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  • Allen - Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow

    Note: This thread was split off from http://www.organforum.com/forums/sho...cation-Updates in order to improve it's visibility under a title that is more in sync with the topic being discussed. -Admin



    Gerrit,

    I am a service tech, and see older organs, sometimes Allens of those eras. If you have not heard Allens from before 1996, you can always come to Toronto, and I will take you around to various installs.

    Seems to me that, Allen's newer technology always sounded a bit better than their previous organs, and the bigger ones sounded more "organic" than the entry level models. So, the MDS organs of moderate size will sound better than the late ADC, and the late ADC sounds better than early ADC and MOS-2. If you know Renaissance, they sounded different from MDS, but not always better. Takes some doing to get the best out of a Renaissance organ, as they are software based.

    For the most part to me, from at least MOS2 to MDS, all these organs had an unmistakable Allen sound. In other words they re-packaged stop sounds into different platforms. They improved on the stop attack transients, made them sound cleaner, more pitch sources, etc.

    Cheers

    AV

  • #2
    For the most part to me, from at least MOS2 to MDS, all these organs had an unmistakable Allen sound. In other words they re-packaged stop sounds into different platforms. They improved on the stop attack transients, made them sound cleaner, more pitch sources, etc.

    They must have recorded those original sound onto high-quality tape (not an uncommon practice, actually) and reused them ad nauseum, because a lot of the familiar Allen favorites show up again in the Renaissance organs too. I have at least half a dozen stops on my two-manual Ren organ that I've encountered in MDS and ADC organs. Exactly the same timbre and even the name, just varying levels of quality in the reproduction based on the technology used.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by michaelhoddy View Post
      They must have recorded those original sound onto high-quality tape (not an uncommon practice, actually) and reused them ad nauseum, because a lot of the familiar Allen favorites show up again in the Renaissance organs too. I have at least half a dozen stops on my two-manual Ren organ that I've encountered in MDS and ADC organs. Exactly the same timbre and even the name, just varying levels of quality in the reproduction based on the technology used.
      I can think of a number of reasons for this:
      1) Why fix something if it isn't broken (people like the Allen sound enough to make them one of the dominant electronic organ manufacturers in America)
      2) Creating sample sets must be VERY expensive time wise to cherish these samples so long. This should make us more grateful for the HW sample sets, however high cost.
      3) Also can you imagine how a church or other pipe organ owner might react if they found out that a deep pockets Allen Corporation wanted to sample their cherished organ? ("That'll be a million dollars please...plus royalties to support our dear organ")

      Comment


      • #4
        Hi,

        To a degree, I think that is exactly what Allen has done. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. However, they might wish now that they worked a little harder upgrading their sounds and technology platform.

        If you look at their web-site, you will find that their standard tonal suite, or default one if there is only one, is called Allen Classic, and is said to be the sound that organ lovers know and love. However, it sounds so 1980s to my ears. And a lot of other folks I know, who used to like Allen, have preferences for other builder's sounds.

        As a result, Allen's sales are waaaaaaay down. Not only has the marketplace shrunk for organs, also Allen's marketshare has gone down significantly the last 10 years, at least in North America. The only market they still rule is the theatre organ market, as there is very little competition there.

        Gathering recordings of pipe tones is not terribly expensive. Even fees to go in and record the tones usually is not much, in the scheme of things. Processing them though, takes time, and doing it really well takes a lot of time. However if one has good native recordings, they can be processed a number of times, each time with better technologies and techniques.

        These days, sitting on one's laurels even if one is the king of the hill, if one is not forward looking and innovative, and price competitive, one gets put on the side lines pretty quickly.

        AV

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by arie v View Post
          ...These days, sitting on one's laurels even if one is the king of the hill, if one is not forward looking and innovative, and price competitive, one gets put on the side lines pretty quickly.
          I agree. In down economies, the smart companies invest heavily in R & D. So who knows, maybe something exciting is just around the bend. However, I have trouble imagining anything more exciting that having completely control over a potentially infinite number of possible sample sets as in Hauptwerk, GrandOrgue, etc. Yes, I know, computers are not 'commercial grade' yet, or are they? Been using one at work for quite some time. ;-)

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by arie v View Post
            These days, sitting on one's laurels even if one is the king of the hill, if one is not forward looking and innovative, and price competitive, one gets put on the side lines pretty quickly.

