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How many Rodgers 80's analogs with pipes are still out there working?

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  • How many Rodgers 80's analogs with pipes are still out there working?

    We serviced a big old Rodgers 925 today that had been sold to the church back in the 80's with a tiny set of Rodgers pipes. The dealer evidently had pulled the wool over their eyes, at least to some extent. The service manual says that the smallest set of pipes usable with this model is four ranks, but they had only received two ranks. Thus, some stops all over the organ did not play unless the "Ancillary On" tab was in use! Strangely enough, the organists had never really complained about this.

    But now, the pipe chest and blower have developed serious problems, both mechanical and electronic in nature. We found several malfunctions and after consulting with the organist and church administrator, and with the pastor's approval, we permanently disabled the puny little pipe set and totally re-voiced the organ to perform properly as a stand-alone electronic. It sounded SO much better that way! We gave it some believable chiff and air puff, brightened up the sound, raised the volume a tad, and I doubt that anyone in the church will ever miss those pipes.

    How many of those organs are still out there in use? We have a few of them in our service territory, and at least one other one also developed serious pipe problems (wouldn't stay in tune for more than a day) and we changed it over to all electronics. Anybody else see these organs still in use? In what condition?
    *** 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!

  • #2
    Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
    Anybody else see these organs still in use? In what condition?
    There is a 3-manual Rodgers near me which has pipes in the chamber, but I was told they were not connected--they had just switched consoles. When I played it, I did not hear a blower or what I thought to be genuine pipes. In this case, the pipes existed previously, and the Rodgers was being married to them--just not yet.

    To date, that's the only one I've run into.

    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


    • #3
      There is an Episcopal chapel on the Fairhaven retirement/nursing campus in Sykesville, MD, that still has a Rodgers from the early '80s with a few ranks of real pipes, with everything still functional. Speakers and pipes are hung high on the chapel's back wall and it speaks pretty well for the space. The console is unlike any other that I have seen. It looks like it was put together from individual components rather than a stock console. This was one of the first organs the local Rodgers rep (Daffer) installed.


      • #4
        I played a 2-manual not that long ago that had 2 ranks of pipes- a unit principal and flute- on a chest behind the choir in the chancel, with all the organ speakers in the BACK of the room 50 feet away, high in a chamber.

        The pipes were screechy and overwhelming, totally out of balance with the electronics, and much better left unused.


        • #5

          I look after a small 2 manual Rodgers with 2 ranks of pipes. The pipes were put in by a pipe organ man, and the electronics to match, and the result is not bad at all. It was a late model analog, as it has Midi pustons on it.

          There is a Rodgers pipe combination organ near where I live from the late '70s. Really a pathetic sounding thing.

          I came across a Rodgers hybrid, with if memory serves me right had a single, shortened rank of pipes, but the organ was re-jigged by Walker Technical, and the result was astonishingly good.

          Offering pipe packages of 1,2 or 4 ranks really was a life line for Rodgers. They were getting beaten up by Allen in the 80s, and selling pipes was their ticket.

          They sold hundreds of those pipe packages. Most of those installs at best were average, quite a few sounded pretty horrid.

          My opinion, for what it's worth, one size fits all ( pipe scaling, wind pressure etc.) Makes for lousy organ artistry. Also unification to the hilt of 1 or 2 ranks leads to musical compromises.

          I believe there are still quite a few of those organs in service.

          I think what Rodgers does these days is interface existing pipe organs to their digital organ consoles.

          Last edited by arie v; 09-09-2016, 10:03 AM.


          • #6
            Nice to know I'm not getting flamed over this! In some quarters, a couple ranks of pipes would beat any kind of electronics, no matter the condition or sound quality. It would be heresy to disconnect a few pipes and make an organ all electronic, especially a pre-digital organ. Thanks to all for the interesting observations.

            I was selling Allen in the 80's when Rodgers was pushing these little devices, and I lost a number of sales to churches that wanted some "real pipes" and went for it. Usually just two ranks, sometimes four, but they always spent more money than they would've spent if they'd bought an Allen, and ironically their organ would probably still be in good working order if they hadn't bought the pipes. And Allen ADC organs have proven to be not only durable but a high point in the history of digital sound.

            Our sales ammunition against the combo organs included mention of the pipes being unaffected by expression, being very loud, and of course incredibly unified. And one of the complaints the organist had at the church where we worked yesterday was that the pipes were so loud and uncontrollable that he hardly ever used them anyway. Back in the 80's, we didn't even know that many of these ranks would become nearly untunable within 20 years, and that you couldn't get a real pipe organ company to touch them with a 10-foot pole. At the time it seemed like a good idea to some people, but it just didn't pan out in the long run.

            One thing has turned out well though for churches that bought these. The electronic voices are actually pretty darn good when carefully voiced and when the setup is right and the acoustics of the church favorable. The installing dealers often completely neglected the electronic voices though, because they were so focused on the pipes, and we've had to set up and voice many of them from scratch in order to get decent performance out of them. I've heard a number of these in good settings that sound amazingly "pipe-like" (once you get rid of the "real pipes!"), at least from out in the middle of the nave.

