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  • Allen quality, etc.

    I just wanted to drop a note concerning the building quality of my Allen 120. Aside from an amplifier issue that is completely understandable when you consider it's at least 30+ years old, it works as good today as it did when it was built. What other organ is like this? Heck, what other product in any category is this well built?

    The design is amazing in terms of ease to access to everything. As soon as I got the advice of John, I, a completely incompetent handy man, was able to get this organ in 100% operating condition.

    The stops themselves sound really good, spectacular when reverb is added, even in comparison to many modern organs.

    By comparison, I was back for the weekend at a church I used to play at for many years. I confirmed that this organ was a Rodgers 530. This thing was constantly falling apart. Every week it seemed like there was another problem, the pedals were CONSTANTLY going out and, if I'm not mistaken, I think it even went out of tune occasionally, though I'm not sure how that's possible.
    I also played for a number of years at another church in the same parish and it was a Rodgers 525 or 535, I forget. As strange as it seems now, this organ was completely different in quality, etc. This thing worked perfectly every time and no matter what anyone else says, this was a damn fine instrument. The large church in this 4 church parish had a 'real' Rodgers organ and considering it was a town of 380 (with four Lutheran Churches, mind you) was simply spectacular. The voicing was perfect for the space and it was a joy to play.

    Just some observations..


    Anyway,

  • #2
    Originally posted by buzzyreed View Post
    I just wanted to drop a note concerning the building quality of my Allen 120. Aside from an amplifier issue that is completely understandable when you consider it's at least 30+ years old, it works as good today as it did when it was built. What other organ is like this?
    Not to dispute your point, because I have a large 3 computer MOS 2 Allen from that era and concur regarding its quality, but the same is true for Hammonds produced up until the mid '60s. Built like tanks.
    -Admin

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

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    • #3
      Yes indeed. What other category of consumer products has lasted so well? When you set a 40 year old Allen or premium Rodgers (ignoring for the moment the cheap things Rodgers unwisely sold with their name on them) or a tone-wheel Hammond next to some old cheap organ (or even a new one) the difference is astounding.

      I agree that Allen MOS organs are remarkable for their longevity and ease of service. No other manufacturer at that time had such foresight to make everything accessible and modular. And Allen used commercial-grade components when low-end builders got by with cheaper parts -- the industrial leaf switches used as key switches being just one example. Allen's keyswitches have kept working for decades while the cheap rubber button switches and other sketchy type switches used in lesser organs have become a servicing nightmare.

      The Allen MDS45 I just installed in my church is another example of their commitment to quality. I've spent quite a bit of time restoring it, but haven't had to buy anything expensive, just caps and other generic parts. And now it sounds and plays just like it did 20 years ago and we're as happy as if we'd spent $100,000.

      It grieves me a little bit when we do this, but we've started tearing apart some of the cheap organs that we get in trade, even if they still work to some degree and might could be patched up. But there is just entirely to much random stuff inside some of these older organs, and I know they will be nothing but trouble if we fix them up and pass them on to someone. There is no point in passing along junk to anyone these days when perfectly good Allen and Rodgers organs (and a few other decent brands) can be found for next to nothing.
      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

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      • #4
        I certainly agree that manufacturing quality on most products is now very low. Built-in obsolescence seems to be the norm for too many products. I have always been impressed with the build quality of Allen organs. Just taking a look at the wiring harnesses will indicate that attention to the details has been observed. They used to have a manufacturing plant near us. They made speakers and components like pedal boards there. I had the opportunity to see their quality work in progress. You could have comfortably performed surgery in that facility.

        I've had far less experience with the interior of Rodgers and Hammond instruments. So I cannot compare them. I do wonder if the build quality suffered when some established brands began to be assembled overseas.

        We probably pay more for the quality. But if it lasts, it seems worth it.

        Bach On
        Make being happy a way of traveling, not just a destination.

        Church organ - 2 manual 12 rank Estey Pipe Organ with 12 Artisan Digital Stops
        Home organ - Allen R-230 organ (We also have 48 pipes in a facade)
        We have a Yamaha 6' 8" Grand
        Have used an older Korg T3 keyboard and MIDI for doing musical arrangements.
        I'm a Methodist organist.
        I taught high school chorus, elementary music and middle school music.
        Became a Technology Specialist.
        Retired from Education after 32 years.

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        • #5
          Hi,

          I concur with the above posters that generally Allen's attention to quality has been and likely still is very good. The very fact that there are still instruments dating back to the 50s, yes. going back 50 years is a testament to reliability and durability.

          That however does not mean that Allen's never need servicing. I suppose there may be the odd organ that has gone 20 years or more, that was played regularly, and never needed any service, most have had service calls. Nothing wrong with that. In fact there are folks out there who make a living as Allen service techs. I would assume they go out and fix them.

