True Sound – The Vintage Vibe Story

New Jersey based Vintage Vibe describes itself as “last electric piano manufacturer in the world.”

Vintage Vibe started out doing restoration and repair work on vintage Fender Rhodes keyboards. Now they offer a full line of electric pianos, with action and tone inspired by classic early ‘70?s Fender Rhodes.

The short documentary True Sound, directed by Alex Hoteck and Brian Rocha, goes behind the scenes at Vintage Vibe and looks at their ‘fight to stay relevant with a new generation of electro-mechanical instruments in a market flooded by digital keyboards’.

From the Directors:

At first Vintage Vibe may sound like just another vintage instrument repair company. It’s this guy Chris Carroll and his employees operating in a market that’s generally not interested in their product beyond the nostalgic few.

They may seem irrelevant, but through taking a closer look we have an understanding of the importance of their craft and their original electric piano. When you hear their story, the Vintage Vibe team becomes a close family who made the dream happen against all odds.

It was an absolute pleasure filming at their workshop the past few months and I have nothing but respect for Chris and his team. Definitely take the time to hear their story for yourself!

30 thoughts on “True Sound – The Vintage Vibe Story

  1. This reminds me of the people trying to keep the Mellotron alive. With all of the modern technology available at a fraction of the price, they are fighting an uphill battle.

    1. Not really that much of a hill, I’m guessing.

      There will always be people who want a genuine electric piano, and now you have a choice of an old one or a new one. It’s a market that already supports V V, plus a healthy secondhand market, plus the various regional repair shops that already exist.

      Most live and gigging musicians will opt for a digital workslab, or a nice dedicated stage piano like the Korg SV-1 or Nord Electro. (The Korg and Nord do so much, including a host of organs, pianos, electromechanical stuff, effects.) But that’s not who these genuine EPs are for.

      When something is special, but it goes away due to technology, there will always be a passionate group of people who keep it alive.

      There’s only 1 company in the US that makes new pinball machines. (Stern) Arcades have diminished, everything is digital and/or consumer electronics, but there’s enough demand to support a last-man-standing company.

      There’s only one US company that runs a chain of drive-in movie theaters. There’s a lot of value in being the last company who makes or does a thing that’s genuine or iconic.

      Tube amps, printed books, vinyl records, film cameras, terrestrial radio. These things are not going away. The more digital technology erodes them, the bigger the niche market becomes. The backlash isn’t pure nostalgia – there’s often subtle but important qualities that digital does not bother to emulate.

  2. man, I would love to own one of these, but I simply cannot afford it. I’m not saying they’re overpriced, because I don’t believe they are. I just can’t spend ~$4K on an electric piano.

    also, I assume I’m not the only one to notice the sad irony of this post and the post just below it that is promoting a $9.99 Rhodes app for iPad that probably sounds pretty good.

    1. The same way that a Ford Taurus sounds pretty good next to a Lamborghini Countach.
      The best quality digital pianos are in the $3000 range so why are so many calling this hand made instrument outrageously priced? I don’t see any articles complaining about the pricing of everyone’s darling Moog Minimoog Voyager. Oh but Dave Smith or Macbeth comes up with a new synth and it’s all oh I don’t know about that price I can’t afford it so it has to be evil. BS. Cult of personality.

  3. they look awesome but its hard to validate a 4k rhodes when i can get a really mint one for soo much less and a trashed one on the cheap if I want to DIY. totally different story if your stevie wonder. i cant wait till i see his key in the life show next month…

    1. $4,000 is nothing for a professional that makes a living making music.

      If you get to the point where you are a music professional, you’ll realize that what you can’t afford is ‘cheap instruments’.

      A well-crafted instrument will be more playable now and always gain value over the years, because labor costs will always go up. But a cheap instrument is going to be a poor instrument now, and worthless after even just a few years.

      You don’t have to be a Stevie Wonder to afford good instruments – you just have to be making music professionally!

