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Tech Flash

Got an Optigan that doesn’t work?? Join the club!! Below you just *might* find answers to your tech questions
[and if you've got an Optigan that DOES work, go away we don't like you.]

Optigan schematics

yes its true, a service manual *still* exists 34001 (in .pdf format) 35001 / 35011 / 35012 (in .tif format) 35002 / 37003 (in .tif format) You will be able to purchase a cd rom of the service manual on our Shoptigan page but at this point we’re still working on it, so enjoy the [...]

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Optigan Audio-Output Mod

Here’s a freebie from the Service Manual – it’s instructions on how to modify the outputs on your Optigan to be more suitable for recording and amplifying. Optigan Audio-Output Mod [pdf]

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Why are Optigans so unreliable?

The design team for the Optigan largely came from a toy manufacturing background, and consequently most of the engineers thought purely in mechanical terms. There were many elements of the Optigan’s design that could have been much better handled using electronic parts and transistors (such as the disc drive system), but even after designing and [...]

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How do I dismantle my Optigan for repairs?

The quick and dirty answer to this question is: just get in there and start unscrewing everything in sight!! While it can be a time consuming process, Optigans are not that hard to take apart and your intuition should guide you pretty well. Since disassembly varies for the different Optigan cabinet designs, I’m hesitant to [...]

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Some of the chord buttons on my Optigan don’t work. How do I fix this?

Usually this problem can be cleared up by getting into the contact board and using a pencil eraser to “erase” all the gunk and oxidization from the contacts. This process is actually very easy- it just takes awhile to gain access to the contact board itself. Sometimes the problem remains no matter how much you [...]

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Some of the keys on my Optigan don’t work. How do I fix this?

Often this problem can be cleared up by pressing the keys quickly and repeatedly. If this doesn’t work, you might try getting inside the thing and cleaning any gunk that may have gotten in between the rubber contact strip and the metal contact plates. I’ve also had good luck by simply turning the rubber strip [...]

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When I play the top most key on my Optigan, I hear one of the chord tracks bleeding through. What’s wrong?

Crosstalk! Learn to live with it! If you don’t have the test discs, the easiest way to hear the crosstalk is by pressing the top most key on the keyboard. Crosstalk changes with the weather, basically- the light detector is very sensitive to temperature and atmospheric changes. The result is that adjacent tracks on the [...]

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How do I clean my Optigan discs?

It’s largely a futile effort, because the scratchiness is mostly caused by actual scratches on the discs, but if you really want to clean them, DON’T use water! Go out and buy some film cleaning fluid from a camera store. Keep in mind even a mint Optigan disc sounds pretty bad right out of the [...]

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My Optigan is making a knocking or grinding noise. What’s wrong?

Chances are, there’s a small divot cut into your idler wheel. As the wheel goes around, it makes a knocking noise every time the divot hits the drive shaft. This is fairly easy to fix. If you remove the idler wheel (that’s the black, hard rubber one) and fill the divot with super glue, you [...]

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The “A Major” and “E Major” buttons on my Optigan sound wrong. Are they?

Yes and no. From a musical standpoint, they’re very VERY wrong! But nothing is actually wrong with your Optigan. In order to fit enough stuff onto the discs, they had to cut corners a bit. There wasn’t enough room for A and E major, so they decided that they would take a C# dim chord [...]

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Is it possible to install a more stable drive system in my Optigan?

Probably not. Mattel patented a better drive system for the Optigan, but you’d have to build the thing up from scratch in order to implement it. It’s based on a belt driven, electronically controlled system as opposed to an electro-mechanical system. The Chilton Talentmaker and the Vako Orchestron both feature a more reliable direct-drive system.

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My Optigan makes a lot of buzz and hum. What’s wrong?

Basically, you’re going to have to face the fact that the Optigan is inherently a very buzzy, noisy machine. Unless you want to completely replace the grounding and amplification system, your only hope is to try to minimize the buzz and maybe notch it out with a multi-band EQ or some noise reduction DSP. The [...]

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The overall volume seems a bit weak. What can I do?

Attached to each amplifier is a little trimpot for adjusting the chord/keyboard volumes. On most Optigans, these trimpots can be accessed by the little holes on the back of the unit. If you still can’t get much sound out of an amp, or the sound is particularly distorted, the the amp has gone bad and [...]

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The little red metronome tab has fallen off my Optigan disc. What should I do to make sure I stay on the beat?

The best way to replace those red tabs is to simply buy a red permanent Sharpie pen and color over the appropriate metronome window. It works fine, and shouldn’t rub off. If you desire maximum redness, try rubbing it on both sides of the disc.

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Where do I get a replacement bulb for my Optigan?

The bulb you want is a GE Lighting 48707 40T10/RVLCD1 Tubular Bulb. For those who want to know more about this bulb, here’s the tech specs.

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My Optigan has unstable pitch. Is there hope??

Pitch stability is one of the biggest problems for Optigans. The rubber on the idler wheel gets hard or worn over the years, which makes the wheel slip against the tapered motor shaft. Old wheels can have other problems including notches or flat spots, which cause a knocking or grinding sound when the discs are [...]

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Robert’s Tips for Teens #1: Litho Tape for Metronome Windows

Robert Becker, the genius who worked out the software for generating new optigan disc images from digital audio files, has a couple of optigan restoration tips, so I thought I’d post them as blog entries. If you have Optigan discs that are missing the little red piece of tape that goes over the downbeat metronome [...]

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Robert’s Tips for Teens #2: Silver Highlights on Optigan Logo

Robert sez: I went to Michael’s Craft and Floral to see if they had stuff to replace the silver highlights on the Optigan metronome logo I got from you. After looking at all the silver leaf options, I asked a couple of store employees what would work best. We narrowed it down to “Rub-N-Buff” and [...]

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OptiDocs now updated with Talentmaker & Orchestron Docs

This is just a quick note to let y’all know that the OptiDocs service manual CD-Rom has now been updated to include the impossible-to-find Talentmaker service manual as well as Orchestron service docs, schematics, and brochures. 275mb of geeky goodness. Order your copy today!

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OptiDocs now updated with Talentmaker & Orchestron Docs

This is just a quick note to let y’all know that the OptiDocs service manual CD-Rom has now been updated to include the impossible-to-find Talentmaker service manual as well as Orchestron service docs, schematics, and brochures. 275mb of geeky goodness. Order your copy today!

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Robert’s Tips for Teens #3: Optigan Idler Wheel Removal

Removing the idler wheel from the Optigan is a challenge, but can be done if you are patient and mechanically inclined.

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Original Optigan Service Manual on eBay

Hi all, a friend of mine is selling an original copy of the Optigan Service manual on eBay. This is the same manual I sell as a download on this site, though I can’t link you to mine until Shoptigan is back up and running!

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A Review of Terry’s Rubber Rollers – Optigan Idler Wheel Repair

Dedicated Optigoner Adam Swalberg sends this glowing review of Terry’s Rubber Rollers: Hi Pea- thanks for the link to Terry’s Rubber Rollers! I sent him a few of mine to retread, and he did a superb job!! I opted to send mine attached to the shaft for him to remove and reassemble. He only charged [...]

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Servicing Intermittent Orchestron Key Contacts

We recently had a query about servicing intermittent Orchestron keys, and Robert typed up this guide, which I thought would be helpful to add to the blog: The Model A is basically a modified Optigan chassis in a different box. Usually these don’t have key contact problems. The other models (Model B, Model C, Model [...]

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