Appraisal Estimate Needed for 1950's M75

Hi -

Brand new to the site, and hopefully a first-time vibe owner soon. I'm considering purchase of a 1954-56 M75 in pretty nice shape. This will be my first vibe (first large keyboard perc. instrument), and the start of my journey to learn jazz improv. I hold a percussion degree, but have had a dream of becoming a jazz vibist for a very long time. My mallet teacher is now retired, has sold her 4 marimbas, and is offering me the vibe. But she didn't set a price, rather asking me to come up with an offer.

So, wondering if anyone would like to help get me in the correct ballpark. I have some general idea of what these are worth in good condition, and I definitely don't want to lowball this seller since they are personal friends of mine.

I have photos and even a couple MP3's at this link:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/1pxyr33kgufe7za/dEfBnJBV4v

As you can see, it's in pretty nice shape overall. There are a few cosmetic things and the refinishing job done on the bars a few years back wasn't stellar. You can see some uneven lacquer and even some pooling in places.

The white keys fan makes a bit of a knocking noise at times, not a huge deal since I will likely not use the vibrato much, but it's still nice to know it's available if needed.

The one issue that I wonder the most about is that the lowest C bar seems just somewhat less resonant than the rest. When I first got the instrument in my possession and was playing around on it I noticed a bit of a deadness to that bar. Not totally dead or anything, but it just seems to have a slightly different timbre, and it definitely fades away more quickly than the other bars. For instance, striking a cord or even just two notes together, the C is gone in 8-12 seconds while the other notes hang on for close to 30 with the damper down.

To my eyes there are no obvious visible signs of damage to the C bar. Could it be a resonator issue? If it is actually a bar issue, can something like that be fixed? I understand an instrument of this vintage used a different alloy than is used now, so I wonder what could be done, if anything.

Would love to hear anyone's insight, advice, and most of all, suggestions on this instrument's value so I can make a wise offer.

Cases are included. Vulcanized fiber, old cases, which I have not seen except for the case for the bars. I have been told one has a tear in it. And the straps are not affixed to the cases anymore, though they are all there.

Thanks in advance.

Just hoping someone might be able to help me as I need to make an offer on this instrument fairly soon. Thanks. :-)

Hi,
I think I may know what is going on with the C that doesn't ring as long as the other bars. That usually means a cracked bar, something you wouldn't see visually, but the result is the bar doesn't ring as much as the others. It's pretty common on older instruments. I've replaced about a half dozen keys on the two 1960-era sets of bars that I own. The replacement will involve buying one from Musser (I don't know the price, but they could tell you), and making sure it is tuned to A=440, the tuning of a 1950's era instrument (today's instruments are default tuned to A=442). It won't be exactly the same color or finish as the old bars, so it will look a bit different. If you could see my keys, you would notice quite a few different colors and shades of gold representing different eras of vibe manufacturing. Overall, I can say that I have a love affair with the M-75s of the 50s and 60s, the instruments I started out on. For some reason, the instruments from that time just seem to have great sounding sets of bars, which is why I have held on to my bars all these years.

If you want to have any work done on the instrument, if you purchase it, Century Mallets in Chicago is definitely the place to go. As for price, based on Randy's posting, I would guess that a fair offer would probably be around $3000; his was re-furbished professionally and came with a set of cases. A set of cases for the Century is a lot, usually 5 or 6 cases. That could cost as much as $1500 if purchased separately. And you will want to replace that C bar, too.

Well, good luck, and consider yourself lucky if you acquire a classic instrument in good shape. It should serve you well for a long time to come.
- Gary B.

I purchased a fully reconditioned 1949 M-75 from Bill Youhass at Fall Creek Marimbas. With cases, he sold it to me for $4,400.

I know that is not exactly what you have, but it is similar.

Although unlikely, a dead sounding bar could also be a maladjusted resonator cap, or it could be crud in the resonator tube. I have seen 4" to 5" of lint in a resonator which cause a dead sounding bar, which is an easy check and resolve. Also it is possible, but less likely that the resonator cap is not in the right place. However, moving a cap is a last resort, it's a pretty crude process of getting them to move inside the tubes on that vibe.

What I would do is check the resonator to see if there is crud in it. If a cleaning doesn't do the trick send the Bar to Century Mallet in Chicago. The early vibes have a lacquer finish, the later bars are anodized, if the bars are ordinal to your vibes, they would be lacquer. Gilberto should be able to get you the bar with the same finish, he can also determine if the bar is bad. Sound-wise to my ears there is a difference between anodized bars and lacquered bars, but slight variations in color do not.

Since you have classical training, you may want to consider having the whole set of bars tuned, because you probably have developed an ear with all that training. Century also can do that, and you can call and get a quote. That way you can get all the bars looked at and get them tuned as a set. There's a bunch of discussion on this site about A=440 vs. A=442, but to me it boils down to a=440 if you are in the US, A=442 if you will be playing mostly in Europe.

Finally, I 'discovered' a cracked bar on a friend's vibe and it was not only dead, it was out of tune. I don't know if it's always true, but it may help in your troubleshooting.

Cases can be repaired, are great to have and new ones are really expensive. However for a gigging vibe, the M-75 is quite a chore to set up, and break down. Cases does make it possible but dang they are big and heavy when full.

I've also noticed my middle 'C' bar doesn't ring as much as other notes in its range. Inspecting the bar, I found a very small chip on the lower part of the bar, near the bar post. Is that enough to make a difference in the sustain? I can't recall when it first appeared. I had the bars retuned to A=440 last year by Fall Creek Marimbas. For all I know, the chip was already there before it was retuned. But it could have happened after too, as I transport the instrument fairly often. I don't know if it's worth replacing--it's only a slight difference in sustain and visually it's barely noticeable.

The only cracked bar I played on was out of tune and way dead. i.e. VERY noticeable. My experience is limited, however her's my take: 1) if it's a slight difference, i'd leave it alone, especially if nobody in the audience can tell, and if you don't notice it under normal playing conditions. 2)if it's just a little dead, it could be a resonator plug, but refer back to my previous comment. 3) My guess is that a chip would more likely cause a problem with tuning than it would sustain, please refer back to my comment #1 :)

--IG

Thanks, yeah that makes sense to me. It is pretty minor, so maybe I should just leave it. I don't feel competent enough to be fiddling with the resonator caps. I tend to obsess over these things. I'll have to check the tuning. If it's out, then I guess the little chip happened sometime after I got them tuned last year. How often do you all get your bars tuned? As needed, I'm sure, but I wonder if vibe bars have a kind of lifespan of staying in tune, given normal conditions.

Sorry for the delay, but I just wanted to offer a hearty "thank you" to all who took time to post their thoughts and expertise about the instrument. I'm still in consideration mode and haven't yet purchased, but all the information offered here gives me a better chance at making a wise offer.