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Question on old Allen series differences

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  • Question on old Allen series differences


    It's been years since I've been here, but fortunately, I found my login and password on a thumb drive.

    I am currently working for an ELCA Lutheran church using a custom-built 2-manual Allen that was made in 1994 or 1995. It keeps the Bach-lovers happy, but of course, he wasn't the only one who composed for the organ. There's a lot of really great music that just screams out to be played, but only if you have 3 manuals, and right now, I don't.

    Changing financial conditions are pushing me in the direction of moving to another church, one that has an Allen Renaissance 270. At least, I think it's a 270. It has two 32' stops in the pedal, a contra violone and a contra bombarde. I have not played it yet, BUT between 1995 and 2005, I worked for another church where I played an Allen MDS-60, which was the immediate precursor to the Renaissance series, I think.

    Can somebody here please compare and contrast the MDS-60 and the Ren 270?

    The MDS-60 had a MIDI stop selection device in a drawer below the right stop jamb. How much might it run to purchase such a device and install it on a Ren 270?

    If the money is good enough at the new church, I'd probably be willing to switch even if it meant playing a Hohner reed organ, but I'd like to think that the Renaissance would be an improvement over the MDS-60, which I really liked and was one reason I stayed at the church that owned it for about 10 years.

    Don't know how old the Ren 270 is, but if there's money lying around waiting to be spent, maybe they'd be interested in upgrading to a bigger instrument. Who knows?

    TIA, and my regards to y'all.

    Vernon Moeller, AAGO

  • #2
    The Allen MDS-60 would have included a console controller in a drawer. If this is what you're thinking of, all later models, like the Renaissance would have included it. Note there is also a Renaissance R270B--I don't know the difference.

    To compare the organs, go to the Allen Organ website and download the Owner's Manuals for both: for the R270 for the MDS-60


    • #3
      That 2-manual Renaissance might also be an R-280 or R-281. The R-270 had a 32' Contra Posaune in the pedal rather than a Bombarde.

      Is it better than an MDS-60? Well, the MDS-60 is a larger specification, but in terms of Renaissance technology being better than MDS, a lot has to do with the voicing and installation. Earlier Renaissance organs were less "baroque" overall in terms of tonal philosophy, but there are great examples of both MDS and Renaissance organ installations, and poor ones as well. MDS technology had the capacity to sound quite wonderful, especially in larger installations. Many organists actually prefer the sounds of the later MDS organs to the early Renaissance organs, assuming they are properly installed and in a suitable environment.

      The one place I would give Renaissance the edge would be in dead rooms- the reverberation/ambience abilities of the Renaissance organs were a generation more advanced, and certainly could sound more natural. So it's really going to depend on the particular organ installation. The R-270 and R-281 are very nice complete specifications with alternate voices available, although the third manual would be helpful for performance beyond church music.

      The MIDI device you are referring to is/was the MDS-Expander II. I always found it nice for the occasional stop, but it definitely was tonally compromised compared to the rest of the stops on the organ itself. It's out of production. I would assume that its successor, the Allen Ensemble, is backward-compatible to the older organs, and it certainly should sound better.


      • #4
        If it is the MDS Expander II, it was probably optional on the Renaissance organ--if ithe console has drawers under both the bass and treble sides of the key desk, one will be the expander and the other the console controller. If there is a drawer on only one side, it's just the console controller.

        Used MDS expanders come up for sale once in a while--I purchased my from Craigslist for $400, and it was in perfect working condition, with just a few very minor blemishes on the case. Mine, however, sits on top of the console instead of being in a drawer, which is not quite as convenient.

        Allen currently sells different MIDI voice modules which are compatible with the Renaissance organs, but they are quite expensive when new.

        If the Renaissance model was well voiced, then I doubt you would find anything lacking in it, except the 3rd manual.