Essentially there were six different Optigan® models to choose from, not counting prototypes and some variations found within certain models. Information about each model can be found below. Click on any of the pictures to see a larger version.
This was the very first Optigan. There aren’t too many of them around any more. The main difference between this Optigan® and later Optigans was that the 34001 only had one amp and one speaker. It was dubbed the “monaural” unit. Apart from this, the grill cloth was different, the music rack was different, and (like the early model 35001’s) it featured the old-style metronome. This early metronome did not use fiber optics- instead, there was a simple piece of plastic called a “light pipe.” One end of this pipe rested above the metronome area of the disc, and the other end protruded from the keyboard cover. The light traveled through the pipe and flashed on the other end. This design was pretty cheesy, even by Optigan® standards, and was soon replaced with the more common fiber-optic cable metronome, with the familiar light-dot flashing inside the Optigan® emblem above the keyboard.
This Optigan® was the immediate successor to the 34001, and early models featured the “light pipe” style metronome (see 34001). This was a “stereophonic” unit, with separate amps/speakers for the chords/keyboard. The 35001 also featured a spring reverb.
This is probably the most common Optigan. Essentially it’s the exact same machine as the 35001, except that it doesn’t have reverb. This means that the 35002 has one less knob on the control panel than the 35001. Optigan® was, of course, too cheap to make two different versions of the keyboard overlay (i.e., one with the hole for the reverb knob and one without), so for the 35002 they simply placed the little aluminum “Stereophonic” plate over the reverb knob hole!
This, the was the most expensive of the Optigan® consoles, and it was actually made of real wood!! Well, veneer-covered plywood, anyway! This unit featured reverb, and the little aluminum plate said “Custom Stereophonic” instead of the usual “Stereophonic.”
Ah, the ugliest Optigan® of them all!! The “Mediterranean” model was molded in dark-brown temperite, with sharp/flat keys to match. This model also came with reverb. For some reason, under Opsonar this model’s number was changed to 35009. Apart from this difference, they are the same console. I’ve heard that the styling of this Optigan® closely matched the interior design of Nixon’s Western White House in Yorba Linda, CA… but that’s another story!!
Apart from the prototype Optigan® cabinet designs, this is the Optigan® console most shrouded in mystique. The one that I discovered in a thrift store a few years ago is the only one I’ve ever seen, and I have never seen any explicit mention of it in any Optigan® printed materials. This much I know: It’s made of real wood, and was apparently designed exclusively for Montgomery Wards. It features the same dark brown temperite as the 35012. The real distinguishing feature of this Optigan®, though, is the flip-top lid!! This feature is completely perplexing, because there’s really nothing you can fully access to service by opening the lid! As far as I can tell, the Montgomery Wards brass probably said something like “we like it, but shouldn’t it be easier to get in there to fix it??” to which the Optigan® folks probably said “well how about if we make it so you can open the top??” Anyway… the most useful function of the opening top that I’ve found is that it gives you access to the flywheel, which you can manual press your finger against for cool pitch-bend effects!! As a side note, this Optigan® must have come about under Opsonar, because it’s cabinet design is very similar to some of the Estey organs being produced by Miner at that time.