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  • Which Sounds Better?

    For accompanying a choir (anthems and Rutter "Gloria" with brass/percussion) and sacred solos:

    Rodgers 760
    two Walker speakers mounted high on church walls, plus Rodgers subwoofer
    three seconds reverberation

    OR

    Allen 720
    four Allen speakers set on stage floor of theater
    less than one second reverberation


    I got unsolicited comments about these two concerts.

    And I have my own opinion.

    What's yours?
    Last edited by MarkS; 11-17-2010, 01:44 PM.

  • #2
    Hi,

    I'm not sure there is enough information here to give an opinion, if one wasn't there in the concert itself.

    Things like building design, where one was seated during the concert, how well the organs were installed and voiced, how well the organ blended with the choir, etc. Also the acoustics of a room can make a huge difference, depending on whether the room is full or empty.

    So no opinionated opinion from me here.

    AV

    Comment


    • #3
      Dear Arie,

      Thanks for your response and comments. It does make sense.

      The Rodgers is a permanent installation at our church, speakers mounted high on the front walls, voiced to suit the room. The church seats about 300 and has a wonderful three second reverberation. The choir loves to sing in the space. Alas, there wasn't a large audience to soak up the sound.

      The Allen was originally installed in a 4,500 seat megachurch auditorium and recently donated to our music department. Of course, the voicing controls are just tone controls for the two channels. I haven't changed those; "voicing" consisted of stacking the speakers on the floor of the theater stage, aiming them at the choir, and turning the two amplifier knobs to the maximum. The theater seats about 400 and boasts almost one second reverberation--quite live for a theater.

      I asked these questions because the general opinion on this forum seems to be the following:

      1) Early digitals did not sound as good as analog. I agree.

      2) Rodgers analog sound better than others. I disagree, favoring Allen Custom (and even some stock Allens with the electronic air sound) and Saville.


      As for these two concerts, I thought it was a toss-up between the organs. But I obviously have some bias toward Allen.

      The choir director told me that she was surprised by the sound of the Allen and liked it better than the Rodgers. A choir member (music major) asked me about the Allen and speculated as to how it would sound in the church, with its great acoustics.

      Perhaps digital, even the early stuff, sounds more authentic to non-organist musicians. That would explain why Allen's sales increased dramatically with the introduction of digital. I'll bet they would give anything to have those days back.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by MarkS View Post
        Dear Arie,

        Thanks for your response and comments. It does make sense.

        The Rodgers is a permanent installation at our church, speakers mounted high on the front walls, voiced to suit the room. The church seats about 300 and has a wonderful three second reverberation. The choir loves to sing in the space. Alas, there wasn't a large audience to soak up the sound.

        The Allen was originally installed in a 4,500 seat megachurch auditorium and recently donated to our music department. Of course, the voicing controls are just tone controls for the two channels. I haven't changed those; "voicing" consisted of stacking the speakers on the floor of the theater stage, aiming them at the choir, and turning the two amplifier knobs to the maximum. The theater seats about 400 and boasts almost one second reverberation--quite live for a theater.

        I asked these questions because the general opinion on this forum seems to be the following:

        1) Early digitals did not sound as good as analog. I agree.

        2) Rodgers analog sound better than others. I disagree, favoring Allen Custom (and even some stock Allens with the electronic air sound) and Saville.


        As for these two concerts, I thought it was a toss-up between the organs. But I obviously have some bias toward Allen.

        The choir director told me that she was surprised by the sound of the Allen and liked it better than the Rodgers. A choir member (music major) asked me about the Allen and speculated as to how it would sound in the church, with its great acoustics.

        Perhaps digital, even the early stuff, sounds more authentic to non-organist musicians. That would explain why Allen's sales increased dramatically with the introduction of digital. I'll bet they would give anything to have those days back.
        The magic number for Allen MOS organs was 3; 3 computers or more. MOS-2 organs with a "5" at the end of the model number (like the 705) had and extra computer just for mixtures. The 705 had 2 computers for the regular stops and a third for mixtures. Unfortunately, the two computers just doubled all the stops instead of having different stops from different computers. So once you got to an 1105 MOS-2 or a 900 series MOS-1, it sounded pretty pipe-like. So I would only agree that the early Allen digitals, with not enough computers, had a less convincing ensemble or chorus than analogs.

        Comment


        • #5
          My first experience was hearing a digital in concert in the early 70's. It was just a single computer model with speakers on a stage. The individual voices were more authentic than anything else, but it lacked the chorus of the Allen analogs. After the concert I hurried out on stage to see the nameplate.

          I realize that I've never had an experience playing early digitals with more than two computers. I heard a demo of a four computer model once and that was it.

