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  • MDS Tuning Anomalies



    Hi,
    I just had a curious-question about the Allen MDS series....</p>

    I went to a beautiful candlelight Christmas Eve service of lessons and carols at Pearce Memorial Free Methodist here in Rochester. It's a wonderful church-about 1,000 or so came to the service I attended-the singing was magnificent. Anyway, the organ is a large 3-manual Allen. I didn't talk to the organist or get a model number, so I'm going off what my eyes and ears told me....It looks a little smaller than an MDS-85. The sound was absolutely beautiful-I'd never heard a large MDS played in a service setting before-very powerful and clean.</p>

    I noticed during the prelude that the organ seemed to be slightly flat of the new Boston grand piano. I was trying to figure it out-I have perfect pitch, and the piano seemed to be in pretty good shape, so I assume it was something with the organ? The upperwork seemed especially bad-almost like it was tuned in Werckmeister, and the piano was in equal temperament. I doubt the organist would have accidently set up an alternate tuning-it was all 20th-century carol arrangements they were playing-so was it some sort of intentional detuning like in the ADC series? I heard the sound on other MDS organs and on some CDs I have that used them.
    </p>

    When the church filled and the singing began, I hardly noticed it. Perhaps it was the piano responding to the extra heat, or doing the pitch-shifting, new-piano thing?
    </p>

  • #2
    Re: MDS Tuning Anomalies



    I'm not sure, my guess is the "romantic tuning" is a little crazy compared to the piano's tuning. Maybe the organist should have engaged the "romantic tuning off" tab when playing with the piano. To the best of my knowledge that feature lasted through much of the MDS era, until perhaps the last MDS organs and earlier Renaissance had multiple tunings selectable in the console controller. I'm sure someone here knows.</p>

    I have read that when the very first MDS models came out, Allen was so enamored of the ability to multisample they used samples with a somewhat obnoxious detuning during the pipe release phase of the multisample (i.e., when the key was lifted, to simulate a real pipe "running out of air" or whatnot). It was so bad, supposely, they offered a sample chip replacement option. The MDS-85 was among the first MDS organs...maybe that contributed to what you were hearing. Mind you, I have heard that type of out-of-tuneiness on a couple low-wind trackers, so it's not entirely inauthentic.</p>

    </p>

    </p>

    </p>

    </p>

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: MDS Tuning Anomalies



      Pianos react relatively slowly to room temperature changes and you wouldn't likley hear the entire piano going equally out of tune. In the case of a roombeing radically heated, the pianomay go slightly flat leavingan electronicorgan to sound sharp (opposite of what you describe).</P>


      I suspect this organ has an organist-accessibletuning adjustment - hopefully the organist knows to tune the organ to the piano before every service.</P>


      I agree with circa1949 - the reverb is the most likely culprit; I've noticed it does seem to flatten upperwork on some electronic organs.</P>

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: MDS Tuning Anomalies



        Interesting! I seem to remember the MDS-85 at BJU having several temperaments-Dr. Dunbar demonstrated them-and also a switch on the coupler rail that could turn the Romantic tuning off. </p>

        The organist and pianist at Pearce are quite good, so I assume he would know to turn off the Romantic tuning if it were interfering with the piano. Huh. </p>

        Oh well-I'm off to church to do a little touch-up on the MOS-301. It'll be interesting hearing how it sounds now, with the MDS so fresh in my ears...[:P]Even my dad, who doesn't play, was really impressed by the sound on Tuesday night.
        </p>

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: MDS Tuning Anomalies



          I didn't know such an early MDS organ would have multiple tunings, but it's not really surprising. Even on a "lowly" MADC organ, the frequency map was on a labeled memory chip in a socket. An MDS frequency controller board could have several stored, that are selectable using the console controller. So, maybe the organist just needed to check with the piano beforehand on the best tuning to use, but didn't have time.</p>

          BTW I've only had time to look at your 301 thread now - congrats on the new (for your church) organ!</p>

          </p>

          </p>

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: MDS Tuning Anomalies



            I would think that romantic tuning would be ideal for use with a piano -itis probably the onlyequal temperament. [*-)]</P>

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: MDS Tuning Anomalies

              [quote user="soubasse32"]


              I would think that romantic tuning would be ideal for use with a piano -itis probably the onlyequal temperament. [*-)]</P>


              [/quote]</P>


              "Romantic" tuning on an Allen has nothing to do with temperament; rather, what it does is to detune one channel of sound from the other. In other words, the whole channel will become a slow celeste against the other. If an organ has four channels, two of them will shift tuning.Allen, ever since the advent of the ADC models, always had the channels mistuned slightly in order to add a "chorus" effect to eliminate the sterility that was so noticeable in the Mos series. Romantic tuning simply gave more "chorus" effect-too much for a lot of people.</P>


