Zoë Blade's notebook


Orchestron tech specs

  • Released: 1970s
  • Company: Vako
  • Type: Recording playback keyboard
  • Pitch range: 3 octaves, F — F

The Orchestron was a recording playback keyboard made by Vako in the 1970s. Each of its keys plays back a recording, from an analogue optical disc, of another instrument playing that particular pitch. The end result is an ethereal, ghostly sound, similar to the Mellotron.

On the one hand, the recordings on these optical discs tend to sound even lower fidelity than the Mellotron's magnetic tapes, picking up audible scratches and fluff, which may or may not be a bad thing depending on your aesthetic. On the other hand, they're also conveniently looped, albeit with a slight thud, allowing notes to be sustained indefinitely.

These recordings are also short enough — in the region of two seconds each — for samples of all 37 notes to snugly fit within 8 MB of RAM. Indeed, the sample CD Optigan/Orchestron/Talentmaker is one of the few whose volumes actually fit in an S1000. This is surely good news for (slightly) more practical musicians confining themselves to late 1980s rather than 1970s technology.

The Orchestron was perhaps most prominently used by Kraftwerk, providing the choir on "Radioactivity"[1] and "Uranium"[2] (later sampled by New Order in "Blue Monday"), and the violins on "Trans-Europe Express"[3] (as sampled by Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force in "Planet Rock").

Notable users


  1. "Radioactivity" Kraftwerk, Radio‐Activity, 1975
  2. "Uranium" Kraftwerk, Radio‐Activity, 1975
  3. "Trans-Europe Express" Kraftwerk, Trans-Europe Express, 1977

Recording playback keyboards: Orchestron