Notice to eBayers:  Recently there has been a rash of Magnus chord organs listed on eBay and described as sounding "like Mellotron, Farfisa".  I'm posting this in the hopes that interested parties searching for more information might stumble onto this page.  For the record, a Magnus chord organ will sound like a Mellotron - IF that Mellotron is playing tapes made of a reed organ or accordion (I've heard that there was a set of accordion tapes available!)  And the Magnus will sound like a Farfisa - IF you mean the Farfisa Pianorgan, which is also a reed/chord organ like the Magnus.  IF, however, you're thinking of the classic Mellotron sounds used by bands such as the Moody Blues, or Farfisa sounds used by bands such as Pink Floyd or "? & the Mysterians", then NO, the Magnus will NOT sound even remotely like either of these fine instruments.  The Magnus chord organ is a cheap, plastic, toy instrument, worth about $15.  It makes sounds by blowing air over reeds, like an accordion or an old pump organ.  For a *sort of * tongue-in-cheek look at this phenomenon, click here to visit the "Fun-Key" section of the latest Vintage Keys Magazine. I hope this saves someone some time, aggravation and money.  Now, back to our coverage of REAL combo organs:

The Magnus and Estey names are synonymous with those terrible, wheezy chord organs that absolutely everyone owned during the 60’s and 70’s.  I never thought I’d see the day when either name, let alone both, would be featured here among all of the “real” combo organs.  But believe it or not, both companies sold at least one honest-to-goodness combo organ. 

Magnus 3D Combo

 I actually bought this little guy, and I don’t regret it for a minute (partially because it was cheap – my favorite price).   Except for the smaller-than-normal-size keys (about 7/8 normal size), it’s really not a bad little instrument.  49 keys, 1-octave bass section, fully adjustable vibrato, and 5 voices (albeit, they’re only 8’ – no multi-footages like the Vox Jaguar), all in a surprisingly light and portable little case.  It even has a compartment for the neat chrome volume pedal, plus a built-in amp and speaker.  It uses the same “one oscillator per three keys” setup as the Melosonics, so there are some key combinations that won’t work, and tuning can sometimes be a problem.

Unlike it's lowly chord organ sibling, the Magnus 3D CAN do a passable impression of a Farfisa, but it does NOT sound like a Mellotron.


I recently bought some legs for the little guy, and painted them red, just to see how it would look.  Then I hauled it out on a nice day and took several pictures:

Estey Model 101

A very interesting looking instrument.  Check out that bottom keyboard - two octaves of bass keys, and nothing else - I've never seen anything like it. I haven't verified this, but I think those tabs that look like they'd select rhythm beats (Latin, Jazz, Folk, etc) are actually voice selections - unusual way of designating them, huh?  I'm not real clear on how the Bass and Chords tabs and some of the levers operate, but I hope to hear from the owner soon with a more complete explanation.

(Simon Beck has dubbed this little fellow the "Baby Elephant")