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Rodgers 800 Alexandria - Needs Repairs or HW Conversion

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  • Rodgers 800 Alexandria - Needs Repairs or HW Conversion

    Hello All,

    I just recently acquired a wonderful Rodgers Alexandria 800 organ for my apartment in New York. I've been wanting a house organ for many years and I finally was able to make it happen! It came with three speaker cabinets and one subwoofer, though I probably won't use them since my neighbors wouldn't appreciate it very much! Headphones are my go-to. I got it all for free, but the catch is there's problems with the electronics. The instrument has not been played in at least a decade and the previous owner was not willing to pay the expense of getting it repaired.

    I took the day to clean it up and it really looks great once all the dust and grime was removed. Then I plugged it in and played around a bit. Clearly there are bad microchips (best guess); stops are all over the place and the more keys that are pressed, the louder it gets. Very strange. From what I could test, the keys and pedal contacts themselves seem to work fine, but the sound generators are gorked. They output sound, just not the right ones; even single defined pitches won't sound properly. Rather disappointing. :-( What I could hear didn't sound too bad (especially with reverb) but it probably pales in comparison to Hauptwerk stuff that exists these days.

    So now I have to decide what to do:

    1) Get a tech to come in a find out the problems and get them fixed. I worry that this will be a super expensive repair for restoring 40-year-old electronics. It feels kind of pointless to me since I have no real attachment to the old analogue sound.
    2) Gut all the electronics, midify the console switches, and build a Hauptwerk setup out of it. I lean toward this option since I know I can do it myself, but it would require buying a lot of hardware, including the PC to run everything. A side-benefit of this might be the possibility to cut down the case's size. My father-in-law does a lot of woodwork and might be able to help that. If the electronics were gutted there would be little reason to have it be so large, especially in my small apartment.

    Any thoughts on what path to take? I'm keen on getting this going soon. I've got a ton of church sub gigs lined up this summer so I want to get back to practicing at home!

    Also, anyone have a technical manual for the Alexandra 800? I would be most appreciative!
    Attached Files

  • #2
    More photos.
    Attached Files


    • #3
      Even more photos.
      Attached Files


      • #4
        Looks nice, and cleaner than most organs that age. If you can make it work, you would have a quite decent practice organ, though limited by the 70's technology and analog sound vs. modern-day stuff. But converting to a MIDI-Hauptwerk system is not a cakewalk either, so best to think about it all before plunging in.

        The scrambled sound is probably due to some bad chips in the "time-sharing" circuitry, which was an early multiplexing system. The chips on the time share board are mostly still available, though in some cases I've had to search rather extensively on the internet to find a source. But it will take an experienced Rodgers tech to know what to do. There's even a remote chance you just have some bare wires that are shorting out, so take a close look at all the wiring bundles, especially where the wire is just copper wire with a thin enamel coating.

        BTW, if you will contact Rodgers Organ Co they will probably sell you a printed copy of the service manual, or possibly just send you a PDF that you can print out.

        If you call in a tech, be prepared to spend many hundreds of dollars, especially in NYC. Probably far more than the organ is in fact "worth" if you are just thinking resale value. But fixing it would be a bargain compared to buying a new one or even a good refurbished used one.

        OTOH, if you want to consider the MIDI route, check into that section of the forum here or check some other VPO sites. There are a great many advantages to going virtual, including far better sound and the ability to play organs from all over the world. But once you commit to VPO, you'll have to decide how much of the current hardware to keep and how much to do without, specifically the stop tabs. Your 800 has a "moving tab" capture action, which may or may not work very well. There are a variety of problems that have been seen over the years with the system in that console, so it may not be working properly, if at all, and that would be a good reason to junk it and go with a touch-screen monitor for your stop control. There are also lighted tabs that can be bought and installed in place of the mechanical tongues which will interface with Hauptwerk if you don't like the touch-screen concept.

        Anyway, you have quite an adventure ahead of you any way you go. Best of luck!
        *** 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!


        • #5
          Moved to a section where you might get more replies, though John's pretty much nailed it as usual.
          It's not what you play. It's not how you play. It's the fact that you're playing that counts.