            AV
            Part of the problem is that sampling synthesis is a now a mature technology and has become a commodity. Earth shattering, innovative improvements are simply no longer possible. Pretty limited to a numbers game: greater sample length, greater sample resolution, greater number of voices, etc. Sure you have your tweaks, such as dynamic channel assignments, convolution reverb, swell shade modeling etc. but the benefits are subtle.

            While newer technologies, such as real-time physical modeling have the potential for improved realism the question of whether that is noticably superior to sampling or more cost effective is unresolved.

            Allen's challenge is to differentiate themselves from their competitors. They have a historical and reputational advantage in that regard, but that is probably not enough. If I were Allen, I'd be focusing on the areas of virtual acoustics, automatic voicing and and tonal regulation, reducing manufacturing costs and price points, and perhaps some innovative approaches to player interfaces rather than tone generation.
            -Admin

            Allen 965
            Zuma Group Midi Keyboard Encoder
            Zuma Group DM Midi Stop Controller
            Hauptwerk 4.2

            Comment


            • #7
              Admin,

              I fully concur with your post. With what Hauptwerk is doing, it is hard to believe that the electronic or digital organ is going to sound a whole lot better in the future.

              Allen to improve it's chances in the marketplace will not only have to improve it's sound and model offerings, it may also have to alter it's business model too. Maybe do some business on-line. Maybe change the manufacturer-dealer setup,. Maybe have more factory oversight in installs and voicing etc. Make models that are more designed for music than looking like they come from the marketing department. Has anyone looked at the bewildering number of models they offer?

              I'm not sure about virtual acoustics. I do think some kind of automatic voicing and regulation could help at the dealer end, and satisfy more customers.

              I have a feeling though, Allen is a rather stodgy company. They are comfortable doing what they have always done. Where once they were innovative and ahead of the curve, they are still doing things that worked in the 80s and 90s. I know it is hard to just change massively, but maybe that is what they have to do.

              And Allen is not the only one that has to change. Maybe manufacturers have to look at the whole market place and see where it is headed and their place in it.

              In these difficult days, when you are not making any money, it is hard to make massive changes, even if they have to be made. Just look at a company like Kodak. A good decade ago, that company was huge, and made money, and had lovely products (film), but then digital came along and swamped them, and they got beaten by other companies in the digital field.

              AV

              Comment


              • #8
                I have a feeling though, Allen is a rather stodgy company

                I agree, but, let's not forget I predicted many years ago on this board that they would come out with something like Elite, and they did. They realized they should market a response to the M&O organ, and, since they've sold about as many of those as M&O, it can be considered a success as long as the R&D wasn't more than the net profit. (who knows) I don't think they are sitting up there in Allentown dining on champagne and crumpets all day. Some of their last filings as a public company, which I remember reading back in the mid 2000s, discussed the obvious implications of the continued trend in US worship towards praise bands. As I noted earlier, they expanded in the 90s into other ways to make money besides organs. They can certainly see the "icebergs ahead" better than the RMS Titanic that was Kodak could. The Chapel series with Fatar keyboards is certainly a non-stodgy step in the right direction. Another way in which Kodak is not exactly comparable is that the specialization required to produce film is enormous compared to almost anything else. In theory, Allen could outsource production of all their circuitry to one of the THOUSANDS of factories around the world that can do that. With film, there is no such option.

                (I would love to know if Roland has consolidated production of their organ's PCB boards, in Japan or wherever they manufacturer them. Seems much more economical than having them muck around with that in Oregon, but they probably keep that a closely guarded secret as it would impact people's perception of "made in America". UPDATE: Roland recently started making some of their digital pianos in Oregon! So it seems like they are bringing Rodgers more into the fold. Now they will get to label some of their pianos as Made in America.)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Circa,

                  I think Allen realized from the beginning that the Elite series would not sell in great numbers, but more that it would put a "halo" around the Allen brand. I'm sure they expected to sell more than they have. I heard that at least a couple were sold at a great discount, just to get them into the field. The Elite does sound quite a bit better than their standard offerings. From what I understand, Allen used their technology and scaled it up, to produce the Elite. In other words, their R & D required to build the Elite was not high.

                  As to the Chapel "F" series, that is merely a concession to the marketplace. They were being shut out increasingly at the bottom end, as their keyboards were so much more expensive to build. Most everyone else when Allen went that route were using Fatar keyboards as the default keyboard. I don't see anything particularly attractive about the Chapel series. About 20 years ago they introduced lighted stop controls, as a similar concession, while before that they were advertising that it was beneath their dignity to build instruments with lighted controls. It used to be with them moving stop controls was the only way to go.

