Farfisa: Professional

Organs (and piano) bearing the name "Professional" covered about a 12 year period, and varied considerably in styling and features.  The best-known model is the basic Professional 222.  The Professional Duo was a fancier, double-keyboard version of the 222.  The Professional Piano looked remarkably like the 222, but was an electronic piano, and not a true organ.  Then there were the wildly different Professional 88 and 110 models, both available with a horrid "drum machine", which helped mark the end of the Combo Organ era in the late 70s.

Here are some real interesting snippets from Mike M. (engineer who actually designed the Professional series:  "

FAST series was designed simultaneously with the Professional, using the same generation. I don't remember which came out first, for commercial reasons (I think FAST came out first)."

Did you ever know there was a "manual pedalboard", 13 black keys, with the plug to connect it to the pedalboard plug on the "Duo" ? Don't remember if it ever went into production. Also I remember many problems in developing the amp/speaker box for the Duo. ... the Professional started as a "non cost limit" project, and I ... wanted a structural study using "aeronautical technology" to reduce thickness and weight (at first it was all aluminum, reinforced with complicated brackets with large holes, for weight, then cost was too high and a compromise was taken, but the metal structure remained). A few months were spent in studying the behavior of FET's (new devices at the time) for percussion. I am still not satisfied with the result, but at the time couldn't do better. Flute filter came from playing Lowrey's (Farfisa was cooperating with Lowrey for the Cordvox, and also met some of Lowrey's people...), and completely revising the filter architecture. 

Professional 222  

Professional 33a.jpg (53985 bytes) The Professional 222 was released in 1968, and was available until possibly as late as 1974 (Fellow Combonaut David G. tells me he bought his new in Australia in 1974).  At the time, it must have been one of the most (if not THE most) feature-laden combo organs around.  It boasted three basic voices (Flutes, Clarinets, Sharps)  in EIGHT different footages, plus Percussion (ALSO in eight footages) selectable for single or multiple-triggering, plus three percussive sustain voices (8' only), and Vibrato selectable separately for each voice type (a rather unusual feature).  The four voices could be mixed in any amounts by using the four sliders.

The Professional 222 is also known by the following names:  "Professional", "Professional I", "Professional N".  There were apparently some specimens (I've only heard of two) with model 221 on the ID plate.  "Professional N" is from a schematic I have, and I don't know if that was ever an actual model designation.

The Professional's Vibrato is a bit unusual, in that it's added after the oscillators - basically a phase-shifter circuit minus the mixing of the original signal.  That was the only way they could offer separately-selectable Vibrato for Flute, Clarinet/Sharp and Sustain voices (Vibrato injected at the oscillator, the simplest and most common method, will affect any and all voices simultaneously).  Farfisa engineer Mike M. comments:  "The target was to have vibrato separately on the various sections (on flutes and not on percussions etc) So the only way was to do something after the oscillators...I designed a phase shifter around a "all pass filter" as they call it today. Remember that FET's were just appearing on the market, and little was known about them."

The result, however was less than pleasing in many a musician's estimation.  Richard B. offers his thoughts on the subject:  "The vibrato really is as disappointing as Barry [Carson] describes...  It's a phase shift and sounds like one. It can produce some good sounds if you use it one one voice set and not the other, but it's nothing like vibrato, more like a shimmering effect.  You can use it with the Celeste sustain voice and add 2' percussion to simulate vibes.  It sounds a lot like the pulsating vibe sound in Indian Reservation."    

Another unusual feature was the keyboard split. There is a marking over the keyboard designating the leftmost three octaves as "Bass" and the rightmost two as "Treble" (it uses Bass and Treble clefs for these designations).  The only function of this split appears to be allowing separate Cancels for each side for the Percussion and Sustain voices.  

NEW! Two versions:  A 1968 sales brochure shows a black-and-white engineering type drawing of a slightly different version of the Professional.  In that version, the keyboard split is after the second octave, and there's an additional Cancel for the Clarinet/Sharp voices, allowing those to be separately cancelled for each part of the keyboard.  Color photos in the same brochure depict the "later" version, with the split after the third octave.  In addition, the text describes a "2 octaves bass section", as well as "Output for a special pedalboard of 13 notes (C-C) incorporating 16' and 8' voices and sustain"  This brochurecan be viewed at Kirk Topits' excellent Farfisa Professional website

More user comments from Richard B:  "The sound can range from a good Hammond to a screaming combo.  It sounds quite a bit like a Yamaha.  It can't do anything close to the Farfisa Combo [Compact] voices though"


Professional 33d.jpg (45770 bytes)Professional 33c.jpg (53228 bytes)

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Heres one off the "221" Id plates:



Professional 33g.jpg (28129 bytes) The Professional is one of the few combo organs without a hinged, latching lid.  Instead, a hard-top lid was built into the soft vinyl case - a rather unusual setup.  Especially given that the Pro Piano, which shares a virtually identical housing, has quite a nice hinged/latching lid.  I could never understand why they didn't do the same setup for the organ.  


