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  • Allen MDS-10--First MDS Experience

    Recently, on my trip to pick up the ADC-5400, I had the opportunity to play an MDS-10 for a church in Ohio.

    The organ had internal speakers, with a relay for external speakers that were installed above the pulpit. The organist had graciously asked if I could play for the service while she played piano--an experience she doesn't often have. To become familiar with the organ, I rehearsed briefly with my wife (violin/viola) and made several observations about the organ. The regular organist was glad to have the opportunity to hear the organ in the sanctuary because she had only heard it from the bench.
    • I observed that the 16' Lieblich Gedeckt was strong enough to carry the entire organ--never mind the Bourdon or Violone! My wife even commented I should reduce the bass. However, both the organist and my wife, once listening in the pews, asked if the bass could increase. Evidently, it was only overpowering in the corner where the organ was located.
    • The manual voices were voiced well and sounded more highly articulated than they should be, but I'm sure the articulation disappeared the further you got from the organ.
    • The Swell Reed Chorus was definitely over-articulated or over-sampled. To put it bluntly, they sounded awful! One of my wife's violin pieces requires a Reed Chorus fanfare, and I was struck by how faible they sounded. There was not only initial articulation, but it wasn't followed by a solid sound, but by a wavering mess for the duration of the note value. It was much like a grade-schooler's first French Horn experience.
    • The Diapason Chorus in the Great, and Flute Chorus in the Swell were quite nice, and unlike older ADC Allens, the Mixtures didn't shriek.
    Of course we all know that some Allen dealers are less reputable than others, and don't spend enough time making the final installation and voicing work for a church, but I wonder if all lower-model-number Allen MDS instruments have similar voicing or was this just an anomaly?

    I will say that after hearing this organ (my first MDS experience), I'm glad I have stayed with the ADC models if that MDS installation is representative of the model line. What have you all experienced?

    Michael

    P.S. If I could, I would have recorded the Reeds so y'all could hear what I heard.
    Attached Files
    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

  • #2
    Hi,

    I don't know how technically different the late ADC organs are from MDS, but they do sound differently. The MDS series at least as default from the factory were more articulate sounding. This may very well have been Larry Phelp's influence here, as he was the custom organ tonal designer. One big difference between the ADC models and the MDS, is the fact that MDS had a much better integrated MIDI setup, whereas even the late ADC only had a very rudimentary MIDI or none at all.

    I have done a number of service calls on Allen's, from MOS-1 to MDS, and I find that the later ADC models such as 4300 and larger of this series, Allen seemed to have made a major improvement as far as tonality is concerned. MDS, may have been a slight improvement, but more I think the sound was a subjective thing, you either liked the more classical sound or you didn't.

    In any case, I personally didn't care much for Allen's smaller models. Typically generic stop lists, limited audio capabilities, made them kind of boring instruments to me.

    AV

    Comment


    • #3
      My experience with the 1st generation classical MDS models was that they were overly aggressive in trying to be pipe-like, and my ears much prefer the later ADC and MADC models than the early MDS. I think the later MDS models were probably better.

      The MDS theatre models were quite nice, though, except for their classical voicing.

      Just my ears, but apparently other ears out there hear in a similar fashion.

      Comment


      • #4
        The MDS 60 at my mom's church always sounded good to me. None of the stops were obnoxious or harsh; if anything, I would have liked a little more articulation and wind. That instrument was installed and voiced by Allen factory personnel, so it should have represented the best that the series had to offer.

        Comment


        • #5
          Don,

          The MDS 60 was a second iteration MDS model. Later MDS were not a extreme when it came to articulation.

          I'm not always sure about "factory" install and voicing. I have heard several Allens, some Rodgers, and others that have had personnel from the factory. They may not be the worst installs, but not that great either.

          I few years ago, I was at the Allen factory. Played an Elite organ there, and it was very good. They also had a 4 manual Quantum there, which sounded terribly mediocre in comparison. I was astonished that they would show this organ off in their concert hall.