                  Why would Allen outsource their electronic assembly work. They have a whole division doing that for other customers. It is called Allen Integrated Assemblies. If they can't compete doing work for themselves, why would they do that for other customers.

                  What I am more thinking of is streamlining their models, promote more custom offerings, get rid of things like the compact consoles with the "princess" pedals, drop the pull out drawer which kind of looks like a 20-30 year old solution to something, put in more on-board non organ sounds (MIDI) and built-in record playback system rather than forcing to buy an expensive add-on. They should also look seriously at a new tone generating system. I know, I know, they didn't ask for my advice.

                  From the Rodgers/Roland, I understand that a lot of Rodgers engineering is done by Roland in Japan. Likewise the circuit boards. I don't think it is necessarily recent that Roland has been building digital pianos in the Rodgers factory. I heard about that years ago. The Roland classical organs, and the 5xx series models from Rodgers are built in Europe (Italy).

                  If organ sales are not good, digital piano sales, especially the higher priced models don't sell well either, at least in North America. Seems that anything keyboard related is a hard sell these days.

                  AV

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by arie v View Post
                    Gathering recordings of pipe tones is not terribly expensive. Even fees to go in and record the tones usually is not much, in the scheme of things. Processing them though, takes time, and doing it really well takes a lot of time. However if one has good native recordings, they can be processed a number of times, each time with better technologies and techniques.
                    Arie,

                    I read in a brochure back in the 1980s that Allen actually paid to have ranks of pipes shipped to their studios, where they were sampled in a controlled environment. I'm not sure that is still true, but it makes sense that all the pipes would be sampled in the same location. For what it's worth.

                    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


                    • #11
                      Michael,

                      Yes, in the 70s and 80s they used their anechoic chamber to record pipe tones. That data was then used for analysis and from that they made the waveform sequence. What Allen was doing in their organs then was not sample playback, but job a reptitive waveform readout. For more than a decade they used all of a single one half of the full wave data to define a whole stop. Extremely limited amount of data defined a stop, and you have to wonder that it sounded as good as it did back then.There are still folks who like the sound of MOS1, MOS2 and early ADC organs, so they didn't sound absolutely terrible.

                      AV

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Why would Allen outsource their electronic assembly work. They have a whole division doing that for other customers. It is called Allen Integrated Assemblies. If they can't compete doing work for themselves, why would they do that for other customers.

                        Right that's one of the side businesses I alluded to in my previous emails. But the good ole USA is obviously no longer "competitive" in the area of PCB manufacturer anymore. Every single personal computer's motherboard is made somewhere in SE Asia. I don't really think it would save them money in the long run to drop it, but I can imagine some bean counter thinking it would in the short term, if a board that costs them $20 to produce themselves, in the USA, can be bought for $15 from Taiwan. In fact I really wonder who buys from AIA these days. Certain exotic military components have to be made in the USA, so that's a possibility. Anyone please speak up if you've bought anything in the past 15 years made on a PCB stamped "made in USA" besides an Allen organ (haha). I have one of the original 3Com network cards from the mid 1990s, that is stamped made in USA. Other than that I can't think of anything. Oh wait a sec...I have a Bryston amp so that would at least be made in Canada!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Actually, PC assembly in the USA can be quite competitive for small to medium volume production, and especially for surface mount where labor cost is not the significant part of the costs. Add MIL or industrial level performance standards, and it would be harder to produce offshore.

                          It's when you get to consumer volume production quantities that costs get down in the dirt and everything seems to be made in China.

                          Many industrial electronic devices have circuit mfg in the USA, Canada, or Europe. Manufacturing is most definitely NOT dead in the USA. I work for a manufacturer of industrial electronics components. The raw PCBs we buy are produced in the USA and assmbled in the USA.

                          Toodles.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Good to know Toodles! Another area where I believe we are still leaders in manufacturing is medical devices; surely those have PCBs made in the US, due to performance level requirements.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Plus the challenges of getting FDA and other regulatory approvals for medical devices is easier with local sourcing.

                              One of the current issues with supplying to the Government for Defense, by the way, is a requirement for counterfeit part prevention programs. Seems lots of counterfeit parts are coming from China, etc., and the Government doesn't want them in the defense articles they buy. It is challenging.

                              Toodles.

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