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Rodgers or Viscount

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  • Rodgers or Viscount

    Hey folks.
    I am responsible for selecting a new organ for my church. We know that we want it to be the best fit and fairly custom. We have it narrowed down to the new American version of the Unico 370 by Viscount and Rodgers' Infiniti 361. The two are fairly comparable in terms of price. However, my organist and I are split. He has more experience with Rodgers and likes the midi capabilities whereas I have been blown away by the customer service as well as the wealth of detailed information our Viscount rep has provided coupled with the fact that Viscount Physis is supposed to be forever upgradable if were to ever want to do that. Viscount even provided a smaller organ to us on loan for several weeks to demonstrate to our congregation it superiority over the current organ (that is now unplugged and off to the side).

    My question to yall: As an organist who is either looking to perform a recital or that is being courted as the next organist-in-residence, to which instrument would you rather be presented? A major part of our marketing to our congregation has been that we want to be able to attract future talent for both recitals and employment, so hearing from the peanut gallery would be a good scale on which to partially base our final decision.

    The organ that we are replacing is a dying analog Rodgers that's served a good run. My organist has personally owned multiple Rodgers instruments whereas I come from a church that had a good, little Allen (which I know is basically considered an overpriced tinker toy). It's a nice thought to have an American-made name that everyone is basically familiar with, but Viscount is also an old name that is evergrowing in popularity.

    Also, does having tabs verses drawknobs make a difference to you? I personally really like the look and would rather use the drawknobs over the tabs, but it's also an expensive-ish option. Would it be a major issue for you? I know as a novice (I can fool non-organ people into thinking I can play because I can use the peddle board with relative ease and speed, but organ people can usually see that I'm really just a coordinated pianist and don't really know well which stops to use with which stops) that the functionality of the tabs takes getting used to when compared to the simple push and pull of the knobs.


  • #2
    My personal preference is for Rodgers (with the cavaet that installation and tonal finishing will make or break either Rodgers OR Viscount). I also prefer MOVING drawknobs over lit ones (which is an option on either brand). I am not that fond of lit stop controls either drawknobs OR rocker tabs. You also need to compare the audio systems available - the more audio channels being offered the better, and to have a real comparison both brands should be offering similar audio packages. The thing to do is to go play some already installed instruments of both brands...not only one, but several of each (so that the dealers don't just show you their one stellar job designed to sell more installs). THE most important thing is >>what does the organ sound like? it is no big deal for a digital organ to replicate one or two stops pretty accurately, BUT what does the BIG ENSEMBLE sound like, and frankly that is where ALL digital organs fall short.

    Rick in VA


    • #3
      I'd echo what Rick says above... MECHANICAL drawknobs are wonderful and worth the extra cost, to anyone who will ever be playing it. They cost more now, but will also give you far better long-term service, as the lighted knobs are always subject to the little lamps inside going out, even if they are LED's, and that is a real bummer when it happens and you have to wait weeks perhaps for a tech to come by and fix it, then another one goes out, and so on. Besides, the lighted ones don't "feel" the same as real moving knobs. They are rather tightly sprung and their travel is short, so they just don't have that satisfying smooth positive movement that I love so much about mechanical knobs. (Their only advantage is that they are completely silent.)

      That said, I would also question the statement that Allen is not worth considering ("overpriced tinker toy")... Keep in mind that Allen has been THE leading digital organ builder for decades. Their organs are certainly "different," and very much so, from both Rodgers and Viscount, who both have a sound more akin to the VPO model (lots of "environment" seems baked into the sounds of the stops), while Allen's stops are much more "raw" and require the bloom of a good acoustic space to sound real. But Allen has quite the advantage in its reputation for unfailing parts and service support, a company under the same ownership and management since 1937, build quality, longevity, and heavy-duty hardware. And I am NOT involved with Allen (though I sold them back in the 80's) and I only say this because as a service tech for the past 40 years I have seen it time and again -- Allen organs endure, while many others have required replacement. I service dozens of Allens in my territory that are 40 to 50 years old, but very few of any other brand anywhere near that age.

      But if your only two choices are Rodgers and Viscount, I'll agree with Rick again -- take a close look at what the dealer has done in numerous installations, and be sure to compare apples to apples, number of discrete audio channels, number and quality of speaker systems. And most of all, listen with an open mind. But also you can be confident that either company can sell you a WONDERFUL organ that will last for a generation with reasonable care. Either way, you will soon be able to worship with the assistance of a marvelous musical instrument that will keep any organist satisfied for a very long time!

