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Conn "Artist" 720 worth fixing up?

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  • Conn "Artist" 720 worth fixing up?

    This thing turned up on Craigslist yesterday night, for $50, at a retirement home. Supposedly "everything works" (although I don't think the guy selling it is an organist, so we shall see), although it is missing the bench. I jumped on it and am set to pick it up this weekend.

    Originally I just wanted it for the pedalboard, to replace the Allen Princess unit on my MIDI VPO project console. But the more I read about this Conn 720, the more I am starting to think it would be worth restoring and tuning and just keeping to play as a cool old vintage tube organ. Apparently this model has several different waveform generators, and the few audio examples I've found online actually sound pretty decent for what it is.

    What do y'all think?
    1914 Estey Parlor Organ. 196x Allen T-12a "Special" (MIDI VPO project). Digital piano. Various guitars. Autoharp. Banjo. Bowed saw. Musical Cat.

  • #2
    Depends on your needs in an organ. The 720 was a rather good attempt by Conn to build a more satisfying classically voiced organ. A pretty decent outcome, if the known drawbacks of unit design don't bother you. Of course nearly all analog organs had some unification going on, so this is nothing new. Still not on a level with the best of Allen or Rodgers analogs, for various reasons, but actually quite pleasing. Very basic setup, no pistons or capture of any kind, so it's all hand registration. No crescendo pedal or tutti or other registration shortcuts.

    The pleasing part: As with nearly all Conn organs it has the very lovely, if rather harmonically plain, "flute" unit that provides all the various manual flute stops and pitches from 16' up through 1' (if it goes that high, I forget). These flutes are very clean and pure, being nearly sine waves, quite transparent and beautiful, especially in combinations. And the keying of the flute tones is done by transistor gates, so there is absolute perfection in attack and decay, no static or crackling or erratic volumes. There are even two degrees of sustain than can be applied. May or may not have chiff as well.

    Also pleasing: The unit Diapason rank that mirrors the flutes with a rich and very authentically-voiced diapason or principal tone available on the manuals at 8' up through 1-1/3', providing a very full and rich principal chorus. And like the flutes, these diapason tones are keyed by transistor gates, so absolutely perfect attack/decay, all notes perfectly even in volume scaling. The basis of the diapason tone in the 720 is actually a modified triangle wave generated by a piggy-back circuit on the oscillators, so it is truly the finest diapason tone you'll ever hear on a Conn organ.

    And finally, pleasing: The pedal system has an independent generator that produces the 16' pedal stops in a variety of tone colors. These tones are very bold and sturdy, have a nice smooth attack and decay, and perfectly complement the solid manual stops.

    The bad news: the reed and string stops are the same old awful direct-keyed pulse tones (keyed by vinyl-clad rods with "gradual contact" coating that supposedly gives these voices a "gentle" attack, but in reality make those notes very erratic in level and frequently plagued with drop-outs).

    Now to be fair the flutes and diapasons are so nice, and there are tabs to alter the voicing of those stops to make them even more flexible, that you can just do without the strings and reeds most of the time. It's even possible that at some point in its life this one has had the vinyl rods replaced with gold-clad, an upgrade that puts an end to the erratic volumes, but may introduce quite a bit of popping to these voices. At any rate, they will not have the nice smooth keying you get on the diapason and flute ranks.

    There is a nice built-in Leslie speaker, which can be switched to either the flutes or the diapasons. It runs at a slow "celeste" speed or a faster "tremolo" speed for variety.

    The oscillators work on rows and rows of 12AU7 tubes, which are highly reliable and stable, and the amplifiers are nice heavy-duty tube designs. The diapason and flute gates are transistor though.

    The pedalboard may have plastic contact pushers that can crack and fail over time, very difficult to replace. But then again, they may be just fine.

    So you may just have to get it home and figure out what its condition is.
    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


    • #3
      Conn Artist - unfortunate choice of name!
      Previous: Elka Crescendo 303, Technics G7, Yamaha EL-90
      Current: Yamaha AR-100

      Comment


      • myorgan
        myorgan commented
        Editing a comment
        Roger,

        Good observation. I'll mention it to Admin and see if that's a "feature" of the new software, or if it can be rectified. Thanks for pointing that out. I never noticed it before.

