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  • seriously neglected church organ repair or replacement?

    Hi all,
    My Church currently has an organ without an organist, so i decided to learn the organ. I recently went to practice on the Conn organ that is at our church, but I discovered a few things. I am not sure what model the organ is (forgot to look at the plate) but it looks very similar to the Conn 813, it just has a few extra switches to turn the internal and (optional) external speakers on and off. As soon as I turned it on, there was a buzzing coming from the internal speakers (no external speakers...), even when I was not playing anything. When I did try to play something, there are some stops that work perfect, while there are others that have a few notes that when you press the key, it makes a horrible static noise, but the note can sort of be heard "trying" to play. The pedal stops do strange things. It is a 25 note pedalboard, and the lowest 5 notes do not work on any of the 16' stops. the ones that do work, well, it produces a ton of static, and it seems like the speakers are just trying to go way too low for what they are. There are a few more little things, one or two stops that just don't work, the leslie sounds like a pepper grinder...

    The organ was purchased new for the church in 1978, but it has been seriously neglected since then. We are in Maine, so there are not many organ techs around, but is it worth it to try to fix it? or should we just get a new one. If we should get a new one, then what are the options (I don't know really anything about the market for organs right now...); our church has a budget of $1000 max (including shipping/gas to pick up). I have found a few organs, but they are mostly Hammonds, and I have read that Hammonds are not the best for a church (we play much more slow, traditional music in our church).


    any help is greatly appreciated.

    thanks,
    Christian L.

  • #2
    Though it's on the opposite side of the USA, this is a good option within your price range: https://www.--------/itm/Allen-ADC-2...EAAOSwElhdCnb0

    Maybe you or some other church members could take a road trip?

    This one isn't quite as large a specification, but is closer to you--unknown asking price: https://nh.craigslist.org/msg/d/laco...892067643.html

    Comment


    • #3
      Hi AMDguy, First, Hammond makes many different styles of organ. Their drawbar organs are popular in gospel style music and that might be what you are referring to. They have also made other styles with regular stops like you would see in a classical church organ. My teacher has a Hammond theater organ that has similar sounds to a classical organ, it just uses “solo” and “accompaniment” names instead of “swell” and “great” for the manuals. I would't rule them out completely and go and play and listen—maybe take someone else from the church that has a good ear.

      I don't have any experience with Conn, so someone might be able to comment on how economical or available parts are for it

      If you are going with a replacement: based on your budget you are obviously looking for a used organ and an older one at that. I personally wouldn't go with anything but an Allen digital. Allen started making digitals in the early 70s. Digitals are lighter and easier to transport than the analog organs. Allen has also promised to provide replacement parts for every organ built. Not sure about the older analogs, but I hear they are backing that up with the digitalis at least. Also, it depends on the size of your sanctuary. If it's a smaller sanctuary/chapel than the $1K budget might work. I picked up a mid-80s Allen ADC-220 for $900. It did not come with speakers but has outputs for them. I just went out with my pickup truck to get it. Very manageable with a couple of guys to load and unload. For quality and parts availability, I personally wouldn't go with anything but Allen. You could get a good deal and then be back in the same boat again looking for parts and a repair tech.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by toodles View Post
        Though it's on the opposite side of the USA, this is a good option within your price range: https://www.--------/itm/Allen-ADC-2...EAAOSwElhdCnb0

        Maybe you or some other church members could take a road trip?

        This one isn't quite as large a specification, but is closer to you--unknown asking price: https://nh.craigslist.org/msg/d/laco...892067643.html
        actually, the second one that is listed there ; I have already emailed the guy, and he told me $1000, which is at the very top of the budget, there are a bunch of Hammonds in the area, I will probably go check some of them out... The one out in CA would be amazing, the problem is how to get it back here; shipping is expensive, and driving that far is not really an option.

        Comment


        • Organkeys Jones
          Organkeys Jones commented
          Editing a comment
          The Craigslist Allen looks like an ADC 420 or 430 if it has internal speakers or 520/530 if it requires external speakers. I can't tell by the photos which it is. Looks like a pair of Allen speakers on top of the Hammond spinet to the left. The California Allen does require external speakers and they are not included in the sale! Very similar sound - just different features. Like someone else said - make an offer on the closer one. I suspect you can get it and not be disappointed.