ProfessionalAd.jpg (143234 bytes) 
Magazine ad from 1969


Cancels:  FL,  CL.SH  PERC PERC SUST SUST  There are two cancels each for PERC and SUST, marked with Bass and Treble clefs, which cancel those voices only for the left(bass) or right(treble) side of the keyboard, with the split being at the 3rd octave up.  Another version of the Professional has two CL.SH cancels (one for Bass, one for Treble), and in that version, the keyboard split point is at the 2nd octave.

Volume Sliders: FL.  CL.SH  PERC SUST

FLUTE: 16  8  5-1/3 4 2-2/3 2 1-3/5  1-1/3    VIB.

CLARINET  SHARP:  16  8  5-1/3 4 2-2/3 2 1-3/5  1-1/3    VIB.

PERC SEL:              Selects Single or Multiple triggering Percussion

PERCUSSION:  16  8  5-1/3 4 2-2/3 2 1-3/5  1-1/3   Long/Med/Short selector (Indicated by triangles of varying widths)



The Percussion offers a choice of single triggering or multiple triggering.  Set for single, it's more like standard Hammond percussion - when no keys are pressed, you get the percussive attack with the first key pressed.  If one or more keys are held down, then pressing more keys does NOT trigger a percussive attack.  Set for multiple-triggering, it behaves more like the Gibson organs - every time a key is pressed, the Percussion is triggered for ALL notes currently pressed, as well as the new one.

The Professional uses the same non-optical volume pedal as the FAST 2, 4 and 5.  Click here to go see it

Be sure to check out Kirk Topit's Farfisa Professional site - lots of good stuff there!

Professional Duo

Professional Duo 15a.jpg (24324 bytes) Introduced in 1970, the Duo is virtually identical, feature-wise, to the Professional 222, the Duo adds a lower manual, with a pretty decent selection of voices (clearly a first for Farfisa!), and an impressive pedal unit, including a Slalom pedal

The Duo could also be fitted with the optional  PAS 55 amplifier/speaker unit, that fit between the legs and made it look more like a spinet/console organ.

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Cancels: SUST L.M. SUST U.M.  FL,  CL.SH  PERC PERC SEL.   The two SUST Cancels are just like on  the Professional (for the two halves of the keyboard), but there's only one PERC cancel.  The PERC SEL. is also just like on the Professional.

FLUTE: 16  8  5-1/3 4 2-2/3 2 1-3/5  1-1/3    VIBRATO

CLARINET  SHARP:  16  8  5-1/3 4 2-2/3 2 1-3/5  1-1/3    VIBRATO


PERCUSSION:  16  8  5-1/3 4 2-2/3 2 1-3/5  1-1/3   Long/Med/Short selector (Indicated by triangles of varying widths)



Volume Sliders:  L.M.  SUST FL.  PERC CL.SH

Bass pedal switches:  Bass 16', Bourdon 16, Bass 8', Sustain, Volume f/p, Slalom (Some of the literature shows a Bass pedalboard without the Volume f/p switch (like the fancier VIP bass pedals), but every picture I've seen of an actual Pro Duo pedalboard has this switch)

And now, a real end-user report, from the incomparable Les Bell:  

"The clarinet (sharp) footages really have a wild sound in the lower register... very poly-synth like, almost like a Prophet. Absolutely wild. The percussion section is its own wild animal, capable, with the three decay times, of a sputtering synth like spit on the shortest setting, almost a wow... very weird and unique. It takes work to get Hammond sounds out of it ..., unlike the YC-45d, but it definitely has its own unique character, as unique as, say, the Gibson (while sounding *nothing* like the Gibson at all!). The sustain voices work on both keyboards, the percussion only on the top, and the cancel switches are handy to quickly change registrations or tones (about the only way you have of doing it quickly, actually.) The switches are exactly that; switches; they don't have the four position or the endless variety of the YC-series, but you have a good selection of footages and between the sharps and the flutes can get a lot of variety using just switches. Probably make it slightly easier live to get to a given registration; that probably was the thought behind it. 

