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Digital Organ Comparisons

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  • Digital Organ Comparisons

    I'm looking for some views on four digital organ companies and their products. I have another thread in which I asked the question, but since the thread isn't specifically about that, I figured I'd probably not get as many replies there, hence this thread.

    I want opinions and comparisons on the following four companies:

    Rodgers: I've already seen that a lot of people here either prefer Rodgers or Allen. I'm also more familiar with Rodgers instruments than any other since I've played on two of them and heard fairly often a third. However, how are they in regard to durability? And how does the sound compare to other companies? What about service? In my own experience, service has already been bad because the local dealer has failed to respond to my email in over a week.

    Allen: Aside from a fifty-plus year-old organ, I've no experience with these. So far in my inquiries, the local dealer has been the most quick to reply to me and also volunteers a lot more information than either the Johannus or Ahlborn-Galanti companies. I've heard before that Allen is very good for service and also for reliability of product. Any opinions/experiences with this? And again, sound quality. I've heard some say the sound is "harsh" but I realize that's just an opinion of the person who said it.

    Johannus: I have one for my home organ. The sound is fine for my purposes. I'm not particularly fond of the paper-wood covering on the console, though I realize that's done cheaply to keep costs down. So far service has been fine, though I have heard rumors that their service is lacking in comparison to the above two companies. What about durability?

    Ahlborn-Galanti: This one I have no real idea about aside from having talked to someone from the company. So far they have giving the lowest cost estimates. I don't know how reliable they are, what kind of service they provide (they don't have showrooms), or how they sound. Yes, I've heard them on YouTube, but it's a little difficult to gauge a sound on YouTube. I had heard that at one time, A-G had some of the most advanced digital technology, but that they fell behind later.

    I'd appreciate all your thoughts on these. If you want, rank them #1 - #4 and give some reasons why. List any positives and negatives. Thanks!

  • #2
    Originally posted by TCJ View Post
    I'm looking for some views on four digital organ companies and their products.

    I want opinions and comparisons on the following four companies:
    I can only comment on my experiences with Rodgers and Allen. I prefer the Rodgers analogue instruments to their digital instruments. As far as reliability, the analogue required repeated repair (Ab in the pedal kept going sharp/flat), and there were some other small issues. The only Rodgers digital instrument I'm familiar with needed to have some logic boards replaced within the first 6 months of purchase. The company eventually had to replace the organ after repeated service calls. The explanation I was given was that the company said it was a defective model. I'm not sure who paid for the repeated service calls. The Rodgers digitals aren't "harsh" like the Allens, but IMHO, they lack distinction. They blend in too well.

    I have much more experience with Allens, and find their digitals MUCH more pleasing than their analogues (personal preference). Only Allen's largest and custom analogues even had mixtures. Digital Allen organs do tend to be "harsh" because their mixtures tend toward the shrill side (they "break" every octave rather than earlier). However, in a larger performing situation, those excessive highs are attenuated over distance (50-100' or more). Often because of their voicing controls (ADC & later), the harshness of Allens can be voiced out or tamed down--depending on the installation. As far as Allen reliability, I've found most of my repairs have had to do with batteries that were not replaced in a timely manner (i.e. corrosion on the cards, etc.).

    Repairs to my 30 year-old Allens have been:
    • MOS 505B--Replace Computer B main processor card.
    • MOS 505B--Replace 2 amplifiers removed by the Rodgers dealer who replaced it.
    • ADC-6000--Replace the Capture Action board due to battery corrosion (now flash memory).
    • ADC-6000--Move batteries from AV-1 card to outside cage due to battery corrosion.
    • ADC-6000--TG card needs chips re-seated due to cold storage issues.
    • ADC-4300--Removed batteries off AV-1 card due to corrosion. Continued issues related to this card because I never replaced it.
    Any other repairs you've seen listed on this Forum are modifications and/or maintenance I've made to the instruments I own (i.e. blown card reader bulbs OR following JBird604's advice on maintaining connections--light coat of vaseline).

    I have moved each of my organs anywhere from 4 to 20 times plus (depending on the instrument). I've never had an organ let me down due to a needed repair or inoperability. Two of the organs have been stored for over 5 years in unheated garages which are sometimes below 0oF. Brought out of storage, they continue to perform as expected with no surprises (except one card on the ADC-6000 I still need to re-seat chips ). The other organ is in a church, but the temperature there ranges between 45oF to 85oF Winter to Summer. I don't recommend this storage method.:'(

    These are my observations. I hope they help.

    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


    • #3
      Since I can't edit my original post, I'd like to point out something about Rodgers' service. I mentioned above that they were not replying. Apparently the email system on their website wasn't working and they were unaware of it until I contacted them through the main website. They were so grateful to my finding the problem that they offered a FREE organ. Okay, just kidding there. But I'm just saying they were very prompt in replying from the main site and from the local dealer once the second email was forwarded.

      Also, thanks for the information, myorgan.

      I'd still like more opinions!


      • #4
        I have had the most experience with Allens out of the four brands that you name. Parts and service for Allen organs are not cheap, but they are available. At least officially, the company has committed to supporting every instrument that they have ever made; certainly I have never heard of any case in which they have simply walked away from a bad design and told the customer to replace the whole organ. Quite the contrary--they continue to update obsolete boards from organs that were made 20 or 30 years ago. Where else would one find that kind of commitment?

        While Allen has had a few problems with quality over the years, they mostly build their organs to be extremely durable, much more like military equipment than consumer electronics. I like their commitment to designing and building their products here in the U.S. (with a few exceptions such as the budget keyboards)--I feel that they are more likely than an overseas firm to maintain their commitment to the American market and support their products in the long term.