            Certainly analog was on its last legs when Rodgers built these, but they must have had some dedicated engineers at the factory who did their best to make these organs as good as they could be with the technology they had to work with. Digital organs didn't sound all that good up close either back then, so it's not that hard to see that many purchasers were won over by some of the better features of their sound, if the dealer happened to have a really good install somewhere to show them.
            *** 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!



            • #7
              I still don't get what the allure of the smaller 2-manual Rodgers analog instruments with a couple ranks of pipes was. My experience with even the late Rodgers analogs was that you really needed to get into a larger 3-manual instrument with enough generator sets and speaker channels for it to really shine, and if many of the churches who bought a couple ranks of barely-voiced pipes had instead invested in a larger, all-electronic Rodgers, the musical result and the reliability would have been MUCH better.

              The smaller Rodgers analogs always sounded very rough around the edges and plain to me, especially compared to a similar-sized Allen ADC-xxxx.


              • #8
                I know of one here in Tucson. The only service I've done on it is for broken key contacts. That's good since the organ sits on a tiered platform with a 4' high wall directly in front of the pedals. The back of the organ is against a 1 ft. rise to the next level which also has a grand piano against the back of the organ.

                Servicing electronic organs since 1969.


                • #9
                  I always liked the sound of the Rodgers organs with pipes, but I only heard two examples back "in the day". One was a demo at the 1977 (I think) NAMM show in Atlanta. It was their Specification 250--about 9 ranks, including some mixture ranks--a 2 manual model with floating "Brust Positiv". I'm sure the factory technicians gave that one a lot of care in voicing and setup at the trade show.

                  The other was a model 205 cabinet organ at a dealer's showroom in Chicago. It had 2 ranks of pipes--a principal and stopped flute starting at 8' Tenor C, so really 4' ranks, and each only had 49 notes. It sounded extremely good to my ears, but I really do like the close-up sound of pipes. The sound source coming from different locations as you play up the scale provides a presence that electronics rarely fail to provide. Some Allen organs, and I suppose others, now provide this with dynamic channel assignment, but such sophistication wasn't available in the 1970's and 80's.

                  I think the really critical factor as with ALL installations, electronic or pipe, is the care with which installation and voicing is completed. The Chicago Rodgers dealer was a former "pipe" man, and he said that the scaling of the pipe was different for different installations, so at least the factory new that the pipes had to be chosen for the installation. I suspect that all the "screechers" were those installed by dealers who didn't really know what they were doing, or perhaps didn't care. Rodgers would send technicians for pipe installation from the factory if requested, at a cost, I'm sure. Some dealers probably had knowledgeable staff to do this in-house, but others probably just saved the cost and those probably were the worst installations.

                  I suspect the same is true of the analog organs. I purchased a Rodgers 770 from the Chicago dealer, without pipes, and the dealer spent nearly all day on the installation in my home, performing all the voicing adjustments, and there are a lot of them in the 770. Other dealers probably treated these as "plug and play" to the detriment of the sound.

                  Rodgers also used many different suppliers of pipes over the years, and that probably makes a difference, too. In the end, while I really appreciate the hybrid instruments, I can certainly understand how if poorly specified and poorly installed that they would be worse than without pipes.

                  All that said, I have a Rodgers 830 in my home now, along with an Allen ADC-4300, and two sets of Rodgers pipes that I have not yet setup. So, I'll be able to decide and compare as soon as I get everything going.

                  Prior to the ADC series, I think Rodgers had some tonal advantages over Allen's MOS-I and MOS-II organs, and vice-versa. ADC made the Allen much stronger in terms of sound, especially the last series of ADC. Pipes and MIDI were what stood out for Rodgers, since Allen was very slow to adopt a full MIDI system.

                  In the end, competition between Allen and Rodgers made each company's products stronger.


                  • #10
                    Here in Ontario there are many Rodgers organs with pipe packages. Some of them have the typical two or four rank pipe package, others are larger. Some of these pipe packages were as delivered by Rodgers. A colleague pipe organ builder installed several pipe packages on Rodgers consoles as well. However, pipe packages that he made were built from scratch- including the pipes- scaled and voiced according to the church building. Just playing the pipes themselves gives you a useful, although somewhat limited tonal palette. That's not to say that you couldn't play a church service strictly on the pipes, though.

                    The unfortunate thing is, as others have stated, voicing is everything. If the electronics portion is suitably installed and voiced, with a properly sized audio system, results can be quite good to excellent.

                    My rule of thumb is, when designing a hybrid instrument, is to make sure that first and foremost, the pipe divisions can function as an instrument of itself. The extra bells and whistles can be digital. And secondly, the pipes and digitals are voiced to form one cohesive instrument when all is said and done.

                    i could mention more but I'd like to read what others have to say as well.


