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Preference -- low-end digital or big old analog?

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  • Preference -- low-end digital or big old analog?

    The question: which is better -- low-end digital or high-end analog, to wit:

    Given the choice, and with all other factors being equal, both organs properly installed and nicely voiced, acoustical settings live, both organs in good working order and well maintained, both sounding very impressive at the hands of a skilled performer . . .

    Would you rather play at a church with a bargain-brand 22-year-old 2M digital (Galanti Praeludium II), with lighted tabs, 5 settable general pistons with dual memories, adequate but not terribly generous stoplist, non-descript plastic keyboards and an OK but slightly wobbly pedalboard, early but rather good digital sampled sounds without any unification or borrowing, but with only two audio channels, rudimentary MIDI Out (keying data only, no expression or stop data) . . . OR

    . . . at a church with a big old 3M analog (Rodgers 890), one of the flagship lighted-drawknob models of the 1980's with six or seven audio channels, every imaginable convenience feature including 10 generals and 5 divisionals per division with dual memories; a rich palette of American eclectic stops including numerous chorus and solo reeds, abundant mixtures, three or four different celestes, sub and super couplers; crisp wooden-core keyboards and a solid Rodgers pedalboard; but obviously analog sound with extensive unification, "fake" chiff and air sounds typical of the era, and all the other known limitations of analog, (and no MIDI so little chance of ever adding a digital expander).

    Just wondering what say ye great minds of the organ world? Have an opinion or some experience to share?
    25
    the low end digital
    20.00%
    5
    the big old analog
    80.00%
    20
    John
    ----------
    *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

  • #2
    Hi John,

    Since you and I work on organs of various eras, by different manufacturers, we get to sample what is out there, the well built stuff, the musical abilities of the instruments etc.

    I would say part of the answer lies in the size of the room you are talking about. I always found that the Galanti P II, sounded pretty good in small to small-meduim sized rooms (seating capacity 150). Beyond that it started sounding like a small organ on steroids. The Galanti had some strikingly good Flue tones (8',4' and 2') but the reeds and celeste were not great. The ensemble suffered from the fact that the DSP music ICs were all on the same pitch reference. So the more stops one piled on the more lock-in the ensemble got. It should also be mentioned that the Galanti had a very European flavor to the tone. Another shortcoming, was the limited audio - everything was shoved out 2 audio channels, definitely not enough to get a decent uncompressed type ensemble sound. The build-quality in many ways was mediocre.

    When the Galanti P II came out in fall of 1986, it was a revelation to many organist's ears that heard it. The Principals and Flutes were very real sounding for the time. They had never heard full wave sampling before. So, it can be considered a game changer model. Many were sold to small churches, homes, etc.

    I still have respect for the better analogs produced in the 80s. I recently came across a 1980 Classic custom organ on an extended service loop. It still sounded mighty good to me, and also to the local tech who showed up while I was working on it. On the same trip I worked on 2 pipe organs, including a Casavant tracker, and would take this old analog over these pipe organs if I had to play it regularly.

    As for Rodgers, I always thought that their larger analogs at least from the 80s had decent musical ability. Never cared for the little models such as the Columbian 75, Jamestown 100, 605, 640, 645 etc. The Rodgers needed care to sound good, but I found that it could be done, with carefull tuning, and balancing of the ranks, and utilizing all the audio channels. Certainly the build quality would have been good, better than the Galanti.

    If I was to vote, depending on the size of the room, if it was in the room that seated more than say 150, I would take the Rodgers.

    Just my thoughts...........

    AV

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    • #3
      Hi John,

      One other thing, in your note you mention the Galanti P II, which is now an old instrument, probably last built around 20 years ago.

      If I had to compare low end from the Galanti P II era, to the new low end, then the newer instruments would definitely show signs of improvement, both in terms of musical ability and build quality. And that goes for most manufacturers offerings. Whether the newer instruments will last as long is another question, especially considering RoHS edict, which bans lead in solder, no cadmium and other hazardous substances - which basically means lower lifespan for electronics.

      I would vote for a new low end organ over analog - simply because of the musical potential they have.

      AV
      Last edited by arie v; 11-27-2012, 03:10 PM. Reason: correction

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      • #4
        I love big analog organs, and I'd love to play to a packed house in church on the Rodgers you described, if I knew what I was doing!!
        Organs: Yamaha D-85, Technics U90 Pro, Wersi Helios W2S, 2x Yamaha HS8's.
        Keyboards: Roland E-70, Yamaha Tyros 3.
        Retired: Technics K700.

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        • #5
          I'd rather have the analog.

          Comment


          • #6
            Probably depends on the registrations and musical style that matter the most to you. I played a lot of Praeludium II's, and I also played a slightly larger version of the Rodgers you describe for a couple years. For realism of individual sounds and light combinations and baroque music, the Galanti was always great and very satisfying and colorful. If you want to pull out all the stops and play French Romantic music and rattle the windows, it'd be hard for the Galanti to hold a candle to the Rodgers.

