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  • New organ question

    Hello all:

    I work in a growing RC parish. We had selected a new Allen instrument for purchase. However the Pastor was asking me about Viscount organs. The Parish already has an instrument of very poor quality and I have no experience of Viscount.

    Can anyone speak to the quality of the consoles. How well newer ones sound and feel? If it's a viable option I want to take the time to go hear and see but actual users experience might save me lots of time and energy.

    Thanks

  • #2
    Where are you located?

    Comment


    • #3
      If an Allen has already been chosen and the funds approved, you certainly have done well and ought to be satisfied with both the sound and the quality of a new Allen. And if you have committed to buy, you would be doing the Allen dealer a bit dirty to back out now.

      However, if the question is still open, and if you have access to a Viscount dealer in your area, you might do well to go and try out a Viscount, if only to honor the priest's request. A lot of folks that I work with believe rather strongly in sticking with the premium, well-known, US-based builders such as Allen and Rodgers (at least for purchasers in this country), so many would dismiss Viscount out of hand as a last-resort choice, along with Johannus, Content, and other European brands that tend to cost less than the premium organs.

      However, I have played some Viscount organs that seemed rather nice to me. Oddly enough, I don't seem to get the same impression from every Viscount. Some seem to sound good and have a nice sturdy-feeling key action, while others sound thin, shrill, harsh, crude, and have cheap-feeling keys and flimsy-looking consoles. So I'm guessing that there is a great deal of variety within their range of products, and you probably get what you pay for, with the least expensive models offering substandard quality and the more expensive ones being nearer to what you'd get from the premium builders.

      And I'm sure there are folks who genuinely love Viscount organs and would have no problem with any of them. So you should really check them out for yourself. Listen very critically, keep an open mind, be mindful of how your ears might tolerate the sound for long periods -- whether or not the sound is "tiring" to the ears. Pay close attention to the feel of the keyboards, the apparent weight or lack thereof to the plastic material, the feel of the tabs or drawknobs, whether they feel substantial or cheap. Consoles differ greatly from one builder to another, and from one model to another. Is it real wood or just flakeboard? Are the veneers real or fake? Does the veneer look like it is professionally applied or like it was just slapped on and might come loose at the joints? Certainly the console isn't everything, and I've seen some particle board consoles with laminate veneers that were perfectly OK. But you should at least be mindful of how the console is built.

      You should also consider how easy or difficult it might be to get service and repair in the future. If you have a preferred local servicer, ask him or her about the availability of parts and factory support, and how well the manufacturers take care of their older models. After all, a church organ tends to stay around for 20 or 30 years, sometimes longer, and you need to consider the possibility of needing parts and factory support at some time in the organ's life.

      Good luck!
      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


      • #4
        You can't get better advice than John Birdsong's.

        I would emphasize the part about parts availability- I own two Allens from '71--- one analog, one digital. Parts are available for both. I also own a "bottom feeder" Italian-made digital organ from '91, and parts are getting so problematic I probably will scrap the innards and turn it into the console of a virtual organ.

        You'll have to decide whether the "V" company is closer (on long-term parts availability and factory support) to my Allens, or to my "other" brand.

        Let us know how you make out!
        R, Bill Miller, Phila PA

        Comment


        • #5
          From what you shared about the Allen that is the way you should go. Most pastors and etc. know very little about organs other than they either like or don't like the sound. They had rather buy the cheaper things when it comes to music instruments, and save a few dollars for their own pockets or send it to some missionary. I look at any church that the mission business comes to the home church first and the people they serve there, and in their local community.

          James
          Baldwin Church Organ Model 48C
          Baldwin Spinet 58R
          Lowrey Spinet SCL
          Wurlitzer 4100A
          Crown Pump Organ by Geo. P. Bent, Chicago, Illinois


          Organs I hope to obtain in the future:

          Conn Tube Minuet or Caprice even a transistor Caprice with the color coded tabs
          Gulbransen H3 or G3, or V.
          Wurlitzer 44, 4410, 4420, ES Reed Models, 4300, 4500, Transistor Models

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by moller85 View Post
            Can anyone speak to the quality of the consoles. How well newer ones sound and feel? If it's a viable option I want to take the time to go hear and see but actual users experience might save me lots of time and energy.
            Moller85,

            I've tried to stay away from replying to this thread because from my signature below, you can obviously tell my leaning on the subject. In approximately 4 decades of playing organ, to date I've never run into a Viscount organ. Therefore, I have nothing to offer about the quality of their sound, their consoles, or workmanship.

            However, I can attest to the quality, workmanship, and sound (both good & bad) for Allen organs. Perhaps the responses you've already received (one from an organ technician who also works with Allens, one from an organist familiar with Allens, and me) should speak to the question you have.

