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1974 Rodgers, worth consideration?

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  • 1974 Rodgers, worth consideration?

    This is my first post here, though I've been lurking a while. I am interested in getting feedback on a 1974 Rodgers that is available locally. So far, I do not have a model number. A picture of the console is attached if that helps anyone identify the model or series. I will probably get a chance to inspect this instrument later in the week and will have more information then.

    In any case, I would like to request the expertise of those here, especially the techs/builders who seem to frequent the site as to the worthiness of this organ on a couple of points. Realizing this is highly subjective, my first question is how good an organ this is "as-is" with regard to sound quality. I have to assume this is purely analog tone generation for 74. Though I know Allen launched the MOS-1 system around 72 (and consider me amongst the generally unimpressed) Rodgers seems to have waited to do digital until the 90's based on what scant information I can find online. I guess the real question is: is it decent analog tone generation, and if coupled with signal processing (reverb and such) can I expect fairly acceptable results? I know not to expect miracles.

    Second, what type of keying system and capture action is likely to be found in this era of Rodgers instruments? I ask because I could see adding MIDI (in and out) if the keying system is not terribly exotic. Would also consider adding a modern console controller or at least a new capture action and transposer if technically possible. This appears to be moving SAM with two rows of stop keys. Two level memory with dual key switches for setting lockout on the lower left of the great manual.

    Overall, it looks like a very well built console that would be worthy of modification/additions, and has the 90 degree roll top so it is conceivable I could build out side boards with drawknobs if I wanted to in the future, using this console as a starting point for a good virtual organ controller.

    Asking price on this (includes several original speaker cabinets of questionable value) is $500 for the whole lot - console and speakers - though I would probably dispense with the old Rodgers speakers in favor of something newer and more capable; Walker most likely.

    Sorry for the long post, but wanted to supply enough background to hopefully get some useful advice.

    Kevin Dierkes

  • #2

    The Model is a Rodgers 750BE; B for the B series of the 750 organ, and E for External Speakers. Attached is the product brochure.

    1. The organ is analog, and a fairly large stop list. It is unit-based, the main units being Swell Principal, Swell Flute, Swell Trompette, Great Principal, Great Flute, Great Krummhorn. Sub & Super Octave couplers.

    2. Dual memory combination action, with core-memory. If this is in good working order, there would be no need to replace it unless you want more pistons or more memories. If it is not working, it may not be repairable.

    3. Celestes should be 49 notes.

    4. The organ includes a transposer (+/- 4 notes).

    5. The console is 35 inches deep without pedals, and might have trouble navigating narrow doors.

    It is good analog sound, and would be enhanced with a digital reverb unit. I think I might have a copy of the technical manual for this organ--if I do, I can tell you better about adapting it to MIDI.

    If it is in good working condition, and you can spare the space (it is a large console), I can recommend it. I really like the 2 rows of stops centered above the manuals--it makes all the stops very handy for manual registration.

    Attached Files


    • #3
      If this is in good order that is a steal at $500! I'd characterize Rodgers instruments of that era as having a little more woody and whispery quality. Some styles lend themselves very well to the smooth sound. Keep in mind the big switch to a baroque sound hadn't taken place in the early 70's so organs tended to be very "romantic". I for one happen to be a romantic fan! Just find alot of friends for the move because these all wood cabinets are heavy!


      • #4
        What a steal for $500.
        I only wish that I had the room to add it to what I have.
        Go for it!


        • #5
          Toodles, many thanks for posting that brochure. Very helpful information that you passed along as well. This is more organ than I need (for home use) but have been looking for a while (a couple of years really) and happened upon this and it looked good, despite it's age and level of technology. Clearly, it is a quality console and from the pictures is in very good condition. Did not realize it was so large, but I think I can manage to get it in to it's intended location. Obviously, need to take a lot of measurements and triple check before committing to buy it.

          Also, if you happen to dig up a technical manual (by which I assume you mean service manual) I would gladly pay costs for copying or scanning and postage etc. as I would likely do most of my own service on it (have extensive electronics background as well as being an organist). My big wish is MIDI both in and out so that I could sequence multi-track pieces and play live along with it, using the internal tone generation, in conjunction with outboard sound sources. Clearly, that is the biggest challenge with an instrument of this age and type. Seems Rodgers used single contact diode keying from fairly early on (1960's?) so maybe it will be more readily adaptable than the proprietary approach used by Allen and others in the pre-factory MIDI era.

          Organs4Me, thank you also for your input. I actually like the Romantic era music and sound (hard to say if I prefer it over Baroque, but I do like it) so the "voicing" of this organ is not a detriment to my needs in an instrument.

          I am awaiting a reply from the seller about scheduling an audition, and if this pans out I will post back here with good news. If not, I will pass along anything I do learn about it for anyone else here that might be interested.

          Thanks again,

          Kevin Dierkes


          • #6

            If the organ is indeed a 750 B, then it would date from about 1982-4. Definitely not 1974.

            If I am not mistaken the 750 B was a re-work of the discontinued 750 from the 70s. In between Rodgers came out with a series called Mikasco, which was a disaster, and these were made for about 18 months.

