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Going "back" in time -- organ model-wise... Good idea or not?

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  • Going "back" in time -- organ model-wise... Good idea or not?

    Interesting choice may be in the offing for me soon. A church near me with an Allen MDS-16 is selling their organ, and not asking much for it, since they have had some ongoing problems that I haven't been able to resolve to their satisfaction. Or I should say the organ acts up in ways that they can't fully explain to me, but it doesn't happen when I'm there, only during a service. Yes, I know that sounds funny, and indeed it is. I'm not really 100% sure what their problems are, and it could even be a user issue and/or a sound system operator problem, or something to do with the hookup, as the organ is not "installed" in the usual sense. It's a self-contained model, and there is a line output so they can connect it to their very good sound system. Of course that isn't "kosher" with us in the organ world, but is the state of affairs in many a church where the organ no longer serves as a lead instrument like a pipe organ would, but as another part of the ensemble or praise band.

    Bottom line -- they are tired of having continued issues with it and are looking for a way to get rid of it, possibly raising some cash in the process. I've offered them something, and also offered to trade for a refurbished Allen MOS, since I know there is nothing wrong with the MOS, and it is far simpler, has very little to go wrong with it, even in the hands of a non-organist and a sound system operator. Not sure I'm going to get it, but it's a good possibility, used organs being rather hard to dispose of these days.

    My choice then may be to fix it up and bring it home in place of the Renaissance (R-230) at home now. The stop list is almost exactly identical, though the MDS stops are the more "traditional" Allen stop names and samples, while the R-230 has the revised set of samples common to the lower end Renn-II models of the late 90's and early 2000's. A little more varied palette, with French reeds and English principals.

    Like the 230, this MDS matches up almost perfectly with the stop list on the MDS-45 at church, maybe even a bit closer to it. And MDS models have complete MIDI implementation, just like the R-230, so I can transfer the expander and the disk recorder directly to it. Same capture system, same divided expression and crescendo and toe studs. Even has the possibility of easily expanding to four channels like I've done to the 230. And voicing is simpler because it's done with mini pots instead of DOVE.

    But is it foolish to "go backwards" in time? To give up a nearly-current technology for a system that came out in the 90's? I just don't know. Perhaps once I have the MDS in the shop and do some serious listening I'll have a better idea.

    As yes, I know... It's just that "itch" for something "different" that I can never cure for long!
    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
    John,

    Would it appear to be a conflict of interest if you end up with the MDS-16 after not being able to identify an elusive issue (probably operator error)?

    Personally, I found the late ADC/MDS tone generation to be superior to the Renaissance system of tone generation, but the Renaissance system provided more tonal options, as well as customizations through the Dove software. Quite a quandary. I'm glad I'm not you!

    Michael
    Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
    • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
    • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
    • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos

    Comment


    • jbird604
      jbird604 commented
      Editing a comment
      Yes, there is a bit of conflict of interest here, but really no one else to turn to for a second opinion or appraisal.

      Sad really that the organ problem isn't obvious enough for me to diagnose definitively. Could surely be fixed, but the other sad reality is that the church doesn't need an organ like this anyway, never did actually.

      The dealer probably sold them the wrong organ all those years ago. They should have gotten a Hammond or something "gospelly" because they were never a church that sang big majestic hymns with pipe organ sound leading them. I suspect the player has always struggled to make music with it.

      That may explain why they aren't talking about spending money getting it fixed, choosing rather to take the opportunity to ditch it. They'll truly be better off with a simple MOS organ. At least the player won't have to struggle with so many bells and whistles that she doesn't understand.

      So it could be a win-win situation.

  • #3
    I'm getting the impression here that the church would not be happy with the MOS Allen either. If it is not used like a church organ, then perhaps they don't need a church organ. Did I just really say that !? ! So if you sell them another church organ, and they don't know how to use one, that still could be an ongoing problem for you.

    I've never played around with either a MDS or a plain Renaissance, so I have no opinion on that "problem". I kinda went from ADC right to a nice Quantum ( at church anyhow ), and there is no doubt in my mind that Quantum is superior to everything that came before it.
    Regards, Larry

    At Home : Yamaha Electones : EX-42 ( X 3 !!! ), E-5AR, FX-1 ( X 2 !! ), FX-20, EL-25 ( X 2, 1 chopped, 1 not ). Allen 601D, ADC 6000D. Baldwin 626. Lowrey CH32-1. At Churches I play for : Allen Q325 ( with Vista ), Allen L123 ( with Navigator ). Rodgers 755.

