Wurlitzer Orbit III

Wurlitzer Orbit III Image

Organ 555 with Orbit 3 (mini-keyboard)

The Orbit III is an unusual, but not at all rare, basic monophonic synthesizer. It was included as the third manual on many different Wurlitzer home organ models since its introduction in 1971 (models 4037, 4373, 4573, 555 and others). It has a basic envelope that includes attack and sustain, a filter of sorts (called "wah-wah" - guess what kind of sound it makes), and an LFO (called "modulator" in Wurlitzer parlance). The LFO has settings for rate and "deviation" (depth). The "second touch" feature is a crude aftertouch function, which you can assign to affect either the LFO or the "slide" function. Each synthesis function can be completely toggled on and off via push button. The sound of the synth is modified by a row of organ-style buttons that affect the timbre and the range.

The rest of the instrument the Orbit III is attached to is classic home organ fare. Cheesy drum beats, the usual home organ sounds, and a cassette player/recorder round out the features of the organs that typically contain an Orbit III. And lurking beneath the three manuals is a real life rotating speaker cabinet. The early models used the Wurlitzer Spectratone speaker, but switched over to the Leslie speaker in 1974 with the model 555. Additional features included a volume pedal and a foot manual (again, classic home organ features).

Typically these organs were used in churches and schools. They are of considerable weight, and as a result they can often be had for the cost of sweat equity alone. You're not going to be picking up a secret low-cost Moog, but you'll have a lot of fun with it once you get it home. And when you tire of it, you can pass it on to the next sucker, ahem, lucky individual.

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17 Visitor comments
Brendan Cunningham
February 25, 2014 @ 5:28 pm
@ Tom Karches, I have been toying with the idea of doing this to my orbit 3 but I have little knowledge and I dont want to ruin my organ. I have not been able to find much online about the process of chopping this synth out. Can you post info on the process?
Tom Karches
October 4, 2013 @ 9:42 am
FWIW, the Orbit III can be extracted from the Wurlitzer with very little loss in functionality. I did this with a friend. The tricky part is the weird power supply voltages required. Can post info if anyone is interested.
Noah Hornberger
September 19, 2013 @ 8:21 pm
I just got a Wurlitzer 4373 for $130 and I am excited to be making sounds like a funeral home or cheap circus from the 70's. As far as flavors, the thing packs some funky hunky hokey pokey sounds, and if you know the value in that (meaning you're not an instrument snob) then you will instantly find the thing rockin and be'boppin below your fingers. At least I did. I'm going to cherish it and extract its ancient mysteries whilst casting them into new electronic hybrid forms. Cheers!
Tom
June 30, 2013 @ 11:47 am
It should be noted that Thomas Organ was the first organ manufacture to use an Synth as part of the organ. They use a Mini-Moog. However, shortly after the introduction Norlin (parent to Lowrey Organ) purchased Moog. The Orbit III and it's other verations were the only commercially successful integration of a home organ and synth. A couple of years later Yamaha and Kawai had some but only Wurlitzer did.
Tom
June 30, 2013 @ 11:46 am
This is from the first demo recording of the Oribt III released by Wurlitzer. Glenn Derringer is the performer. Yes! There is overdubbing as the OrbitIII was monophonic.

I think it fitting that the tune is Aquarius considering when the Orbit III was introduced.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5zLBTvsucA
 
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  • Check Prices on eBay
  • The link above will take you to a search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - Monophonic
  • Oscillators - 1 VCO
  • LFO - Modulator: Affects pitch with rate and depth controls
  • Envelope - Attack and Sustain
  • Keyboard - 25 mini-keys
  • Effects - Wah-Wah
  • Memory - 10 Presets (Reed, Brass, String, Banjo, Harpsichord, Electro Piano, Vibes, Xylophone, Piano
  • Control - None
  • Date Produced - 1971

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