Premier 751 Buying Guide

Premier Percussion’s 751 or 701 vibraphones are great instruments despite being often disparaged. It is true that I think there are some elements of the design that are flawed, but I am an instrument maker and I always strive for perfection – believe me that can be a curse (ask my future wife about it if you ever meet her!) However on the whole, as I have already stated, I think they are great and have a lot of positives.

First and foremost, the note bars sound good. Yes the tuning could be better, but you show me a vibe that is tuned properly off the shelf. Tuning can be improved whereas tonality and sustain cannot, and the 751 has both aspects in abundance. This is unsurprising to me since the note bars are more similar to the Deagan’s vibraphones than the Musser’s which are the vibes in vogue today.

To this day they are probably one of the most portable set of vibes, although they are made to be carried not wheeled about, and it is the wheeling around that I think causes a lot of the problems that I have to fix.

Considering the lightweight and portable design of the frame, they last well. I am frequently seeing instruments that are over 50 years old and still working! I would probably die of shock if any of the shite made today by other manufacturers comes in to be serviced when I am in my nineties. That would be Karma I suppose.

The 751 vibraphone has not been made now for a good number of years which means that the only way of acquiring one is to buy it second-hand. I often receive emails asking for advice on what problems to look out for when buying , so I have made this buying guide to give some pointers.

If you are looking at buying a 751 or 701 vibraphone, take a pad and make some notes, count up the missing parts and take some photographs. Then when you want to know roughly how much the repair bill will be, you will have the correct information. All of the parts are obsolete; some I have made direct replacements and some I have re-designed, but all take time to make and fit, and it is the time that ultimately costs you the money. When I compare the average repair bill against other instruments, it is the 751/701 vibe that has the widest range in value, and this is a direct consequence of obsolete parts.

5 comments on “Premier 751 Buying Guide

  1. Adrian warland

    Hi. I’m looking at a 751 vibe , that reportedly needs nothing repairing except the motor. Could you give an estimate for supply of a new motor and belts or refurb(which is presumably more expensive)

    • pauljefferies

      Hi Adrian

      I have yet to see a Premier 751 that, “reportedly needs nothing repairing,” live up to that claim. Unless the instrument is stripped down to its sub components, a time consuming process in itself, then the bigger potential problems are not even apparent. Frankly, there are very few people in the world who have the technical knowledge and equipment necessary (and integrity) to be able make such a claim. Therefore the best advice I would give is to dismiss any such claims made by unqualified and inexperienced people, (and even some “professionals”!) proceeding on the assumption that if you are buying a 751 or 701 then it probably will require repair work.

      Whilst on the subject of repair work it is worth pointing out that these instruments have been obsolete now for a lot of years. After Premier stopped making them I was invited there to buy all the remaining stock of spares; this was at least 10 years ago and all of the common parts have long since been used up! Subsequently to restore these instruments properly I have had to invest a lot of time and effort (and money) into developing substitute parts or alternative improved designs. Consequently these parts are more expensive, and certainly more expensive than the last spare part price list containing 751 components which was published in 1997!

      Alongside the parts needed to restore a 751 is the time taken to do it. From memory, my last count of components making up these vibe was over 1200, which is a lot of cleaning and inspection time and requires patience, diligence and attention to detail. It is no wonder that corners are cut and the instruments eventually come into my workshop to be restored properly. It takes me 2-3 days to strip and rebuild these vibes using a lot of time saving specialist equipment, therefore it is simply not possible to restore a vibe for £500 and keep a roof over my head and food on the family table.

      Moving onto to the motor. There are a lot of self proclaimed experts on the internet, some of them are even for real, but, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” could be applied to most. Vibraphone motors are expensive, end of story.
      The fundamental problem with vibraphone motors is that musically we want them to operate very slowly and silently. This is the opposite of how motors are designed to work, consequently there are all sorts of problems that arise the most obvious being lack of torque. I am a musical instrument maker, not an electrical engineer, so I have a choice between spending hours researching and learning about electric motors, or phone an expert and pay a little bit more for a better quality motor. In reality, I also have a past life repairing all sorts of machinery and appliances, so I do actually know a little bit about motors, but nothing compared to knowledge of my supplier. It is who you know, not what you know.
      However, what all these so called “experts” don’t tell you, is that the motor is the simplest part of the process to solve. Putting the whole lot in an enclosure and fixing it to the instrument in a way that is convenient, silent, reliable and above all else safe, takes much more time, effort and skill than buying a shit imitation motor from Taiwan on ebay. It is this aspect of the job that costs the money because my time does not come for free and constitutes 50% of the price of a standard kit I have developed.

      Paul Jefferies

      • Adrian warland

        Thank you for your comprehensive reply. I understand the disadvantages of these aged instruments but the price of new instruments are generally prohibitive.

        If you could give a quote for supply and fit of you standard motor kit it would be appreciated.


  2. Hugh Coombs

    Good morning. As a band we bought a 751 (wide bars at lower range narrower as you come up) in 1977 for a competition and some 45 years later the motor has failed. Some person (being kind) has partially removed the motor but it will need replacement. The rotating mechanism is basically fine. The only other issue is a limited number of the ‘rubber’ supports to the strings (can you supply) for both keyboards are missing. As you will know there is a small switch box below the key board connected to the motor which is suspended from the frame. The red light on the switch box no longer comes on. Anyway what we were wondering is how much it would cost to replace the motor mechanism from plug to the rotating wheel and if it is possible to do so given the age of the equipment as to buy a new one is beyond our funds. Trust you can advise as there is also some sentimental value to the instrument as it has been through a lot over the years which could give a very very long story. Anyway trust you can help and any such help appreciated.

    • pauljefferies

      Thank you for this comment. I do sell a replacement motor kit but this will require the existing control system to be replaced. If I ever get the time to develop it further I also have another vibraphone motor system in the pipeline in an attempt to bring down costs, but vibraphone motors have very particular running requirements which off the shelf motors do not meet without modifications.

      I have emailed you the details privately


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