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  • Allen - Rodgers - etc - Side-by-Side comparisons

    About to have an interesting opportunity in my own shop. For several years now I've been taking in used organs, fixing them up, re-selling what I can and storing the rest. Most of what we've seen coming though the shop has been older stuff, not very big, just starter organs for small churches or home practice organs. The biggest we'd had were a few Rodgers serial-keyed and MADC Allens from the 80's. As some of you know, I managed to pass along several decent organs to my former church, and thereby got to play some nice Allen and Rodgers organs in a church that otherwise would have had a very poor organ if anything.

    But today we're taking delivery of our best organs yet after finally getting more space rented for our little operation. We are getting a Rodgers 3m PDI (I think it's a 945) and also an Allen MDS 45, along with a small Allen MOS organ, a Baldwin/Viscount drawknob model, and a Galanti Praeludium II. We already have three smallish Allens from the ADC era, a Hammond CX-1 and an A-100, another Galanti, an Allen MDC, and assorted Yamaha, etc., some working, some not. I also have this Rodgers 790 at home, somewhat crippled by lightning damage, but playable, and it may wind up getting taken to the shop for renovation too.

    Sounds like a junk collection, but in fact there are some interesting models in the group. I'm particularly eager to hear the Allen MDS side-by-side with the Rodgers PDI, since they were built about the same time and were competing for the same market. We'll also be able to hear the similarities and differences among Allens of different eras, from the early 70's MOS up though three iterations of ADC, and the MDS of the 90's.

    I have in mind donating either the MDS or the PDI to the church where I now play to replace the Galanti I've mentioned in another thread. That will certainly make playing at church a more exciting experience for me and I believe even the folks in the pews will notice the difference. I won't know until I've checked both out extensively which one I'd rather play every Sunday.

    I hope to be able to do some serious listening and perhaps draw some conclusions about these various technologies. Out in the churches where we work every day, it's hard to make meaningful comparisons. Some installations sound great and others not so great, and many factors other than the type of organ enter into that. Now's my chance to compare numerous organ types on a level playing field (so to speak). Will post from time to time.

    As a footnote, it's amazing to think that just a few years ago I was so desperate for a decent organ to put into my own church that I was settling for stuff like a Wurlitzer spinet, tube-type Conns, and enormous old analogs. Even the poorest organ in my current collection (probably one of the Galanti's) would have seemed an enormous upgrade over what I was playing then. How things change in such a short time!
    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,

    I too would be interested in your observations about the comparison-solo stops, ensemble, console, etc. Especially between the Allen and Rodgers, but also with the Galanti. It sounds like you're not terrifically impressed with the early 90's Praeludiums, but I'd especially be curious what you thought of the individual stops of all three organs in comparison.

    I may be remembering the organs through rose-colored glasses, but we had several instances around 1989-92 where we as Galanti salesmen did head-to-head or direct competition for sales against Allen MDS W4 organs with Praeludiums, and we didn't really lose that often. We did a direct competition against an Allen MDS-5 or MDS-10 with a Praeludium II with both organs side-by-side in the church that was considering, with the Allen reps there at the same time. That was awkward, but the Galanti was (to the church and us) far more colorful in terms of individual stops, and although the ensemble was one of the weaker points, it wasn't worse than those small MDS organs, which just got loud and screechy. So I'd be curious to hear a blow-by-blow from your perspective.

    The 45 is definitely a different organ from the small ones. I have the least experience with the early Rodgers PDI organs. My main memories of them involve fighting loose pedalboards and glitches more than anything about the sound.

    So lay it on us!

    Comment


    • #3
      I'll be anxious to learn about your evaluation as well.

      I owned a Galanti Praeludium II for a while in the late 1980's, early 1990's. Overall, the individual voices were quite nice, and it was one of the better balanced organs I've heard, as voice-to-voice setup and scaling was concerned. The internal speaker system was very good. About the only thing I found lacking was a sense of ensemble/chorus (i.e., multiple pitch sources).

