Have you ever thought of building an organ from a production line kit? If you haven't, it could be well worth a 'bit of great matter usage', especially as Wersi, THE kit people, have come up with a very attractive new instrument - namely the Comet.
Wersi are a particularly go ahead young German company, based in the small Rhine-side town of Halsenbach. Their raison d'etre (if you'll pardon the French, in an English article on a German firm) is to provide extremely advanced electronic kits, of organs, which even the most non-technical of persons could put together and work for themselves.
The success of the company has been most impressive, almost as much so as the products themselves. Many people who have purchased a Wersi product in the past have enjoyed the construction process so much that they have started afresh on more ambitious models, confident in the knowledge that they are going to both learn a lot about electronics, and in the end, have a quality instrument with which to play.
I guess I'm beginning to sound a bit like an advert for Wersi, but I am impressed with the company, and their unique achievement. I have talked to several "happy customers" who have also given off a fantastic enthusiasm for the enterprise. Wersi are handled in Britain by Aura Sounds Ltd and Electro Voice Sales Ltd. Both companies provide the organs in either kit form or ready made. They don't pretend that you are going to sail through without encountering one or two problems, but they have an excellent team of engineers who will, over the phone, put you straight; or if the worse comes to the worse, come to your home and put you straight - physically.
Anyway, Wersi have just launched the Comet to the world, and for those of you toying with the idea of a kit organ, this one is well worth a very close look. The Comet comes in two different packages - as a Spinet, the W10S, it will set you back £1,971 in kit form, and £3,620 ready built. The Transportable version, W10T, arrives in lots of little bits for £1,899, and in one big lump for £3,592. All these prices include VAT at 15%.
For your money you get quite an instrument which is microprocessor based (of course), and offers some rather interesting new ideas, most notably the idea of satellite keyboards; but to build up some suspense I will say no more just yet.
The Comet is a dual keyboard (4 octave C to C) organ with a 13-note pedalboard. The Spinet or console version comes complete with amp and speaker (very good too), and is housed in an attractively styled (rosewood?) cabinet, which would not look out of place in any but the most elaborate of home decor. The Transportable is a rugged piece of hardware, it has all the Spinet's facilities (save amplification) with a sturdy and rather spacey looking chrome steel leg assembly.
The first thing that you notice when looking at the control panels is the predominance of push button momentary LED switches - there are hundreds of them; though initially their functioning is rather daunting, (especially so since the model I saw was labelled in German). However, an intelligent colour code system makes things a lot simpler, and it doesn't take long to 'get into' the Comet. Presumably, if you had built the instrument up from scratch, you would be well familiar with all the controls and facilities. It seems a common thing on Wersi organs to provide a fantastic array of control devices - more so than for almost any other manufacturer - consequently some facilities are not that commonly used. Nevertheless, if the circuitry is there to provide the effect (which it is in most organs) then for the sake of a few extra switches why not utilise said circuitry to the full?
The control panels can be looked at in several distinct sections. This is best seen with reference to Figure 1. Starting in the top left corner we have a series of slider controls, and underneath three sets of drawbars. Eight sliders are used for voicing and constructing the harmonic percussion, with seven footages (16', 8', 5⅓', 4', 2⅔'; 2' and 1⅓'). Other sliders are used for sustain times, glide rates etc, whilst the final bank of five do the job of the audio mixer from the various tone generation sections.
The drawbars themselves are split such that the upper manual has 16, 8, 5⅓, 4, 2⅔, 2 and 1⅓) footages. It's funny that they are arranged in that order instead of the usual 16, 5½, 8 etc.; but really I would have liked to have seen a full nine drawbar compliment here - though this would obviously put up the price. For the lower manual we have 8, 4 and 2½ footages, whilst for the bass pedals there are 16', 8' and 4' drawbars with separate tone and sustain drawbars also. Incidentally, although there is a somewhat limited number of drawbars for the upper manual, it is possible, by playing around with a preset voicing marked 'Chime' to conjure up a rather unusual 6⅖' pitch (one to be careful with when using it polyphonically).
The momentaries above the keyboard provide the preset ensemble and solo voices, as well as the most comprehensive Piano Section, with Stage Piano, Rock Piano, (straight) Piano, Spinet, Banjo and the aforementioned Chimes. The Comet seems to be big on guitar voicings having a wide variety of such sounds - I never thought too highly about guitar voicings on keyboard instruments, and to be honest, I don't think Wersi have done much better here than their 'ready-built' competitors.
The Comet includes a voltage controlled filter for the Solo voices which is particularly versatile. The filter tracks the keyboard, and consequently, if used in conjunction with the noise source can produce some remarkable chiffing sounds to enhance the woodwind and brass voicings. The organ also incorporates a separate voltage controlled amplifier enabling such effects as Repeat, Tremolo, and most interestingly, Solo Percussion, from which you can produce for example, snare sounds which can be introduced via the keyboard.
Wersi have developed some circuitry known as the WRS Program Memory, which can be programmed with different registrations, so you can have your favourite combinations available at the touch of a button. There are 20 memory locations. The Comet is full of interesting features that many manufacturers don't bother with. One particularly interesting one is the "Third Hand" as Wersi call it. This is basically a note memory for the upper keyboard such that you can play a note or chord and the processor will see to it that this note is sustained until another is played on that manual; meanwhile it is possible to use the lower manual to play against the sustained chord - okay it might not sound, on paper, particularly exciting, but you can do some rather nice things with it that gives an impression of more things going on.
Needless to say Wersi incorporate all forms of coupling and transpositioning switches on the Comet, you can in fact transpose the Comet into any key at the touch of a button - useful if you only know three chords! To the left of the lower manual are the Glide and Waa-Waa sliders. Hady Wolff, the International Demonstrator of Wersi products, was the man showing me around this organ, and he would continually be adjusting the Waa-Waa slider whilst playing, to very great effect. It is amazing what can be achieved by a form of variable timbre control - Hady made the instrument really come alive with his playing style.
Wersi's striving for ultra-versatility is further shown in the automatic section, situated to the right of the lower manual. Here we have what is known as the WersiMatic Rhythm and Auto-accompaniment. For the rhythm, there are ten percussion voices which are used in conjunction with ten basic patterns - variations are possible, and for the auto-accompaniment we have twelve different patterns utilising five separate instrumentations. The voicings and patterns are really excellent, and naturally all the more common automatic features such as key-start and memory are to be found on this rather crowded panel.
I mustn't end this brief look at the Wersi Comet without mentioning its unique feature - the Satellite keyboard interface. You can, for an extra £138 (£250 ready built), purchase a Satellite keyboard, up to four of which can be hooked up to the Comet (Comet - Satellites - all very spacey!). Each Satellite consists of a four octave keyboard, six momentary buttons, and of course some internal circuitry. These Satellites make no sound on their own, but are hooked up to the main instrument and can be used to trigger various sections of the Comet's voice production circuitry; e.g. one Satellite can be used for strings, another brass, a third for guitar voices etc.; anyway, the manufacturers claim that this is the first electronic organ that up to five people can play - I think that they're right. On the face of it this satellite keyboard idea might seem a bit of a gimmick, however, it does make it possible for an entire family to play together at marginal extra expense - think of the arguments!
Wersi anticipate that the amateur could put together the Comet in around 100 hours, so if you go for a kit you could be saving yourselves over £1,500 and learning more about electronics into the bargain. Full marks to Wersi, for both a good idea, and a fine product.
The Wersi Comet is sold in the U.K. by Aura Sounds Ltd, (Contact Details) and Electro-Voice, (Contact Details).