            I think it also depends on the acoustics of the room. The Galantis always seemed to do okay in a smaller, deader room. The Rodgers would be obnoxious and grating in a smaller room, really needing acoustics and space to develop the sound. The PII's always got overwhelmed in larger rooms when we sold them due to the limited channeling and polite stop list, while the Rodgers would at that point come more into its own.

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            • #7
              My budget has allowed for only 2 digitals out of the 30 or so organs I've purchased since I became interested in collecting in the mid 90's. I've loved every one of the analog organs, even a few small ones, and as I mentioned to someone just this week they all had an individual character. Probably the closest thing to replicating organs has been the many Conn theater organs I've had and there were differences in voices available on the various models except that I had 2 model 552 organs and parted them both for technical failures. Still have Trinidad, 580, and 650 waiting for service. My favorite "big sound" analog was a tube model S15 and it had a rich Theater sound and I had one left hand solo for Gamba that I've never been able to duplicate. Makes me think of "The Lost Chord". Maybe in heaven I'll hear that sound again?

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              • #8
                The night is young, but the analog is winning by a landslide. I appreciate the recognition that the little Galanti might actually be good in a small room and/or for lighter organ music. Surely the builders meant well and believed it was suitable for a certain setting and particular musical styles.

                I used to say that any digital would beat any analog, period. But that was when I was selling digital organs. From my present perspective, servicing and refurbishing all kinds of new and old organs, endless variations on the digital and analog schemes, it's not that cut and dried. I hear amazingly good old analogs, and I hear amazingly good digitals dating from MOS to the present. I also hear very bad examples of all.

                As I've often said, the keys to good organ sound are good acoustics (live), plentiful audio power, thoughtful installation, and artistic voicing. A great many models from numerous builders have the tonal resources to sound good if these key elements are done right.

                So it's often other factors that make one organ "better" than another -- build quality and reliability, feel of the keys, pedals, and stops, comfort and convenience for the player, accessories and controls.

                This old Rodgers analog that I'm looking at obviously beats the Galanti on most of these counts, except for MIDI. But the Galanti is not all that shabby either. It has served the church for over 20 years with very little maintenance or service, and is in near-perfect working order. As Arie notes, the genuine sampled sounds were remarkable in its day and individual stops still sound amazingly real and sweet, though the tone grows a little thick and muddy when several stops are drawn together.

                Just the other day, my associate and I did a repair job on a small Rodgers analog (645 -- a very basic 2M, highly unified, only three channels) and when we finished we played through some hymns piano/organ duet style. I was amazed at how the little Rodgers sang above and through and along with the piano so effectively. The mixtures were not shrill but were just right to be heard clearly. Got me to thinking that maybe a big Rodgers analog would be a viable alternative to the little Galanti, and I may just be willing to give it a try.

                Our church is not large, maybe seats 200 or so, but it is very live with a high wooden ceiling and lots of hard smooth surfaces. I believe there is enough space for the Rodgers analog sound to develop and not sound harsh. Of course, this is all speculation on my part because the idea of swapping out the organ has not even been broached with the church.

                Thanks for the continued insights.
                John
                ----------
                *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

                https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
                  The question: which is better -- low-end digital or high-end analog, to wit:
                  Either option would impel me seek relief by calling the local Junk-to-Go dealer.

                  Tommorrow, I am going into town shopping. And a totally dumb question would be: Would I prefer to go into town on a mule or a donkey?

                  Answer: NOPE!

                  The same goes for: Would I prefer an aged analogue relic or a cheap digital?

                  Answer: NOPE!
                  Last edited by Clarion; 11-27-2012, 09:44 PM.
                  2008: Phoenix III/44

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                  • #10
                    Clarion, that's funny, and I get your meaning. Obviously we'd all love to play on the latest digital or a fine set of pipes! There are a great many of us who will continue to play on vintage instruments, though, especially considering the reality of the financial situations in many churches. After all, when these older instruments were sold, the builders often told churches they were buying an organ to last for "generations." (It says it right on the original Rodgers brochure for the 890.) These instruments were greatly loved and considered fine musical instruments in their day, and I think they are still worthy of our respect even if the latest whiz-bang gadget can outdo them in some ways.

                    When I was selling Allen in the 80's, I really believed that I could hear such an astounding difference between the product I was selling and everything else that I couldn't understand why anyone would buy a competing product! Now, when I go back to hear the organs I sold at that time, and then go next door to a church that bought from the other guys, I don't hear much difference. I don't think the organs have changed that much, but my perspective has!

