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
July 5, 2011 @ 12:44 pm
Try tapping the two pots on the volume pedal for external outs from the synth and organ sections - a strong line level signal is there for running to guitar/bass amps and external FX. Sounds fantastic through my analog FX and stereo Rivera tube amp. Huge mono bass sounds from the organ with boss octave pedal and Ampeg V4B tube bass rig. Various fuzz pedals, EHX Micro synth, analog delay and phase give you a poor man's analog synth rig that is a log of fun and sounds pretty damn good. Just my 2 cents...
Lucien Nunes
May 14, 2011 @ 11:15 am
Whilst there are loads of basic, budget organs out there that never did sound very interesting, I don't think you can say that analogue organs belong in the dumpster by definition. Remember they're not synths, they are designed for making different kinds of music, with 'basic' sounds but 'complex' arrangements. In the right hands, the better models can sound quite splendid. One could equally argue how lame most synths are. One keyboard and no pedals? What good is that when you want to play two melody lines, a four-part harmony accompaniment and a walking bass all at once?
Horses for courses!
March 23, 2011 @ 6:58 pm
I found one of these on the side of the road. The organ section sounded like something you would hear at a funeral home, or a low budget circus in the 60's. The synth section didn't seem to work to well, or maybe it did, and just initially [beep] ed. The only time I played it was when I was drunk! If you see one on the side of the road, in a thrift store, or at the dump,,,leave it there.
March 11, 2011 @ 11:40 am
As for the worth of the instruments, none. I had one in the 70's as it was the first introduction to a synthesizer. It was very limited and I quickly moved on. I will say that another basic to the package back then was a reverb, not based on digital but it was a simple spring reverb. I remember taking it out of the organ before junking the thing and modifying it to work stand alone. not a great reverb but it gave some interesting sound when it was used with other instruments.

If you see 1, there are some part that are worth stripping from it but remember that the rest needs a dumpster.
December 18, 2010 @ 5:43 pm
I just became a [beep] er ...I mean lucky owner of one of these and don't know what to do with it.
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  • The link above will take you to an eBay 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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