Mellotron M400

SPECIFICATIONS

Years of Production1970 – 1977 – Novatron: 1978 – 1986
Number of Unitsabout 2 000
Original Price£795 – Novatron: £1,374
Dimensions W x H x D86 x 82 x 57 cm
Weight55 kg

The M400 is the first Mellotron whose size and weight are suitable for relatively easy transport.
It is the most famous and widespread model, its angular shape and white color made it recognizable on the stages of the 70s.

The M400 uses 3/8″ tapes and has one single 35-note keyboard (G to F).

There is no internal amplification, only a solid-state preamp.
The first M400s were fitted with the CMC-10 motor control board.
This unreliable card poses many problems including an audible high frequency in the audio output and a slowing down of the motor from 6 or 7 notes played together.
From 1974, when the Mark V was designed, a Mellotron with two keyboards and two capstans, the CMC-10 board was replaced by a new much more reliable board, the SMS-2, which would then equip all M400s.

The M400s manufactured in the United States from 1977 by Sound Sales Inc. are named M400SM and are equipped with new preamps as well as an SMS-3 motor servo board.

The control panel exists in three versions:

  • the most widespread has an aluminium sheet;
  • a rarer version has a black sheet on the M400s commercialized by Mellotronics in London;
  • a version with a black sheet and black and yellow knobs, on the M400s commercialized by Sound Sales Inc. in USA (from 1977).

The controls are: Volume, Tone, Pitch Control and a track selector.
An input for a volume pedal is available in the front of the instrument.
At the rear, it has a unbalanced 1/4 inch audio output, and on the most recent models (from 1973 / 1974), an balanced XLR output.

The Mellotron M400 and the Novatron 400 are the same machine; only the name is different [See History].

The Mellotron M400s have a cabinet in white lacquered wood. The Novatron 400s were available in white or black.

The operation of the M400 has been simplified: the multiple soundbank system present on the Mark II and the M300 has been replaced by an interchangeable 35-tape frame.
A frame is equivalent to a bank of 3 sounds.
Each additional tape frame is delivered in a suitcase.

New sounds have been recorded for the M400 including the famous choirs (8 Voices).
The iconic sound of the Mellotron, the 3 violins in unison (3 Violins), was taken from the Mark II sound bank but equalized differently.
The distinction of this same sound played on a Mark II and an M400 can be heard on albums by Genesis (Mark II from 1970 to 1972, M400 from 1973) or King Crimson (Mark II from 1969 to 1971, M400 from from 1973).

It was also possible to provide your own sounds to Mellotronics in order to convert them to 3/8″ format and thus have a custom sound frame. Steve Hackett has recorded his own voice, Paul McCartney has recorded Isle of Mull bagpipes and various sound effects, Black Sabbath has recorded backing vocals, strings and sound effects.

A conversion kit including standard 1/4″ tape guides has been released. With this kit it was possible to record your own tapes with a standard 2-track tape recorder and use them with the M400.

Each M400 was supplied with a volume pedal and a transport cover: The Protecta Muff (Protectomuffs)

After obtaining a license from Streetly Electronics, EMI released one hundred M400s.
Streetly supplied the Mellotrons as a kit, EMI assembled them.
The cabinet is made of varnished wood and the serial number begins with E4.
The vast majority of these poorly assembled models were returned to Streetly for proper reassembly.

In line with the FX Console, a version of the M400 intended for sound effects and delivered with 12 tape frames, each comprising 105 sound effects, was marketed under the name 400FX.

An M400 with a Plexiglass cabinet was manufactured in 1972 at the initiative of Mellotronics for the London Music Expo. This see-through Mellotron allowed to see the internal mechanism and its functioning.
A second model was manufactured by Sound Sales in 1977.

A left-handed model was specially made for Paul McCartney. The settings are located to the right of the keyboard.

A double Mellotron was designed from two M400s for Rick Wakeman in 1973. It will be used on albums and concerts until 1977. [See Photos tab for more details]

PHOTOS

M400 #256 & #1671

Photos: David Cilia – 2000
My two M400 – #256 has been sold.


M400

Photos: Klaus Hoffmann-Hoock


Novatron 400 #B1753


EMI 400 #E4-126S

Photos: Klaus Hoffmann-Hoock


EMI 400 E4-140S

Photos: Andy Kinch
Andy Kinch’s EMI 400

Before restoration

After restoration by Streetly Electronics
This EMI 400 looks like an M400 now. Some elements still allow you to recognize an EMI: brass capstan, the hinge of the cover and the serial number label.


M400S Acrylic #1

Photos: Don Kennedy for Studio Bell – National Music Center


M400S Acrylic #2


Rick Wakeman’s Double Mellotron (Yes)

This Mellotron belongs to Chris Dale. Many thanks to him for the information and photos

Text by Chris Dale
The Yes / Rick Wakeman Double Mellotron was a one-off machine that was put together in 1973 from two previously separate M400 Mellotrons. 
This Double Mellotron was designed to be more reliable on tour and in the studio. 
It was built from a collaboration between Michael Tait (of Tait Towers fame) and Mellotronics / Streetly Electronics and effectually served as an early prototype design and marketing for the later MKV model.  