    Comment


    • myorgan
      myorgan commented
      Editing a comment
      Larry,

      I had the same feeling as you. That said, would a Hammond meet their needs at all?

      Michael

    • Larrytow
      Larrytow commented
      Editing a comment
      It kinda sounds like it might be a Hammond kind of church, don't it ? One of the churches I play for has an A100, and it will do hymns OK(ish). This church is Lutheran, and they do the whole liturgy as well. Been trying to sell them on a real church organ for years now, but they are happy with how the Hammond does.

      The church John is talking about sounds like the occasional hymn is all they do with the organ - and run though it the sound system at that. A keyboard can do that.

    • jbird604
      jbird604 commented
      Editing a comment
      This is not a church with "bad" music, just "different" from historic hymn-based congregational singing. I suppose this type of church is found in other parts of the country, but is VERY common here in the south. There is no liturgy as such, and the order of worship is simply a "program" created by either the pastor or the music director -- some songs, which may be from a variety of musical styles, interspersed with other program parts, such as prayers, announcements, offering, "special music" (solos or ensembles or choir numbers). There might be a video or a drama or other "presentation" by children or teens or some other group. Then there is a sermon followed by an invitation hymn and a closing prayer. That's the service.

      And the singing is accompanied either by piano/organ or by a guitar/drum/keyboard/vocalist team or some such combination, possibly even some band or orchestral instruments in the mix if there are players available. The function of the organ is nothing at all like what it is in an actual liturgical service such as Anglican or Lutheran. The organ never leads, probably doesn't even introduce hymns, if any actual hymns are sung without being "grooved up" (which is rare). What the organ does could just as easily be done by a simple keyboard or by a Hammond organ or anything else with keys that can be run into the house sound mixer and "blended" with the rest of the playing.

      So the lady who is playing this nice Allen MDS organ could certainly do whatever she is doing on a MOS organ or even a spinet organ. I'm guessing that the "problem" MAY be that she is being confused by the capture action and other features. There is a note taped to the console what says "turn the organ on, go to Memory 4, and press piston 7." I assume there is no changing of registrations at all during the service, and she may be accidentally getting her foot on the crescendo pedal instead of the swell pedal. At least that is one interpretation of the description of the "problem" that I have been given -- "sometimes the organ just makes a big loud sound." (The lady is a sweetheart, and has been playing for decades but she is getting quite advanced in years...)

  • #4
    Well, I DID get the MDS-16 for a song (so to speak) and now have it in the shop. As when I've checked it out for them over the past year, it seems to play flawlessly. Though I haven't played it at length, just tested all the stops and functions, I still can find nothing at all wrong with it, and have no better idea why the church wanted to get rid of it. Of course it was 20+ years ago that they paid around $30K to $40K for it, and many of the folks who were the leadership of the church are now gone. So the current leadership feels no "ownership" of the organ, the lady who had played it all these years finally got too frail to mount the bench, and they just wanted it out of the way.

    The church secretary did tell me that a couple of times the organ got left on after the Sunday night service, and she arrived the next morning to hear some kind of loud sound coming from it before she turned it off. I still don't know what that might mean. There COULD be something that gets hot and goes nuts after it's been on a while, or there may have been some problem stemming from the connection of the organ to the house sound system, as I mentioned above.

    At any rate, they got rid of it and I have it here. Though I haven't done extensive listening or playing yet, the little bit I have played it has only made me love it more! Yes, it's different from the R-230 at home, and the R-230 has certain nuances of sound due to the more advanced technology. But the MDS is really sweet, surprisingly lovely for a self-contained organ. I'm quite sure it sounds better than the R-230 did when I first got it, before I did all the voicing and added external speakers. The reverb (which is basically the same as the ADR-4 system common in ADC organs, but integrated into the W-5 tone generator assembly) is downright pleasant, though I suppose not as realistic and enveloping as the four-channel "virtual acoustics" on the R-230.

    To add to the mix, I now have an inquiry from a local person wanting an exceptionally nice Allen for a practice organ at home. He hasn't seen or heard anything yet, but I am getting ready for him to visit the shop and try out a variety of organs, including a couple of MOS organs, an MADC model, and the MDS-16. I may even bring him to the house and let him try the R-230 just for comparison. I have no idea which of these he will be interested in, but his budget would allow him to choose any of the above.

