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  • Allen organ diskette-based Smart Recorder

    I now have not one but TWO of these little jewels. Not sure if that's something to brag about or to cringe about ;-)

    One came as a freebie with the R-230 I got a couple months ago. The other one was being sold on ebay direct from Allen Organ, so I thought I needed to have it. As long as they keep working, I'll have one at church and one at home. I can record sequences at home for playback at church, as I did this week. I had recorded the processional hymn so I could start it from the rear of the nave with the remote control, then walk in singing with the choir. It was perfect for that.

    BTW, it doesn't matter that the stoplists of the two Allens are not identical, as long as the pistons are set up similarly. The recorder only records the piston presses as I make my recordings. So all that matters is that when I play back a disk I make sure the pistons are set up the way they were when I recorded it, whichever organ I used.

    Sunday I thought the one at church was about to bite the dust. At the end of the service I couldn't get the floppy disk out. It would eject most of the way, but stuck tight just before coming free of the slot. It didn't yield to gentle tugging, so I didn't force the issue.

    Today, I removed the top cover, then removed the diskette drive and took the cover off it. Eventually I realized that a tiny spring on the right side near the slot had jumped out of its normal spot and was trapping the disk. I put it back into place and gave it a slight bend to keep it from jumping out again (I hope).

    We serviced a fairly new Allen L-121 at a church this week and they had something almost like it, but it stores sequences on thumb drives. I wonder if there's a way to convert an older one to work with USB drives. Maybe, but probably expensive.

    Of course, it's a snap to use any old laptop as a sequencer with an Allen (or with a Rodgers and probably any number of other organs) by installing some kind of app that captures an incoming MIDI stream, records it, and can play it back at will. Any old version of Cakewalk does that and does it quite elegantly. There are probably lots of free MIDI recording programs out there too.

    So you really don't need a dedicated MIDI recorder/player to do what I'm doing, but the Allen unit is kinda neat because it has a remote control and it doesn't require any computer skills. Just turn it on, insert the diskette, push a couple buttons, and you're making music. I might be able to miss a Sunday sometime and just teach a choir member how to insert a disk and play the appropriate pieces as needed.

    People I've known who used these things like them because they are so old-fashioned and easy to use. Anybody out there use one?
    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

  • #2
    It sounds like the Smart Recorder is pretty convenient, and after someone gets trained just a little, can be used in case the organist can't attend some service. Would just need a diskette with the regular service music and a few "backup" hymns. I'm just thinking about the bad weather season that is coming. I'm not trying to replace any organists.

    Here's a thought. Instead of converting a Smart Recorder to use thumb drives, what about using a smartphone app to record and play back MIDI sequences? Of course one would need the appropriate MIDI adapters/connectors. Using a laptop would require the substitute organist have computer skills and would leave a somewhat expensive computer laying near the organ waiting to get stolen. The app just needs the 2 capabilities: Record and Playback. In the past, I've searched for such an app, but only found more full featured "sequencers" laden with editing capabilities, not a simple 2 function app.

    Has anyone found a simple MIDI record/playback app?

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    • #3
      I have an app called "MIDI Voyager" installed on my Android pad. Right now I only use it to play back MIDI files that I've already created on my laptop, like the occasional accompaniment track for something I can't play while directing, using the built-in sound generator. It can load any SF2 SoundFont, so the generated sounds can be just as good as what you get from a computer running a program like j-Organ. I've been happy with the sounds I get out of it.

      But that's a different thing from recording and playing back actual organ MIDI files, the way the SmartRecorder does. It would have to accept incoming MIDI messages from the organ, record them exactly as received, and then be able to send them back out to the organ.

      Poking around in the app, I see it can indeed work as a full-fledged sequencer with a USB-MIDI interface. Only problem is connecting the typical "big" USB plug on a USB-MIDI interface to the "mini" USB socket on the typical pad or phone. There is surely an adapter available for that purpose, I just haven't looked around for one.
      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

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      • #4
        Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
        I now have not one but TWO of these little jewels. [Smart Recorder] Not sure if that's something to brag about or to cringe about ;-)
        People I've known who used these things like them because they are so old-fashioned and easy to use. Anybody out there use one?
        John, that was the only format available when I sold Allen Organs. The USB storage came later. I have a Smart Recorder with the floppy disc drive, however, it is not compatible with the Artisan system, therefore it sits idle. I have an Artisan recorder that uses USB storage.

        About 50% of the organs I sold had a Smart Recorder; many also opted for the remote control. I've used one during a church service. Regardless of the storage format, a recorder is very helpful.

        Allen

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        • #5
          Now that I have both machines hooked up and functional, it's time to start making some disks at home to use at church. Problem: formatting floppies...

          New floppies are scarce, of course, but I happen to have hundreds of floppies left over from 20 years ago when all my data got archived on them. They've been stored away safely, but are no longer needed of course. So I got out a handful of them to use with the recorders.

          The first issue is that I no longer have any kind of computer anywhere that has a floppy drive on which to re-format these things. And most of them are more or less full of data, leaving little room to record songs, not to mention that I don't want to leave them lying around because they might contain sensitive data, even if it's 20 years old. So I want to reformat any disk before I use it.

          The SmartRecorder has a format function, but it apparently can't be forced to format a disk. It will only format the disk if you insert one that is not already formatted. All the disks I have are of course formatted already, so when I insert one the machine just tells me that the disk is almost full, but offers no option to format it.

          Anyway, I'm still trying to figure out some way to erase these things and possibly screw up the existing formatting enough to make the machine offer a format. So far, no luck. I've rubbed an enormous old speaker magnet all over some of these things, but the machine still sees them as formatted. I may just have to incinerate them and try to find some floppies somewhere, at a ridiculous price, no doubt!
          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

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          • #6
            As long as the Allen Smart Recorder uses 1.44 MB diskettes, why not just get a USB floppy drive from NewEgg for your computer? They have them on sale for $9.96.
            Larry is my name; Allen is an organ brand. Allen RMWTHEA.3 with RMI Electra-Piano; Allen 423-C+Gyro; Britson Opus OEM38; Steinway AR Duo-Art 7' grand piano, Mills Violano Virtuoso with MIDI; Hammond 9812H with roll player; Roland E-200; Mason&Hamlin AR Ampico grand piano, Allen ADC-5300-D with MIDI, Allen MADC-2110.

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            • #7
              Good advice, Larry. I just ordered a USB floppy drive (from Amazon, since I was ordering some other stuff anyway). About $12, free shipping. I have several hundred floppies I can salvage, so I guess I needed to own one of these. Not likely to ever have another computer with a floppy drive!
              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


              • #8
                I use one of these on the Allen Renaissance R-230 I play every Sunday. Is the new MIDI Assistant II compatible with the Renaissance models from the late 90’s? I’m considering replacing our disk drive. It still works fine, but disks are getting hard to come by.
                Darrell Fitzgerald

                Home: Baldwin 640 - Drawknob Console

                Church: Allen Renaissance R230 - Drawknob Console

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