Sampleson Releases Klavee — a Virtual Klaviphon

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The Klaviphon is a small, budget electric piano. It was manufactured in Czechoslovakia between 1958 and 1966 by the state run National Company Harmonika Hořovice and by the Rieger Kloss company in Krnov. 

The NCHH Klaviphon with the output jacks to right of the keyboard

This five-octave (A1 to A6) instrument was originally designed for the home. It can be played using headphones so as not to annoy the neighbours. But when amplified, became a popular keyboard with jazz and rock bands.

A major proponent of the instrument was the legendary underground Czech band Plastic People of the Universe. 

The Klaviphon (sometimes referred to as a Klaviphone, Claviphon or Claviphone) weighs around 15kg. It measures just 950 x 400 x 130mm and is built into a leatherette covered case. It is therefore extremely portable. 

The instrument is essentially a stripped-back version of the Wurlitzer electric piano. Both instruments use vibrating metal reeds amplified by electrostatic pick-ups as the sound source. However, the action of the Klaviphon, and its electrical configuration are both far simpler. The piano also has a very limited dynamic range.


How it Works

The Klaviphon’s action is remarkably simple, almost rustic if compared to that of an acoustic piano. But it works.

When played, the end of the key (1) pushes the jack (2) upwards towards the reed (3)(9). The tip of the jack (4) engages with the front of the reed (9), and pushes this upwards, and at the same time lifts the damper rod (5). The toe of the jack (6) engages with the set-off button (7) and this causes the jack’s tip (4) to flick away from the reed leaving it free to vibrate.

close-up of the Klaviphon action with annotations
The Klaviphon’s keyboard action mechanism

The vibrations are transformed into an electrical signal by the pickup (8).

When the key is released the jack and the damper rod lowers and the reeds vibrations are muted.

The reeds are of different lengths across the keyboard, the longer the reed the lower the pitch of the note. And each note is fine tuned by adding or removing solder to the end of the reed (9). 

Some versions of the Klaviphon are fitted with a knee lever to control the overall volume.

The Klaviphon sounds rather like a cross between a Hohner Pianet and a Wurlitzer electric piano, but does have a warm timbre of its own.


Sampleson Klavee Virtual Piano

Now software house Sampleson has just released Klavee, a spectrally modelled version of the Klaviphon.

A Klaviphon with screenshot of the Klavee control panel
Klaviphon with screenshot of the virtual Sampleson Klavee main “control panel”

Sampleson is renown for its excellent, albeit somewhat esoteric, collection of virtual instruments – especially its electric pianos. Klavee is available from their website at an introductory price of just $29. This will rise in due course to $49. You can hear how it sounds on Soundcloud.

Klaviphons are now extremely rare, so Sampleson’s virtual version is to be welcomed. It will help prevent this important Eastern-European instrument from becoming just a memory.

Sampleson Klavee Specifications
– Spectral Modelled Klaviphon Electric Piano
– Real-time Spectral transformations
– Based on real samples
– Delivered in just 35MB of memory
– No velocity-switching
– Ambient FX
– Drive FX
– Stereo Delay FX
– Scalable HD interface
– MacOS Catalina Ready
– No extra purchases are needed (like Kontakt, UVI, etc) or any other 3rd. party player
– Compatible with all major DAWs (Cubase, Logic Pro, GarageBand, Cakewalk, Reaper, BitWig, Nuendo, FL – Studio, etc)
– Win 32/64 bits and Mac VST/AU/Standalone versions included (No AAX version)
– No online activation is required

More Information.


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