Here we have a collection of "almost-but-not-quite" combo organs.  They fail to fit the category for one reason or another.  Oddly enough, many combo organ enthusiasts refer to themselves as "Combonauts".

Roland Hammond PAIA



Probably from the late 70's or early 80's, and before the VK-1 and VK-7, the VK-09 was an attempt to combine a combo organ with a Hammond emulator.  I don't think it came close enough to either goal to impress too many people, but I hear it's a pretty nice little organ - lightweight and not terribly expensive to come by, I'm sure.  On the left is an old Roland brochure extolling the virtues of this beast.


Knobs: Tune, Volume

    Sine Wave drawbars: 16', 5-1/3', 8', 4', 2-2/3', 2'
    Bright Wave drawbars: 16', 5-1/3', 8', 4', 2-2/3', 2'

    Drawbars: Sine Wave, Bright Wave  (selects either group or both)
    Percussion: Normal/Soft, 2nd, 3rd, Slow/Fast
    Chorus/Vibrato: On/Off, Slow, Fast
    Sustain: On/Off, Long/Short (knob)

The Sine Wave drawbars have the "Hammond" sound, and the Bright Wave drawbars have the "Combo Organ" sound.  They can be mixed together, and turned on and off as a group (sort of like presets).  The Percussion is fashioned after the standard Hammond percussion.  The "Chorus/Vibrato", however, is actually a Leslie simulator, rather than the Hammond-style Chorus/Vibrato.  It does NOT provide a combo-style Vibrato.  The Sustain is a handy feature that's not found on most older Hammonds, and not on too many combo's either.  Nothing fancy here - release the key, the sound sustains for a time, determined by the knob setting - but can be real useful.

As to the sound of it, according to proud VK-09 owner, Lenny G: "the Bright (or Combo) drawbars sound more like pure square wave synthesizer sounds, not like combo organ.  When I mix the Sine and Bright drawbars I can get a half-decent combo sound.  For example this registration, 808000 608806, is a pretty good mellow combo sound, probably close to Vox, then if you want more buzzy/reedy kind of tone, like Farfisa Compact than cut down the sine 16' and 8' to about 4 or lower and bring the bright 16' and 2' up to full 8. But you need an external real combo organ vibrato effect, the real kind, not the Leslie simulation."

Lenny later hooked the VK-09 to his oscilloscope, and sure enough, those "Bright Waves"  are square as can be.  Actually, most combo organ oscillators do generate square waves, but they usually run through all the different voicing filters before they reach the amp, so you don't typically hear the raw oscillator sound from a combo organ.

RS-09, SA-09

Cousins of the VK-09, These two barely even fit the category.  The RS-09 is an organ/strings keyboard, and the SA-09 is mostly an organ, with a choice between Piano and Organ envelopes.  Click on the pictures to go to a site where their features are documented.


S-100 Chord organ

The only chord organ I know of that generates its sound entirely electronically.  I think these were pretty common during the 50's and 60's.  Ordinarily, I wouldn't even have included it here, except it has a unique claim to fame, in that it was apparently used by George Harrison to write "Blue Jay Way", although I don't believe he actually used one to record the song.  Click here: to learn more about it.  Here's another link with more info on this unusual beast:

PAIA (pronounced "pie-ya") has sold quite a lot of interesting music-related kits and gear over time, and is still around today, making what appear to be some very nice and affordable analog synthesizer kits.  Click on the logo above to go to their web site.  They did make two instruments that sort of fell into the Combo Organ realm, though.  I've put them here for now


18 keys huh?  Hmmm.  Well, ok.  So this is Oz - made at a time when mono synths ruled, primarily due to cost limitations.  Oz was designed to provide polyphonic sounds that could then be modified by a mono synth's filters, envelope generators, VCA's, etc.  It used top-octave, divide-down circuitry for tone generation, so it really was sort of an organ.  And it was portable, and the case was covered in Tolex, so it's sort of a combo organ, right? No legs to misplace with this baby, though.  It was described as a "mini-organ and polytonic pitch source".

Radio Electronics published two articles by John Simonton in 1977 on the construction of an Oz.  You can download the pair as a PDF file from PAIA's web site.

(Picture courtesy of PAIA, Inc.)


Combo Organ?  Combo...NOT!?  You decide.  I can't make up my mind.

"Three individual ranks (each with 5 position octave select switches)..."  I'm not sure what that means, but..... 

This ad is from the July/August 1978 issue of "Polyphony".

Thanks to Kirk S. for the "Gorilla" ad above, and this one, which is from a catalog that he thinks was March, 1983, which would mean the Organtua was available for about 5 years!  Expand the catalog picture for more details on this unusual organ. Detunable oscillators?  Pitch bending?  Voltage control?  I dunno, sounds awfully "synthy" to me.