          AV

          Comment


          • #6
            Maybe the Quantum was not capable of sounding any better than it did!

            Comment


            • #7
              Interesting observations...but I remember this model differently. As a young teen I played in various churches in the northern Virginia area as either a substitute organist or with my schools' orchestras. I remember the pipe organs better for obvious reasons, like this one: http://database.organsociety.org/Sin...p?OrganID=2286 However I now have found out that one of the Allens I was playing was an MDS-10, and one of the other digitals was the larger Galanti, 3 manual. Praeludium III I guess? Well, again memories are vague but I remember the Allen being nice sounding, but not memorable at all in terms of articulation, compared to the Praeludium. At the time I would definitely have said the Galanti was more "realistic". Which actually surprised me because back then I thought of Allen as the best brand. (maybe I never heard a good install, but the erstwhile Rodgers analogs sounded mostly terrible to me. Other than the 2-3 ranks of pipes they would often marry them with)
              We previously discussed here, in fact, that the early MDS organs were voiced very articulate to compete with the first wave of Euro sample organs like the Galanti. (I remember also playing a Baldwin of some kind, a few years later, that sounded very similar to the Galanti. I assume it was one of the re-badged ones from Europe) However, big difference is that...didn't every MDS have some degree of being able to control the strength of the articulation through a voicing pot? While the Euro organs did not...the sample was fixed in that respect? So, maybe myorgan played a MDS-10 with the articulation jacked all the way up, and I played one with it turned all the way down?
              When I auditioned an MDS organ I would considering buying, also an early one (MDS-45), I found it to be very articulate sounding too. But not in the ugly way you describe exactly. My concern was more than this articulation would make it too chirpy sounding if you were near a speaker; it relates to what I said in another thread about people who fuss over what kind of speaker to get for an Allen. Fact is, in a residential setting your ears are going to be too close to the speaker, no matter what kind it is. When you turned chiff "on" on the ADC-1140 I used to own, it too was "louder" than you would have actually wanted it to be. Again, in a case where the speaker was 5-8 ft. from your ear. It was fine for a certain kind of baroque music but not desirable most of the time. So the real difference is that on ADC you can turn this chiff on and off, on MDS you cannot. I suspect on your current ADC organs, you leave it off? On most MDS organs this was not user controllable (only via a voicing control) but when I perused all the MDS manuals on the Allen website, I found something interesting. One model, and one model only, seemed to have a setting in the console controller for (IIRC) both articulation and pipe effect simulation. I think it was the MDS-65. Since the overall circuit topology had to be similar between models, one wonders if it was available as an "easter egg" on certain other models, and experimentally disclosed to end users only on the MDS-65. Perhaps some strange combination of pistons could enter a code that would allow techs to access those settings on other models.
              At any rate the MDS-10 was not one of the earliest MDS models but not one of the latest either; but it seems like overall there's a pattern with Allen's series (MOS, ADC, MDS, Renaissance) that each series progresses in terms of its ear pleasing quality, then the next generation is for a few years more about the technology than the tonal quality. For example an Allen tech somewhere else in the country told me in an email that his favorite Allen was a large, late MDS custom with 3 cages, and at the time (early-mid 2000s) he thought it sounded better than any of the Renaissance organs he serviced. All the techs and persons familiar with the line here seem to prefer the late ADCs to the early MDSs. And obviously though not every late MOS sounded better than every early MOS, they had by the late 70s more advanced technology at their disposal to make the organs sound more realistic, like SDDS.
              Last edited by circa1949; 07-27-2014, 06:57 AM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by arie v View Post
                Don,
                I'm not always sure about "factory" install and voicing. I have heard several Allens, some Rodgers, and others that have had personnel from the factory. They may not be the worst installs, but not that great either.
                AV
                I agree that there is nothing magical about an installation done by "headquarters," but I would at least expect them to adhere to their own recommended practices regarding speaker placement, wiring, voicing, etc. I suspect that many of the substandard outcomes in these cases result from immovable constraints placed on the installation by the church--they don't want to provide enough room (or funding) for speakers, don't want to pay for the necessary amount of finishing, don't see the need for an instrument with enough stops and channels to fill a room, and on and on.

