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Considering Home Organ Purchase -- Need advice, please

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  • Considering Home Organ Purchase -- Need advice, please

    Hello all!

    I am new to the forums, though I have been trolling them for quite some time, haha!

    I am the organist and choirmaster for a Catholic parish here, and am looking to purchase a home practice organ. I have come across one and wanted to get an opinion from those of you more seasoned in the home organ arena.

    The one that is available to me is a 35-stop, 3-division Allen digital organ built in 1982. It has 6 pistons that are factory pre-set and cannot be changed. Standard expression pedals, external speakers with additional audio output for headphones or other speakers built into the organ, full AGO specs. It is being offered to me for $1500, and is in excellent condition.

    I have some reservation about the pre-set pistons, as I've never used an organ with those. Almost all of my experience has been with pipe organs, though we do have an electric Rodgers at my parish.

    Any thoughts or opinions would be greatly appreciated!

    Thank you!

  • #2
    Originally posted by gitlance View Post
    I have some reservation about the pre-set pistons, as I've never used an organ with those.
    Don't get too picky. Start out with whatever is available free; and then over time, work your way up from there, until you find the object of your desires.
    2008: Phoenix III/44


    • #3
      Originally posted by Clarion View Post
      Don't get too picky. Start out with whatever is available free; and then over time, work your way up from there, until you find the object of your desires.
      Is it OK if gitlance is willing to spend some money, and be picky becauase he is spending money? The organ is being offered for $1500. Is this organ OK? Are there drawbacks to having pre-set pistons that gitlance should be concerned with, especially for the price.
      When I become dictator, those who preach intolerance will not be tolerated.


      • #4
        Thank you for the comments thus far. I do not mind spending $1500, but I don't want to go above that if at all possible.


        • #5
          Make sure it will go through the door of your house! You'll be surprised at how narrow most home doors are compared to the depth of larger consoles. And, once in, can it be maneuvered through any halls, corners, etc. to get it where it needs to be?

          Mind you, according to these forums, that there are tricks for getting it in like turning it on end, etc.


          • #6
            $1500 for an Allen with an AGO pedal board in working condition is a pretty good price. The preset pistons are a little limiting (I have them on my home organ and Allen MDC-20 Classic). For a home practice instrument this can be worked around. At that price I would say go for it.


            • #7
              NoTalent makes a good point! I just bought a Thomas Palace III 901 last week and at 30 1/4" deep it did not fit through my side door to my finished basement where it was destined to be placed. I had to remove part of the door frame to gain just a 1/2". Since the frame was steel it required more than I bargained for. The van had to be back in the morning and it had been a long 100 mile trip already. I knew it was slightly bigger than my other organs, but in actuality the Thomas Palace III is huge!
              In the end it was totally worth it and fortunately I've had ample construction experience. The organ is 100% functional minus the Band Box ( organ also came with complete service manuals. Heck the 'Band Box' is a series of single transistor drums sounds and a basic power supply...actually the 'snare drum roll', and the 'castanet' have 2 transistors each LOL). As far as the organ...

              I HIGHLY recommend the Thomas Palace III 900-series of organs. They are AGO 32 pedal concave, 3 manual organs with built in 2 speed full range Leslie, a stationary 15" speaker and a stationary 12"...okay all you classical snobs you can start ragging on the 'Thomas organ about right now..., but really it is a great sounding organ! It does have a very wide array of classical tones. I wouldn't consider a Hammond for classical, but I'd rank this Thomas a couple notches above the Baldwin HT2. I doubt if I will ever do a digital complimentary conversion to accentuate the beautiful sounding Thomas because I like the sounds of electronic theater organs better than pipe organs. It's just my taste, but for some reason I get the feeling I will be a life long crusader for the electronic organ. The day isn't too far off that a great many quality electronic organs will find their innards in the scrap heap to make way for a digital transplant in lieu of their original circuitry. There needs to be an adhesive sticker placed on the music stand that says something like:

              'Oscillator Free Device. No Repairable Analog Components Inside', or 'Y-U-K Compliant'

              I have every organ I ever wanted, but that Wurlitzer John Winters is playing on 'Organ Moods' MVM161 Mount Vernon records. What model is it? That's the $64,000 question! My guess is that it is a Wurlitzer Orgatron circa 1945...