"Built like a tank, weighing a ton (a tad lighter than the YC-45D but not much), rock steady with the stand, I'll be using this thing a lot. The slalom is fantastic, a perfect octave up or down (depending on where you start) and everything in between, and it's smooth. There's also an on-off switch on the pedal board to turn the darn thing off (handy live when you go for the volume pedal, hit the slalom right next to it by mistake and the whole organ goes out of tune!!!)

"Oh, the PEDALS!!!! Let me tell you about the PEDALS!!!! I first hooked this thing up downstairs to check it out and ran it into my little tube Ampeg amp. When I got it upstairs and plugged it into the Yamaha RA200, WOW!!! Does this thing have bass!!! The bottom "C" of the pedal is a 32' stop, not a 16' stop as labeled. In fact, all the bass pedals are an octave down from where they are listed... oh, wait a minute, no, the slalom was set high... I have to try out the pedals with slalom... dang, they might go down all the way to a 64' stop (completely subsonic!!!) And beef, the whole organ is much bassier than the YC-45d, and the sharps take on a slightly different character than with a small amp, but WOW. None of the other organs I have have the pedals hooked up, and with this thing permanently hooked up (to have access to the slalom pedal) now I don't *need* any of the other pedals I have (never was able to get the YC pedals to work right above a certain note). Oh, also there is no function for playing the pedal tones on the top keyboard, but since both keyboards have the extra octave and 16' stops, (not to mention dropping the pitch an octave with slalom) Farfisa probably figured why bother?

"Also it's like we assumed; the sharps are more of the original Farfisa combo sound, while the flutes are more like the Hammond. It would take a lot of work to make this sound like a Hammond though, and that, in my opinion, is a good thing (having three of the things already and the YC-45d being able to emulate 'em in a pinch)!!"

Professional Piano

Professional Piano 44d.jpg (76625 bytes) Not really an "organ", per se, but I just couldn't leave this one out, since it's so much like the Professional 222 in appearance, and so UN-like most electronic pianos in its sound (note: by "electronic piano" I'm referring to the cheap Univox-type pianos, not the Rhodes/Wurlitzer variety).  The Professional Piano was introduced in 1970, along with the Duo.

Compared with other CIEPs (Cheap Italian Electronic Pianos), like the Univox Compac Piano, and even the Vox Piano,  the Professional Piano has a goodly array of features and sounds.

I believe Kraftwerk used a Professional Piano


The keyboard is split so that the lower two octaves (Bass) can be voiced separately from the upper three (Treble), depending on the setting of the "Keyboard Split" lever.  When switched to the left, the dark green levers controls the Bass octaves, and the light green levers control the Treble octaves.  When switched to the right, the light green levers control the sound of the entire keyboard.   The sounds available to each half are identical.


Here are some nice demo sounds, courtesy of Andy L:

piano1solo.mp3 This is the piano tab only on the treble clef (upper section) selected to ON, while everything else is off. There is no keyboard splitting set in this clip. The first decay mode is set (corresponding to the bank which piano tab is under, the isosceles triangle setting (top))

honkietonkie1solo.mp3 Same as the piano1solo.mp3, but only the Honkie Tonkie tab set to on. Also the top decay setting.

clavichordharp1solo.mp3 Same as other pianos, but with both the clavichord and harp settings on, giving a harpsichord like sound.

banjosolo.mp3 Same as other pianos, but with the decay set to the middle (equilaterial triangle) setting.

piano_harpclavichordSplit.mp3 This file demonstrates the keyboard splitting function, with the lower clef set to harp and clavichord, and the upper clef set to piano. Both are set to the upper decay setting (isosceles triangle for long decay)

SpecialeffectPianoClavichordsolo.mp3 This file shows the special effect decay mode being used, which, unlike the other two, does not taper off but rather holds out the note like an organ would. It has a rather heavy bottom end when using this feature with the lower keys, as you will hear...Kind of sounds like an electrified harmonium if such a sound can be conjured.