                A perfect case in point is Elite Opus VII (St. Andrew's). It sounded wonderful in the video that Allen posted of the final test and voicing at the factory, but it sounds terrible to me in its permanent home. In this case, the church insisted on retaining the pipe facade from the old organ, which created poorly-place, undersized speaker chambers that never let the sound couple into the sanctuary properly. I suspect that Allen's best advice was ignored here and that given their preference the factory engineers would have done the installation much differently.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by arie v View Post
                  I few years ago, I was at the Allen factory. Played an Elite organ there, and it was very good. They also had a 4 manual Quantum there, which sounded terribly mediocre in comparison. I was astonished that they would show this organ off in their concert hall.
                  Arie,

                  At least they let you into Octave Hall! I've visited a couple of times in the past decade, and my wife and I were given the "brush off" both times. I wasn't even invited to play anything there. I guess I'm not good enough for them--even though I had 2-3 Allens at the time. Of course, they're a business, but I imagine they're only interested in people who are ready, willing, and able to pay retail prices. That leaves me out at their prices!

                  Originally posted by circa1949 View Post
                  All the techs and persons familiar with the line here seem to prefer the late ADCs to the early MDSs. And obviously though not every late MOS sounded better than every early MOS, they had by the late 70s more advanced technology at their disposal to make the organs sound more realistic, like SDDS.
                  Circa,

                  Thanks for that trip down memory lane. Now that you've recounted it, I seem to remember those conversations comparing late ADC to early MDS, but they never really registered because I hadn't personally experienced the difference before.

                  A digital sample consists of the ADSR envelope, and my reason for starting this thread had to do with the Sustain part of the samples. To my ears, it appeared that part of the Attack and Decay parts of the envelope were getting repeated somehow. I also neglected to mention that a fellow who voices pipe organs is also part of the congregation, and both he and his wife (she's also an organist) observed the same anomalies with the Reed Chorus of the Swell.

                  I'm glad to know this is not common to all MDS instruments. After I get the ADC-5400 repaired and working well, I've thought of picking up MDS instruments as they get older, but have held back to date because of the ROHC compliance issues (I'd rather have the lead without the dendrites--mentioned in other threads), and because of the new technologies possibly requiring more resources than I have at my disposal.

                  I know the MDS instruments also used the BTMG pots for voicing, so I felt good with that, but since I'd never experienced an MDS instrument, I've hesitated with the new technology. Thank you all for your information. It is extremely helpful.

                  Michael
                  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

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    ROHS did not become a directive until after the MDS era was over.
                    Too bad you didn't have a way to record it. I almost wonder if there was some kind of malfunctioning of the circuitry of that particular MDS organ. I also have somewhere (probably very hard to find) some mid 2000s mp3 recordings of his MDS classical organ from some guy in Michigan, who was trying to sell it and used them to publicize the sound quality. I think that was a late MDS model...a big 3 manual Protege. None of the reeds sounded odd.

                    "my wife and I were given the "brush off" both times."
                    Hhhmmmm. Well the point of Octave Hall is not to market to end-use purchasers who drop by unannounced at the factory. That being said, it's worth noting I've always found the Allen dealer in the DC area to be more "frosty" than the Rodgers dealer. I recently went by to see their new digs: the organs are stuffed in a dingy back room at the DC area Steinway dealer. They really seem like an afterthought. I suppose the point is for the prestige of Steinway to rub off on Allen and make up for this. But my overall impression is that an organ committee would find Daffer's dedicated facility more inviting. With how few people OR institutions are actually interested in buying a new organ these days, it seems they can hardly be aloof to me, you, or anybody else who deigns to express interest. What if I win the lottery next week? I could decide to buy a new digital organ from anybody. It might not matter in the end though. The smaller prestige manufacturers, Walker et al., don't seem to have trouble selling organs w/o a showroom at all. Or at least as many as they need to sell, so to speak. As I posited before, in about decade or (much) less, nobody will truly have stock models being made for inventory anymore. All electronic classical organs will be, like pipe organs, custom made to order.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Circa,