              What was really bad was, that on some models, the Romantic tuning was automatically on-you had to deliberatly push a stoptab down to turn it off.</P>


              The ADC and MDS theatre organs were built with "Romantic" tuning, and the only way you could get away from it was to have the generator boards cahnged. This mistuning was fine with theatre voicing, but when you threw on the second (classical) voicing, it was not so pleasing, especially when you added the misture(s), as the spread in pitch became more obvious with higher pitches.</P>
              Mike

              My home organ is a Theatre III with an MDS II MIDI Expander.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: MDS Tuning Anomalies



                It's true that the intentional de-tuning between stop groups was sometimes a little overdone on ADC and MDS models. The ADC4000 we just recently retired had a fairly severe de-tuning between the Great Mixture and the Swell Mixture. Being an early model it had no "romantic tuning off" control, so I just had to live with it.</P>


                My guess is that Allen wanted listeners to bewell aware that the two mixtures did NOT come from the same source! The difference was great enough to cause quite a raucous beating and I always avoided drawing the two mixtures together except to cap off a very large tutti. The snarling reeds tended to hide the wobbly mixtures.</P>


                Turning off "romantic tuning" (which one could do on later ADC andMDS models) would decrease the tuning spread among the channels, though not to the point of lock-step tuningsterility.Actually, Allen offered several variations of their "frequency number" chip that could be swapped out on ADC or MDS models to let one have whatever degree of frequency separation one desired between channels. Doing this was pricey, of course.</P>


                However, Philip, if the organ you heard was a large MDS, it's possible that the multiple cages have become inadvertently detuned from each other. If it's W-4 or W-5 technology, each cage will have its own tuning control. The tuning is not locked to a crystal but rather to a simple high-frequency analog clock, same as your MOS organ. That clock can after a period of time drift off and the cage becomes flat or sharp of standard pitch.</P>


                Such a detuning between cages, compounded by the intentional detuning between stop groups might combine to create a pretty out of tune organ. That is one reason ADC and MDS organs actually need occasional servicing by a tech with organ ears!</P>


                AFAIK there are no digital organs being built today with analog clocks, all use crystal control to maintain pitch indefinitely. But older digitals do in fact need tuning!</P>


                John</P>
                <P mce_keep="true"></P>
                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
                  Re: MDS Tuning Anomalies



                  Interesting! It seemed like the organ was fairly well in tune with itself (about where a pipe organ in good condition would be), but when the piano came in, it seemed slightly dissonant. All I know about it was that it had three manuals, and three shoes (gt-ch-ped, sw, and crescendo), that it had a 32' in the pedal, that it had chimes, and that it had quite a lot of stops (both jambs were completely full). It also looked like it had sub and super intermanual couplers (eg. Sw-Gt. 4') and I believe it was installed in 1998. The mixtures on the Great didn't sound quite as full as the one in the FMA-I might guess 6 ranks total (IV Mix + II, not III Scharff)
                  </p>

                  How funny how a good innovation can become bothersome.....
                  </p>

                  </p>

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: MDS Tuning Anomalies



                    1998 would have been (IIRC) the year of transition at Allen from MDS to Renaissance. So that organ might conceivably be of either type.</P>


                    Renaissance continued the MDS practice of using sub and super couplers in the swell division, though rarely in other divisions. In fact, it would be hard to tell a Renaissance from an MDS on the outside without observing the white placard on one of the stop rails, which would say "Master Design Series" or "Renaissance."</P>


                    While MDS organs could have perhaps 4 to 6 pitch references per cage and up to 3 cages in very large organs, Renaissance organs have the ability, in theory, to let each rank have its own tuning. The system stores a "frequency spreadsheet"(or "table")that corresonds to each stop, and the voicer, using DOVE, can specify the exact numerical frequency of each note of each stop, opening up the possibility of some very weird tunings!</P>


                    I've actually been tinkering with these things, playing around with DOVE on my new Renaissance at church. Of course, one must keep one's head and not do things that are truly off the wall and non-musical.</P>


                    I've generally found that the tunings created by the Allen factory voicers are pretty good. Our Renaissance had been voiced (finished) by thedealer in another state who sold it in 2003, and he'd tinkered too much with the tunings, for my taste. I restored the factory tunings from the Dove CD and like it much better.</P>


                    All that to say.... if the organ you heard happens to be a Renaissance, the installer may have truly gone off the deep end playing around with those frequency tables, since they were such a novelty back in 1998.</P>


                    Of course, it's also possible that the piano was simply out of tune a little, the weather having been so severe lately. Some of the pianos that I regularly tune have gone completely wild this winter in spite of fairly frequent tunings.</P>


                    John</P>
                    <P mce_keep="true"></P>
                    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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