        Michael

      • Admin
        Admin commented
        Editing a comment
        Not being able to comment on the first post is by design. Why? I don't know for sure, but basically Replies should all be to the original post. You can think of Comments as Replies to Replies. There's no rule as to which to use, although there are times that one is more appropriate than the other. Look for an article coming soon to the Articles area on this subject.

      • myorgan
        myorgan commented
        Editing a comment
        Very simple and straightforward way of explaining the issue, Admin. I'm not sure I understand it either, but I guess it's what the software dictates!;-)

        Michael

    • #4
      Whelp, as of earlier today, I'm $50 poorer and have another ancient beast to find space for.

      I am pleased with it. The pedalboard is wayyyy nicer than the Allen compact unit I've been using. That was worth the $50 and the trouble of hauling the thing all by itself. The two-speed Leslie is nice. The organ has that lovely warm slightly dirty tube organ sound like you hear on old radio revival shows and stuff, and from what little I fooled with it everything does seem to actually work as advertised.

      And the thing that pleases me most is that the organ is well-loved and the cabinet has some fairly extensive good honest wear on it. I got the Allen T12a that I've been messing with before this one as a base for a homebuilt MIDI VPO project, but the cabinet on it is so nice that I didn't want to cut holes into the front of it to make room for more expression shoes. But I won't have any qualms about cutting holes in this one, although I do want to keep at least the flute and diapason tube ranks and the Leslie hooked up.

      The biggest problem is, I had to lay it on it's back on the pallet that I hauled it on, because of the way the feet on it are set up. But now that I've gotten it home and set it off the truck into the garage, I've discovered that I can't tip it back up on its feet by myself. Hahaha. Tomorrow is another day, and will bring about experiments with a ratchet strap and a come-along that will either set the organ on its feet, break something, or pull one of the posts out of the garage and make the house fall on my head. We'll see which happens. :3
      1914 Estey Parlor Organ. 196x Allen T-12a "Special" (MIDI VPO project). Digital piano. Various guitars. Autoharp. Banjo. Bowed saw. Musical Cat.

      Comment


      • jbird604
        jbird604 commented
        Editing a comment
        I trust the outcome will be #1! You may need to stand on the street and grab the first warm body that passes by to help you set it back up on its feet. It is quite heavy, I'm sure.

        While the good-sounding flute and diapason ranks are pleasant enough, you may eventually decide to gut the whole thing and make a MIDI organ out of it. Especially since it's already well-loved enough that you won't grieve over it much. And from all reports I get, the glorious tones available via the VPO programs out there are enough to steal anybody's heart from the sweetest old analog organ.

        At least it has extremely nice wood in the cabinet, great keyboards that won't be hard to MIDI-fy (I love the touch of these old Conns), and a sturdy pedalboard that can be readily equipped with some switches for a MIDI conversion. I believe that pedalboard may have been made for Conn by Klann. So it's certainly a keeper.

        I always have a hard time killing off an old organ that still sounds good though. it's just painful, and we organ folks have this deep-seated desire to preserve the old things, even when we KNOW that the VPO route is going to pay off in the long run.

      • OrgansR4Me
        OrgansR4Me commented
        Editing a comment
        I'm happy to hear you got the 720. In my years of collecting and playing more than 20 organs, the artist will always be one that I loved best. ONCE sent it to Goodwill and bought it back when it didn't sell. Can't remember now when I finally parted with it but had many more Conn's through the years,

    • #5
      "I always have a hard time killing off an old organ that still sounds good though. it's just painful, and we organ folks have this deep-seated desire to preserve the old things, even when we KNOW that the VPO route is going to pay off in the long run."

      John, I enjoyed reading your quote here. I just got done mentioning on another thread that organs are kind of like people - they each have a different personality. Although they can't be compared to a human being in their worth, they end up gaining a place in the heart for various reasons. I owned a Rogers Jamestown for quite some time - it was my high school music teacher's organ and one of the first really nice home organs that I had ever played when I was back in high school and visiting her at her home then. Although it is old school analog, I still love the sound of it, and I would probably take it back into my home again, just because....
      Craig

      Hammond L143 with Leslie 760

      Comment


      • jbird604
        jbird604 commented
        Editing a comment
        Yep. I understand that!
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