Hohner Pianet T 1979
This is easily the heaviest instrument I’ve ever owned, per cubic centimetre. With the lid shut, it’s about the size of a thin electric guitar case and it weighs nearly 50 lbs (23 kg) — or about five Les Pauls.
The Hohner Pianet T was produced between 1977-1982. It comes at the tail end of the production of real electro-acoustic keyboards. FM synthesis, and eventually sampling, would take over from the early 80s onwards.
The T is for Tolex, that wondrous black vinyl which has covered Fender amps, and then guitar cases, since the 1960s. The construction is utterly simple, with one 1/4″ instrument jack at the rear. No sustain, no vibrato or tremolo, and no volume or tone controls.
Several other Pianet models existed prior to this, all hoping to compete with Wurlitzer and Rhodes for the professional electric piano market. It’s a cousin of the Clavinet, heard most distinctively on Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’.
But while all the other models produced their sound by plucking metal reeds with a leather pad, the T (and its wood-grain sister M) were unique in that they ‘sucked’ the tines with silicone squares. It’s hard to describe how this works, sort of like a rubber plunger that attaches to the metal and releases it.
The silicone material has proved remarkably durable, in that it still adheres to and releases the tine every time the key is pressed — even after thirty-something years. The other Pianets haven’t fared so well, their urethane dampers disintegrating rapidly.
You can here the sounds of various Pianet models on ‘She’s Not There’ by The Zombies, ‘Joy to the World’ by Three Dog Night, and more recently, ‘Change’ by Bugge Wesseltoft.