            As to the sound, it is not bad, for what it is, but there is a lot of unification/borrowing. So the ensemble just does not build right. Also the fact that it has only 1 set of pitch oscillators, plus some celeste oscillators. It certainly does not sound like an Allen MOS organ.

            I would suggest interfacing MIDI out is possible, but MIDI in likely not, at least not as a Rodgers organ.

            If MIDI implementation is important, I would suggest getting a MIDI capable organ right from the get go. 20 year old used digital organs now go for relatively low prices.


            P.S. Regarding Rodgers waiting to go digital till 1991, it is true, but the reason is rather obscure. In the 80s, Rodgers had various owners, and increasingly lost market share to Allen. They didn't have the financial resources to go digital, although they did look into the Bradford computing system. Rodgers push in the 80s was to sell their organs with pipe packages, from a single rank to about 8 ranks. You would be amazed at how many Rodgers organs from the 80s were installed with 1 or 2 ranks of pipes. When Roland bought Rodgers in 1988, things got re-engineered in Japan, and internally Rodgers organs pretty much became Roland inside.


            • #7

              Appreciate your input on this. I have been looking for a couple of years and just recently thought I had a very nice early 90's Rodgers digital with factory midi (in/out on keyboards and pedal only, no expression or stop control) lined up, but it was sold out from under me to someone rather, uh, aggressive shall we say. I am tiring of practicing on the Hammond model D (from 1943!) I have presently. It needs a lot of work and is no longer reliable without spending the time and money to essentially rebuild the preamp, re-cap the tone generators (and address dead notes) as well as the power amps (using Hammond amps and tone cabinets with Jensen field coil 12" drivers).

              Since the amps each use a quad of 2A3 triodes, and new production stock runs about $120 per tube, it is loosing it's appeal due to the costs involved. Sure, I could go with solid state amps and modern speakers but then it looses it "Hammondness" to a large degree. Console is beat to death anyway, so it is not really a presentable instrument. Works enough for periodic use but really needs a top down rebuild for long term viability. I know electronics but really don't care to get into a project of that scope since it is not a classical specification organ anyway. Unsure of what I will do with it if I decide to get this Rodgers; I hate to junk it but the D is not a highly sought after model, lacking the mass appeal of the B/C3. I do not have room for both, that is certain.

              At any rate, this Rodger organ is local (for me) and the price is decent provided everything works (seller states it does) so it gets my interest straight away just on account of those two factors. The fact that it is a well equipped console with an adequate number of generals, divisionals and other features (all generals duplicated by toe studs and dual expression+crescendo) is a big plus, as is the fact it was very lightly used over it's life thus far so has very little wear and tear. Even the finish on the bench is still shiny and unblemished from the pictures I have available.

              I realize the tone generation technology is considered dated, but I have heard some larger analog organs that sound very nice. Not necessarily authentic in terms of emulating a pipe organ, but enough to satisfy even my discriminating ear for use as a home practice instrument. Signal processing for reverb, spatial enhancement and other effects will be in order for use at home. After looking over the specs provided by Toodles, I am pleased to also see there is a transposer (that was not immediately apparent from the pictures) and provisions for a zimbelstern (piston/toe stud present). No 32' stops on the pedal, but in my house that is probably not a good thing to have anyway. Most instruments I have played (both pipe and electronic) had nothing larger than 16' pedal stops anyway and I have found them generally adequate. 32' are a nice luxury to have, but I can live without it. Besides, could always add that via outboard tone generation.

              I am curious if anyone knows if the stop keys are moving action or if it is a blind capture action. The brochure posted does not make that point clear, and the fact that it has lighted pistons makes me wonder if the stop keys are not moving action. Not a huge issue, but sure would be better with a true SAM setup on the stop key rails.

              Think that is about all I can say until I get a chance to go see and play the instrument. I am hopeful this will be an inexpensive and relatively easy way to get the kind of instrument I have long wanted since I keep seeming to miss out on the better deals for newer digital organs that I keep hearing about but never seeing - at least until after they have been sold.

              Kevin Dierkes


              • #8
                Originally posted by arie v View Post
                Rodgers push in the 80s was to sell their organs with pipe packages, from a single rank to about 8 ranks. You would be amazed at how many Rodgers organs from the 80s were installed with 1 or 2 ranks of pipes. When Roland bought Rodgers in 1988, things got re-engineered in Japan, and internally Rodgers organs pretty much became Roland inside.
                Yep I pretty much think this kept them alive during that period. As we can tell from the last decade of ebay auctions, there were many more Allens sold in the 70s & 80s than Rodgers. (no idea about today...obviously Rodgers has caught up to some degree) The only two Rodgers I was aware of in the DC area had that kinda dorky set of external pipes. I think they had 2 or 3 ranks - nothing taller than a 4' stopped flute IIRC. But, hey, they sounded more like pipes than the Allens of the era did...and churches could say they had a "pipe organ". Allen's sales lit. at the time talked about what a bad idea they thought combination organs were. Of course now they make them too! Admittedly it does make more sense today, since the tuning can probably automatically track the pipes.
                Last edited by circa1949; 01-09-2013, 02:59 AM.