                      To give you a time line as to the Galanti model you were playing, the Praeludium III was introduced either late 1988 or early 1989. The second generation Galanti was called the Ahlborn-Galanti Chronicler III, and it was introduced in 1986. The Praeludium III had a chiff selector switch under the keydesk, as well as an ensemble switch and adjustable wind noise control.

                      The Praeludium III was one of the very first electronic organs to go to C-C# in the audio routing of the stops. This caused a lot of trouble for dealers, who did not understand the concept or know how to install them properly. This organ had 16 discrete outputs, a left and right for the flues and reeds of each division. Done properly the PIII could be a very interesting instrument. Alas, most installs came with 2,4 or sometimes 8 channels.

                      The basic tone of the PIII was more authentic or more natural pipe-like than what Allen was putting out at the time. In fact a lot of organists were startled in the late 80s when they first heard the Galanti organ.


                      As to Baldwin re-badges, they started by using the Galanti Praeludium I and II. I think they were called Howard D-900 and D-910. By the late 1980 they were moving to Viscount for product, and they were called Wurlitzer, and they sold umpteen models under the Wurlitzer brand. You are correct in the tonal quality, as the Viscount and Galanti stuff sounded similar, but not the same. Definitely showed a tonal bias which showed it's European origin.

                      I should mention, in my experience, not all successive technologies or redesigns are for the better. While things do improve over time, it is not correct to say that it is an across the board improvement. I remember doing some work on an early 60s Rodgers, and then a little later working on a small late 70s Rodgers, and thinking, where were the improvements. The older model definitely sounded better. The Ahlborn-Galanti Chronicler II when it first came out, was considered inferior sound wise to the Praeludium III, even though it was more voiceable, had much more sample data, was new technology, etc. It was only when the technical platform was re-done, that the Chroniclers were considered better than than the PIII. I'm sure the same thing could be said for Allen, Johannus, Viscount etc.

                      AV

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        My church has an MDS-5. The MDS-10 is a little bigger than the MDS-5.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          While a thread is up about MDS, instead of bumping the various older ones where jbird and I discussed this, I should make a brief mention that an MDS W5 tone generator board has appeared on ebay for sale. The image indeed confirms it is through-hole, as apparently the entire MDS era was. (except possible the MN board "brains", which apparently underwent little change from MDS to Renaissance - because there was little reason for it to) Every thing about the architecture of the board suggests there was no major change during the MDS era - the same Allen custom chips are there that started in the ADC era for basic discrete logic functions, and the custom ASIC/FPGA chips added for MDS to handle quasi-multisampling in 16 bit resolution. (A standard MDS board is doing something similar to what the custom TT boards of ADC era did, albeit at 16 bits instead of 8) The expensive Burr-Brown converters of the W4 (or W14) era are not there, but it's not clear enough to see what 16 bit DAC replaced them. Noteworthy also is a large custom chip marked AOCO copyright 1993 not seen on the earlier W4 MDS board. It's bigger and less crowded than the earlier board, which is to be expected because W5 boards were apparently not mounted in a long relative narrow cage but in a big flat panel box similiar to MADC organs. But...it isn't quite as big as the main MADC board. Here's the link while it lasts: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Allen-organ-...efaultDomain_0

