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  • Another mediocre Allen installation

    My company installed new video projection in a church with an historic building dating from 1869. It had an Allen R-380 installed, which is a large Renaissance 3-manual dating from 2001. I played it for a while today. What a disappointing installation! It's got a full set of speakers- 10 main channels and 2 sub channels, and 8 antiphonal channels. The mains are 8 HR-200s and 2 HR-100s, 1 SR-1 sub, 1 SR-5 sub, and 8 HR-100s in the antiphonal, all in a room that seats 350 or so with pretty good acoustics. Lots of promising raw material.

    However, the installation quality is mediocre, and the voicing is just plain bad. All the speakers are aimed at the back wall of the chamber, with about 2 feet between the speaker and the wall (whoever started the misplaced idea that this practice "diffuses the sound like pipes" needs their head examined). Some are haphazardly stacked on top of others. In terms of voicing, there is no upper work, and everything is mushy and indistinct. The Great mixture is literally half the volume of the 8' Principal. The Great 8' Trumpet is louder than the rest of the division. When you draw it, it overwhelms the rest of the Great to the point that you can't tell if the 4', 2' and mixtures are drawn or not. The Pedal is all bass but no definition. And the list goes on for 80-odd stops.

    The sad thing is that this church almost certainly paid more than $100k for this organ when new. I've heard original MOS2 organs that sounded better than this one, which is sad, because it's entirely possible for this organ to sound great. And the Allen dealer in question would almost certainly charge a hefty sum if asked to come back and rectify all the issues in the installation.

    No wonder the organ has a hard time gaining new fans.

  • #2
    Perhaps you should offer to hire on and fix it.

    David

    Comment


    • #3
      And to think this is what I run into all the time in churches pertaining to their sound system!

      Comment


      • #4
        Hi,

        That install may have been an "installation of the month" for Allen.

        Seriously, this does not surprise me at all. And bigger installs get no more attention than smaller ones.

        And then people wonder why the organ is losing support in organs. Poor organ installs, then poorly played by folks who should not be on the organ bench, results in the organ getting tossed in many places.

        Michael, hopefully you were not the one to discover the poor tonal finishing.

        AV

        Comment


        • #5
          My Allen dealer tells me that Randy Miller, the current tonal director at Allen is currently requiring a much better job of finishing before organs leave the factory--that's should help future installations, at least we can hope.

          Comment


          • #6
            And, customers can have an expert like Walt Strony or Rudy Lucente voice their Allen. It's a hefty extra cost but WELL worth it to those who are demanding.
            Unfortunately, the customers (and the organists by extension) don't seem to care so there will be mediocre installations. I ran into a digi Allen (Emilie (sp?) UMC in SE PA) that sounded just like Michael Hoddy described, and *I* wouldn't play such an out-of-whack organ for a single service, but apparently *they* aren't complaining...

            Comment


            • #7
              It really isn't hard to voice organs-it just takes some time, and some dealers can't be bothered. My church (not the one which I serve as Minister of Music, but the one down the road from our house, which we attend on Sunday night and Wednesday night) bought a new Allen about eight years ago. it was supposed to be delivered when I could be there to supervise the setup, but came without previous notice the day after Thanksgiving when we were visiting family about 300 miles away.

              it was six months before I could get the dealer to come up and voice it, and that was only after a call to Allen headquarters. Then he would not follow my directions, but did things his way. This was a small organ, with only two reeds (16' & 8') on the Swell, and none on the Great, and he insisted on making the 8' Trumpet a solo reed, too loud for the rest of the organ, Now, when I use it on Sunday nights, if I want the Trumpet to sound with the Principal chorus, I have to use the Swell pedal to blend it in.

              I didn't learn until later that we could have gotten the same organ cheaper from another dealer who also was much closer to us. But, because we were on the wrong side of the river (literally), we ended dealing up with the first one who was Allen's choice to service us.
              Mike

              My home organ is a Theatre III with an MDS II MIDI Expander.