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Like the Professional organ, there were two versions of the Professional Piano.  The first one had the keyboard split between the B and C of the 3rd octave, and the later one (probably post-1972) moved the split point to just between the 2nd and 3rd octaves.  I don't know of any other differences between them. Both models, with accompanying ID plates, are shown below:

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Earlier model, with the split between B and C of the 3rd octave


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Later model, with the keyboard split between the 2nd and 3rd octaves



And here's an odd look-alike to the Pro Piano.  I know nothing about it, but click on the picture to visit the website where the picture came from.  I hope you can read Japanese!

Professional 88

Professional 88 2a.JPG (94269 bytes) Clearly from the last days of Combo Organs, the Professional 88 was also available as the 88R (shown here with the optional Partner 415 rhythm unit).  It apparently takes its name from the number of keys (two 44-note keyboards) 1st Edition Schematics manual is dated July, 1979.  




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    Lower Manual: 16'  8'  4'
    Upper Manual: 16'  5-1/3'  8'  4'  2-2/3'  2'
Percussion Tabs:  Special Attack  8'  4'  2-2/3'  2'  Short/Long  Repeat
Percussion Slider: Repeat Speed
Special Effects Tabs:  Piano  Harpsichord  Honkie Tonk  Coupler
Vibrato Tabs: Slow/Fast Vibrato Delay Vibrato
Pedalboard Tabs: Manual Bass  16'  8'  Sustain  Electric Bass
Tuning Knob

Buttons to right of upper keyboard:  III Chords  II Chords  ! Chords  Stop Memory

Power switch

Professional 110

Professional 110 4e.jpg (106030 bytes) Also clearly from the "last days", the Professional 110, introduced in 1978 (judging by the ad shown below), eschews even the traditional rocker tabs of the Professional 88 in favor of space-age light-up push buttons.  The Pro 110 boasts a full "Hammond" complement of 9 drawbars on the upper manual, with percussion selectable for each, four drawbars for the lower manual, direct Leslie hookup with associated tabs right on the organ,  Repeat percussion, Sustain,  and Piano and Harpsichord sounds. 

It was available as either the model PR-110 (shown here), or the PR-110R, which included a Rhythm unit to the right of the lower keyboard (you can see it in the ad below)

Unlike the Professional 88, the 110 clearly does not get its name from the number of keys it has (93)


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    Lower Manual: 8'  4'  2-2/3'  2'
    Upper Manual: 16'  5-1/3'  8'  4'  2-2/3'  2'  1-3/5'  1-1/3'  1'
Knob: Tuning
Percussion Buttons:  16'  5-1/3'  8'  4'  2-2/3'  2'  1-3/5'  1-1/3'  1'
Sliders:  Repeat Speed, U.M. Sustain
Percussion buttons:  Repeat  Percuss. Long  Special Attack
Flute Preset Buttons: Preset Cancel  1  2  3  Vibes  Flute Cancel
Special Effects Buttons: Piano  Harpsichord  Coupler  Special Coupler
Pedal Buttons: Pedal to L.M.  16'  8'  Electric Bass
Sliders:  Pedal Volume, Reverb
Tabs to left of lower manual:  Vibrato Delay, Vibrato Slow/Fast, Vibrato Off/On, Leslie Slow/Fast, Leslie On/Off

I've been told that some (possibly later?) models have 8 additional preset buttons and 2 sliders (function unknown)

Notes on the features (Thanks to Valerio for this information):

The Special Effects can be mixed with the Flutes.  Flute Cancel kills the flute voices.  The Presets are NOT user-programmable
Coupler is used to play piano sounds on the lower manual. Special Coupler is used to have piano sounds on both manuals.
The Pedal voices (16', 8') are just straight flute voices.  Pedal to LM allows you to play those voices on the 1st octave of the lower manual (converts that octave to bass-only, doesn't add the bass voices to the regular organ voices)
Percussion Long lengthens the attack of the percussion.  Special Attack adds a keyclick.
Repeat does the Percussion attack repetitively, at a rate set by the Repeat Speed slider.  It's a multi-triggering effect, adding the percussive sound for every key pressed.
Electric Bass is a synth-type sound with a short decay, and does not sound much like an electric bass.

And some additional thoughts from Valerio:  "As a final note I can tell you that the Pro 110 is not a typical combo organ like the Compact. It's a Hammond clone and a very good one. The tone is bright and open and very convincing. The "pedal to l.m." feature gives you the possibility to play very effective bass lines on the lower manual compensating the lack of 16' harmonic on the lower manual.  The vibrato is pretty good and you have also the leslie controls (9 pins)."


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Magazine ad from July, 1978