                          So, the last mysteries about MDS, in my humble opinion:
                          W4 and W5 were the "mini-cage, big-board' form factors. W4 was the original incaration that appeared with models like MDS-15, and was "compatible" with ADC era card reader technology; W5 appeared later for models like the MDS-16/26 that had 2nd voices instead of card readers. However, W5 was used later in the MDS era for larger 3 manual models...more on that in a moment.
                          W14 was the first "big cage, small board" format from 1989, appearing in the very first MDS models like the MDS-45. However, there's rare mention on the yahoo group of a W18. Was that the second generation of the W14, or just a super capable form that came out fairly early as well? Did _all_ the final MDS models all convert to W5/mini-cages? I ask because one big, later 3 manual theater model had 2 W5 mini-cages. Someone at the yahoo group who had one told me that each mini-cage could generate 8 channels. Just as an ADC/early MDS "big" cage could. I wonder if the supply of those ADC era big cages dwindled as they were no longer an industry standard part. And with their huge rear wire-wrapped main boards being costly to construct, were something they wanted to get rid of. In fact now that I'm thinking about this, I wonder if the big jump from W14/W18 (maybe) to W5 was to eliminate the parallel data bus(es) on the backplane, which is why the wiring back there has to be so hairy. Thus in the W5 era, there's no need anymore for the big expensive backplane to have many channels of polyphony. Each W5 mini-cage was presumably capable of generating as many voices with as many frequency sources as a earlier MDS or ADC big cage, with only a single, internal, board-to-board jumper. (that header you see in the top of the picture) The would just mirror the long march toward serialization that's been happening in all computational devices. (the change from PCI to PCIe, for example, which happened about 10 years later, but in a much faster and more complex environment) ADC organs had a serial keying interface, but the connection from the frequency/address generators to the tone generations was parallel. If you could have make it serial you wouldn't have needed the crazy backplane anymore. Where's the next Walter Greenwood when you need him! (Walter left at the end of ADC so he knows nothing about MDS) BTW this serialization happened ahead of the MN board in MDS organs too, as the key and stop controls went from the big multiplexed parallel bundles of the ADC era to thin little ribbon cables.
                          Last edited by circa1949; 08-27-2014, 11:01 AM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Having looked at the picture in the ebay advert a bit more, I think this is only showing 1/2 of a pair that constitute a W5 module. So the output converters (and main sample chips) are probably on the other board. This board does have the tuning coil, as you'd expect for the earlier part of the Allen ADC/MDS era discrete logic chain, that generates a frequency dependent stream of sample point addresses...so it is the equivalent of the MA, KA, and FG boards in a full cage ADC or early MDS. I wonder why he didn't post a picture of the other board which would have pots and RCA jacks. Maybe something isn't marketable about it. The wide headers to connect to the other board suggest that the connection is still parallel; but given that the W5s were presumably capable of high quality - maybe as high as a ADC or early MDS era "full cage" organ - they could have just doubled or quadrupled the systems's clock cycle and sent the address stream with additional bits for various sample chips. Allowing the multi-channel, multi-tuning ensemble that distinguishes the "full cage" organs. This would also explain why W5 became "incompatible" with old ADC gear like the card reader boards.

                            At any rate it's interesting that Allen took until 1997 (start of Renaissance) to have their tone generators use surface mount technology. Rodgers apparent had that much earlier with the PDI organs. Arie V if you're around, when did the Galanti series switch over?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Circa,

                              Ahlborn or Ahlborn-Galanti, was a part of GeneralMusic. I believe that GeneralMusic came out with SMT when the DRAKE technology was introduced, and that would have been in a digital piano around the year 2000.

                              The European Ahlborns switched over DRAKE technology in 2002

                              The Ahlborn-Galanti line came out in 2004.

                              The previous A-G Chronicler line did not have SMT in it, except for maybe the disc drive unit which would have been sourced as a unit. The Chronicler line of organs really would have had their genesis in the late 80s, and at that point SMT was not so prevalent.

                              I would say that the older organs are likely to be somewhat more durable as they don't conform to the RoHS directive. If need be they can be repaired out in the field. I used to modify mixer boards, for increased performance of organ, or to break out the audio channelling.

                              The new electronics you can't really do anything with in terms of making changes, and if the go down the river, you pitch them out.

                              AV

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