970 date code.
Below is a sales brochure. I'm pretty sure the date is 1970
|Not at all like its siblings, the VIP-255 could be considered the "red-headed stepchild" of the VIP line. It is, however, one of their more intriguing (and well-equipped) models, and may have been the very first VIP introduced. Unlike the other VIPs, it has a unique claim to fame, in that it was used by at least two very well-known bands of the time: Procol Harum and Led Zeppelin, the latter making use of the 255's Slalom pedal on the hit, "Dancing Days". Here are a couple of links with more information: Procol Harum Led Zeppelin The Zeppelin link is courtesy of www.archive.org, since the original web site seems to have disappeared. Only one picture is there, and to be honest, it sure doesn't look like a VIP-255 - it looks more like a Professional 222 to me (but that doesn't have a slalom pedal, and so couldn't have been the one used on "Dancing Days")|
Pricing/Dating: 1972 List Price: 1,385 Schematics have dates of 3/70 and 5/70. It also appeared in a German flyer with a 1970 date code.
(These excellent pictures courtesy of Greg)
The VIP-255 seems to be sort of a hybrid of the Professional and the VIP lines:
VIP-like features: Slalom pedal, similar case/body/leg style
Professional-like features: Tabs rather than drawbars, Cancels for the four main sections, Separately selectable Vibrato for each voice section
Voices: Flute 8', Clarinet 8', Trombone 8', Flute 4, Piccolo 2', Flute 2'
Percussion: 8', 4', 2'
Cancels: Flutes, Orchestra, Sustain, Percuss.
Flutes: 16', 8', 5-1/3', 4', 2-2/3', Vibrato
Orchestra: Bassoon 16', Oboe 8', Trumpet 8', Strings 8', Quint 5-1/3', Clarinet 4', Nasard 2-2/3' (yes, it's spelled with an "s"), Vibrato
Sustain: Piano Forte, Honkie Tonkie, Harpsichord, Short/Long, Vibrato
Percussion: 16', 8', 5-1/3', 4', 2-2/3'
on left of upper manual:
Percussion Tabs: Short/Long, Lower Manual p/f, Upper Manual p/f
Knobs: Vibrato, Lower Manual Volume
Click here for a demo MP3, featuring the VIP-255 through a GRS Leslie. Settings: First part upper 16', 8', 2-2/3' lower 8', 4' Second part upper 16', 8'. 5-1/3' (all flute voices, I presume) (Thanks to, I don't know..."sirdottino"? Whoever he was, he's from Italy)
|If you want
a VIP, but don't need two keyboards, this is a good way to go. All
the important features are here: Flute voices in 5 ranks plus a mixture,
Percussion in 4 ranks, with single/multiple triggering and repeat.
Special effects voices (Piano and Harpsichord), Bass section (first 20 notes) and the
(Thanks to Ray Wadley for this picture and the one below)
1972 (earliest I've seen) List Price: $985, 1975 List Price: $1,195, 1977 List Price: $1,245
The Flute voices, Special Effects, and Percussion can be individually mixed using the Volume sliders. Special effect "drawbars" are just on/off switches. The "Short/Long" switch selects decay length for Harpsichord only. The Percussion drawbar with the little musical note motif selects single or multiple triggering for the percussion. Repeat causes whatever Percussion voices are selected to repeat, at a rate set by the Repeat Speed knob, for a sort of strumming effect. It has no effect on the regular organ voices.
Here's a nice close-up of the control panel, pieced together from three different pictures:
The VIP-370 is identical to the VIP-345 except for the following:
(VIP-370 pictures courtesy of www.repercussions.org )
(this one's missing the crossbar between the legs)
Pricing/Dating: 1977 List Price: $1,250 - from a retailers price sheet. I've not seen the VIP-370 in any Farfisa price list. The schematics are also devoid of any dates (somewhat unusual).
|Same features as the VIP-345, but with the addition of the lower keyboard, and its oh-so-useful selection of THREE different voices. These are 8'-only voices, and are fairly bland and uninteresting.. Also, the Bass Chords feature has gone missing.|
Pricing/Dating: Appears in a 1973 price list. 1975 List Price: $1,495 Schematics have dates of 5/73, 11/73 and 7/74
Here's a nice brochure for the VIP-400.
|Feature-wise, the VIP-500 differs from the VIP-400 in the same way the VIP-370 differs from the VIP-345, with the "Electric Piano" voice instead of the "Short/Long" selector in the yellow section. Unlike the VIP-370, however, it still has knobs for the Slalom Range and Repeat Speed. Cosmetically, the two appear to be identical. Not really much else to say, I guess.|
Pricing/Dating: 1977 Retailers price sheet: List price $1,545. Owners manual is dated 1976 (I think). No date to be found on the schematics, just like the VIP-370.
|Top of the VIP line, the
600 adds numerous features to those found on the VIP-400/500. Differences
Pricing/Dating: 1975 List Price: $1,995. 1977 Retailers price sheet: List price $1,998
Three of the Lower Manual drawbars have two designations. (Trombone/Piano, Violin/Harpsichord, Trumpet/Banjo). I think these refer to the different sounds obtained with and without the Decay drawbar
The Wah-Wah effect is only for the lower manual. From the brochures description, it sounds like the left button turns the effect on and off, the left slider controls the time it takes for the effect to "wah", the right button makes it automatically repeat, and the right slider controls the repeat rate.
The VIP-600 volume pedal has one of those levers on the side (like the Gibson G101) that adds a sustain to the Piano, Honkie Tonkie and Harpsichord voices.
And finally, here's a picture of well-known synth group, Tangerine Dream, posing with some of their gear. Note the VIP in the back - looks like maybe a VIP-400. I'm told that they used a number of Farfisas, including a Compact, Compact Duo and Professional Duo. Now, who says Combo Organs aren't used by "serious" musicians?:
|VIP-233, 345 and 370 use this style pedalboard. It has the same connector as the FAST and Compact pedals, so they might be interchangeable|
|The PPS-132 pedalboard. This one was available for
the VIP-255, 400, 500 and 600. Again, they use the same connector
as the FAST and Compact pedals. These, however, are powered (power
comes from the organ), and have internal tone generation circuitry for 3
voices and sustain. I don't think they're interchangeable with the
Switches: Bass 16', Bourdon 16', Bass 8', Sustain, Volume.