              Comment


              • #8
                I don't think it would be out of line to call headquarters again. After years of customer service experience I can safely say the customer is always right. No service agent should have contradicted your wishes. He may have preferences (like a really loud solo trumpet) but you certainly had the right to voice the organ with a chorus reed if that suits your playing style best! Allen won't keep getting sales in this highly competitive digital market with service experiences like yours. The advantage of individual voicing options is totally wasted if Allen sends out a tech who will voice the organ only one way!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by michaelhoddy View Post
                  However, the installation quality is mediocre, and the voicing is just plain bad. All the speakers are aimed at the back wall of the chamber, with about 2 feet between the speaker and the wall (whoever started the misplaced idea that this practice "diffuses the sound like pipes" needs their head examined). Some are haphazardly stacked on top of others. In terms of voicing, there is no upper work, and everything is mushy and indistinct. The Great mixture is literally half the volume of the 8' Principal. The Great 8' Trumpet is louder than the rest of the division. When you draw it, it overwhelms the rest of the Great to the point that you can't tell if the 4', 2' and mixtures are drawn or not. The Pedal is all bass but no definition. And the list goes on for 80-odd stops.

                  No wonder the organ has a hard time gaining new fans.
                  Michael, I can fully appreciate your disgust with Allen with regard to the installation; an all too common complaint from those who chose Allen, with the naive expectation, that they would receive value commensurate with the $$$ they blew on a totally cruddy cookie cutter organ installation! :-P And that seems to be pretty much status quo with Allen installations these days. :o

                  When Phoenix was commissioned to build a new organ for St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto, while they have a flawless reputation for organ installations and voicing, when it came to the St. Michael's installation, to make sure it was the very best, they employed the services of sound specialists such as G.H. Grassby and Associates, along the same line as what michaelhoddy does; not something you will ever experience from the assembly-line array of cookie-cutter manufacturers!! :o

                  http://phoenixorgans.com/installatio...stallation=146

                  Allen appeals to church organ committes who have never played and organ.

                  Phoenix appeals to organists! :->
                  2008: Phoenix III/44

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Amen to that statement about turning the speakers around backwards, Michael. I cannot imagine how that ridiculous idea got promulgated, but some dealers are actually doing that even today. Someone somewhere told some dealer that an organ sounds better if the speaker output bounces off a hard surface before it reaches the listener's ears. That makes sense in some situations, particularly in small rooms. Aiming the speakers at an angle so the direct sound reflects off the ceiling or a side wall can make an organ sound fuller and smoother in a small or less reverberant room.

                    But "smothering" the sound by turning the speakers backwards (or even upwards toward the top of the organ chamber) is one of the worst ideas floating around out there. I don't know what we as organists and techs can do about it other than try to convince a church (whenever we run into this situation) to let us re-orient the speakers and then re-voice the organ. Very often, little or no re-voicing would actually be needed, since the dealer probably didn't do any voicing anyway and the factory voicing will be found OK when the speakers are turned around so you can hear them.

                    Another horrible practice is putting the subwoofers either under the floor or in a different room or in a closet or way off in some remote corner of the church far away from the main speakers because "bass is non-directional and you can't tell where the subwoofers are anyway." I have seen subs pushed under the floor with no air vents to let the sound out, so the bass is totally muted but "you can feel the floor shake," he tells them, and that's what subs are supposed to do. I've seen subs in storage closets under the baptistry (in a Baptist church) with no opening into the sanctuary. A distant rumble like thunder is all you get out of that, but no bass in the church.

                    Little wonder indeed that people see no use in spending the money for a big organ these days. It's not gonna sound good and nobody will want to play it.

                    If the organ companies don't shake their dealers up and make them quit ruining their installations, we're all going to be much worse off.
                    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


                    • #11
                      Although I prefer the sound (not necessarily the build quality) of R, I don't intend to slam Allen here (and I own two) - but will just point out that it's well known in the industry that Allen considers the DEALER their customer, not the purchaser. That might have to be kept in mind when contacting the factory about a problem with a dealer. I'm NOT saying they won't listen to or help you, just pointing out that in their business model, you aren't their customer...