            I was just relating to another organist this morning how the Symphony wanted me to play an organ part on a keyboard several years ago. My response was:
            • I can't get my feet that high so they can play the pedal notes on the keyboard.
            • My hands aren't that large to reach all the notes necessary (over 2 octaves in span).
            • I consented to play the part on the keyboard as long as the concertmaster played his solo part on a student-model violin with 2 strings.

            I certainly do understand the financial pressure churches are facing today. Two of my organs are placed in churches where I play. Neither church had ANY music before I arrived, neither can they afford to pay me or anyone else. They also cannot afford to purchase suitable instruments. On the other hand, if your church has the money set aside for the Allen, that is certainly your best choice. However, if they only have the money to purchase the Viscount, just be aware you'll probably be paying more in repairs later on--sooner rather than later.

            I certainly don't envy your position, but you do need to advocate for what you feel is the best instrument to meet the church's needs--not the easiest option. I do wish I could have given you a different answer. I also wish you had the money and space for a pipe organ. Barring that, I'd vote for the Allen.

            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


            • #7
              Once upon a time, Allen was indeed the top choice for sound quality and durability. But the times are a-changin'. Now they use lighted stop controls and Fatar keyboards on their lower-end models and build consoles that resemble little more than knock-down furniture from Ikea. Yet for all the cost cutting measures, they still manage to charge $5000 to $10,000 more than the European builders (Viscount and Johannus) for a comparable model.

              Our original poster did not say what model of Allen his church is considering. If it is one of the bottom-of-the-line instruments such as a Chapel, then a Viscount or Johannus will probably be a better choice--the church will get more features, newer sound generation technology, equivalent build quality, and identical warranty support for far less money.

              Viscount voicing is indeed a matter of taste; like John, I find many of their stops sound rather harsh. The problem is not a flaw in their sound generation technology but rather the inherently brash sound of the European organs that they sampled. I understand that they are about to introduce a line of instruments specifically for the American market and American tastes with more romantic samples as standard issue. Meanwhile, they are perfectly capable of supplying custom dispositions to meet any buyer's needs.

              Johannus has always used more appealing samples for my ears and ought to be a contender here as well. Like Viscount, they have made enormous strides in quality and support over the past 20 years and are at least on a par with the cost-cutter Allens.

              I remain a big Allen fan and admire their top-line instruments for their ultimate durability and quality--and I admire the company for the support it provides. But these features come at a stiff monetary price that may not make them the right choice for everyone, particularly when cost is a significant constraint. When commercial-grade rather than military-grade build quality and a 30-year rather than 80-year life cycle are adequate, another brand is going to represent a better value.

              Comment


              • #8
                Well put, Don. It's amazing how the proliferation of good sampling technology has changed this business. With even the lower-cost products, you usually get the ability to choose your default set of samples, and most models will have a nice set of American-sounding stops within the range of choices. So today's Viscount or Johannus models can typically be set up to sound pleasing to American ears. And I've played several in recent years that had super nice keyboards, some with a comfortable simulated ivory feel, and the other hardware seems to be improved as well. (Watch out for cheap flimsy drawknobs on some models though.)

                If I were choosing a brand new organ, I'd look for excellent sound samples, since that's a no-brainer these days, a quality console, solid keyboards and pedals, plentiful pistons and capture capability (also a no-brainer). All these can be found from various sources. I might be influenced more by the audio systems, including the number of audio channels, the way they are divided, how easily audio can be configured and expanded.

                If I weren't a tech myself, I'd sure want to make sure that my chosen brand came with reliable tech support. One of the saddest things I've seen in my 35 year career is the number of organs of every brand that get installed and then never again serviced by the dealer. Many a nice organ has failed to live up to its potential when a dealer or tech let it get run down, ignoring the most egregious issues until the church or owner gives up and trades it off.
                Last edited by jbird604; 11-29-2014, 06:11 AM. Reason: dup
                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


                • #9
                  Amen to your last point, John. Customers buy a dealer as much as an organ whether they purchase new or used instruments. Razzle-dazzle technology and well-appointed consoles mean little if the initial installation is poor or the follow-up service is incompetent.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I want to echo that the Allen organs are in the top tier. Some like Rodger's a bit better. Frankly, I think it is like Ford and Chevrolet or Honda and Toyota.

                    I have never played a Viscount. But knowing what model Allen your church plans to buy would help us better offer our opinions. Speakers, and arrangements can make or break an installation.

                    Good luck!