      BTW, Rodgers might have a slight edge over Viscount when it comes to attracting talent, due to its history of presence in the US, but most players will have an open mind about brands, and should consider either one on its merits rather just the name.
      *** 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!


      • #4
        Personally I'd recommend the Viscount. And as a performer I'd also be more interested in playing the organ knowing it's a Physis organ. And you've had a positive experience with Viscount. Of course Rodgers has a more respected name because of their history in the US.

        Another advantage to the Viscount is that you can voice it more than you'd be able to with the Rodgers. Your organist may like that.

        I would disagree with Jbird (who is a fabulous resource) that Viscount's Physis has the environment ‘baked in'. They're not sample-based and as far as I understand it, the Physis organs can be as raw as if you were standing immediately in front of a pipe.
        Viscount C400 3-manual
        8 channels + 2 reverb channels (w/ Lexicon MX200)
        Klipsch RSX-3 speakers and Klipsch Ultra 5.1 subwoofers


        • jbird604
          jbird604 commented
          Editing a comment
          I probably said too much, and surely don't want to come across as deeply favoring any one brand or builder on the basis of sound. And I stand corrected on the Physis sounds. Yes, they are totally adjustable, and not being "samples" like most other organs use, they obviously don't have any environmental coloring within the tone unless it is intentionally added when the stop character is created with the Physis software. I guess what I mean to say is that the sounds I have heard from the typical Viscount and Rodgers organs reminds me more of what I hear from a VPO system with live recorded samples, possibly because Allen goes to great lengths to "purify" the sounds of the pipe samples so that they DON'T convey anything of the pipe's home environment, and thus sound more like the pipes themselves have been "transplanted" into your own church, to interact with your own church's acoustic properties. It's just a little different philosophy, and it's not really "cut and dried" either -- Allen's "Acoustic Portrait" system attempts to "re-introduce" the acoustics of actual spaces where the pipes were located, if and when that kind of acoustic assistance is wanted. And not all Rodgers or Viscount sounds can be said to contain an over-abundance of their native acoustic characteristics. Just sort of a "general impression" that I have of the different brands.

      • #5
        I would choose the Rodgers,...and would opt for the mechanical(moving) drawknobs over lighted ones!
        Late 1980's Rodgers Essex 640


        • #6
          To answer the OP's question, personally, I tend to lean toward Rodgers because that's what I have played in the past. I have never played a Viscount.

          On a slightly different topic already alluded to, build quality is something that has always mystified me. Allen build quality has historically been second-to-none because of their cabinetry quality that came from the Pennsylvania Dutch communities. However, lately from what I have heard (& felt) on more recent Allens, it appears more particle board or OSB is being used in the building of their organs, which feels chintzy to me.

          Rodgers analog organs also had mostly solid wooden consoles, but for some reason, the joinery was not quite as polished as Allens. In the past, Rodgers evolved to particle board and laminate woodprints, so that was a turn-off for me. Recently, however, it sounds like their build quality is improving under the influence of the Johannes organs.

          While I've never personally seen a Johannus organ, from what I've read here, it sounds like their build quality is beginning to improve over past decades' to a more acceptable level.

          Viscount, from what I understand, may also be on the upswing when it comes to construction integrity. Others can confirm or deny. I may have played one or more Baldwin-badged Viscount in the early 1990s, but I have no way of determining which company actually created the organs.

          Then, there is the sound generation and sound quality. Of course, that's already been discussed here. So, based on build quality, I would defer to Rodgers. I can't speak as much regarding the sound quality.

          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


          • #7
            The discussion of build quality comparisons between Allen and European builders has been moved here.

            Allen 965
            Zuma Group Midi Keyboard Encoder
            Zuma Group DM Midi Stop Controller
            Hauptwerk 4.2


            • Dutchy
              Dutchy commented
              Editing a comment
              Dear Admin, apparently I irritated you with my observations. That was not my intention.

            • Admin
              Admin commented
              Editing a comment
              Dutchy No, you did not irritate me nor am I irritated at all; however, the question was about a choice between Rodgers and Viscount. The Allen vs European organs debate is off-topic here which is why those posts were moved to their own thread. Normally, I would have left them here, but that debate has already hi-jacked other threads and tends to become contentious. I don't see much point in continuing that discussion, but if people wish to continue arguing the same points over and over, they're welcome to do so, but in the appropriate topic, such as the one I created for that purpose.