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JeffDairiki, June 11, 2014

Spinet Organs were designed for casual home users with a limited budget. To cut costs, spinets have a reduced manual range. The upper and lower manual have 3 1/2 octaves which are offset by one octave to allow the melody lines to be played primarily on the Swell and accompaniment on the Great. The pedal keyboard has only 12 or 13 short, straight pedals. Spinet organs have a single set of nine drawbars for the Swell or Upper manual, seven or eight drawbars for the Great or Lower manual and a single drawbar for the pedal volume.

Typical early models are the M (1948-1951) M-2 (1951-1955) and M-3 (1955-1964). The M series had a single console style, Early American, and a built-in 12" speaker and 11W amplifier. The M-2 added selective vibrato and the M-3 added touch response percussion. Of interest to those with B3 dreams and beer budgets, the M-3 was heavily produced and sells for thousands less than a B-3, C-3 or A-100. The tone generator is nearly the same as a B3 except tonewheels 13 through 17 are blank because the lower manual stops at F instead of continuing down to C. The scanner vibrato is the same but wired differently and they have WaterfallKeys and the same run and start motors. The M series pedal keyboard was monophonic, only one pedal note could play at a time. The pedal tonewheels were ComplexToneWheels shaped to provide a fixed harmonic sound. The M series organs also featured a "legato" feature that slowly decayed the last pedal played even after the player removed his foot from it.

The M series was generally replaced by two models, the L-100 and M-100 series. The L-100 models eliminate the separate "start" and "run" motor, and instead have a self-starting synchronous motor. Both models include tablet presets and reverb. Both models use DivingBoardKeys instead of the WaterfallKeys. The L-100 (1961-1964) sold for a little less than the M-3. It had four presets for the upper manual and two for the lower. Instead of a scanner vibrato, it used a much cheaper three-stage phase shifter. The M-100 (1961-1968) sold for a little more. To the features of the L-100 were added a more powerful amplifier and an extra note on the pedalboard. Some M-100 models had an added "percussion" option which added chime, guitar, marimba, xylophone and banjo sounds. There was also a cymbal sound when the pedals were pressed and a brush sound when any key on the lower manual was pressed. Compared to the M series, these are generally considered less desirable as economy B-3s.

See SpinetLimitations and HowToOvercomeSpinetLimitations.

Nevertheless, these spinets are tonewheel organs. Other than the lack of foldback and bass, the M-3, M-100 and L-100 are quite similar in design to the B-3. A spinet paired with a Leslie can be a great sounding rig. In fact, a number of very popular recordings were made on an M series and not a B3 as you might think.

After the L and M-100 Spinet Organs were the T-series which were built even cheaper (but some T series organs had built in Leslie speakers). The T was transistorised and had a drum vibrato scanner which ran off of a belt from the synchronous motor, instead of the typical scanner mounted to the motor. See T-500.

Later Spinet models, including the Aurora series (Models 82xx) built after 1975, lacked the tonewheel generator, and used instead LSI (ICs and PC Boards).


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