        • Horseshoe_or
          Horseshoe_or commented
          Editing a comment
          Given your situation, you might want to ask organ owners if a tax credit would be of advantage to them. I have given away organs on that basis in the past.

      • #5
        I honestly can't recommend an organ whose manufacturer is now defunct--so I would not recommend a Hammond.

        Comment


        • #6
          Figure out what it would cost you in fuel / helpers / possible truck rental if needed / food ( and beer ) for your helpers and so on, to go get the one in NH. Deduct that amount from your max budget. Then make the guy an offer on it.

          That CL ad is 2 months old at this point, so he can ask whatever he wants and keep sitting on the organ. Or he can take an offer from you and have it go away. The sign on the music desk says "Best Reasonable Offer" . A reasonable offer is one that offers something for the organ, and actual money ( cash ) the buyer is willing to pay. The used organ market in most places is pretty screwed up. But, it is a Buyers market, NOT a sellers market.

          In your other posting about this Allen you indicated it was Free.

          We would need to know more about the type of music your church wants to use the organ for to make a recommendation on what sort you should be looking for. If it is to lead real church music ( hymns ), then without a doubt you want an Allen church organ. Unless you do gospel style, forget about a Hammond.

          At one of the churches I play for, I have to play their Hammond A105, and they are quite fond of it. And ya, I can get it sounding sorta like a church organ. But it is NOT a church organ, even if Hammond ( and this congregation ) thought it was.

          It probably would be more time and effort than it is worth to try and fix up your old Conn. If you are thinking of doing the restoration work yourself, be aware that a neglected Conn can have lots of issues. The good used Allen is the best route for you I'm thinking.
          Regards, Larry

          At Home : Yamaha Electones : EX-42 ( X 3 !!! ), E-5AR, FX-1 ( X 2 !! ), US-1, EL-25 ( Chopped ). Allen 601D, ADC 6000D. Lowrey CH32-1. At Churches I play for : Allen Q325 ( with Vista ), Allen L123 ( with Navigator ). Rodgers 755. 1919 Wangerin 2/7 pipe organ.

          Comment


          • Organkeys Jones
            Organkeys Jones commented
            Editing a comment
            I agree with Larrytow that the Conn probably is not worth the effort & cost to repair, not when you can get a more reliable, newer, and working used Allen for a reasonable price.

        • #7
          I know that in the other thread that I started, I said that the Allen was free. When I saw the listing and the description, I assumed it was free (the description certainly implied that it was, to me at least). But after exchanging several email with the seller (and arranging a pickup date); he THEN informed me that they were asking $1000 for it... I was not happy. I will send him another email with a reasonable offer. Curious what he is going to say...


          in terms of the type of music that we will be using it for, almost exclusively hymns (more traditional church), so based on what I am hearing, a Hammond is probably not the best option. If I can convince the people who run our church that it would be a pain and possibly lots of money to fix up the old Conn, then I will.

          Comment


          • Organkeys Jones
            Organkeys Jones commented
            Editing a comment
            I responded to a Facebook Marketplace ad last year for a free pipe organ. Actually said "free, come and get it" in the ad. Pictures were of it installed in the church about two hours away. After a couple of emails with one person at the church, another church leader informed me that I must pay over $2000 for the guy who dismantled the organ! I talked to that guy (a pipe organ tech). He was surprised to hear from me because they had told him he could have it. Why do even churches need to be reminded to be up front and honest with people?

        • #8
          Originally posted by AMDguy View Post
          Hi all,
          My Church currently has an organ without an organist, so i decided to learn the organ. I recently went to practice on the Conn organ that is at our church, but I discovered a few things.
          [snip]
          The organ was purchased new for the church in 1978, but it has been seriously neglected since then. We are in Maine, so there are not many organ techs around, but is it worth it to try to fix it? or should we just get a new one.
          Christian,

          I am sending you a private message with additional information. There may be an organ, or a means of getting one closer to you in Maine.