The Double Mellotron has sturdier construction, different electronics, and tapes from alternate Mellotron master tapes, so it sounds different than other Mellotrons.
You can hear the effect of this collective work on the Revealing Science of God from Tales From Topographic Oceans album by Yes:  e.g. the lush violins and flutes in the second half of the song. It also appears throughout the rest of the album as well.

The Double Mellotron was used on Tales From Topographic Oceans, Going For The One, (and as separate M400’s on Close To The Edge and Yessongs) by Yes.
It was also used on Rick Wakeman’s Journey To the Center of The Earth, Myths and Legends of King Arthur, No Earthly Connection, and White Rock.
It was used on tours and recordings from 1972 to 1977 and was the most photographed / videographed Mellotron at the time appearing in TV specials, books, tour programs, and film footage throughout the mid 1970’s.  
It became Rick Wakeman’s main Mellotron for recording and performances.

It fell into a state of disrepair, theft, abandonment, and re-sale as a wreck throughout the following decades, and was eventually rescued from being sent to the scrapheap by Canadian musician Chris Dale.
He restored the instrument over an 8 year period with help and consultation from Rick Wakeman, Yessongs tech Frank Levi, and service or parts from John Bradley (Streetly Electronics), Markus Resch, and especially Mellotron Professor Jerry Korb who helped restore the original unique electronics in the machine to working order.

Before and under restoration

Photos: Chris Dale
These photos cannot be used without prior written consent.

After restoration

Photos: Chris Dale
These photos cannot be used without prior written consent.

Rick Wakeman and Yes concerts

Photos: internet

VIDEOS

DOCUMENTATION

M400 Owner's Manual
M400 Owner’s Manual
Novatron M400 Brochure
Novatron M400 Brochure
Mellotron USA Catalog 1976
USA Catalog 1976
Sound Sales Inc.
Mellotron Maintenance Procedures - Sound Sales Inc.
Maintenance Procedures
Sound Sales Inc.
Sound List
Mellotronics Limited
French Ad
French Ad

SOUND LIST

Available sounds at Streetly Electronics

For more information and listen to audio excerpts: Streetly Electronics Mellotron Tape Library

STRINGSBRASSWOODWINDS
Mk II ViolinsMk II BrassOboe
M400 Violins (eq’d MKII)Muted BrassCor Anglais/Oboe Split
M300ATrumpetBassoon
M300BTromboneMkII Flute
Three More ViolinsMixed Brass BVicki Blechta C Flute
String SectionGC3 BrassMkI Clarinet
String Section (No Cello)Two Trombones/Two TrumpetsClarinet-B
Electric String SectionMoog BrassBass Clarinet
New String SectionSoprano SaxPiccolo
Classic StringsTenor SaxRecorder
ViolinAlto SaxOctave Recorders
16 ViolinsTwo Tenor/Two AltoIan McDonald’s Classical Flute
ViolaFrench HornBass Flute
DickstringsGlenn MillerChamber Woodwinds
CelloBaritone SaxWoodwind 2
Paravicini Two CellosChamberlin MutedChamberlin Bass Clarinet
Louise Davis Cello (Vibrato)Trombone
Louise Davis Cello (Plain)Chamberlin Trombone
Louise Davis Cello (Pizzicato)Chamberlin Saxophone
Sad StringsChamberlin Octave
Angry StringsSaxophones
Tony Levin’s NS Electric Cello
Ric Sander’s Electric Violin
Cyndee Lee Rule’s Viola
Chamberlin Violins
Chamberlin Harp
VOICESKEYBOARDSGUITARS
8 Voice ChoirSt John’s Wood ChurchElectric Guitar
Male ChoirOrganSpanish Guitar
Female ChoirPianoSteve Hackett’s Sustained Guitar
Boy’s ChoirM300 PianoAdrian Belew’s Sustained Guitar
Combined ChoirMk I Piano Upper OctavesGordon Giltrap’s Guitar
St Peter’s ChoirsItalian AccordianHarmonics
Russian ChoirRhodesRay Jung’s Fretless Bass
Birotron ChoirMoog Taurus Bass PedalsTwelve String Guitar
Chamberlin Solo FemaleMoog WhooshEbow Guitar
Chamberlin Solo MaleFairlight Arr1Chamberlin Hawaiian Guitar
Fairlight SaxyChamberlin Electric Guitar
Fairlight SwanneeChamberlin Mandolin
Plucked Piano
Hammond C3 Clean
Hammond C3 Dirty
American Pump Organ
Wilden Church Organ
Chamberlin Accordion
Chamberlin Piano
PERCUSSIONLES BRADLEY MIXESCHAMBERLIN
VibesGothicViolins
MarimbaOrchestraAccordion
Glocks/Tubular Bells SplitMedieval WoodwindBass Clarinet
CatElectric Guitar
Chamberlin VibesHarp
Hawaiian Guitar
Mandolin
Muted Trombone
Octave Saxophones
Piano
Saxophone
Solo Female
Solo Male
Trombone
Vibes