          New website now live -

          Current instruments: Roland Atelier AT900 Platinum Edition, Yamaha Genos, Yamaha PSR-S970, Kawai K1m
          Retired Organs: Lots! Kawai SR6 x 2, Hammond L122, T402, T500 x 2, X5. Conn Martinique and 652. Gulbransen 2102 Pacemaker. Kimball Temptation.
          Retired Leslies, 147, 145 x 2, 760 x 2, 710, 415 x 2.
          Retired synths: Korg 700, Roland SH1000, Jen Superstringer, Kawai S100F, Kawai S100P, Kawai K1


          • #6
            A word of caution about "cutting down the case" to make a shallower depth--you might find that if you do this, the console become front heavy and needs extra support under the front desk of the console to keep it upright.

            Generally these organs are fixable and can be maintained indefinitely--the best reason to go with the virtual organ route would be to get more accurate pipe sound and to update the stoplist if you feel a need for that.


            • #7
              So after much thought, I decided to go the MIDIfy route. Wooo! After much observation of how the instrument works, I think it will be a relatively straightforward job with components. I'll start by getting the existing components MIDIfied and hooking it up to my laptop that has Hauptwerk on it. If I can get that far without problems I'll buy PC components to mount inside the case to build a permanent Hauptwerk setup. Maybe I'll add some more components, switches, etc. at that time, but for now it's an ongoing project.

              Some interesting issues came up and I was wondering if anyone has any input/experience to help:

              1) The two keyboards are linked together and look to be in a 16x16 matrix, such that both boards are effectively daisy chained together. Going through the documentation it mentions nothing about such a setup, only 8x8 or 6x12 etc. Will it be supported as-is or will I have to do some rewiring? Honestly I'm not a fan of combining them together like that but I suppose it was to reduce the number of wires required.
              2) All the lights in the console are old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. I would highly prefer to replace them all with LEDs. I'm assuming I could use something like the LITSW component to handle the power for the piston LEDs. Other lights could be on their own Power Supply anyway.
              3) Several of the pistons were for a "transposer" that will be removed. Could the piston heads be ordered/acquired as blanks or engraved by someone? The switches seem fine as they are except they have the wrong numbers! They also seem to be glued in place within the wood rails. Anyone know of a way to free them?
              4) I plan on keeping all the moving tabs, but I'm confused about the power requirements and pinout. Syndyne's materials aren't as helpful as I was hoping. Can anyone who's midified Syndyne SAMs give any insight on how you did it?
              5) This organ has three preamps and a main power supply. Would these be salvageable for sale? I also have the Rodgers speakers and sub which seem to work just fine. Would these sell?
              6) In relation to #4, there's piles of old circuit boards that will be removed, do these hold any value? They are 40 years old, so they probably aren't very useful except for repair-folk who do these sorts of things for a living, maybe they would appreciate them?


              • #8
                Chances are slim that you can sell any of the boards, though you might salvage a few parts off the oscillator boards or possibly sell them in one piece for someone else to part out. Not many of these old organs are still in use, and few of them ever need a complete circuit board. Same with amps and pre-amps, but the S-100 amps do still sometimes sell on ebay for $50 to $75. Also, the Rodgers speakers might sell, though they are less desirable than they were just a few years ago. You might actually want to keep them around until you are sure you can't use them in the Hauptwerk setup. They are pretty good speakers, and the sub could be quite excellent, depending on which one you have.

                The pistons are glued in with hot glue or something similar, and will come free if you use a sharp small knife to cut away the glue, raise a section and peel it off, etc. Then push the piston out from the rear. I'm not sure you'll be able to change the lamps in the pistons for LED's, as the little incandescent bulbs are buried deep in the pistons and glued in with silicone or something. Very hard to get out, and the piston is a little fragile too. You might not really need lighted pistons anyway. That was just a Rodgers thing, not something you'd find on most pipe organs. Allen never had those, nor did many other builders. Not sure that Hauptwerk even supports them.