        1. The Korg Odyssey will never hold its value like a vintage Odyssey, or even like a modern instrument that’s built to professional standards, like a Voyager, a Sub 37 or one of the Prophets.

          Korg will come out with a full-size version with better build quality in a year, like they did with the MS-20m. Then they’ll have a cheap version for hobbyists, and a full-size version, with better build quality, for people that want a professional instrument.

      1. I am a professional musician and $4000 is a lot to pay for me. I currently play a $450 Rhodes 73 that needs a bit of loving now and then. still, I would love to have one of these, but it’s not going to happen anytime soon.

        I’m happy these guys are keeping this stuff alive and I really hope to have the means to spend the money on one someday, but your statement that $4k is nothing for a professional musician is just way off.

      2. i hear you on pro instruments. Im a pro and ive spent more than 4k on gear before, but im just saying, i just got a very mint 73 rhodes for 1300. i see them all the time in the 1000 to 1700 range in nice shape. never the less its cool these guys are doing it.

  4. As an owner of a Wurltizer 200, when I heard that there was a company still making electric pianos like this I got really excited for one reason: midi. My problem is that in order to use the Wurly I need to shed a lot of gear in order to fit in on the stage. Midi would solve that problem by turning the keyboard into a midi controller. Hook up a volume pedal or turn down the volume knob, and I could kill the sound and control a synth. This means that I could take my piano on stage without compromising and losing something else.

    Then I saw that not only is midi not standard on these, but it’s a nearly $1500 add on. Ouch. I hate to rain on the parade, but I could buy a Rhodes and a top of the line work station/Moog/Dave Smith for the same price. It’s great that this company exists, but I have to agree with the nay-sayers: I have no idea why anyone who was not Stevie Wonder would buy this over a real vintage EP, even a professional musician who was not making Lynyrd Skynyrd money.

      1. Not personally wanting a VV electric piano is not good evidence that the market does not exist.

        I’d never buy a $3,000 acoustic guitar – even if I had the cash – yet flip through a catalog and there they are. What justifies the cost for those that care? Rare wood, craftmanship, brand, historical designs, very subtle tonal distinctions, bragging rights. I bet those high end boutique guitars wouldn’t pass a double-blind A/B test. They’re sold and traded every day.

        A genuine electromechanical piano full of hammers and tines provides a unique experience and is an artisan product. There’s no one else making them. The thing physically vibrates. Now that’s UI feedback, more than all the flashing LEDs in the world.

        I don’t want a mellotron, but I’m not going to pretend my phone can do everything better than the things it simulates. Why do acoustic pianos still exist? Don’t those companies know that a 90’s Casiotone can do a realistic baby grand AND a dog bark sound?

  5. I was going to mention Waldorf, but I was laboring under the delusion that the Zarenbourg was a true electric piano rather than just another physical modeling keyboard. How disappointing.

      1. Yesssss….. thus I wrote “physical modeling.” Or was that before the edit? It’s so difficult to tell what’s going on behind the scenes here.

          1. Yes, but I changed the comment before your comment appeared otherwise I would have made it a response. Sorry about the confusion.

    1. Yes, the Waldorf Zarenbourg uses physical modelling for Rhodes and Wurli sounds (and samples for the grand and CP80). However, it is a very good instrument. I’d love to own a VV or Rhodes, but the Zarenbourg is the best next thing to me.

  6. There’s a shop in Tokyo that imports and retails their pianos (as well as vintage Clavinets and Wurlies). They manage to stay in business so there must be some reasonable interest in Japan which is good. I visited the shop and got to play their pianos. Wonderful machines, so inspiring to play! And you can get them in amazing colours. I’d love to have one in my music room but I wouldn’t take it on the road (that’s what the Nord is for).

  7. These things sound better than a Rhodes.
    They play better too.
    When you have an instrument like this, you just become a much better player.
    The price is hefty, but think of all the junk one buys over the years and never use.
    I would use this thing on each track.

    I must disagree with comment about digital pianos though: some have stood the test of time, like the MKS-20.

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