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Electronic substitute vs. Pipe

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  • Electronic substitute vs. Pipe

    Rodgers Royal V vs Ruffatti. Ruffatti wins!

  • #2
    Re: Electronic substitute vs. Pipe

    I absolutely agree, if one have the funds to buy a pipeorgan ----- a quality pipe organ ----,
    (not synonym with tracker and slider chests)
    in a church, synagoge or concert hall, - one should do it !

    It is the best choice, I even could think of to install a pipeorgan in my home if I had
    space and money to do it ( that instrument would be unified quite much - electric action)

    But, - a pipeorgan cost quite much to maintain per year ---, its a pity but I have seen a lot of
    unmaintained pipeorgans, slowly beeing destroyed by time - an electronic substitute may do a good job in many churches or homes when funding and/or space is a problem.


    • #3
      Re: Electronic substitute vs. Pipe

      I prefer a unit PIPE organ over a digital. I LIKE the sound that PIPES produce versus digital. Digital has a place BUT it is NOT in MY heart.


      • #4
        Re: Electronic substitute vs. Pipe

        I play in a very small rural parish, and even a small pipe organ would overpower the space. Then again, I've negotiated with the larger CofE next door that I can play their 1869 Walker when the fancy takes me.


        • #5
          Re: Electronic substitute vs. Pipe

          i disagree
          organs are voiced to suit the space whether it is a gothic cathedral or a rat hole
          no joke
          they can be as soft as a whisper if thats what you need


          • #6
            Re: Electronic substitute vs. Pipe

            I do not think there would be an organist in the world who would place an electronic even a digital organ over the pipes. There are so many practical questions concerning space, budget, maintenance etc. But in the end it would always be the pipes when the question deals with the quality of the instruments. I have been exposed to some huge pipe organs and they are great. I have also had the privilege to sit down with the smallest of pipes who sung with there no more than 5 ranks as beautifully as the big boys. There may be questions about the mechanics...tracker...pneumatic.. digital consoles, but what goes on beyond those pipes is always heavenly. There are electronic digitals that would blow a tiny pipe out the stain glass window in shear volume...but in the end equal for equal, size for size, with all the other considerations, the pipe is the choice every time in my humble opinion. Forgive my not responding to the direct question of specific models as initially asked.


            • #7
              Re: Electronic substitute vs. Pipe

              I will not mention His name, but yes, I know an organist who would be ranked amoung the five top musicians in the world who said: "I would rather play a Rodgers Digital organ than any pipe organ unless it had at least 50 ranks" Why? You ask? well In this case the answer is musical versatility. Nobody will argue the beauty and life of pipes. Indeed all digital organs worth their salt are trying their very best to emulate a pipe organ, so without controversy, pipes are the standard. However, what church or home can afford a pipe organ large enough to provide the kind of musoical versatility that even a modest Digital organ can provide? So the answer is: What do you want?? If its wind and maintenance and tuning all your life, and you have30,000 dollars to spend, get yourself a Principal and a Flute and extend them to 85 notes each and make a unit organ that breathes and whistles and sounds great but is boring boring boring.. or get yourself a 30 to 40 rank digital that has all the acoustics of a cathedral and variety to play anything from trumpet tunes to lullaby's. Another aspect on the subject: Power: I play in a church with a congregation of about 450 not large, not small. To lead that lot in a manner that makes them sing their hearts out one would need 40 ranks of well voiced pipes. Cost? too much considering all other priorities the church is commited to. Choice? a small pipe organ that cant cut the custard or a decent digital with enough grunt to make it happen. Waht do we have? a decent diogital. Musical versatility., power to lead and the ability to whisper when needed., Not to mention the huge potential with contemporary music and MIDI enabled orchestral sounds.


              • #8
                Re: Electronic substitute vs. Pipe

                The real issue is the acoustical setting of either the pipe or electronic. A small pipe instrument in a muffled hall may sound worse than a ancient Hammond CV in a good environment. A digital electronic organ of recent make can be adjusted to compensate for a poor setting more easily than pipes, and at less cost. The speaker systems are also at the heart of the whole thing: The best electronic can only sound like the best recording of a pipe organ - but that can be pretty darn good!! As to the questions the best electronic, your list of digital and sampled models above looks good to me in about that order. Allen has gotten a lot better in recent years but still hasn't figured it out. Sorry


                • #9
                  Re: Electronic substitute vs. Pipe

                  This reminds me of something I heard many years ago: LIBERACE PLAYS BACH,... BACH LOST. Liberace did have a 3 manual pipe organ in his home, does anyone know the maker of it?


