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  • Dilemma

    Hi folks

    I have a 3 manual and pedal moving drawstop analogue organ. I plan on gutting it and re-fitting it. Problem is I don't know if I want to go hauptwerk with it or transplant the guts of my excellent, current-model Ahlborn organ. If I even can transplant the guts of the Ahlborn, would it be possible to add a few more pedal divisional toe studs to the system? Ahlborn provided 8 divisionals for every division apart from the pedal for which they assigned only 4 divisionals. That's pretty much the only single thing I'd want to change. If I was to use the Ahlborn technology, I'd also use it's keyboards, pistons, toe pistons and LCD panel for carrying out the voicing changes etc, which would ultimately save me a small fortune.

    I would not be doing this myself - I have an organ builder giving me an excellent and very fair price for re-building the moving drawstop console to my requirements (which includes leaving a power supply to drive all the 65 or so knobs and their relevant circuitry (?). It would leave me needing to find someone able to deal with the electronics/transplant job, but I believe those people exist here in the UK.

    I feel that using the Ahlborn parts is ultimately my way forward. I really like the system and the fact I will still have a self-contained console ready to turn on and play straight away. However, I know it is equally possible to achieve that with Hauptwerk by hiding the computer with a pre-configured sample ready to be directed from the console inside the console and using the console switch to turn everything on/off.


    Any ideas/opinions?

  • #2
    Transplanting the AG equipment into a different console sounds pretty risky to me. I'm a tech with over 40 years experience, and I don't know that I would even attempt that. The AG system is surely quite specifically designed to work with the controls of that particular console and it would be a major engineering job to interface the system with some other kind of mechanical equipment. Many years ago I did transplant the components of a digital PIANO into an old piano case, but that was a simple task -- I just unscrewed all the parts and put them into the old case. The old piano case became nothing more than a shell to receive the digital parts, and none of the working parts of the old piano were retained. An organ job would be vastly different from that simple job.

    To give one example -- interfacing the capture system with the drawknobs of the old analog console. If you consider just one company, such as Allen, you'll find that there have been five or six different ways of handling the memory to drawknob connections over the past few decades. In analog days, "memory" for the combination action was a setterboard full of switches. The switches simply sent driving voltage to the "on" or "off" coil of each stop according to the position of the switch. Then the "sequential" action came along and the memory board was directly connected to all the magnet coils of all the knobs or tabs, driving them in or out. Next came "DM" capture which sent only a "hi/lo" pulse to each knob or tab when a piston was pressed, and logic circuitry on the knob or tab would direct driving voltage to the appropriate coil. Eventually that gave way to the "MN" system which sends an entirely different kind of serial data to the stops to direct the magnets. And finally the "Lumitech" system, which doesn't even use magnets or coils, just turns on a lamp for a stop when it is active. NONE of the systems have any interchangeable parts, and it would be a nightmare to try to convert a modern Allen system to work inside an old analog console, or even one with the old sequential action, as the system works in an entirely different manner.

    Likewise, the way the system receives keying data, piston data, expression data, and all the other information it must process -- all done differently by different builders, and every new series or technology by a given builder will use different methods.

    So, I'm guessing it's going to be such a task that you will likely not find anyone in the UK (or anywhere else) to tackle it. And why would you want to do that anyway? The AG3200 is of course a magnificent modern digital organ that is well built and put together in a very convenient and player-friendly console.

    My suggestion would be to use the excellent old console you have to build a complete Hauptwerk system. By all reports, adopters of this system are extremely satisfied with the sounds they get, and there are so many sample sets and so many ways to configure it, you are bound to find a way to use it that will make you happy. Using today's computers with solid-state hard drives, a Hauptwerk system can come on instantly and be as invisible to the user as the operating systems embedded in all modern digital organs. Why not keep the AG on hand while developing the Hauptwerk, then once it's all assembled and configured to your liking, decide whether or not you can do without the AG, which can probably be sold for a decent amount?

    Just my take on the question. You may get other points of view from others here.
    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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    • #3
      I’m sure that jbird has given an educated perspective, though I’d encourage you to pursue transplanting the AG. You’ll need to figure out the potential issues jbird detailed but if it’s workable that’d be great and I think you’d be happier. Perhaps you could interface the two things together with the help of one of those organ control systems (such as from syndyne ... there are others as well). From what I’ve heard the AG organs sound terrific and I’d personally not even consider a currently available VPO if I had one.
      Viscount C400 3-manual
      8 channels + 2 reverb channels (w/ Lexicon MX200)
      Klipsch RSX-3 speakers and Klipsch Ultra 5.1 subwoofers

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      • #4
        I'm more than a little out of the Ahlborn loop (almost 20 years since I worked with them), but I think the way you should start looking at this is by examining the MIDI control specs of the Ahlborn. Just about every relevant control on the older Chroniclers (definitely note commands, stops and pistons, but I think crescendo and tutti as well) was mapped to a MIDI command, as they needed this to run the onboard sequencer. I can't help but imagine this is even more improved in the newer ones.