              Now THAT'S AN ORGAN!!!
              Wurlitzer '46' Model 31 Orgatron & 310 rotary cab, 56' 4410 , 65' 4300
              Hammond '55' S6 Chord Organ,HR-40,ER-20, 1971 X66/& 12-77 tone cabinet w/ 122 kit & TREK Transposer- of which I've retrofitted a Wurlitzer/Lowrey 'PedAL gLIdE' awesome!
              Gulbransen 61' 1132 '76' Rialto II & Leslie 705 + two 540
              Conn '57' 406 Caprice '59' 815 Classic (the 29th 815)


              • #8
                Curious as to which Allen model that is. By "3-division" do you mean two manuals and pedals, or do you mean 3-manual? The model number should be on a metal plate that you can see if you lift the top lid and look toward the back of the console on the bass end. Model number is sometimes called "system" on Allen digitals of that era. Some models have a top lid that does not raise easily. They were commonly using the "contemporary" or "space-ship" console for the less expensive models, and on those the model plate might be under the keydesk, but I'm not sure. The top lid of that type console can be raised but you must remove a screw at each side, which can be on the end cap or under the end cap outboard of the lower manual.

                In 1982 Allen was in the final year of MOS2 organ production, phasing those organs out for ADC models which would fully occupy the lineup over the next two years. Also, in 1982, Allen was marketing a low-end version of their digital organ under the "MDC" (Modified Digital Computer) name plate. These MDC models were also about to be phased out and replaced with the entry level "3-digit" ADC models.

                If what you are looking at is a MOS2, and it has blind presets instead of capture, speakers in the console, AGO pedals, I'm guessing a model 124. If it happens to be one of the first ADC models out the door, it could be an ADC420, but that's unlikely if it really is from 1982. It's even possible that you're looking at a MOS1 organ, since dealers often kept an organ in stock for 2 or 3 years before selling, and the MOS2 era was quite brief.

                Or, if you mean that it has 3 manuals and only has blind presets, it could be a model ADC720, which was a decent practice model using the innards of the ADC420 (etc) but spreading the stops out over 3 manuals instead of two.

                Worst case, you might be looking at one of those MDC models. They're OK, but beware of certain serious drawbacks. There is a tab in the swell division marked "Celeste Effect" and when that tab is used you do indeed get a very genuine celeste on the swell, as the system automatically creates each note you play twice -- once at normal pitch and once at a sharp pitch -- and makes every swell stop a true celeste. So far so good, but the drawback is that the normally OK Allen keying limit of 12 keys at once is reduced to 6 keys at once, and you can easily discover that notes will be missing in a large chord, especially if you are also playing a pedal note.

                The other serious drawback on the MDC models involves the Carillon stop. When that stop is in use you might as well not try to play anything else along with it, not on the swell or the pedal, as each note struck on the Carillon grabs five (5) of the available 12-note limit, and the sustain built into the carillon means that these 5 notes are not immediately relinquished when the key is let go. If playing very slowly and deliberately, one can manage to play a melody on this carillon, but it's really not useful for anything except "chiming the hour" or hitting an occasional single note.

                So, if you're looking at an MDC model, you might offer a lower price if that is any issue at all for you, because it isn't nearly as satisfying an organ as a full-line Allen MOS 2 model. Don't get me wrong, the MDC models are OK for general practice, but beware that the celeste and the carillon are pretty well useless unless one is very careful with them.

                Let us know what happens.
                *** 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!



                • #9
                  Thank you all for your help!

                  Let me clarify some things for you.

                  By 3-division, I mean two manuals and pedals. The nameplate on the organ says "Allen Digital Computer Organ". I am not sure of the model number.