      As to the MDS-45, I auditioned one around 1990, and although the sound was good, perhaps it was a little too much "pipe-like"--i.e., the defects, chiffs, etc., were a little more exagerated than I cared for. Perhaps the dealer had set it up for a "thinner" voicing than I prefer.

      The MDS-45 comes in the Allen D size console, which is substantial, and well built--if it is a standard console. (The D console is no longer offered by Allen.) It has console controller, second voices on the Swell and Great, and certainly should sound very nice even by today's standards if setup properly.

      Keep us posted!

      Toodles.

      Comment


      • #4
        Toodles,

        Regarding the Galanti PII, when it was released commercially in 1986, it was a step forward in terms of tone production. You are correct in saying that the ensemble was not the greatest, but even so, it was respectable for the time. Compare it to say a Rodgers 640/645, which was a bottom feeder analog in production at the time, the Galanti was better in the ensemble.

        Biggest reason for that was all tone boards and all 12 M114 tone generator ICs, ran from a common clock frequency. The M114 had pitch tables that were rather course, a total of 5 steps, one standard pitch, 2 sharp and 2 flat. I believe you could set which pitch you wanted a stop to play by octaves. So, if you played octaves they would not be perfectly in tune.

        Besides lack of independent pitch sources, there was sharing of stops. For instance on the Sw of the PII, the Scharff and the Oboe shared resources. So if both stops were on, a composite tone would come out, obviously sharing the same pitch.

        There is a switch located under the key desk which allows for an alternative ensemble sound, a bit more out-of-tune position, which can improve things a bit.

        Also, since it had only 2 audio channels, there would be even more signal jamming, phase summing and cancellations.

        Physics is always there to catch the cheaters.

        I still service these organs only a regular basis, and must say that I find them decent still. Most are in churches with some external speakers hooked up to them.

        Unfortunately, everything about them was fixed, so one could not voice the organs. That came in the next generation.

        The larger Allens of the time, did have a bigger and better ensemble. But if you listen to a single computer MOS-1 from the 70s, they had poor ensemble as well.

        AV

        Comment


        • #5
          Arie,

          I'm not knocking the PII--it was a low priced model, and for the price provided excellent sound, variety, and good scaling. The tonal design got the balance between stops just about perfect, to my ears. I was just commenting on about the only thing I found lacking, tonally. I even liked the lighted rocker tabs better than those I've seen on the US manufacturers who do their own lighted rockers. (Rodgers units look cheap to me, and Allen's are too bright and too stiff. I'm picky.) The organ could have used more pistons, but I think that was a European versus US design issue.

          Of course, the overall mechanical build wasn't up to an Allen's, but all that takes is $$. The pedalboard had to be replaced because of the faulty mechanical scheme they used with the switches--the replacement didn't have as nice a feel, but it was reliable.

          By the way, the pedal division had the best clarity of voicing I've heard on any organ of similar size, or even quite a bit larger.

          Toodles.

          Comment


          • #6
            Arie,thanks for the info on the G PI. I own a PI which is of course similar.
            I *think* I remember Ray Albright saying the PI,II and III had samples only from European organs, and they were only 8 bit, and (as you point out) there were a rather small number per stop in the PI and II.

            <<Regarding the Galanti PII, when it was released commercially in 1986, it was a step forward in terms of tone production. You are correct in saying that the ensemble was not the greatest, but even so, it was respectable for the time. Compare it to say a Rodgers 640/645, which was a bottom feeder analog in production at the time, the Galanti was better in the ensemble.

            Biggest reason for that was all tone boards and all 12 M114 tone generator ICs, ran from a common clock frequency. The M114 had pitch tables that were rather course, a total of 5 steps, one standard pitch, 2 sharp and 2 flat. I believe you could set which pitch you wanted a stop to play by octaves. So, if you played octaves they would not be perfectly in tune.

            Besides lack of independent pitch sources, there was sharing of stops. For instance on the Sw of the PII, the Scharff and the Oboe shared resources. So if both stops were on, a composite tone would come out, obviously sharing the same pitch.

