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Is a Rodgers 990c worth adding MIDI to?

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  • Is a Rodgers 990c worth adding MIDI to?

    I have a simple 70's era AGO Rodgers, two manual, some flip tab stops, no MIDI yet ... I bought it just to MIDI up the AGO pedals so I could move into Hauptwerk software eventually. I've been practicing on it as just a plain old organ as I've been procrastinating the MIDI upgrade. I'm still new and a beginner on the organ.

    Now I have the opportunity to pick up a three manual 990c for under $2000.

    Can anyone tell me if this thing sounds good even without Hauptwerk (ie, in its native state) and whether it's worth eventually upgrading to MIDI?

    I had in mind originally to MIDI the pedals on my old Rodgers and then buy a new three manual keyboard rig, but now I'm tempted to MIDI this 990c instead - assuming it has a good action ... and assuming it would be good enough to work with for another year or so until I'm ready to plunk down the big dollars to MIDI the whole thing up.

    Does anyone know this instrument? Does it sound good? I'm still too new to organs to know a good electronic organ from a bad one - and I also don't know anything about longevity, quality construction, organs with a unique classic sound, etc.

    Really looking for someone to tell me, yes, buy a 990c at any cost and MIDI it or, no, you're better off MIDIing up your AGO pedals and buying a new three manual keyboard rig.

    ...and whether or not the thing sounds good enough in and of itself to play even without Hauptwerk.

    I'll mention that if the action on the manuals was something special (again, I'm too new to the organ to appreciate quality) it would be really cool to have a cabinet this gorgeous in the house. But of course, sound and action comes first.

  • #2
    The 990 has wooden core keyboards, and I've always liked them. Tracker touch was an option, and this might have it, or it might not. The 990 console weighs 800+ pounds, so it's rather a monster to move around. Personally, I think $2000 is overpriced for an organ of this vintage, but it does look to be in excellent condition.

    It is old enough to have some electronic issues--capacitors needing replacing, etc.

    The sound quality was good for an analog organ, but it doesn't have the tonal accuracy and articulation that a good digital organ can provide.

    I am not a fan of lighted drawknobs--their action is too stiff for my tastes--just fyi.


    • #3
      To my ears, the Rodgers organs of that era sound quite good in a large reverberant room but fall a little flat in a small space. There may be a lot of speakers with this one as well, especially if it has some of the options such as the Festival Trumpet. Speakers were not very compact back then, so you'll need a lot of room to set them all up unless you plan to mix it down, which sort of defeats the purpose of having such a large organ!

      If the organ you have now is a 700 series, you'll certainly find this one to be a major upgrade in terms of tonal variety and features. Like toodles, I'm not crazy about the lighted knobs because they don't feel silky smooth like mechanical knobs, but I've played organs with them and got used to them easily.

      The keyboards on this 990 are probably about as good as you will find anywhere, so you might not feel any need to replace them when you go MIDI. In fact, adding MIDI to a Rodgers of this era is quite easy since all the keying breaks out on the ganging board arrays. I put MIDI onto a 660 several years ago, and it was very quick and easy. Of course all I was doing was key-data out, not stops or expression. If you plan to go the full MIDI route, you will be in for a big job no matter how you do it.

      If you plan to go 100% MIDI at some point, you might be better off to watch for an Allen MDS or a Rodgers PDI (both of these series being from the 90's) because these organs would have full MIDI already built in, capable of sending all the data -- keys, stops, expression, pistons, etc. But then if you got an organ that new, you might not even want to abandon the native stops for MIDI. Prices have been falling for these organs, though, and you might find one for not much more money than the 990 if you keep an eye out.

      I agree that $2K might be a bit too much to pay for a 990, at least if it is "as-is-where-is." But if you are getting it from a dealer or tech who has gone over it thoroughly and has it ready to play, that's not a bad price at all. Might even be a bargain.

      Probably didn't really answer your question, but you will have to decide for yourself whether or not to upgrade. That is indeed a beautiful piece of furniture, and if you have room for it and all the speakers it ought to be a lot better than what you have.
      *** 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!


      • #4
        Thank you jbird and toodles for the insight and advice.

        Since I posted this, I learned that the 990 is 40 inches deep and my house doors are all 35 inches deep. The garage, of course, is easily accessed.

        In my heart, what I really want is to go full-Hauptwerk and leave old electronic organ sounds behind entirely, so the question this conversation has stoked is ... do I want to plunk down the major big bucks for a new Hauptwerk-ready console ($15,000 easily) or buy something like this 990, completely gut it of its electronics, and MIDI up everything. (Say, $1500 for the organ, perhaps $4k for the MIDI, installed by a pro?)

        I'm going to learn about your Allen MDS tonight, John. I don't know anything about them. I might also have to look harder to see if it's "time" yet to look at a 90's MIDI organ. Perhaps we're already at the point where I don't even need to consider MIDI'ing up an older organ. Perhaps 90's era MIDI-ready organs are already accessible to an average joe like me.


        • #5
          That's a beautiful console and would make a great base for a VPO. If it were a little less expensive and perhaps a bit smaller, I'd go for it myself.

          When I added MIDI to my Allen MOS-2 console, I decided preserve the original functionality and use it in conjunction with Hauptwerk. If I had to do it over again, I'd probably just gut the MOS-2 computers and just use the capture action. The sound of these vintage organs just so inferior to what modern sampling produces, you won't want to go back.
          Last edited by Admin; 04-16-2014, 03:19 PM.

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


          • #6
            One thing you will learn quickly is that asking price and selling price are often a large ways from each other. If the organ is close enough to drive by, take someone who plays well and go for a listen. If it cut's muster, make a more appropriate offer, but only if you are prepared to haul it home, as the owner may very well take you up on it. Have fun...Bill


            • #7
              If you go for this and gut the electronics, there are a couple of boards I would definitely be interested in buying.

              Please keep me in mind!



              • #8
                Good to know, Greg. I had no idea these things still had value to someone. I'll definitely keep you posted if this happens.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by NoTalent View Post
                  If you go for this and gut the electronics, there are a couple of boards I would definitely be interested in buying.

                  Please keep me in mind!


                  Please PM me (or just reply here on this thread) and please give me an idea of what parts you want and what you think they're worth. Remember to consider shipping. The only thing that concerns me about buying this 990 is the cost. Perhaps if someone purchased parts I will no longer need, it would put me over the top toward buying it.