Wurlitzer SmartChop v2.0

Wurlitzer SmartChop v2.0
March 13, 2024 Max Brink
In Custom Shop, Wurlitzer

Our “Smart Chop” design get’s an update with this custom shop Champagne Sparkletop 206A

Re-Introducing The Smart Chop

Since our earliest years in business clients have been asking us for a Wurlitzer chop design that allows them to transport their Wurlitzer console model in two pieces like the Rhodes Suitcase design. Since you only have to remove a few screws from the inside of the 206A to detach it from the speaker console, it would appear at first glance like this should be a fairly simple modification. Unfortunately, like most things, getting the instrument to do something it wasn’t designed to do presents a few challenges to work around.

Balance & Stability 

After removing the screws that mount the Wurlitzer from the speaker console the Wurlitzer is no longer stable on the speaker console. The front-most support point of the speaker base rests right along the center of gravity for the instrument. Even if it is resting in place on top of the cabinet, a player could easily tip the instrument off of the base by playing with a little too much force on the keys.

Our “Smart Chop” Solution:

  • Version 1: Put thumb screws through the front baffle, through the top of the speaker cabinet into the bottom of the Wurlitzer to hold it in place.
  • Version 2: Add additional support to the top of the speaker cabinet to provide a larger platform for balancing the Wurlitzer.

The Speaker Cabinet

On the stock design of the Wurlitzer console models the bottom of the Wurlitzer piano is the top panel of the speaker cabinet. Removing the Wurlitzer piano from the console removes the top seal of the cabinet.

Our “Smart Chop” Solution:

  • Versions 1 & 2: Cut down the top of the cabinet by ~3/4″ and install a ~3/4″ top panel to the speaker cabinet to preserve it’s dimensions.

Electronics Connections

Most players are fine with removing the classroom electronics wiring from their console, but at minimum some detachable speaker connection must be made between the instrument and the speaker cabinet. This seems easy enough, but making a dummy-proof connection is the challenging aspect… What happens if someone starts walking away with the Wurlitzer and accidentally leaves the cable connected?

Our “Smart Chop” Solution:

  • Version 1: Put an internal RCA connection in the speaker cabinet that connects with the female RCA socket on the instrument side.
  • Version 2: Route an external cutout for access to speaker (and sustain pedal) connection without removing the front baffle.

Sustain Pedal

The sustain pedal hookup of the console Wurlitzer models unscrew from the bottom of the instrument. Accessing the sustain connection is blocked on some of the console models, making it only accessible when the front baffle was removed.

Our “Smart Chop” Solution:

  • Version 1: Access the sustain pedal after removing the front baffle.
  • Version 2: Access the sustain pedal connection from a rear cutout.

Leg Plates

Once the Wurlitzer is removed from the console cabinet and leg plates are put onto the instrument the Wurlitzer has four metal plates at around ~3/8″ thickness mounted underneath itself at all times. This ~3/8″ doesn’t seem like much, but it is enough to cause the instrument to sit unevenly on the cabinet, and also enough to throw off the function of the sustain pedal.

Our “Smart Chop” Solution:

  • Version 1 & 2: Route out the top of the speaker cabinet top to account for the extra space needed. The route also works as a rough guide for the proper resting place of the Wurlitzer.

Ease of Use

Our goal was to develop a design that is easy and reliable enough that it could have been a factory model. We’ve continued to update the design and we’re proud that the improvements made in this latest version of the Smart Chop are another step in that direction. It’s faster, easier, and more reliable to connect and transport with the new design implementations.

Let us know what you think in the comments section below!

If you are interested in a custom Smart Chop conversion like this one please contact info@chicagoelectricpiano.com.

To Be Continued.

Stay tuned for Part II featuring more photos and an in-shop video performance.

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