            There is a switch located under the key desk which allows for an alternative ensemble sound, a bit more out-of-tune position, which can improve things a bit.

            Also, since it had only 2 audio channels, there would be even more signal jamming, phase summing and cancellations.

            Physics is always there to catch the cheaters.

            I still service these organs only a regular basis, and must say that I find them decent still. Most are in churches with some external speakers hooked up to them.

            Unfortunately, everything about them was fixed, so one could not voice the organs. That came in the next generation.

            The larger Allens of the time, did have a bigger and better ensemble. But if you listen to a single computer MOS-1 from the 70s, they had poor ensemble as well.>

            Comment


            • #7
              I look forward to your posts, jbird604

              I would love some pictures of the inside of the early PDI organ...I've been quite curious about those.
              For example, are the boards SMD or DIP/through hole. A lot of SMD technology of that era (89-94 or so) has gotten the reputation for failing by now, so, either it hasn't happened because 1) the boards were still DIP (as were Allen's early MDS), 2) Rodgers did a good job of repairing them and keeping it quiet, or 3) Roland had excellent quality processes. Commercial video equipment is particularly notorious for this and basically, nothing built around 89-94 was still operating by the early 2000s, unless it had been stored in a box. Compare to some friends of my parents, who ran one of those hefty JVC VHS recorders from the late 70s well into the late 90s!
              Last edited by circa1949; 01-28-2012, 05:33 AM.

              Comment


              • #8
                We got all the organs into the shop yesterday. No easy feat for the movers, the front door had to be removed because the two big organs (MDS45 and the PDI945) were about a 1/4" too big with the door swung back as far as it would go, even after removing the top lids of both. I'm just glad I wasn't doing the lifting and toting myself.

                The PDI Rodgers had been declared "lightning damaged" by someone, not me, and had been written off by the insurance company. When we turned the key it booted up and the display looked normal (transposer 0). There are two large PDI cages and the lights were normal in one cage but flickering rapidly in the other one and there was no activity indicated when keys were played. I assume that second cage is down and perhaps pulling the whole system down. Drawknobs lit up when pulled and the cancel piston canceled them, so there is at least something happening in the main CPU. The speakers were disconnected so we don't know if it makes any sound.

                This thing is huge, biggest PDI I've seen. Each of the two cages has its own 15-pin cable running to its own audio processor board. Eight channels come out of each board into an 8-channel amp. I didn't even count the speakers, but they included four subs (two Rodgers 7.5's and two enormous Walker subs the size of refrigerators). There are a dozen or more Rodgers 1.7's and several Walker cabinets with a 12" + a 6x9 + a tweeter. I assume that all 16 channels were in use and that each channel pair carries a distinct set of stops. So this is double the audio separation used on the big 3m Rodgers organs we're installing today, though I know that additional channels are usually an option on those too.

                The woofer in every single cabinet is completely rotted out (foam rot). I can't believe that they were still playing it like this. The dual 15" cones in the Walker subs were just hanging there, all the foam gone, and the little 1.7 cabinets' woofers had the foam gone mushy and soft with chunks crumbling out everywhere.

                The church is replacing it with a big Viscount 3m of some kind, but I'm not involved in the install. Hope to go back and hear it. It's a 1200 seat church, so I hope they're putting in some big audio or it's gonna be puny compared to this big Rodgers.

                The MDS45 Allen had been removed (best I can find out) from an AFB chapel, bought by an individual, then re-sold to a friend of mine who brought it to Arkansas to his home. It has a couple of bugs that he didn't want to fool with fixing, so he decided to sell it to me. I will have to do some work on the MN board and in the cage, possibly battery damage in the alterable voice memory board, but I think I can fix it for a reasonable cost. It's a beautiful light oak finish and almost mint condition. Came with 10 matching finished speaker cabinets. (It's only got four discrete output channels, so I assume it had double audio in the main chamber and perhaps a swell antiphonal, which would account for all the speakers.)