                  • #10
                    Re: Electronic substitute vs. Pipe

                    My two cents worth here. Yes, I can agree Allen is quite good, very good indeed. Alas, they have NOT quite got it yet when it comes to real WIND BLOWN pipes in my opinion. There is no comparison, nor can there ever be as far as I am concerned. I do like electronic organs very much, but they are in a class all their own just the like the old reed pump organs of yesteryear as well as electonic motors blowing wind over the brass reeds. Still, they too were NOT a pipe organ by a long shot, nor could they sound even close.

                    Some pipe organs which are unified can provide a reasonable church sound if the unification is not carried within the very inch of its being. So many organs including electonic organs are unified and duplexed within each inch of their existence.
                    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


                    • #11
                      Re: Electronic substitute vs. Pipe

                      my 2 cents:

                      having just installed a pipe organ in my home that was expelled from a church which got sold a Allen digital toaster......

                      It replaced a Reuter 5 rank, with 32 stops. (unit design common on many small instruments).

                      I have carefully listened to other members of the church for their thoughts on the Allen, the general feeling is the Allen sounds nice, and is certainly versatile, but just not have the "presence" the pipes brought forth when played.

                      They remark that they miss the "feeling"/vibration that you felt when the pipes played at full organ.

                      However... the organ is now set up at my home, and I have sort of a different issue. The pipe organ was designed for a swell box with shutters to control the volume of sound. I have the pipes exposed, and iit is extremely powerful! You hear it play, but more so you FEEL it play.

                      I've listened to many beautiful recordings on Phoenix, Rodgers, and Allen organs. It is very hard to describe, and it is even harder, if not impossible to record, but in real life my experience is the real pipes bring for that "feeling" you just don't get with a electric, and that you can't record that feeling.

                      A side issue: My church got sold on the idea that the old pipe organ was about to fail. I have it hooked up, and am happy to report it is about 97% functional. There are a few notes that don't play, but it is extremely versatile, owing to its "unit" design where there are mulitple stops using the same rank of pipes, but in a different octave...... for more information on this organ go to

                      It was actually pretty simple...just took lots of time, but basically me and a friend set up this pipe organ in our spare time over 3 months.

                      The organ is over 50 years old, and has never had any serious maitenance work on it. We have it set up and it is working now, all it needs it tuning. For the price the church paid for the electric they could have easily kept the old pipe organ for another 50 years. Instead they have a toaster that will most likely short circuit in 10 years and have to be replaced.

                      The problem with computer technology is, whatever you buy today is already obsolete, and will be nearly impossible to fix 10 years from now. (how many people are using computers they purchased 10 years ago?).

                      The Allen organ came with a Midi interface that uses floppy disks. I was SHOCKED. Floppy disks are already the 8-Track tape of computer technology. Any decent computer has long ago given up on using them as the amount of data they can store is so so so so small.

                      I will say this though: The woodwork on the Allen is beautiful. The keys are incredibly cheap though..sort of a low quality milk carton plastic was used for some reason. But the wood is nice, and the drawknobs are very nice, even though they are not nearly as functional as stoptabs which can enable easy registration change while playing.

                      My 2 cents anyhow.