        • #5
          When I saw this thread, I was sure the Phoenix lovers would hijack the thread. Hmmm... Also, is Ahlborn still around? Some time back there were those here who were convinced they had went bankrupt.


          • #6

            I'm not sure what you are exactly looking for, but can tell you that if one is looking to purchase an organ, the likelihood of of choosing correctly which company is still in business in 5 or 10 years is a real crap shoot. Why do I say that? Well, judging from statistics I have seen, organ sales are down 50% from just 3 years ago. Can't tell me that everybody will still be in business if the market shrinks another 50%.

            As to reliability, most organs built today are quite reliable, at least as far as the electronics is concerned. It is the other bits that are more concerning, such as contacts, potentiometers, batteries. Increasingly, electronic based products are considered to have a lifespan of a maximum of 15 to maybe 20 years. Why........just look at RoHS.....meaning European compliance with no cadmium, mercury, lead in it's manufacturing. Various companies complained and wanted exemptions from this legislation, but after being told to comply, it has now become a "feature"

            As to long term some companies do better than others, but I can tell you, no company is perfect here. Allen must be commended for trying hard, but their parts and board swap program is very expensive, and on top of that, they deal only with their dealers and/or approved service techs. Many an Allen owner has felt pain in the wallet getting their organ fixed. Also, it must be said that once a manufacturer goes out of business, or changes focus, you can be sure that support for installed product dwindles very quickly.

            It should also be mentioned that service technicians are also increasingly becoming rare. Why? Can't make a decent living at it. Organs don't need much service these days. Fewer sales, and organs out there are being used less and less. So, I quite often do not see an organ more than once or twice every 10 years. Why would a young person get into this? It can be assumed that in the US, approved Allen and Rodgers technicians will be more available than some of the others.

            If I said everything I knew about the aforementioned companies or the industry, folks would be astonished.

            If you are interested in an instrument, check them all out in person. Each company listed and others make perfectly acceptable organs, that when set up right will sound fine. If you like what you see, buy it.

            I think I have said enough.........


            P.S. Ahlborn organs is still in business. They never ceased to build, they are no longer part of GeneralMusic which is no longer, but a stand alone company. The US distributor is still on the go as well.


            • #7
              Originally posted by radagast View Post
              When I saw this thread, I was sure the Phoenix lovers would hijack the thread. Hmmm... Also, is Ahlborn still around? Some time back there were those here who were convinced they had went bankrupt.
              But you got impatient with waiting and decided to make this post then? The reason that often happens is that they make great instruments, and I recommend them to anyone.

              That said, in response to the original question with the 4 choices laid out, I would deem Rodgers to be the best of that pack. I have no experience with the latter two companies, although from reading on here, they seem to be pretty well unanimously considered to be inferior instruments to the other two mentioned.

              When it comes to the Rodgers vs. Allen question, I think it's a matter of personal preference. I find Allen to sound sterile compared to Rodgers. The ensembles just seem to fall flat for my ears. When it comes to issues other than sound, I like the manuals on the Rodgers better. Moving stop-knobs (for drawknob models) are standard on Allen and optional on Rodgers, and therefore could potentially set you back more dollars. Another thing (somebody correct me if I'm wrong here) but I believe that to add extra available stops to your organ for use on the fly, Allen would require you to purchase a Vista module. The new Rodgers organs seem to have that all included with MIDI couplers and a stop library present in the organ.


              • #8
                In general, these companies make and sell good products, all of them, and there are other good companies out there too, such as Phoenix and Viscount, to name a couple. Every organ on the market, like other products, is a compromise of some sort. You get what you pay for, but you do have some control over how much of your money goes into which part of the instrument. Good components are expensive, as are good consoles, but you may not require the best of everything.

                Allen consoles and hardware are superb, as are the electronics inside, and the price is commensurate with the quality. Allen has models at the low end that are cheaper because of the Fatar keyboards and perhaps some other small compromises, and their cheaper models have the lighted action rather than Allen's trademark moving stops, but the stuff inside is still all Allen, often identical to the components in much more expensive models.

                Rodgers has some entry level models with minimalist consoles, but the electronics are still premium, made by Roland, just less of everything, so to speak. And Rodgers has their step-up line that puts the same electronics into much better consoles, at somewhat higher prices. As with Allen, the audio equipment will always be of good quality no matter how low down the line you go.

                Johannus economizes on the consoles at the low end, similar to the low-end Rodgers/Roland models, and most people would probably say that they save money on their electronics too. But even if the circuit boards don't look as thick and the connectors are standard-issue rather than custom made or premium, the ones I've serviced have had few major problems, and the company is quick to provide replacement boards if there are problems. Since you own one yourself, you probably have a good sense of the reliability and support. It might even make sense for the church to own what you own, for simplicity of servicing. I'm guessing you get more stops and more channels for a given price with Johannus too. The drawback might be that the audio equipment (at least some of the stuff I've seen going back 15 years or so) is not on the same level as A and R, with amplifiers generally simpler and some speaker cabinets seem lo-fi. One pretty large church near me has one that's about 10 or 12 years old, and the manual cabinets contain a single 8" driver per channel, not a tweeter to be found, and the sub is just a hefty 12" cone, not the usual 15" or pair of 15" drivers in most large organ setups.

                But, if it sounds good, it's good enough. Audiophile specs and designs don't necessarily make for better organ speakers. So trust your ears, trust your experience, talk to dealers and find out how much time they put into an installation, how much pride they take in the final result. There is not air-tight guarantee, as Arie mentioned above, of the longevity of any company in the business, given the state of the market. But a good technician is probably more important than factory support anyway.

                You are very fortunate to have the opportunity to be looking at new organs!
                *** 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!