                So it may be a while before all these organs are playing and we can do some critical listening. I appreciate all the comments so far. Yes, I'm not terribly crazy about the Galanti PII I play on at church now, but I agree with others that it was quite good in its day. The tone is perhaps a little too European for my taste, but it's better with the EQ I put on it a couple weeks ago. It just doesn't sound like an organ with that many stops. Each individual stop is quite nice, some even beautiful, but when you've got 8 or 9 stops in each division coupled together plus another 6 or 7 pedal stops, you just don't get the massive sound you'd expect from that many stops. It's not actually that much louder with 20 stops drawn than it is with 4 stops drawn, so Arie is right about physics catching up with it!

                Have a great weekend, everybody!
                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
                  Circa,

                  I am rather leary of this new SMD/SMT stuff. To make modifications, or repairs to circuit boards is basically impossible in the field, and only slightly less so if you have the right equipment. Also, troubleshooting the circuits out in the field is nigh near impossible, as companies don't supply extender boards, nor guide you in where and what to measure. Schematics are fine for power supply work, amplifiers, and such, but not near everything in the instrument.

                  What is going to be even worse, is electronics that conforms to RoHS, the supposedly European eco friendly legislation specifying no lead, anitomony, chromium, etc. Problem is that now electronics have more plastic in them, and the lead-free solder is garbage - it is hard to work with, is brittle, melts at a higher temperature, crystallizes and grows whiskers causing potential shorts.

                  The reason that so little noise is made over this legislation is that most electronics today is designed only for 2 to 5 year lifespan. Traditionally, electronic organs had an expected lifespan of say 25 years, and many went way beyond this. Don't be surprised if many of the newer organs don't even get to be 20 years old before they are deemed to be landfill, because they can't be repaired.

                  Anyways, the stuff I helped build in the 80s and 90s is still remarkably reliable, and fixable. And the parts are cheap too. And I can see what I am doing while working on them.

                  AV
                  Last edited by arie v; 01-28-2012, 04:10 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
                    As a footnote, it's amazing to think that just a few years ago I was so desperate for a decent organ to put into my own church that I was settling for stuff like a Wurlitzer spinet, tube-type Conns, and enormous old analogs. Even the poorest organ in my current collection (probably one of the Galanti's) would have seemed an enormous upgrade over what I was playing then. How things change in such a short time!
                    John,

                    Had you told me 5 years ago, I'd have 3 Allens of different generations, I'd not have believed you. I dreamed of having only one as a teenager!

                    Please make recordings of your comparisons of the instruments side-by-side. I'm sure recordings won't do them justice, but they'd be great to have for ephemera. Your new church is so fortunate!

                    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
                      yes Arie, I agree

                      more than a few people have wondered if the ROHS initiative was really an industry-favorable form of forced obsolescence...

                      After all Pb on a circuit board would be incredibly easy to recycle - and recycling of electronics would seem to be economically favorable these days whether or not lead is present. For example to recover gold contacts and various other rare earth elements. And even if it does get thrown in a landfill, I can't believe the long term threat it posed was anywhere near the threat posed by various other things that get thrown in landfills. There's no natural process that causes lead to form dangerous, bio-available compounds as happens with mercury. The rate at which it would leach from a leaking landfill would be rather slow. And if it did somehow get into a water supply, pre-treatment, the flocculation process used by most muni. water treatment would get rid of it. All in all, it was a rare case of "excess caution" on the part of government regulators, and therefore I smell a rat, or a red herring!

                      Also, here in the States at least, another bleedin' obvious elephant in the room are firing and trap shooting ranges...nobody is talking about banning lead projectiles, and they must add it to the environment in a much more acid rain soluble way.