          Thanks for being part of the Forum.

          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

          Comment


          • #9
            I certainly concur with the advice regarding Allens. They are extremely well built, the older the better as far as build quality, particularly the cabinet work. The Conn may be usable, however. The larger speaker elements may have deteriorated and can be either repaired or replaced reasonably. That might cover some of the bass issues. Analog organs of that era are repairable and the dead bass notes are likely a single point failure affecting all five notes. Regarding the noisy and dead stops, Conn had buss bar issues and simply playing the "good" stops for a while may eventually see some of the bad ones come clear. Frankly I have forgotten some and if this is the plastic buss bar thing, I may be mistaken on that.

            The Leslie issue is probably mechanical. These organs can run for hours or even days with the Leslie turning which wears out the bearings, belt, and such. A handy person could probably set that straight with no electronic knowledge. The Leslie can also be disconnected, as motion is somewhat optional for hymn playing. All of this can be regarded as an interim solution if a change is deemed the best long term approach. Of course, long term is relative as churches of this nature are struggling to survive these days.

            If the amplification is bad, power amplifiers are reasonable on the used market. I have a Crown or two that I would be willing to donate to the cause, provided transportation can be arranged without much input on my part (Atlanta, GA).
            Roland Atelier AT-90s, AT-80s, AT-70, 30, and 15. Roland VR-760 combo
            Yamaha S-90, Kurzweil PC-3x, Casio Privia PX-330, Roland E-80, G-70, BK-5, Leslie 760, 820
            Moved on:
            Allen 3MT/Hauptwerk, Technics GA1, Yamaha HX1, AR80, numerous Hammonds, including 2 M's, an L, 2 A-100's, XP-2, XM-1/1c, & an XK-3. Roland Atelier AT-30, 60r, 80, & 20r(2 units), and a slew of Leslies (147, 142, 760, 900, 330).
            Korg Triton Le-61, Casio Privia PX-310 & 110, and Kurzweils: PC-2x, SP-88, Pro-III, K1000

            Comment


            • myorgan
              myorgan commented
              Editing a comment
              A church I was playing for met in the local town hall one Winter. They had a Conn spinet with a Leslie that cracked and popped with the best of them. After exercising some of the stops repeatedly, it was working quite well by the time Winter was over. If it has the same stop action as your organ, it possibly could be rescued.

              While I certainly prefer Allen organs, I understand some churches would prefer another organ for the features offered. In the past year, I played with a church band/orchestra for a benefit concert. Rather than taking one of mine, I used their Gulbransen with an off-brand Leslie. For the style music being played, that organ certainly fit the bill style-wise for the music performed.

              As much information as you can provide is beneficial.

              Michael

          • #10
            Here's my couple of thoughts;
            Any organ, especially older ones will require some work to keep them is good condition. Do you, or someone in the church have electronic service experience? It does not have to be specifically organ experience. The older organs use common electronic parts in relatively simple circuits.
            Your current Conn organ;
            First, get the back off the Conn, and tell us the model number. If it is a 1978 organ, it should be all transistor, but hopefully before they used a lot of special IC chips. Take some pictures while you are at it. Conn's model numbers are not sequential and the pictures help us know what style of electronics are in the organ. While the back is off, check the connectors. Unplug the organ, check for loose or partially unplugged ones. You can check the Leslie; it probably just needs oiling.
            The buzzing when you turn it on could be bad filter capacitors, or a bad connection.
            I suspect that the properly playing stops are the flutes and, depending on the model, the diapasons. The bad ones will be the strings and reeds which use the infamous Conn vinyl keying rods. Those can be cleaned and made to work.
            Hammond Organs;
            Hammond organs will work fine for hymns. You are leading Congregational singing, not giving a concert. If it is a "home" model, it may have rhythm units and other accessories that you don't need, but the basic drawbars and presets should serve the church well.The older tonewheel models are normally repairable, and there is a lot of information available for them. The newer IC based models may be useless if an unobtainable chip dies. This is true of almost all recent organs that use proprietary parts. If the organ works perfectly, can give the classic sound you want, is close enough, and cheap enough, don't worry about it. Regardless of what you use, you will want at least 25 pedals. 32 is nice, but the bass part for hymns is normally right in the middle of the pedals and does not use the extreme ends much.
            Ed Kennedy
            Ed Kennedy
            Current Organ - Conn 645 Theater