        Then, what you would do is fit your drawknob console with a good contact-to-MIDI control and interface system that allows you to individually map and assign each contact and control on the custom console (stops, pistons, crescendo, tutti, notes, etc) to the relevant controllers and channels in MIDI that the Ahlborn needs to see.

        In essence, you're skipping over the Ahlborn's own key, stop, and control interfaces, and going straight to MIDI. Since it's designed to work with a sequencer, most if not all of the necessary commands should be available. The one complexity is capture system, because something needs to drive those stop motors. If your console control system has that, it makes sense to let it drive the stop motors, which would turn on the appropriate Ahlborn stops anyway. There might be a little more deciphering to do there.

        I was "in the loop" at the time a couple decades ago with Ahlborn-Galanti's North American engineering director, and I recall him saying that this was the approach they would take with any custom console job that involved non-standard Ahlborn parts like moving capture, which wasn't available on the stock models at that time.

        You would do this with a Hauptwerk setup anyway, and it gives you the flexibility of a system that can run both, all while using off-the-shelf solutions that won't require a lot of custom engineering. The downside is that you DO have to buy a MIDI control system for your custom console rather than dropping in the Ahlborn components, but you'd really be doing that with Hauptwerk anyway, and the additional cost will be well worth the frustration and time it would take to kludge together an interface to get the Ahlborn keying and stop control to sync up.

        On your piston question, I believe you are stuck with whatever numbers of pistons the Ahlborn is set up for, unless there are 4 more pedal divisionals hidden in the processing architecture that just don't have physical controls on that particular organ. Again, a lot of the answer to this depends on how you set up the capture- if it's an external system that's just telling the Ahlborn stops to turn on via MIDI commands, then there is probably no such limitation.

        The one potential downside to this approach is that MIDI is a serial interface, so if you send it a bunch of information at the same time (large numbers of stop changes while playing a lot of notes and opening an expression pedal, for instance), it might get a little bogged down in the moment. I don't have enough personal experience to tell you what that possibility might look like, but an experienced Hauptwerk integrator would know better.

        Comment


        • #5
          Out of curiosity, are Ahlborn-Galanti organs still being sold in the UK? Are there trained repair people for them in the UK? Are you able to get software updates for your organ? Thanks.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
            And why would you want to do that anyway? The AG3200 is of course a magnificent modern digital organ that is well built and put together in a very convenient and player-friendly console.
            This was my exact response when reading the post. Why? The AG3200DK has a full MIDI implementation and can run Hauptwerk as is. Unless, of course, it's not a full implementation and does not allow drawknob control without modification. Are you at least running HW now to know how the two systems compare? I'm mystified.
            http://www.nwmidi.com

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            • #7
              Many thanks for the responses, very grateful!
              I really want to preserve the use of the moving drawknobs on this other console, so maybe I will just go HW with that. The Ahlborn is indeed fantastic. The drawknobs on it are lighted ones and for some reason it has so many pistons but only 4 divisional for the pedal...why!? Not a big deal anyhow - there is a piston coupler which actually gives the pedal 8 using the great divisional pistons.

              Comment


              • #8
                Yah, consider me mystified as well. I just Googled 'AG3200' and for the life of me I can't imagine why someone who owns one would want to do to it what the o.p. is considering. What year is this instrument? The one's pictured on AG's website show a full complement of toe-studs. It is not my experience that much excess capacity is built into combination actions. Adding four extra toe pistons simply may not be possible without considerable modification. I would think the people best placed to advise the o.p. on how to proceed would be Ahlborn-Galanti themselves. Still, what I would do in the o.p.'s place is build out the other console into a working Hauptwerk system, or not, but I would leave the A-G organ as is, or possibly augmented by additional toe studs should that prove feasible to implement. While the other console is being outfitted with MIDI, it may well prove to be the case that it will be also able to fully control the A-G instrument through its MIDI IN jack. Loads of interesting possibilities are on the table if a strategy that preserves both consoles as much as is realistic is pursued.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by organmaniac View Post
                  Many thanks for the responses, very grateful!
                  I really want to preserve the use of the moving drawknobs on this other console, so maybe I will just go HW with that. The Ahlborn is indeed fantastic. The drawknobs on it are lighted ones and for some reason it has so many pistons but only 4 divisional for the pedal...why!? Not a big deal anyhow - there is a piston coupler which actually gives the pedal 8 using the great divisional pistons.
                  I've really got to level with you at this point and observe that Divisional pistons don't figure prominently in my registration schemes. Pedal Divisionals even less so. Four is actually plenty. Are there Memory Levels on this instrument? Few or no Memory Levels would be the bigger lament IMO than a lack of Pedal Divisionals. I discovered quite by accident that the eight Pedal Divisional toe studs on my church's Balcom and Vaughn do NOT duplicate the eight Pedal Divisional pistons on the Choir manual! They set separately and there are thus 16 Pedal Divisionals on this instrument. I tell you this not to invoke jealous rage at the injustice, but to suggest that your instrument might be configured likewise and you may have 8 ways to set your Pedal Divisionals (although why you would need so many... ...) using both console and toe pistons.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Thanks very much. As a qualified professional classical organist, I do indeed have requirements which clearly go beyond your level of understanding but glad you have been entertained nonetheless.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Hi,