          Playing an ADC 5000 changed my thinking about digital vs. analog.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by MarkS View Post
            Dear Arie,

            Perhaps digital, even the early stuff, sounds more authentic to non-organist musicians. That would explain why Allen's sales increased dramatically with the introduction of digital. I'll bet they would give anything to have those days back.
            I don't know about other areas, but I understand that in the Northern Virginia-Washingtom DC area, Rodgers actually did better than Allen during those days. I know for a fact that Allen lost many sales to Rodgers in direct competition (where the dealers for each brand would place an organ in the church at the same time, and the congregation would decide which one sounded better). A friend of mine, who played for the largest Baptist church in Northern Virginia. would always recommend Rodgers, whenever a smaller church would ask for his opinion, based upon the ensemble sound.

            Of course, Allen had nothing that even came close to the sound of the Rodgers organs that included several ranks of pipes. One Baptist church in Northern VA had one with, I think, four ranks of pipes, and about six channels of electronics with several 32's in the pedal, and in a 500 seat auditorium, it had a spectacular sound.

            When Allen started mixing the sounds across the channels, instead of putting all principal on one channel and all flutes on the other, the ensemble definitely improved.

            I personally thought that putting identical sounds in two channels, one slightly mistuned from the other, was a dumb idea, and have never liked those models that had that feature.
            Mike

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

            Comment


            • #7
              IMHO - for a choir, I would think less reverberation would be easier to sing with. I would think more reverb would make it more difficult to pick out the notes the organist is playing to sing with.

              Since I've never heard a Rogers from the same period as the Allen, I couldn't comment on which one sounds better.
              John
              Allen MDS-317 at home / Allen AP-16 at Church / Allen ADC-3100 at the stake center

              Comment


              • #8
                Mike,

                How well Rodgers did in comparison to Allen depended a lot on the dealers in particular areas. I know that the Washington/N. Virginia area had a strong dealer there then and is even a strong dealer today. I know several people who used to work for them, one being Bob Walker who customized organs. Whenever he got involved with a Rodgers, they ended up sounding much better than what the factory churned out. He changed filter components, added oscillators, added wind puffs, sag circuits, put on different audio, etc. They pretty much sounded like organs from a different company. Also, when Rodgers started offering pipe packages, they sold hundreds of instruments with only 1 or 2 pipe ranks. I think that may have saved Rodgers' bacon at the time.

                One thing though, in the 70s, I do not discern much difference in terms of ensemble quality between Allen and Rodgers in the small instruments. Single computer Allens, vs one set oscillator organs from Rodgers both sounded rather lacking. I never came across a single, 1 computer Allen from the 70s that inspired, and the Rodgers Columbian 75, Jamestown 100 were lousy musical instruments as well.

                With ADC organs Allen did improve things quite a bit, with adjustability and better ensemble. In the 80s, Rodgers also improved their tone, but their lower end organs only had a single set of oscillators, borrowed to the hilt, and a phase shifter to create animation and ensemble. But they couldn't mask the fact that these small organs had little going for them.

                I have a 3 inch binder of Rodgers vs Allen sales stuff, that the Rodgers people used to send their dealers. Really interesting stuff, but in the end not really useful in determining musical quality of their instruments. Most of this info. is from around 1980 to 1985. Rodgers must have hired a full time person to just beat up on Allen. Allen probably had a similar position to deal with Rodgers sales pitches. Kind of funny now that just about all these organs are worth next to nothing these days.

                I'm sure Allen would love to have back the days of the mid 70s to about late 80s. Those were the days that Allen sales were very robust. Individuals and churches spent extra money just to have an Allen - because it was said the sound was better and forever, Allen was a truly stable company, etc.

                However, Allen in my opinion never really innovated after the late 80s. Everybody else improved rapidly both in sound quality and build quality, and so Allen's marketshare has been going down for the last 20 years. And now, they and everybody else in the business is having to face the dismal music of a plunging market, and the dark forces of virtual PC based organs.

                Speaking of virtual PC organs, just yesterday I temporarily installed a Hauptwerk organ in a concert hall at a local university. Using 15 audio channels, and spending about 2 hours voicing it, I can say without a doubt, that the sonic results are far beyond what can be had from most commercially available instruments. How Allen, Rodgers and everybody else responds to this will be interesting. They will all have to come up with something that is better than their current offerings at a far lower cost just to compete.

                Anyways, gotta get some work done.....................

                AV

                Comment


                • #9
                  Arie, you are right that the DC Rodgers dealer was very aggressive. But the Rodgers organs then also sounded better, especially since you could put more speaker channels on them and split the sound up some. Those small Allens were limited to two channels, and were so sterile that they did not excite anyone.

                  I do feel that even Rodgers could have done better with sending stops through different channels, for instance putting the 4' Octave and Mixture of the Great through a second channel, and this would have helped their clarity some. Before I took the guts out of my Rodgers 220, I experimented with this, playing with the Swell 4' and Mixutre coupled to the Great 8' and 2' Principals, Swell and Great coming out of different channels, and the sound was much better.

                  No question about it, the ADC models were definitely far better than the MOS organs, and quite a bit better than the equivalent Rodgers organs. I do feel, though, that when Rodgers finally came out with their digital organs, they were much better than Allen's, and there was no comparison on MIDI implementation.