            Comment


            • #11
              Originally posted by edkennedy View Post
              . . .
              Any organ, especially older ones will require some work to keep them is good condition. Do you, or someone in the church have electronic service experience? It does not have to be specifically organ experience. The older organs use common electronic parts in relatively simple circuits.
              Totally agree. My church where I am the organist has a very fine analog organ (AOB - Auburn, Washington - defunct company since about 1991) that has been extremely reliable. One of our church members is a retired IBM Electronic Engineer and is very adept in making repairs, should then become necessary. In the 3 years I've been the organist in this church, the organ has only had one electronic problem, and that was with the rechargeable battery for the capture system.

              Electronic parts for our AOB are readily available at any good electronics parts house. I am elated with the sound of this analog organ and its 48 channels of sound and 50+ speaker cabinets. The speaker cones will eventually need to be replaced, but that would be a normal occurrence for any electronic/digital organ.

              Comment


              • #12
                Originally posted by Kurzweil View Post
                I certainly concur with the advice regarding Allens. They are extremely well built, the older the better as far as build quality, particularly the cabinet work. The Conn may be usable, however. The larger speaker elements may have deteriorated and can be either repaired or replaced reasonably. That might cover some of the bass issues. Analog organs of that era are repairable and the dead bass notes are likely a single point failure affecting all five notes. Regarding the noisy and dead stops, Conn had buss bar issues and simply playing the "good" stops for a while may eventually see some of the bad ones come clear. Frankly I have forgotten some and if this is the plastic buss bar thing, I may be mistaken on that.

                The Leslie issue is probably mechanical. These organs can run for hours or even days with the Leslie turning which wears out the bearings, belt, and such. A handy person could probably set that straight with no electronic knowledge. The Leslie can also be disconnected, as motion is somewhat optional for hymn playing. All of this can be regarded as an interim solution if a change is deemed the best long term approach. Of course, long term is relative as churches of this nature are struggling to survive these days.

                If the amplification is bad, power amplifiers are reasonable on the used market. I have a Crown or two that I would be willing to donate to the cause, provided transportation can be arranged without much input on my part (Atlanta, GA).
                Ok, I have been away for a while, but I have a little bit of an update. I again forgot to get the model number (I wrote it down to remind myself this time), but in the period of a week, the condition seems to have deteriorated. Originally, the stops that did not work correctly were the reeds, and some of the diapasions. but I went to practice this past Sunday, and most of the principal 8' stops seem to have stopped working, along with the 8' trompette. This is all on the great, the swell is working perfectly fine, there is nothing wrong with it (still the buzzing, but that is a universal problem) so the stops that were finickey and not working properly have totally stopped working. Also, the great to pedal coupler has started working. I am very comfortable around electronics, and I love to do small electronics work, so I will definitely pop the back off the organ and see what I can find.

                In terms of what the congragation and the rest of the church wants to hear from the organ, they could care less. A year or so ago, the brother of someone came to our church and brought one of those Radioshack electronic piano keyboards. He pushed the button to make it sound like an "organ" and no one noticed. I will post an update as to what I find in a week or so...

                Comment


                • Dewey643
                  Dewey643 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I'd toss that RadioShack keyboard out into the street in a heartbeat! Go for an Allen,...or better yet,...a Rodgers!

              • #13
                If anything currently still has market value; it's Allen or Rodgers. Been watching the used sales for years now and noticed most Conns, even the much praised 65* series are just about given away. Yes I know it's theater style, but with similar electronics.

                The above brands are at least still somewhat supported and/or at least fixable.
                Can't play an note but love all things "organ" Responsible for 2/10 Wurli pipe organ, Allen 3160(wife's), Allen LL324, Allen GW319EX, ADC4600, many others. E-organ shop to fund free organ lessons for kids.

                Comment

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