                    BO
                    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.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      We currently have a Johannus which after 8 years has been showing signs of rapid decay. As a long time Allen advocate myself I chose the quantum 390 as our next organ. Rodgers is competing with Allen with their equivalent instrument. Viscount has entered rather late in the game and thankfully I have a pastor who trusts my decision and is very pro music. As a historic downtown church we need a serious instrument. I simply did not want to disregard Biscount simply becuse of my own lack of experience. After all Allen was once the new untested kid on the block. So I'm expecting viscount to quote us on thier large 4 Manuel Instrument and I will be playing one later this month.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Hi,

                        Sounds like a "fanboy" who just needs the organ of his/her choice. Why a Viscount organ bid is desired escapes me, as the decision has been made. Of course it has to be a 4 manual to be a serious instrument.
                        If one is serious and looking towards longevity, why not get a pipe organ - the real thing, and it may very well be around in a hundred years.
                        Hopefully, if the Allen does arrive, Allen will still be building organ when the "limited warranty" on it expires.

                        AV

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Bach-On View Post
                          I want to echo that the Allen organs are in the top tier. Some like Rodger's a bit better. Frankly, I think it is like Ford and Chevrolet or Honda and Toyota.
                          Not sure if you are comparing two American brands or two Japanese brands with each other, or comparing American brands to Japanese. . . No disrespect intended, but there is a huge difference between Ford and Chevy, and also between Honda and Toyota. And the difference between American made and Japanese is off the charts (and not in USAs favor . . . ).

                          But getting back on topic, I just had the chance to play a friends brand new Viscount Chorale 3 (which is one of the smaller instruments), and it was an excellent little organ. The voicing sounded great, it felt good, and had nice action. I have never played an Allen organ, so I offer no comparison, but wanted to note that the smaller Viscount was not totally inferior in sound or feel to other instruments i have heard. It also had 4 different settings for American, Baroque, French, and German (I think these are right).

                          Service of the organ is another issue, and as stated, it comes down to the dealer and how responsive they are.

                          Good luck on your purchase!
                          “There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.”
                          “What I have achieved by industry and practice, anyone else with tolerable natural gift and ability can also achieve.”
                          Johann Sebastian Bach

                          (at Home) Conn 645 Theater Deluxe
                          (at Church) 1836 E. & G.G. Hook Bros, Opus 26

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
                            A lot of folks that I work with believe rather strongly in sticking with the premium, well-known, US-based builders such as Allen and Rodgers (at least for purchasers in this country), so many would dismiss Viscount out of hand as a last-resort choice, along with Johannus, Content, and other European brands that tend to cost less than the premium organs.
                            With the exception of Rodgers, I would agree with these comments.
                            2008: Phoenix III/44

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I for one do not feel that there are substantive differences between a Ford and a Chevy. Many people still buy them, either one, because they are American. I was in a dealership and the full disclosure invoice on a Ford model had 36% of the vehicle of American origin. The powertrain essentially. The rest was of Canadian, Mexican and Japanese origin. So Rodgers is owned by Roland, a Japanese conglomerate. Chrysler is owned by Fiat, an Italian conglomerate. Generally speaking. Very generally speaking, at every price point, "American" car models will give you more 'car' (interior space, engine horsepower, etc.) and Japanese cars will give you more sophisticated instrumentation, climate controls and diagnostics that can only be obtained from American makes by going to the next higher price point. The situation is not vastly different with electronic organs. I would not advise standing on the pedalboard of a European instrument to conduct the choir. Such a thing is possible with a Rodgers or Allen even if you are ... .. of ample dimensions. The European electronic that I bought from a church was factory designed to have independent expression of the Swell and Choir divisions and the Great under no expression. Someone went through a GREAT DEAL of trouble to defeat this and create an instrument that tied the entire organ to one expression pedal, including the Great. I don't even know where to begin to restore the instrument back to factory spec. I live a mile from the Rodgers factory. Most of the churches around here have Rodgers instruments. I can say with some authority that the majority of organists around town leave the factory default Great/Pedal under expression ON. Sacre bleu, this is not as God intended, and as far as I am concerned the "Great Unenclosed" configuration should be the default and should not require the pressing of a piston... every time you use the General Cancel or power down the instrument!! In short, I am not sure that the Allen and Rodgers love that is usually expressed is coming from a good place. You CAN get an Allen or Rodgers that is configured much like any Eminent or Johanus or Viscount and you can get a Chevy Cobalt with a 5 speed manual transmission. To achieve either end will require overcoming the objections of the dealer, money up front and the rescindment of other dealer incentives. Do you think the relative dearth of truly amazing young organists might be due to the relative lack of sophisticated instruments in the churches in which they are raised? Has anyone really amazing come out of a church that had only a two manual Allen in the $12K price range (in 1980 dollars)?

                              H

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