          I'm not sure Allen's newer instruments are as trouble-free as older ones. Allen has had to make changes to their production in order to meet competitor's offerings in price anyway. I remember in the 80s, Allen was down on those who used lighted stop controls. The fact that lighted stop controls were generally reliable, didn't matter to them, it was beneath their dignity to use them. But in the early 90s, they developed their own system, gave it a fancy name (Lumitech), and has quietly been introducing it in increasing number of models. Also, they used to trumpet the fact that they made their own keyboards, all the components, that each key was adjustable, etc. Well, now they use Fatar keyboards in increasing number of instruments.

          Over the years to they have had issues, that may be surprising, such as corrosive battery problems, batteries that go dead, and the data base in the organ going down, sticking pistons, potentiometers that developed flat spots, had a recall on benches, etc.

          But, that doesn't mean that their organs are crap. By no means. Every manufacturer regrets over time certain decisions it has to make. And not only that they are beholden to suppliers to get quality components, which does not always happen.

          As for Rodgers, their organs from the 60s were generally better build than the ones from the 70s, especially the Jamestown 100, Columbia 75 etc. To compete with the single board Allen in the 70s, Rodgers reduced the amount of circuitry, started using cheaper keyboards, etc. And it showed. Very few people today have much enthusiasm for these instruments.

          As for the Italian Rodgers such as the 520/530 and 525/535, they were just cheap stuff, that Rodgers sold to compete with other such product from competitors. They were mechanically poor, and also sounded poor, and they couldn't be voiced either. The worst problem with them was the pedalboard, got clattery as the felts wore, and the switches wore out very quickly. They even had an extended warranty on them. The fact the OP came across one that was better than the other, probably more to do with the variable quality, than any improvement that was made on them.

          Other organs mainly from Italy, was certainly poor in many areas of construction. Pedalboards were poor, audio systems were marginal to poor, leaky batteries, key contact issues, etc. But over the years those product lines have improved as well. I rarely service newer organs. Most of what I see is prior to about 1995.

          Anyways, if you have an older organ you think highly of, sit down to it, and play some tunes on it. That is what organs should be all about.

          AV

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          • #6
            Good points, Arie, and your usual historical perspective on these things. It's great to know that we awesome organ people think along similar lines!

            I consider 70's model Rodgers organs in general greatly inferior to what they built earlier, such as the marvelous 32 and 660 in particular. Everything you mention applies, and I'd add that the problems with capture systems and stop tabs loom large to me on the 70's models, along with the bad keyboards. The cheaply made amplifiers and power supplies in some of these are also appalling. I sometimes cringe at having to service a 750 or 725 or even an 850 because you just can't fix some of that stuff.

            The 80's seem to me a much better decade for Rodgers, if we forget about the unfortunate add-on pipes. I genuinely enjoy playing a big 890 or 925 from that era, or even a 770, 740, or one of the smaller models such as the 650. The ones with blind presets are less desirable, but all seem to have rather decent sound. I've not seen or played one of the early MICASKO things that caused them so much grief. I guess that was a Ford Edsel mis-step, but the LTG and serial-keyed organs that followed seem to have endured pretty well around here.

            We don't service a whole lot of newer organs either. Of course there just haven't been as many of them sold. I suspect that a fair number of these newer organs will eventually need some service. We have dealt with a few early Allen Renaissance organs with power supply failures, particularly those with optical keying. Problems with Rodgers Masterpiece organs seem to be more often related to the software, or perhaps to occasional corrupting of the operating systems. We have a call now and then on a Masterpiece that won't shut down properly or that keeps doing a cold start when it shouldn't be needed.

            It does seem to me that organs are pretty well made these days, even some of the less expensive ones. The building of keyboards, pedalboards, stoprails, and other mechanical parts is pretty mature. Future problems will likely relate to the lead-free solder and the surface-mount technology, both of which may be far more expensive to fix than our typical troubles today.
            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

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            • #7
              I agree with Arie and John on all points Allen...My only experience has been with Allen (or Casavant) .... The Fatar keyboards used by Allen are only on their "cheaper" models of the Chapel line and the newer Little organs ... The Protege, now Bravura (!?!?!???) and the Quantum still have Allen made keyboards. As for servicing, my ADC 4300 developed some problems and Ken found several chewed wires to toe studs among other things! Our little female cat kied it in there!!

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              • #8
                John,

                From your response to my post.

                There are things sometimes that are not so much quality issues, as bad design ideas. The early ca. 1980 Mikasco Rodgers was such an example. The quality on the instruments was no worse than any other, but the computer design turned out to be a nightmare. Even the Rodgers folks couldn't fully sort it out. If the system worked, it worked fine, if it didn't you couldn't get it fixed, because the Rodgers service people didn't understand what was wrong. In the late 80s, Rodgers engineered a much smaller drop-in board, as a replacement. I'm sure there are no boards left on the Rodgers parts shelf now. Another low from Rodgers was an organ called the Topper. It wasn't built for long. Rodgers tried and failed to match home organ entertainment instruments.

                The problem with the Rodgers organs, especially the smaller models was that while the sound was not bad, there just was not much of it. Unified and duplexed to the hilt, did not help out. The speakers they used really did not help the sound either.

                One thing though that Rodgers did understand was MIDI, and/or the potential of it, they got into it before anyone else, even before they got bought out by Roland.

