Music Master 600

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QDivision Visit
Music Master 600
Chamby vs. Mark I
Middlesex Canal


OK, this beastie is unusual.  What would you say about a machine that was mostly hand built and will zap you with mains voltage on any metal surface?  Seriously.  Well, at least it sounds better than your regular Mellotron...if it doesn't burn down the house while doing so.

Chamberlin Music Master 600 owned by Q Division Studios
Chamberlin Music Master 600

It was a privilege to have been invited over to the Q Division studios to view this instrument (thanks, guys!).  Previously I'd only seen pictures from an EBay auction, but now here was the real deal.

For those who don't know, the Chamberlin Music Master was the model for the Mellotron Mark I.  The story goes that Bill Fransen brought two Music Masters from the US to the UK where the machines were reverse engineered to get ideas for the "Fransen" (thank goodness that name didn't stick).  After the designers in the UK were done, we had the Mellotron Mark I.

Looking at the Chamby versus the Mark I there are distinct similarities, but there are differences.  One is less of a fire hazard than the other for starters!  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let's take a closer look at the Chamberlin.

Jerry, Brendan, Jon view the Mellotron Mark II at Q Division; Chamberlin Music Master 600 in the front

The Music Master 600 has the following features:

Chamberlin Music Master 600 at Q Division
(click for a larger image)

THREE cycling stations.  The left hand keyboard is split between B2 and C2 where you have rhythm and accompaniment stations.  The right hand keyboard has lead instruments.  There are 40 keys on the left side (15 rhythm, 25 accompaniment), 35 on the right.

Cycling is controlled by what works out to be a relay-driven analog computer.

Picture 1:  When you change stations, a motor and chain drive are activated, just like the Mellotron.  A bolt turns as the drum turns, and a sleeve moves along the bolt to note what station is active.  This is similar to the sweeper dial on the Mellotron.  Near the bottom of the picture you can see a tape, but it's not a pulse tape.  Instead there's a slot cut into the tape where electrical contact is made.

Picture 2 + 3:  The center (2) and right hand (3) stations are pictured with their cycling computers.  You can see the chains, too.  In the third picture you can see the tape take-up box at the top of the picture.

Note in picture 3 that one tape is slack.  The chain drive for cycling is unreliable and skips, as the chain is not every robust and doesn't seem to fit on the gears all that well.  The result is slack tape.  The folks at Q Division cycle the machine by hand now to avoid any problems.

What you don't see in the pictures is the mains voltage.  There are NO transformers in the machine; everything runs at 110V.  This voltage is applied liberally all over the metal in the machine.  Yes, you do feel it if you touch anything metal inside the box.

There is absolutely no way this machine would ever get a UL safety listing.  No way.

Chamberlin Music Master 600 at Q Division - station select sweeper Chamberlin Music Master 600 at Q Division - analog computer for station cycling

Chamberlin Music Master 600 at Q Division - cycling motor, chain, relays

Foot pedals.  See the black strips in the picture?  Those are the foot pedals.  Wires go from the foot pedals up to the rhythm keys on the keyboard.  If you press down a foot pedal, the corresponding key is pressed.  You can play the rhythm keys by the keyboard or the foot pedals. Chamberlin Music Master 600 at Q Division - speaker, motor, foot pedals Chamberlin Music Master 600 at Q Division
A phonograph motor.  Harry was a wiz at putting these together with anything off the shelf.  We believe the main drive motor to be a motor from a phonograph.

Chamberlin Music Master 600 at Q Division - mains power distribution (be afraid, be very afraid...)

Mains voltage comes in, gets split, powers everything.  Insulators?  Naaahhh, we don't need no steenkin' insulators!  And, yes, those are wire nuts.

Chamberlin Music Master 600 at Q Division - motor, speaker, mains distribution
A battery-powered transistor-based tape preamp.  No, not kidding.  These were either harvested from something or made very simply.  Basically there are three transistor-based amps in here with a 9V battery.  Remember:  there is no transformer in the machine, and you can't exactly power tiny preamps like this from the mains voltage.  So you supply your little dry cell, and off you go. Tape Head Preamp - Chamberlin Music Master 600 at Q Division
Foot pedal for volume control of the main amp and a reverb.  Harry purchased an off-the-shelf home stereo amplifier, took what he needed, attached a reverb tank, and put it into the bottom of the machine.  He added a foot pedal for a volume control.

Unfortunately the amplifier is not in the machine at this time and may be lost.  No matter, as Q Division normally runs this direct from the tape preamp.

Volume control, reverb tank, and where the amp belongs in the Chamberlin Music Master 600
3-track, 3/8" tape.  Harry's tape path is very similar to the Mellotron's.  Track select, though, is done by a lever, and this is something Harry had in pretty much all of his machines.  You'll note the puck (pinch roller), very similar to what you find in all Mellotrons.  What is missing is the adjustment screws for the pressure pads.  Only the pinch rollers can be adjusted.

And, oh, by the way, the front control panel is bolted into the machine and the keys are a bugger to remove (especially considering a bunch of them are tied to the foot pedals).  Pressure pad adjustment?  You have to be kidding...

Tape Path - Chamberlin Music Master 600 at Q Division

Close up of the keytops - Chamberlin Music Master 600 at Q Division

How do the Mellotron Mark I and Chamberlin Music Master 600 stack up?  Let's find out. -->