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Allen AP-4 vs. Baldwin 630

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  • Allen AP-4 vs. Baldwin 630

    So.....if the Baldwin were spiffed up a bit with Allen speakers on the top of the console--aimed at the ceiling---how much better would the Allen AP-4 sound?

    I know the Allen would have adjustable pistons....a big advantage....but beyond that????

    I'd really like a very candid evaluation. I've had the Baldwin for nearly 30 years, and it dates from far earlier than that, and I've never had a bit of trouble with it.
    I think that says something about its quality. But....I'm soon to retire from full-time church work, and I'd like something that would inspire me to do some practicing!

    PLEASE: a candid opinion!

    Mr. Birdsong....this is in response to an earlier convervation.

  • #2

    No amount of augmentation will of course turn a 40 year old analog into a modern digital, and the Allen has certain advantages that may or may not matter much to you, such as complete freedom from borrowing or unification, the ability to do some voicing and leveling of the stops, at least by groups, digital reverb, a nice capture action, the excellent keys and pedals and build quality of an Allen.

    But there are other things to consider. Some things that come to mind:

    (1) The Allen AP-4 is near the low end of the Allen MDS lineup, so it's a very basic model. Two channels of audio, with the rather bland sound of the typical Allen self-contained speaker system. Even the much newer Allen R-230 I got last year for my home came in the that same console with the same bland-sounding self-contained speakers. I did make it sound far better by adding extra speakers and even changing the audio over to a four-channel setup, though that is not a job for a non-tech to tackle. But my point is that the AP-4 may not sound all that exciting until you do some goosing up of the audio. And, like nearly all Allen organs, it is really made to do its best in a live and reverberant room, though it probably has rather good digital reverb, which helps. There is still a certain graininess in the sound of small digitals that many people find troubling. For all these reasons, I do caution you that the AP-4 may not at first seem like much if any of a sonic upgrade over your Baldwin.

    (2) The Baldwin 630 was and is a pretty darn good analog organ. Though the technology is obviously dated, Baldwin put a lot into that model. The stop list is quite complete and interesting, with all the tonal families represented. There are a total of five audio channels, two of them devoted to the "tone expander" system that does a decent job of making this single-generator organ sound like it has multiple ranks, and produces a respectable celeste too. And the analog sound doesn't suffer from the graininess that plagues smaller digitals, so there's a chance you may find the Baldwin's sound to be actually MORE pleasing up close and in a small room. So if you like yours pretty well, think hard before you let it go!

    (3) The Baldwin 630 could become even more pleasing with some external speakers added. Allen's PP-3 speakers are ideal for this purpose, as they are tailored specifically for organ tone and are designed to do just what you want to do -- augment the quality and dispersion of the Baldwin's internal speakers. You can use just two of the PP's -- add them only to the "main" manual channels, which I think you will find are currently driving the larger oval-shaped speakers on the front kneeboard of your console. The two "tone expander" channels drive a pair of 6x9 speakers (IIRC) that are on the end panels of the console facing outward. It is not as important to add PP's to those two channels, but you can of course, if you wish. You will NOT need to add an extra speaker to the bass or lo-pass channel, as the console's hefty 15" woofer is surely doing a great job with that range.

    If you can't find any Allen PP speakers, small but good-quality home stereo speakers would work as well. I used some KLH bookshelf speakers to augment one of my previous home organs. As long as you stay away from really cheap discount-store home stereo speakers, any smallish wide-range speakers should work. The type made for surround sound speakers in home theater setups are often quite good and don't cost a lot of money.

    Now, you may get some contrary opinions. So just consider my opinion to be worth exactly what you paid for it!
    *** 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!


    • #3
      Putting speakers on top of an organ pointed up will not really gain you much and even though pointed up, may feel like the sound is in your face. The AP4 is a nice instrument. I thought the old Baldwins were far superior in tonal development than competitive Rodgers and Allen analogs.


      • #4
        Hello John:

        Once again, I thank you for an expert and extremely informative reply. You gave me much food for thought. To be honest, I've played several lower-end Allens with self-contained speakers (in home situations) and as you suggest, haven't been overwhelmed with the sound. I agree that for its time, the Baldwin 630--especially with the tone expander system and celeste--was pretty remarkable. I think I'll try adding a couple of Allen PP speakers (or equivalent) as you suggest, and see what happens.

        I''m sure that the AP-4 is a nice instrument, but it seems to me that if I'm going to upgrade from an organ which I like pretty well, I ought to wait for an MDS-15 or 16 (or equivalent) that would offer a lot more advantages: divided expression, divisional pistons, etc.

        Again, many thanks for your thoughts.


        • #5
          I think that's a wise course of action, Herb. While even an AP-4 has very good technology at the heart, the same W-5 tone generator as the larger MDS models, it is skimpy on features and hampered by the puny sound system.

          Not to completely dismiss the value of small Allens, though. I once owned a little MADC 420 for a while, had it for my home practice organ. Bottom of the line single-board tone generator with only 14 or so true stops, divided into only two groups and two audio channels, with the standard-issue internal speakers. And only blind presets. But with the genuine Allen keyboards and pedals and superb built quality I was quite happy to use it for a while. So don't take my suggestion as a discounting of small Allens, but as some praise for your old Baldwin!
          *** 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!


          • #6
            As you know, is tight for me at the moment. Even if the AP-4 is at the low end of the MDS series,...would Allen's Presence Projection speakers improve the sound any? My living room is carpeted,and that's where the organ would be located. Sorry I missed out on the AP-4 you had recently,..maybe another one will come along someday!

            Formerly "Dewey643"
            Now "Allen Fan"
            Late 1980's Rodgers Essex 640


            • #7
              There is an AP-4 currently listed on the Theatre Organ pages at:

              Price is $4,000; location is Franklin OH, about 40 miles NNE of Cincinnati.


              • #8

                I think adding some PP's or other small speakers helps a self-contained Allen quite a bit. At least that's been my experience. Even my prized R-230 sounded very disappointing when I first got it and heard it through just the internal speakers. It seems to me that Allen's standard self-contained two-channel system is pretty skimpy, even though the parts are good quality. And the fact that the sound is all concentrated on a single panel down at your knees just makes it sound flat and bland.

                Same thing was true with the self-contained Viscount and Rodgers organs I've had in my home over the past couple of years. It's really hard for a builder to get optimum sound when the speakers are all mounted down there where they can't really speak into the room.

                That's why whenever I've brought an organ into my home to use for practice, the first thing I do is attach some external speakers. And my best results have come from placing some speakers on top of the console facing upward at the ceiling. Now the ceiling of my organ nook is flat and smooth, hard sheetrock with no texturing. And my organ nook is a fairly well enclosed space that is only about six feet wide and nine or ten feet deep with a nine foot ceiling. So the sound is concentrated in the area, and when I bounce sound off the ceiling it "rains down" on me and fills the space with music. And for any organ that allowed it, I have also separated the channels and put the swell stops into a separate speaker system that is on the wall behind the bench, speakers facing up at the ceiling as well.

                So I think putting some PP's on top facing upward at a hard surface ceiling is a good first step in getting more sound out of an AP-4 or any self-contained Allen digital. After all, the tone generator of the AP-4 is the very same one that is in some very elaborate MDS models and is only hampered by the limitations of the audio system.
                *** 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!