                  As far as I can see, Allen is no longer the leader, but simply one of the pack. The only "leader" now is Hauptwerk, with Phoenix being the best among the commercial organs (M&O organs are too far out of the reach of most of us peons).
                  Last edited by m&m's; 11-19-2010, 09:50 AM.
                  Mike

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

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Mike,

                    I don't know how much you could improve a stock small Rodgers from the 70s. As far as I know they only had 2 audio channels, and some had provision for a Leslie speaker. The 220 you had was I think easily the best 2 manual Rodgers produced in the 70s. At least it had a separate Sw and Great divisions, and had extra audio channels. I think it even had 2 sets of oscillators plus a real celeste set of oscillators. I worked on one once and it turned out pretty nice (at least I thought so maybe 10 or 12 years ago.

                    Being an organ service person, I see lots of organs. And most of them I believe with not too much extra cost could have been built and executed to a higher musical result. But Allen and Rodgers and most everybody in this business deal in marketing, so the small models were neutered musically.

                    One other thing, I find most organs sold through dealers that are either piano and organ stores or general music stores, don't really invest much effort in installing organs. Some don't know much about church/classical organs at all. I have done some minor work on some of these installs, and they sound so much better then. So I am of the opinion that small operations with knowledgeable and passionate organ people do better than average installs. Then the musical potential of the instrument is more likely realized.

                    I'm not so sure I agree with you that the early Rodgers digitals were better than Allen's MDS series. I suppose it depended on which model one was comparing in the lineup. Some of the large MDS instruments were quite impressive. Some of the low end PDI organs from Rodgers were no great shakes. And the organs below PDI from Rodgers were not so hot at all.
                    Rodger's strong suit as you say was their MIDI.

                    When mentioning M&O as the best, as far as I am concerned Walker Technical is up there as well, and in certain areas exceeds M&O. Walker organs are not inexpensive either. Neither of these companies will build an inexpensive organ just to "get a deal".

                    Anyways, I do think the age of the virtual organ is upon us, and things will only get better over time, with Hauptwerk and other such programs.

                    AV

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Mark,

                      I might suggest that the speakers for the Allen would be either:
                      • Tilted back, approximately 30 degrees so no one experienced direct sound.
                      • Or reflected off a hard surface (i.e. wall or ceiling).


                      The speaker placement conversation has been had elsewhere on this Forum, however, I have found that in performing situations (temporary installations), I've had better luck with the speakers tilted. Recently, I reflected the speakers (in a gymnasium) off the bleachers against the wall on one side of the gym, and it was amazing how much better blend the ensemble had.

                      Simply put, perhaps the Rodgers (permanently installed high on the wall) had optimum speaker placement, therefore would sound better. However, the Allen tends to hold its own if one is listening to the off-axis ensemble, versus head-on.

                      Hope all worked well for 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)
                      • 11 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 7 Pianos

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Dear Michael,

                        Thanks for the speaker placement suggestions.

                        For the choral concert they were aimed directly at the choir in an effort to assist the singers.

                        For past solo performances I've stacked two on each side of the console, facing them at 90 degree angles. Every seat in the theater would get some direct and some reflected sound from each channel.

                        Thursday evening we needed the organ for a five minute work a student had composed for me. The theater manager has been lobbying to try patching the organ into the sound system; since I didn't want to haul the speakers for one piece I went along with it.

                        The old theater system had a 500 watt Crown power amp and multiple Electrovoice Sentry monitors placed on the stage. The current system has a Yamaha mixing board, multiple Crown amps, and various speakers placed on the catwalks. I asked the manager to keep the two audio channels completely separate and maintain a flat response. He introduced a roll-off in the bass to avoid rattling doors, lighting equipment, chairs, etc.

                        It sounded better than the Allen amps and speakers! Many people commented on the sound, too.

                        There are some differences between this and the typical church set-up:
                        The theater system usually plays music, while a church audio system may be optimized for voice.
                        The theater system was dedicated solely to the organ for this performance. There was no sharing, as there would likely be in a church.
                        The theater manager is accustomed to dealing with sound and is willing to listen to my opinions. In a church an inexperienced volunteer may be operating the audio system--and may be pressed into service at the last minute.

                        He said the organ peaked at -60 decibels. Imagine the sound level available!!

                        Mark

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Mark,

                          It's good to hear the sound person didn't ruin your organ's system! The outputs from the Allen cages and amps are different--even between models, so it's a relief no permanent damage was done. It IS nice to work with professionals, but unfortunately, the recommendation is often a self-recommendation and is worth exactly what you paid for it--nothing!

                          It would have been nice to hear recordings of that performance! I'm glad it worked so well for you.

                          Michael

                          P.S. Church amateurs is precisely why Allen made some of the changes they did--to preserve the integrity of their instruments.
                          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)
                          • 11 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 7 Pianos

                          Comment

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