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Maybe not hard to voice on the pre-Quantum models, m&m's, but to properly voice a 7-suite Allen is quite a task. The proof of this is listening to what some owners have "accomplished" by revoicing their organ via DOVE. I heard a large Allen "pre Walt Strony voicing" and "after Walt Strony voicing" and the difference was incredible. Note that like most of 'em, the organ had been voiced by the dealer before Walt got at it, and it sounded pretty good "before". "After"- breathtakingly beautiful...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by michaelhoddy View Post
                          My company installed new video projection in a church with an historic building dating from 1869. It had an Allen R-380 installed, which is a large Renaissance 3-manual dating from 2001. I played it for a while today. What a disappointing installation! It's got a full set of speakers- 10 main channels and 2 sub channels, and 8 antiphonal channels. The mains are 8 HR-200s and 2 HR-100s, 1 SR-1 sub, 1 SR-5 sub, and 8 HR-100s in the antiphonal, all in a room that seats 350 or so with pretty good acoustics. Lots of promising raw material.

                          However, the installation quality is mediocre, and the voicing is just plain bad. All the speakers are aimed at the back wall of the chamber, with about 2 feet between the speaker and the wall (whoever started the misplaced idea that this practice "diffuses the sound like pipes" needs their head examined). Some are haphazardly stacked on top of others. In terms of voicing, there is no upper work, and everything is mushy and indistinct. The Great mixture is literally half the volume of the 8' Principal. The Great 8' Trumpet is louder than the rest of the division. When you draw it, it overwhelms the rest of the Great to the point that you can't tell if the 4', 2' and mixtures are drawn or not. The Pedal is all bass but no definition. And the list goes on for 80-odd stops.

                          The sad thing is that this church almost certainly paid more than $100k for this organ when new. I've heard original MOS2 organs that sounded better than this one, which is sad, because it's entirely possible for this organ to sound great. And the Allen dealer in question would almost certainly charge a hefty sum if asked to come back and rectify all the issues in the installation.

                          No wonder the organ has a hard time gaining new fans.
                          Hi Michael,

                          I am doing all the voicing work for ALLEN ORGAN BENELUX. The R 380 is a very nice organ!! But...It must be voiced very careful! If voiced proper.... it is a VERY nice organ. But the problem is that lots of Allen dealers can not handle the DOVE program to voice an Allen excellent.
                          I live in The Netherlands, and we are the Allen dealer of the whole benelux.
                          I am responseble for every Allen organ to sound excellent in a church, hall, or (living)room. I can say that I can handle the DOVE program very well. And also important: I know how pipe organs works, sounds and how to voice them. So I can use this knowledge for voicing our Allen organs!! I can freely say that I can make your R 380 sound just more than fantastic!!!
                          If you want, I can come over the the USA and voice your Allen R 380! I am serious!!

                          Greetings,
                          Gerrit de Vries
                          ALLEN ORGAN BENELUX

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
                            Amen to that statement about turning the speakers around backwards, Michael. I cannot imagine how that ridiculous idea got promulgated, but some dealers are actually doing that even today. Someone somewhere told some dealer that an organ sounds better if the speaker output bounces off a hard surface before it reaches the listener's ears. That makes sense in some situations, particularly in small rooms. Aiming the speakers at an angle so the direct sound reflects off the ceiling or a side wall can make an organ sound fuller and smoother in a small or less reverberant room.
                            Your experience with reflected speaker installations in small room corresponds with mine.

                            While I specifically ordered corner-mounted, front firing speakers for my organ, I experimented with them a bit before final installation; and they did sound noticeably better when reflected from the corner, although they would look a tad silly if left in that position. :-P
                            2008: Phoenix III/44

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Gerritfrl. View Post
                              I live in The Netherlands, and we are the Allen dealer of the whole benelux.

                              Gerrit de Vries
                              ALLEN ORGAN BENELUX
                              With so many great organ manufactures nearby in the Netherlands, Italy and Great Britain, offering organs that sound every bit as good as Allen, but at half the price; how do you manage to survive in that kind of competitive environment????
                              2008: Phoenix III/44

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