    I could hurry up and make my own decision as to whether to keep the R-230 or swap it for the MDS-16, then let him choose from what remains. But I guess I really want them both, truth be told!

    But I also am beginning to think I want a 3-manual Hauptwerk system instead of an ordinary hardware organ, but I simply don't have the time, the expertise, or the money to get one right now.

    Will this curse ever leave me?
    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


    • #5
      Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
      Will this curse ever leave me?
      No. You are stuck with it until you die.

      Seriously, that's just reality for all of us who just want a little more. Andrew Carnegie, the richest man in the world in his day, when asked how much money could make a person happy, answered, "just a little more". We organists are the same way. We have to find out if a particular organ might be a little better.

      Mike

      My home organ is a circa 1990 Galanti Praeludium III, with Wicks/Viscount CM-100 module supplying extra voices. I also have an Allen MDS Theatre II (princess pedalboard!) with an MDS II MIDI Expander.

      Comment


      • #6
        I sort of went back in time when I changed church positions 3 years ago. I had played a II/9 Möller for over 30 years, then took a position in a larger church with an analog AOB electronic. I couldn't be happier.

        The acoustics of a church can make or break a great organ. The sanctuary where the II/9 was installed was deader than a doornail - the sound literally stopped before you took your hands off the keys ... yes, it was THAT dead. They are enlarging it to 35 ranks, yet doing absolutely nothing to the acoustics like sealing the concrete block walls.

        Where I play now has a nice acoustic - 1.8 seconds to be precise (a sound engineer measured it professionally) and the analog AOB has 48 speakers, 3 of which are dedicated to the lowest pedal stops. The ensemble is wonderful. It was new when the sanctuary was built in 1989 - zero problems with that AOB in 30 years ... minor tuning and some voicing changes when I got there was all we have done to it.

        Comment


        • #7
          As piperdane points out, a well-made electronic organ can (and should) give decades of trouble-free service with normal care. The difference of a few years in the ages of these two organs makes no difference at all to me, as far as longevity. They are both going to be around for a very long time, barring some catastrophe.

          From what I can tell, the major differences come down to these:

          REVERB -- The MDS has a simple but nice-sounding stereo digital reverb system, basically the ADR-4 integrated into the generator, all adjustments made with mini-pots located inside the console. The only choices from the front are "on" and "off." OTOH, the R-230 has "Virtual Acoustics," a more sophisticated system providing four channels of reverb. Using the Console Controller, you can select from among the several reverb programs and adjust the amount of reverb to mix into the audio channels, or turn it completely off. Using DOVE, you can further refine your ambiance.

          TUNING -- The MDS has a simple tuning slug on the generator cage, but the R-230 is tuned from the Console Controller window. Nice for quickly matching the organ to the piano sitting beside it when playing them together.

          TONE GENERATION -- The MDS, like ADC, has ROM chips containing the voices, which are generated by using the digital "recipe" provided in the ROM for each stop. The R-230, being Renaissance, uses actual recorded snippets of sound for each stop, something like Hauptwerk, though with much shorter samples. (IMHO, Renaissance is not as realistic as Hauptwerk, probably because it is more "processed," as well as not even claiming to recreate specific organs, including their ambiance, in the way that Hauptwerk does.

          ADJUSTABLE WIND -- The MDS has a "wind" pot on each channel to regulate the chiff and air in the "winded" stops, as in x300 ADC models. But Renaissance has no such adjustment, as any chiff and air are simply part of the samples. Some modification is possible with filters in DOVE, but mostly it is what it is.

          Externally, the organs look almost identical. Stop lists are identical except for the names of a couple of stops. Same capture action (MN system), same divided expression with crescendo, 12 toe studs, internal speakers, relays installed for externals. Both have the MDS Expander II module in a drawer and full MIDI implementation.

          As I said, as soon as I heard it, I loved the MDS sound, even after playing this Renaissance for two years now. The MDS is just THAT good -- unlike MOS organs and many smaller ADC models, the sound is truly lovely, even when the speakers are right in your lap. The MDS probably isn't QUITE as good in this regard as the R-230, because Renaissance models are totally devoid of all the digital artifacts that plagued previous Allens to some extent.

          In truth, the more of this I write, the less sense it makes to swap out my R-230 for this MDS. I really don't know why I'm even considering it, except for the fact that we crazy old organist just want ALL THE ORGANS FOR OURSELVES!!! I probably should just quit over-thinking and let the customer have the MDS if he wants it. (And cross my fingers and hope he likes one of the other models!)
          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

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