                    Sometimes I go out to service a really old analog (or even a Hammond) that happens to have been installed well in an excellent acoustic setting, and I may think it sounds as much like pipes as anything I ever hear! Just tells me that it's not the technology that makes the biggest difference. It's still the basics -- acoustics, audio equipment, proper installation, and good voicing.
                    John
                    ----------
                    *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

                    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

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                    • #11
                      John,

                      You are so right about churches not being able to do much about their present instruments. Most churches, at least where I am are on life support, no financial resources are left. So they keep getting their instruments fixed up.

                      It is too bad that there are no philanthropists like Andrew Carnegie, who endowed 7,689 pipe organs for churches through matching-grant programs. Carnegie felt that organs were important for churches are they "lessened the pain of the sermons". But the way things are now, I'm not sure that his benevolence would be taken up by many churches today. Many just don't want an organ in their sanctuary anymore.

                      Getting back to older organs, sometimes I get calls, where the person says, O our church organ is such and such, and it sounds so good, better than the one across the street, better than the main downtown church with a pipe organ, etc. I have a hard time getting excited about these calls, but when I go there and service the organ I am surprised at how good it really is. I remember doing a repair on a Rodgers 725 - a small analog. Normally I just don't get excited about such an instrument, but the fellow told me he really thought it a good organ. It was put in by my former boss in the early 80s. Well what ever was done, everything conspired to make it a very decent install.

                      Relating to Allen vs Rodgers (and everybody else), I do think Allen had a very unique tone. The computer generation produced a static harmonically correct tone that was considered perfect. That made it sound soul-less and machine like, that many just didn't like. It was a very easy thing to market the digital stuff for Allen, and difficult to market and sell against. And as time went on, Allen improved, and their instruments began sounding more "organic" . Looking back on it today, one can see that mature analog tone was not bad, and digital tone from the 70s and early 80s just was not that great.

                      I have a big fat binder of sales and marketing banter between Allen and Rodgers. Reading it today, makes for a lot of laughs. Those two companies must have spent many sleepless nights trying to figure out how to one-up the other side.

                      We all know the rest of the story, don't we...........digital won the day.........analog is history.

                      AV
                      Last edited by arie v; 11-28-2012, 09:46 AM.

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                      • #12
                        John, agree with you, but--- "good voicing" rules out the Galanti you mentioned, and the MOS-1's and MOS-2. (I own a Praeludium 1 and a System 100 Allen). Both cannot be voiced, simple as that.
                        You mentioned, or hinted at, the European sound of the Praeludium, but I'm more concerned about the lo-fi 8-bit samples, and how few there are and how short they are. I sub on a Praeludium III with full-out 16 channel audio in a church with decent acoustics, but thanks to those lo-fi samples, there's not a single sound in it that realistically duplicates pipes.
                        So I vote for analog. The bigger Allens, Rodgers and especially Saville and AOB. If one "registered around" the unification, they had a thrilling organ sound, I think.

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                        • #13
                          Beel,

                          Interesting note about the lo-fi sound of some early digital samples. I noticed when I first played the Galanti that there didn't seem to be a lot of "air" or openness to the sound and I blame that on the lack of high-frequency content in the samples. The mixtures seem to be "loud" enough, but there just isn't much bite to them. By contrast, the mixtures of an analog Rodgers seem to be almost unlimited in brilliance and will cut through the rest of the organ with ease. There are bound to be upper harmonics in those mixtures that are missing from the Galanti samples, and I think that is an important consideration.

                          So true about "voicing" MOS and the Praeludium, though later MOS and MOS-2 have the DAC3 and DAC4 boards that allow bass and treble contouring for each channel. We are spoiled nowadays in having note by note and stop by stop leveling and other adjustments on modern digitals, but bass and treble contouring are usually sufficient to make an organ fit its environment.

                          The beauty of a large MOS or MOS-2 (to me) is in the perfect balance of all the voices and in the interesting ensemble effect that comes from all the frequency separation. A large MOS-2 (like the model 1105) is a good example. Each of its four MOS systems has frequency separation so the Flute and Main channels are slightly offset in tuning, and the four systems are also slightly offset in tuning from each other. So there can be a total of 8 separate frequency references in play for an astoundingly rich ensemble.

                          This little Praeludium has, to its credit, quite a bit of pitch variation among its stops. I've checked octave by octave with a meter and discovered that tuning varies by several cents from stop to stop and between divisions, which should produce a fairly active ensemble. I think the mixing of the voices into only two outputs masks a lot of the ensemble.

                          I appreciate you input. Just beginning to wonder if anybody will ever vote for the Galanti!
                          John
                          ----------
                          *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

                          https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

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                          • #14
                            Hi,

                            Just to fill in some blanks here.

                            For reasons I won't go into here, analog organs produced very little high frequency tone - but people didn't complain. Analog tone generally had limited overtones due to the fact that tone was produced through sub-tractive filtering. Not always, but generally so. Also, organs audio systems had very limited bandwidth, the speakers usually being the big limiter.