                      Btw I find these descriptions of the innards of the giant PDI organ very tantalizing. 16 channels, it must sound incredible! The 4 channel Allen would not stand a chance in overall ensemble! Pictures! Pictures! One thing I've always been curious about, though, is the wacky "Stereo Imaging" marketing shtick of Rodgers. Did that start with PDI? It's totally pseudo-scentific, but I won't waste the time to explain why. I wonder if it means, though, that each rank actually consumes 2 channels instead of 1? So it's really like an 8 channel organ? (OTOH, if "Stereo imaging" actually meant C came out of one channel, and C# out of another, as we know that could improve the sound greatly)

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by circa1949 View Post
                        Also, here in the States at least, another bleedin' obvious elephant in the room are firing and trap shooting ranges...nobody is talking about banning lead projectiles, and they must add it to the environment in a much more acid rain soluble way.
                        Oh, yes, they are! The EPA has tried several times to do so, but there is a law that prevents them from doing so. (As a gun owner, I am glad of that.) I don't think lead is nearly the danger that some would have us believe it is. I support reasonable recycling efforts and those to prevent accumulation of lead dust around schools and residences, but there just is no provable serious health threat here in the United States from lead (except those lead-painted toys from China).

                        David

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          David, thanks for the contribution. I didn't google the matter, but I had a theory (obviously a correct one) that the NRA lobby would insure that a move to block lead in projectiles would be seen as a move to block projectiles, period. It is a cheap and appropriate material for the task, funny enough a few days ago I wondered why "shot towers" were called such and googled it. Turns out its because it was an easy way to make lead shot in the 19th century...

                          Lead is toxic. There's no doubt about that. A child recently dropped dead from swallowing a lead toy he got at McDonalds, that was made in China, and the parties responsible for such profoundly idiotic oversights should be fully prosecuted. It is appropriate that it is recycled from things like batteries. But its overall potential to become a major environmental toxin depends on its form (airborne is bad...) and is lower than things like mercury. I consider myself very concerned for the environment, and I'm not losing any sleep over shooting ranges. I'll leave it at that because there's no point to digressing further into the politics of it. The ROHS ban is something we are going to have to live with; like Arie says, it is quite safe to assume that the Allen (or any other brand) digital organs purchased today are not going to be chugging along in 20-35 years as ADC, MOS & MDS organs did.

                          Interestingly lead is projected to get more expensive in the next several decades, so the arms industry might have to eventually improvise a way to reduce the amt. in bullets, even if it's only because of market and not regulatory forces.
                          Last edited by circa1949; 01-28-2012, 03:36 PM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            back to PDI &amp; organs

                            I've done a bit of research. Rodgers "Stereo Imaging" isn't at all what I assumed. The marketing lit. had always created the impression that they sampled the pipes in stereo, and reproduced them in stereo.

                            It was actually invented during the analog era, in the early 1980s. It's a kind of graduated phase shifting of 2 oscillator signals output to 2 channels, to try to correct the known issues of electronic sound blending. I don't know if it made its way into any of the production analog organs, but, in any case, I've taken a peek at both the patent and a random piece of Rodgers marketing lit I found via google, which seems to almost repudiate the earlier marketing to clarify the purpose of the technology. (they must have recognized some people would think the basic description of it made little sense) That brochure criticizes C/C# splitting for creating a ping-ponging effect. But if you placed the speakers correctly, it wouldn't do that.

                            So, I can't say it's 100% useless. Recording a rank in stereo and reproducing it in stereo, compared to doing a C/C# split, a) wouldn't fix the problems of electronic mixing and interval beats, b) would introduce another, unnecessary source of distortion and amplifier noise, and c) would only sound "more realistic" if the sound were reproduced in the same acoustic space using speakers placed exactly where the microphones had been placed.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Interesting thoughts on the C/C# split. Our pipe organ is completely designed around that construct, and for most of the instrument it is not an issue. However, the divided Choir Organ is located on the lowest level right behind the choir (where else?) and has a 10' gap between the two enclosures, to be eventually occupied by a tracker-action console, should we desire to buy one. As a result, if the Choir Organ is being used to accompany the choir, the melody line is heard to jump back and forth from one side to the other behind us, and was initially quite unsettling. We've kind of gotten used to it, now, and the Organist sometimes adds voices from the Great or Swell to somewhat mitigate the effect. (It is not perceived out in the congregation--they are far enough removed for the sounds to merge.) We all love the organ, though, and are willing to live with this minor fault.

                              David

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