Percussive Arts Society

Maas-Rowe Vibrachime Carillon, Model 70, Type 704-H

Gift of Al Rodreguez, 1993.09.01

Maas-Rowe Pic1

Internal view, with rear panel removed. Note the two, thin wooden strips, each with three wingnuts used to lock the rods in place when the instrument is stored or moved. Also note the surplus suspension cords bundled on the lower right side.

Historically, a carillon is composed of several pitched bells or tubular chimes that are rung by either mechanical or electronic means. This type of instrument is typically found in church or municipal belfries to mark the time of day and to play melodies. During the 20th century, several companies devised portable, electronically amplified instruments that would duplicate the sound of traditional carillons, but without the massive bells or tubes.

During the 1950s, the Maas Organ Company, licensed by the Maas-Rowe Electromusic Corporation of Los Angeles, manufactured the Vibrachime carillon. It consists of a small electronic keyboard mounted to the top of a wooden case that houses rods, speakers, and electronic solenoid beaters. When depressed, a key activates a solenoid that strikes one of a series of metal rods. The sound of the rods, which accurately emulate the sound of large church bells, is amplified via the internally mounted speaker system.

This Vibrachime, serial number 19421, measures 23 inches wide, 12 inches deep, and is 31 inches tall. It has a two-octave keyboard (C–C), which folds over to close within the case when stored. The wooden case has three internally mounted speakers and a panel that removes to adjust or repair the rods and solenoids. The 1/16-inch sounding rods, which range in length from 10.5 to 22 inches, are each suspended by two thin cords, one attached at the top nodal point of the rod, the other at a 90-degree bend in the bottom of the rod.

The solenoid, which has a square beater head and a white, cloth muffling strip, strikes the rod on the bent end as the key is depressed. When released, the muffling strip rests on the bent end, stopping the rod from ringing. Most often installed for use as part of a church’s organ, the Vibrachime is remarkably realistic sounding to a congregation.

Maas-Rowe Pic2

Close-up of the solenoids. Note the loops of white damping cloth, which should attach over the bent rod; the square, green-felt covered strikers; and tension springs that suspend the rods.

Maas-Rowe Pic3

Top view of the open keyboard showing the internal speaker. Note the power/volume control, marked “OFF” and “INCREASE” to the left of the power light. 

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