                • #9

                  The 750BE will have genuine moving tab action and a quite reliable CMOS battery-backed memory. The only possible issue with this action would be the "sticky tab" problem. Check to be sure the tabs do not stick to the upstop or downstop pads in the SAMs. You'll recognize it immediately if they do. Some techs have fixed it by inserting small pieces of tissue paper to cover the sticky material, but I'm not sure that always works. Hopefully, this one will not have the problem, which did not affect all the SAMs of the era, just a certain type used in a particular production period.

                  Worst case, with the sticky tabs the organists press the pistons over and over in frustration, trying to force the tabs to move and burn up the driver transistors. Let's just hope this one is not one of the afflicted ones.

                  MIDI would be quite a project as this organ uses "time-sharing" keying, a multiplexing system. With an electronics background you might engineer a system to speak the language of this system, if you're so inclined. However, organs from the early 90's with full MIDI implementation are starting to appear in the classifieds, so you might just pick up one of those when and if you really get the MIDI bug.

                  Good luck!
                  *** 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!



                  • #10

                    Glad to have you lend your knowledge to the issue, I really appreciate it. Good to know it has a decent capture memory system, and moving tabs. I'll be on the lookout for any tabs that misbehave. I'd have been looking for this anyway as
                    I have played organs with failing/failed tabs and knobs before, so know the frustration of that problem. I'm wondering with regards to the keying system, does each key have discrete contact(s) and the multiplexing is done externally (i.e.outside the manual assembly)? Or do the key presses get encoded within each manual such that the connection to each manual has a ribbon cable or harness with a limited number of conductors?

                    The pedal clavier uses magnetic (presumably reed) contacts so it, at some point, has 32 discrete switches which I suppose are then encoded before the key on/off data is sent to the CPU and tone generators. The upshot of all this is that if the manuals have each of the 61 keys coming out on dedicated switches - with multiplexing done outboard so to speak - I could insert key control signals of appropriate voltage (or ground as appropriate) at that point in the circuit and not worry about directly manipulating the encoded keying data to the CPU. That may be wishful thinking on my part, but perhaps someone here knows.

                    Kevin Dierkes


                    • #11

                      I checked the service manual--I can't tell if the keys output DC directly or if they are strobed as part of the multiplexing system. The keys are definitely multiplexed outside of the keyswitch contacts--but the encoder board might be built into the keyboard assembly. I just can't tell (from a quick look) if the keyboard bus is strobed (i.e., the keyswitch bus is pulsed). I suspect not, but will look more closely at the schematics. If it is DC, a note-by-note midi adaptation is easy; if not, DC note keying info is available at: the oboe keyer input (for the Swell), the Krummhorn keyer input (for the Great) and the pedal keyer input. MIDI would then follow couplers, too.

                      My original post I incorrectly said it used core memory, jbird was correct--it is CMOS and should be reliable. I've also heard about the "toilet paper" approach to sticky tabs, but I suspect since this is 1980's build, the problem had been resolved by then. The issue was rubber up/down stop bumpers, that were replaced with felt to resolve the problem. Tabs are definitely moving on this model.

                      MIDI Solutions has "pedal controller" which could allow you to encode expression if you want to go that far.

                      Personally, I'd be happy with this organ, but would add an additional set of oscillators or two to expand the ensemble.



                      • #12
                        Kevin Dierkes - welcome to the forum. I usually am the one pester people in this way...any and all pictures of the inside if your organ would be appreciated. I'd particularly like to see the Mikasco keying board.


                        • #13

                          Thanks for the welcome, I'm glad to be here. A couple of things: first, I don't have this organ yet (it is one I am intending to purchase, but have not gotten a time set to audition it yet, still waiting on the seller). Second, it is not one of the Rodgers organs utilizing the Mikasco hardware, but rather an analog tone generator with what I gather to be a fairly conventional combination action and dual row SAM tablets. I've read a limited amount regarding the Mikasco affair on a few websites here and there, and my understanding is that it was Rodgers first attempt at integrated computer control on a console, and did not pan out so well.

                          The 750BE, the organ I have been discussing in this thread, is apparently a successor to the Mikasco product line as it was produced circa 1982-84. In any case, if I do end up with it I will probably post plenty of pictures, especially when I decide to undertake some improvements and modifications.

                          Kevin Dierkes


                          • #14
                            Sorry! I got a bit confused following the thread. Yes, apparently the earlier (-A?) Mikasco organs are best avoided. There used to be a web page describing the funny features they had but I can't find it now. Apparently you could lock the console by setting a combination with the pistons. Must have seemed very advanced in 1980 LOL. Anyhow I won't be giving much advice as I've never owned a Rodgers, but you're in the right place to get advice.


                            • #15
                              I reviewed the 750BE keying schematics, and the keybusses are indeed strobed--for simple on/off key info, you'd need to pickup note keying info at the pulse keyer (Oboe) for the Swell, Krummhorn keyer for the Great, and Pedal pulse keyer. Again, this approach means the MIDI info would also be coupled, but I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing. The alternative, is to decode the multiplexed key info, but that takes some circuitry.