                  From the pictures I've seen (this organ is not in my city), here is the apparent stoplist:

                  Salizional 8
                  Gemshorn 8
                  Gedeckt 8
                  Spitz Prinzipal 4
                  Koppel Flute 4
                  Nasat 2 2/3
                  Blockflute 2
                  Terz 1 3/5
                  Sifflute 1
                  Mixture III
                  Contra Fagotto 16
                  Hautbois 8
                  Trompette 8
                  Clairon 4

                  Quintaden 16
                  Prinzipal 8
                  Dulciana 8
                  Hohlflute 8
                  Oktav 4
                  Spitzflute 4
                  Quinte 2 2/3
                  Doublette 2
                  Waldflute 2
                  Mixtur IV
                  Schalmei 8
                  Looks like there are a few more stops that didn't make it into the picture. Perhaps couplers.

                  Prinzipal 16
                  Bourdon 16
                  Lieblich Gedeckt 16
                  Oktav 8
                  Flute 8
                  *Unreadable - Blurry Picture* 4
                  *Unreadable - Blurry Picture* 4
                  Mixtur II
                  Posaune 16
                  Trompette 8
                  Great to Pedal
                  Swell to Pedal

                  It has three external speakers, and no internal speakers that I'm aware of.

                  Any other thoughts would be greatly appreciated!


                  • #10
                    You can confirm that an Allen has no internal speakers if the front cover below the keydesk is wood. If there is gold accented cloth most likely speakers are in the unit even if not being used presently.


                    • #11
                      In the Stop List I don't see any mention of Alterable Stops. Didn't the MOS-2 organs have card readers?



                      • #12
                        From the stoplist, I'd say this is a garden-variety MOS single-computer organ. With presets instead of capture and no speakers in the console, it would be a 200 series instrument. No celeste, but the stoplist is otherwise adequate. The sounds of individual stops are quite realistic on these old MOS organs, but they have far less circuitry than modern digital organs, so there is obviously going to be less clarity and realism when you begin to pile on the stops. Not that they sound bad, but just be aware that it won't sound like a big modern digital.

                        The three speaker cabinets are probably a single speaker for the "main" channel which projects the principals, strings, and reeds, and a two-box set for the flute/pedal channel, one of which contains a pair of 15" woofers and the other either a gyro or a pair of 12" and a pair of tweeters. This was Allen's standard speaker set before they started using HC-type cabinets in the mid to late 70's.

                        It's probably a little older than they're telling you. I'm basing this statement on the type of speakers and on the absence of the card reader/alterable voices in the stoplist. Without the card reader this must be a MOS1, not a MOS2 organ, as the card reader/alterables were standard on all MOS2 organs. I believe the last MOS1 organs were built in about 1980, and they had HC speakers by then, not the 3-box set you mention. Of course, they may have purchased it in 1982, and it could have been on the dealer's floor for 2 or 3 years before it was sold.

                        I'm assuming you have to move it yourself and set it up in your own home, no warranty or other after-sale services. If you were getting delivery and setup included, you'd actually expect to pay much more than that, possibly as much as $3000 if it were being installed with speakers in a small church or chapel.

                        But if you are buying directly from an individual or church trying to get rid of it, $1500 is probably a tad high. However, if it is in perfect condition and looks good it might be OK to give that much for it.

                        Hope that helps.
                        *** 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!



                        • #13
                          Thank you John.

                          You are probably correct in your assessment. The gentleman selling it is including delivery and installation in the $1500 asking price. He verified that there is no card reader present.

                          This man used to sell organs, but now he's retired and works on them as a hobby. He has restored this one, and also installed some extra audio output ports, for other speakers/headphones/etc.

                          I'm driving up to see it this Sunday. I should be able to report more after that.

                          Thank you for all your help!


                          • #14
                            I suppose I should also mention that the current owner of this organ installed customer 1/4 inch phone and RCA audio output ports.


                            • #15
                              Go for it. I started with a MOS-2 instrument, then moved up from there (and still use it at church). The pre-set pistons are a problem for an advanced organist, but for someone just starting out, or needing a practice instrument, they'll probably do fine to start.

                              Good luck with your purchase.

                              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