                      The question is, what are you trying to achieve? Seems the only thing you really care about is moving drawstops. If I were you, think about the sound of the instrument. Generally self contained consoles have at best mediocre audio systems, so one gets a basic sound, and little else.

                      These unusual organ projects tend to cost way more than is budgeted for, take way longer to get done, and sometimes never work. Unless you are a high level engineer, I would suggest don't bother.

                      Ahlborn does make a version of the AG-3200 that comes with moveable Drawstops. Why not try that?

                      Do you presently have the lighted drawstop version or the lighted tab version?

                      You may be able to get Ahlborn folks to make stop jambs with moveable drawstops, but you would have to change power supplies, have driver boards installed, and have the firmware changed.

                      Having a MIDI console run Ahlborn electronics, may or may not work. Just don't expect people you hire to work for peanuts.

                      I would suggest you tell us more what your aims are, the amount of money you wish to spend, and the forum folks will help you out.

                      AV

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Oh, the friendliness of organists! It's amusing to return to this site every couple of years.
                        Allen, circa 2006

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by organmaniac View Post
                          Thanks very much. As a qualified professional classical organist, I do indeed have requirements which clearly go beyond your level of understanding but glad you have been entertained nonetheless.
                          Excuse me. What do you think I am? We are? You crossed a line there, I think. If I have underestimated or misunderstood your needs, simply say so. I was trying to be droll actually. In a good natured way. Although it must now be wondered out loud how you wound up in such a ... dilemma despite such breadth of experience.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Organmaniac,

                            I would certainly recommend staying with the AG console you have, as long as the MIDI implementation would suit your needs with Hauptwerk. On the other hand, if you're needing to have a different touch on the keyboards, build quality, and/or moving drawknobs, one can certainly understand the reason for transplanting the technology from one instrument to another. BTW, what is the make of the analog console you're hoping to house the AG innards in?

                            Perhaps if you provided a set of priorities or rationale for making the changes (like mentioned above), that would help us help you avoid any pitfalls?

                            Originally posted by Leisesturm View Post
                            ...your instrument might be configured likewise and you may have 8 ways to set your Pedal Divisionals (although why you would need so many... ...) using both console and toe pistons.
                            Leisesturm,

                            There are many pieces, the performance of which, are enhanced greatly by the availability of pistons and toe studs to obtain gradations of sound change. The organ arrangement of Barber's Adagio for Strings comes to mind. I know I used approximately 6-7 general pistons, 9-10 manual pistons (divided between them), 4 general toe studs, and at least 4 pedal toe studs to obtain smooth gradation in legato sound. These pistons added, removed, and/or layered sounds so there were very slight gradations of change when the stops changed to create a crescendo, and then also when obtaining a smooth diminuendo after the climax of the piece. Heck, I even used a knuckle to change a Swell piston coupled to the Great because I didn't want to break the legato.

                            Beginning in the Romantic era, especially with the French composers, so many pistons or toe studs may not be required, but do certainly come in handy. Of course, one could always use a registrant or two like they do at the cathedrals in France.;-) I just don't happen to have any hanging around all the time.

                            Originally posted by chimay View Post
                            Oh, the friendliness of organists! It's amusing to return to this site every couple of years.
                            Welcome back, you may just have happened on this thread. The Forum has been rather cordial and considerate lately, unlike what you may have experienced in the past.

                            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

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                            • #15
                              Thanks to all those who offered some thought. To those who wish to argue - I’m just simply far too busy as a professional classical musician, so I’d maybe suggest watching “Dr Phil” if you need some extra entertainment!

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