                You will probably have to modify the keyboard matrix, but it shouldn't be that hard to do. Just cut the buss wires into sections of the appropriate length. Actually, I don't recall seeing a matrix on a Rodgers that old, just one wire from each contact, all of them in a bundle going back to the ganging board area. But if you study it a bit, you should see a way to make it work for you without too much re-wiring. Since that model has "time-sharing" there may be groups of 16 sharing a common wire, but you should be able to convert to groups of 8 by just cutting a wire in half somewhere.

                I can't tell you about the requirements of the SAMs on your tabs, but someone here may have some experience. I do know that it is fully possible for Hauptwerk to drive magnetic moving tabs via various interfaces you can buy. It surely takes a hefty power supply.
                *** 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!



                • #9
                  Rodgers typically used 15 VDC on the coils to their SAMs. You might want to keep the power supply in place just to drive those, otherwise you'd need a high current power supply to drive the SAMs.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
                    Also, the Rodgers speakers might sell, though they are less desirable than they were just a few years ago. You might actually want to keep them around until you are sure you can't use them in the Hauptwerk setup. They are pretty good speakers, and the sub could be quite excellent, depending on which one you have.
                    I'll second this. I sold two of the Carver amps I got with my organ because I wasn't using them. I'm happy to have sold them to someone who could make use of them, but part of me is wishing I had kept them because I expect I'll use more than 4 channels sometime in the not-too-distant future. I don't encourage keeping stuff 'just in case' :) But keeping them until we're definitely sure we don't need them can be useful.
                    Viscount C400 3-manual
                    8 channels + 2 reverb channels (w/ Lexicon MX200)
                    Klipsch RSX-3 speakers and Klipsch Ultra 5.1 subwoofers


                    • #11
                      Honestly, living in a New York apartment, I have very little use for the speakers, as good as they are.

                      I stripped out all the internal boards today. Now I have to sort out which wiring is still good to use and which is obsolete. Looks like a ton of it will be removed. It got me thinking, were ribbon cables not yet popular? It seems like most of the crazy wiring would be simplified by it. Oh well.

                      I'll have some pics tomorrow!


                      • #12
                        I can tell you the products you mention from will work perfectly and are very straight forward to implement with this generation Rodgers organ. Their MIDECO boards with the MIBO power boosters will drive the SAMs just fine, but you do need to have an appropriate power source for them as mentioned above.
                        Magnus Europa, 4 manuals, 112 stops - church sanctuary
                        Hauptwerk 3 manual, converted from Rodgers 330 - home
                        Rodgers Allegiant 677- church chapel


                        • #13
                          An update on progress. The console is now almost essentially bare. I was able to recover huge amounts of wire and screws and ties for later. I also completed converting the two keyboards from a 16x8 matrix into an 8x8 matrix, just needed a few extra wires for the common rails and to split the ribbon cable. So far so good. I'm hoping to determine the components I need tomorrow and do some investigative work on the stop tabs and pistons.

                          You can see some more pics on facebook here, too many to attach. and


                          • #14
                            Hello all, here's an update.

                            I've moved house so now I have tons of room to work on this project. I've bought my first phase of midi equipment and it hooks up to my laptop swimmingly! Right now I'm in the design phase for the other controls, such as indicators, switches, and other doodads. My main question right now is which indicator lights I should add. Current ideas:

                            1) Power On
                            2) Hauptwerk Loaded/Windows loaded???
                            3) Transposer Active
                            4) Tutti
                            5) MIDI Activity In
                            6) MIDI Activity Out
                            7) An LED bar graph for Swell Pedal
                            8) An LED bar graph for Cresc. Pedal

                            Any others I'm forgetting? For the bar graph I already have a circuit designed for it. The Hauptwerk loaded is probably a very tricky one...

                            Also, what are people's thoughts on lighted pistons? The organ has the older Rodgers lighted pistons, but I know that was a Rodgers anomaly and not considered standard. Thoughts on that?

                            Other parts of the project: getting all the lighting on the console (such as the music stand) replaced with LEDs, and getting the MIDI boards properly mounting inside the case, bought some standoffs and stuff so it should work fine.