                      • #12
                        Re: Electronic substitute vs. Pipe

                        Time for me to get on my soapbox and expound on something I know little or nothing about. But what the heck. It doesn't stop politicians so.....with regards to NYC Farmboys remarks above, I have played pipe organs that were wretched, and some that were wonderful, and many that were in between with loads of quirks and shortcomings. Same thing goes for electronics. It depend(ed) on who installed them and how well they are kept up. Personal tastes in sound and favored registrations figure into the picture big time Also! I have wondered several times at national conventions I attended why a certain organ was used because I certainly didn't consider the instrument worthy of public exposure or in some cases the artist who played it. I suspect local politics in the organ club had something to do with it. My impression of churches and their organ purchases after about 40 years of observing their antics is too many of them don't know their #$%^ from a hole in the ground musically or in organ construction and installation. Some are terrific but I think that is the exception. Even if they do suceed in getting a good installation, electronic or pipe, someone on the church board gets tight fisted and refuses to allocate money for proper maintenance so in time a good instrument starts sounding lousy. In the case NY Farmboy cites, the question should be asked and answered honestly "Is the Allen (or whatever organ) installed in its best possible way?" or is it as is often the case, sold unhappily by the dealer with the least amount/cheapest sound system the church/homeowner will buy. Church organ committees are often as ignorant as they are cheap. Often if they can hear the organ at all (i.e. built in console speakers) they are often hard to convince to spend the extra money for properly placed external speakers. Then when down the road after the organ has been used for a while and they are unhappy with the sound they want to blame the organ and manufacturer. It might amaze them that they are expecting the same amount of wattage their kid has in his junker to fill a 1000 seat auditorium. I have known of a few dealers over the years who declined to sell a organ to a church because the congregation was to dumb or cheap to buy the proper sound system to go with it.The dealer wisely felt the $$ made from the one sale might not be worth the damage to his reputation down the road. So my bottom line is the real deal is there really is no final exact answer. Some pipe organs are great. Some electronics are great. But if either are not properly installed and maintained they will be no fun to play and a disappointment to the audience. Now if I can get off my soapbox without falling on my ass....


                        • #13
                          Re: Electronic substitute vs. Pipe

                          Well, Don, I am so glad that you fell off your ass. As much as I agreed sometimes with you and disagree with you other times, you said it right on the head. I am so proud that you said those wonderful statements.


                          • #14
                            Re: Electronic substitute vs. Pipe

                            I'd like to get some opinions on an organ replacement project we are about to start. This, by the way, is after a nearly three year research project by our church organ committee, which has lead to some major political issues within our congregation. This is the plan we have finally come up with, and we think it is pretty good. I'd really like to hear your thoughts...

                            Our aging Allen 3m Electronic will be ripped out and dumped in a dumpster next week.
                            The following week a Rodgers Trillium 837 2m will be installed in it's place.
                            In around a year, we will install (probably) 4 ranks of smaller pipes (none larger than 8ft), combined with the Rodgers Trillium console, and also connect the Rodgers to our existing set of chimes.

                            We think this will give us the best of both worlds - we will have the versatility of a wonderful digital organ with excellent MIDI and sequencing capability, combined with the power of that amazing pipe ambiance. This all for a third of the total cost of the Schantz or Casavant Freres organs we had originally proposed, and by staging the installation, we can actually do it in an all-church way, enable some other important investments and not rip our congregation apart!

                            Having listened and experienced a couple of hybrid digital/pipe organs, I just don't understand why more churches don't take this approach. Love to hear your thoughts!


                            • #15
                              Re: Electronic substitute vs. Pipe

                              I would agree. I actually worked for Rodgers for a while, this was still in the analog days, and I came to the conclusion that a combination of a few ranks of pipes with some good electronics can make a wonderful instrument. Of course if funds and space are available, go for all pipes. The church I belong to has over 100 ranks of pipes, but guess what, the 32s are all electronic! I would still prefer the real thing, maybe someday. At least we do have the space for several real 32s if we could afford them.

                              One memorable experience I had at Rodgers was when they were stopping production of the Gemini organs which used Ruffatti pipes and they were making their own pipes. We added pipe drivers, tuning control, and other stuff to a regular Rodgers analog organ, and we had set up the two small pipe chests and checked those out. But the pipes had not yet arrived. Someone discovered an extra Ruffatti 2' Principal, so we put those on the chest, and I made the console so that only the Great 2' Fifteenth played the pipes and all other stops were electronic.

                              It was amazing! With any combination that included that one pipe stop, it sounded exactly like a pipe organ, very alive. Take that one stop off, and it all collapsed into the speakers. Even absolute full organ, everything on, was the same way, you could hardly even tell the pipes were playing when you were standing right next to them since the electronics were so much louder, but even from across the room that one little stop made the whole thing sound real! Take it off, even substitute the electronic 2', and it all just collapsed. It made such an amazing difference, even with all the reeds and Pedal 32s on.