                            Going into digital, and especially the first generation Galanti organs, because the resolution of the tone was different, all of a sudden people started noticing deficiencies in the tone, especially the high frequency tone. There are a number of issues at play here, and i will go into them briefly. The Galanti and subsequently a whole host of organ companies, including Viscount, Johannus, Content used a chip called the M-114. It was a 16 note synthesizer chip capable of playing back samples with 8 bit delta resolution. Eight-bit delta translates to approx. 12 to 14 bit linear. Each chip could access 16K bytes of data. So you can see that samples would have been few and short. As variable sample rate was used, high pitched stuff had very little resolution. In fact the top of the 2' stops it was hard to tell what the tone was. Mixtures were done in composite form - sounding more like harmonic buzz than a real mixture. This caused them to sound dry and uninteresting. Also, in these organs got shoved into 2 audio channels, meaning a lot of the ensemble gets lost in mix down - phase sums and cancellations produce a distinctly electronic sound. To relieve the ear of these deficiencies most organs of that era had reverb added to sparkle up the tone.

                            The P I was not a great organ. Voiced for the internal 12" full range driver. The organ had little resolution in it's tone. Adding external speakers generally made things worse, as then the organ sounded bright with a lot of tonal glare. To get around this problem I have swapped components on the tone cards, and then got it sounding respectable.

                            The P II was a much better instrument, being voiced better with better internal speakers. External speakers enhanced the organ. The pedal section on these organs, really very good.

                            The P III had no internal speakers, but did have 16 outputs, basically configured as 8 left/right pairs. The ones I have seen, generally had anywhere from 2 to 4 and sometimes 8 channels on them. To me the organ always sounded less good than I thought it should have. I think with all these outputs, the C-C# configuration, and the whole complexity was beyond what a lot of Galanti dealers were capable of. So very few of them really were good installs. Also, it is likely that poor choice of audio, and especially speakers was part of the blame for the poor sound.

                            Regarding the Rodgers, yes it would have had better mixtures - would have keyed 3 separate notes on the 3 rank mixture. Galantis had composite tone mixtures.

                            Remember that the Galanti P II, is from the same era as the Rodgers model. The technology in each one is considered very old and primitive by today's standards.

                            AV
                            Last edited by arie v; 11-29-2012, 05:20 AM.

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                            • #15
                              Arie,

                              Your explanation clarifies some of what I'm hearing. I think the Galanti has beautiful 8' stops (and a good pedal division). Using an 8' flute alone or in combination with a string I get a gorgeous sound with all kinds of nuances one associates with pipe sound, and the 8' principal is rich and interesting, though not as pretty to my ears as a digital Allen or Rodgers principal. The 4' stops are almost as good, the 4' flute being particularly pretty with its delicate chiff.

                              But higher pitched stops are lacking in life, perhaps because of the low resolution you mention. There is not as much difference between a flute and a principal at the 2' level as one would expect to hear. The mixtures could almost be flute pipes, they are quite devoid of harmonics.

                              So the organ sounds impressive on quiet solo material but disappoints when a big sound is wanted. I suppose the mixing down to two channels is partly to blame, but I also think it just can't do the job on mixtures. I wonder if one could tap into the system and pull the 2' and mixture stops out on a separate audio channel? But that might just serve to point up their deficiencies.

                              I know that analog tones come from filters that roll off the highest frequencies, but I still seem to hear crisper mixtures with more harmonics from the Rodgers mixtures of the 80's. The clipped-off half sine wave that is the basis for diapason tone in those organs could theoretically contain infinite harmonics -- the base of the wave being half of a square wave -- and there may be more harmonics making it through the filters than we suspect. The human ear is incredibly good at detecting stuff that measuring instruments don't predict. (And the ear is also easily fooled into hearing things that aren't there!)

                              However they did it, the Rodgers mixtures do seem to me the most successful aspect of their 80's analogs. I suppose an ideal organ would be one with digital stops at 4' and below, and analog generators for the upperwork! Of course, premium digital systems like Allen, Rodgers, Walker, Phoenix, and so on certainly do have the resolution needed to produce great-sounding mixtures even if the implementation was not always so great.

                              Perhaps this was the rationale behind the big MOS-2 organs that used one complete MOS system just for the mixtures. If a system, even early digital, had nothing else to do except render mixtures with unisons in one channel and fifths in the other they might be a lot more convincing.

                              For now at least I'm going to be playing the Galanti, so I'm hoping to spend some time at the church optimizing things such as speaker placement and trying to get as good an organ sound as I can for the great music of Advent and Christmas. Perhaps in the after-Christmas lull I'll approach the idea of bringing in the Rodgers.
                              John
                              ----------
                              *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

                              https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

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