                Rob, as for Allen using Fatars, it does mean that they must consider them decent enough to put into organs with their name on it. It also makes it more difficult for them to disparage other company's products when they use Fatar keyboards. Another thing, Allen's standard keyboards do not even have velocity sensing in them. Only when they upgrade to to optical scanned switch rails. Strange that Fatar cheaper keyboards have velocity built in. And when wood top keys are asked for, or tracker touch, Allen sources them from Laukhuff.

                John as for servicing newer organs, certainly it is down. Could be from the fact that sales are down 65% from 2001 and over 50% from 2008. But the long term as you say with lead-less solder, surface mount technology, will mean more frequent breakdowns in the future, and they won't be field repairable. Then it will be if the company that built the instrument is still in business.

                AV

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by arie v View Post
                  John,

                  But the long term as you say with lead-less solder, surface mount technology, will mean more frequent breakdowns in the future, and they won't be field repairable. Then it will be if the company that built the instrument is still in business.

                  AV
                  One would certainly think that. However, a person with the right skills and equipment can do surface mount repair with relative ease. (relative to doing through-hole repair). About a decade ago I was looking for a used Sony Hi8 commercial VTR to play back my old tapes. There was a guy on ebay who did capacitor repair on those 1990s Sony units, which were notorious for surface mount capacitor failure. Basically, anything they made from about 1989 - 1998 was plagued by this problem; my own camcorder from that era died, as did an early mini-CD player. I believe his ebay ad said something like "Sony USA repair charges $1500 to even look at these units, I can fix all capacitors required for $200" I remember being surprised at the time that he could fix them so cheaply. So I thought of finding a broken one, of which there were many on ebay, and sending it to him. (As luck would have it, a practically unused one popped up on ebay around that time)
                  I looked again on ebay and found this guy...charging more, but, shows it's still a viable means of non-manufacturer repair: http://www.ebay.com/itm/PANASONIC-DV...-/250526609027
                  I think if Allen, Rodgers, or Johannus folded next week, they have such a large installed based that someone would figure out how to keep their post-1985 organs going for a few more decades. At a cost, of course, but that would be true once they are out of warranty. That's often been the case even with lesser brands that had miniscule sales by comparison. What you couldn't repair would be the ancient ICs on MOS organs, and of course the defunct Mikasco I keying system already discussed.

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                  • #10
                    I concur about the built also of the Hammond organ. We had one at the back of the stage storage area at one of the first schools I taught at. I got in some additional practice time when kids didn't show up for their lessons.. had to make efficient use of the time we're given. This organ was donated in the 80's but probably had been built in the 50's and it still worked fine, or at least to someone not accustomed to the Hammond organ.
                    I also played one that was on its last legs at one tiny country church. It was dying and made all sorts of "Star Wars" sounds, i.e. every so often you'd be playing and it would make a sound like I'd just hit the inside wall of a space ship corridor with a ray gun or was hitting a T.V. transmitter guy wire with a mallet. Scared the crap out of me. I also remember one in another church that some kid had been playing with and the temolo was locked on. No offense to anyone of different liturgical traditions, but suffice to say that playing a service that sounded like a radio broadcast of "The Old Tyme Gospel Hour of the Air" was not exactly cool for a Lutheran congregation, even one that was too cheap in the late 80's to spring for a decent organ...

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                    • #11
                      buzzyreed, did that Hammond that made the weird sounds possibly have a spring reverberation unit? Those can make some very strange sounds if jarred or transients are input.

                      David

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                      • #12
                        Since I own two old (an analog and one of the first System 100's) Allens, I concur on their fantastic build quality, particularly the analog organs. All the parts were first class, and the cabinetry amazing. For an example, I just ran hundreds of mylar capacitors from a late-60's analog Allen's generators through a capacitor tester and 99% were within 5% of the posted value!
                        I donated a 1965 T-44 Allen to my church and after changing all the electrolytic capacitors, it sounds and looks like new. Talk about built to last!

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                        • #13
                          David, you're probably right as springs is exactly what that odd space noise sounded like. Of course as a 16 year old, if you would have told me that there were springs and little wheels spinning in an organ I would have thought you were crazy! Just a note on the Allen analogs, my TC-3 really still sounds great, and I hate to say it, but I prefer the principal sound on that organ to any of my digital Allen (s). I just thought about something, you've all heard of the "Crazy Cat Lady" who lives alone with 42 cats? What if I turn out to be the 'Crazy Organ Man!"

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by buzzyreed View Post
                            What if I turn out to be the 'Crazy Organ Man!"
                            I can think of many worse things! You may have electrons running all over the floor, but you won't have mounds of soiled cat litter.
                            Home organ, same as church's organ - Rodgers 940

                            Sign on my work toolbox that effectively keeps people away:

                            DANGER!!! 1,000,000 OHMS!!!

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by rohrlover View Post
                              I can think of many worse things! You may have electrons running all over the floor, but you won't have mounds of soiled cat litter.
                              Tell me about it! (I have 7 indoor cats.)

                              David

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