                    • #11
                      janvds, you hit the nail on the head. In a hybrid organ the pipe division ought to be able to function as a complete instrument. Otherwise, the marriage is probably doomed. And that was what doomed so many of the 80's Rodgers setups with pipes -- the incomplete ranks filled in at the bottom with electronic extensions, unified to the hilt, no expression, often installed in outrageous locations in the church, and usually comprised of just two or four ranks. Not that you couldn't make some kind of a pipe organ like that, but the way they were employed left a lot of gaps in the sound.

                      Of the Rodgers hybrids from the 80's around here, nearly all of them have either two or four ranks, mostly two, and I don't think any of them got custom voicing. They are stock pipe sets just plunked down on a stand or hung on the wall by the dealer and plugged into the console. I haven't heard one of these yet that I'd want to play in the pipe-only mode, and most of them simply sound better when the pipes are turned off. But there are other hybrid organs that are FAR different ...

                      We sometimes service a hybrid installed by Rodgers around the year 2000, a custom setup with about 22 ranks of pipes serving as the entire choir division of the organ. These 22 ranks are in a large chamber with expression shades, and were in fact a complete organ before they were incorporated into this new hybrid. Real pipes built by a real pipe builder with a real blower and chest, and all the equipment you'd expect to find in a 22 rank organ. In a spacious room where you can walk all around them or walk on footways to get to every single pipe if need be.

                      The great, swell, and pedal divisions of the organ play Rodgers digital voices for the most part, though there are a handful of pedal stops drawn from the real pipes. The choir division can of course be coupled to the great and pedal, so it can easily be played in tandem with the electronics. The pipes are at floor level, separated from the chancel by a wall containing the expression shades. Because they are easily accessible and at floor level, they don't lack for maintenance and tuning and are cared for by a competent pipe organ company and they don't go wildly out of tune when the temperature rises to 100* F. up at ceiling level!

                      Now that is a hybrid organ that works! Everything was done right, and there must have been tremendous planning that went into the project before it started.

                      There are other digital/pipe hybrids around here that work pretty well. Some are hampered because the architect didn't follow the wishes of the organ builder and wound up giving the pipes far less room than requested. But good pipe organ people can overcome a lot of obstacles, and these newer hybrids have generally been quite successful, and tend to meet the test of being able to function as stand-alone pipe instruments.
                      *** 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!



                      • #12
                        This talk about the 925 and similar has made me very interested in one! :) There actually is one on eBay although I have a minuscule amount of funds I could put toward an organ.

                        Thinking about it has also made me realise more what some of you have said about my current organ (Wurlitzer/Viscount C400). Overall I think the sound of my organ is pretty decent, but it could be better if it were configurable. Even just simple treble/bass adjustments. The mixtures are a bit shrill in my room and if I turn down the treble on the amp all of associated stops become too damped. I also find it annoying that even in the 12 channel audio configuration, the mixtures and reeds are mixed with other stop types, and so any attempt to adjust the tone at the amp end would affect other stops that may not need it. The organ feels limiting as a result. I'm really anxious to get the v2 voicing ICs to see if it improves things...

                        But when I look at the stop list for the 925, knowing it's configurable, and hearing praise from you guys, it's really appealing!
                        Viscount C400 3-manual
                        8 channels + 2 reverb channels (w/ Lexicon MX200)
                        Klipsch RSX-3 speakers and Klipsch Ultra 5.1 subwoofers


                        • #13
                          I remember the Rodgers ads back in the day, when they were still struggling to make their antique analog systems work while waiting for the Allen patents to expire. "Realistic! Pipe! Organ! Sound! (without the pipes!)" these ads breathlessly proclaimed. "And even better-sounding if you add our Rodgers pipes!"

                          Uh huh.


                          • #14
                            in answer to the original post....there are some in the tidewater region of Virginia...a couple with two ranks, one with 4 ranks. One of the weak spots (from a pipe organ builder's perspective) aside from too much unification is that the wind regulation system (schwimmers, individual units under chests) becomes unsteady as the reliability of the grasshopper springs age. Replacing the grasshopper springs with pantograph units restores the wind stability and thus the tuning stability. Also, the tremulant units on those schwimmers is a bi-directional pulsator, and if it is not adjusted correctly when the plat is free to float (in other words, the trem is OFF), it can interfere with the stability of the wind pressure. We have found that setting the wind pressure a bit higher (from 1.75 inch wind to about 2.25 inch wind) and revoicing the pipes for the higher wind p[ressure MARKEDLY improves the sound and tuning stability.
                            Rick in VA


                            • #15
                              Here are pictures of the installation at Fairhaven in Sykesville, MD. Previously in this thread I said that the console looked like it was put together from components. I must have been remembering a different organ...

                              This console is still unlike any other Rodgers I have seen, but it is obviously factory built. On the Great, there is a mix of pipes (the principal-derived stops) and electronic. On the Swell division, everything is electronic. The Positive division consists of the bourdon rank at every conceivable pitch. The overall sound though is surprisingly good. Even though the principal is completely unified (and pipes only from TC), the pipes sounds better than the electronic option.

                              The pipes are on the rear wall, totally inaccessible without ladders. However, the tuning is stable and seems to be problem free.
                              Click image for larger version

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