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Tuning an Allen Theatre Compact

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  • Tuning an Allen Theatre Compact

    Greetings everyone,

    (For anyone who hasn't heard of it before, the Allen Theatre Compact is a 44/44/13 analog organ made in the early 1960s. I have a pic in my gallery. To make a pipe organ analogy, it has 1 rank of flute generators from which all stops come, with the exception of the two pedal 16s and the 8' coupler which have their own generator. The non-flues are concocted Hammond-style by using overtones like 2 2/3 etc.)

    I could use some advice on the Theatre Compact at church again. I noticed the other day that due to it being moved (new carpet, weddings, Christmas concerts) it has now gone out of tune. It is still in tune with itself, but now is a few cents flatter than the piano (which was tuned a few weeks ago.) It sounds nearly a quarter-step flat, rather like the difference between the Viola and the Viola Celeste on my ADC420 at home. We have a 40-piece orchestra that plays for all services and the organ is right next to the strings, which have enough shimmer to cover me up, so thankfully no one has noticed the problem yet.

    I seem to recall jbird604 saying something like this once (I'm paraphrasing because I don't exactly remember-forgive me if it was someone else):
    Certain old analogs are not hard to tune-all you have to do is set one oscillator to agree with an electronic tuner, and then set the rest to their proper relation.

    Is the Theatre Compact series an easy tuning job? How would I go about doing it? What are the adjustment controls on the TGs? I worry that it would be a long, treacherous job because there are 13 pedal TGs and 80 for the manuals.

    One possible thing that I could have done to change it: I opened the top about a month ago and I found a pot marked TONE. I figured it was a primitive EQ and so I swooped it around to give a little more treble to the tone. It made the tone of the organ a little better, but I just wanted to check that it was a filter, not a pitch adjuster.

    How much trouble would moving cause? Should I become adamant that it never is moved, or will moving it on and off the platform, to the other side of the church for weddings, etc. be OK?

    Thank you so much for your help.


  • #2
    Re: Tuning an Allen Theatre Compact

    Philip. Hi! Sorry to hear about your tuning problem. Most of the early instruments have a slot on the iron core inductor in the generator. Usually a screwdriver can be used. There is a more complicated bridging program with additional resistors if a core is frozen. You'll need to check with Allen or one of the tech's on the forum because I don't have that literature any more. I recently learned a tip that you should tune a little sharp and then go back. Someone has said it lasts longer than simply tuning up.

    Best wishes for a great outcome. I know you are anxious for a new organ, but I still think the compact is a nifty little instrument and I hope you can use it longer.


    • #3
      Re: Tuning an Allen Theatre Compact

      I'm sure someone will respond with the recommended tuning method for this organ. The vintage Rodgers analog organ that I modified (oops, gutted) for a Hauptwerk project had multiple banks of tone generators, so I don't know what you'll find. I see that the piano is new (2009?). I'd assume that the new strings are relaxing and that perhaps some previous tunings were merely "floated" which means tuning the piano to itself and avoiding the time and expense of a pitch raise. Then someone did the job right and brought the piano up to pitch, and golly, the organ sounds flat. That's one possibility. Add to this the fact that trying to tune a piano to an organ is an exercise in frustration as the piano's upper registers will gradually be more and more sharp until at C8 you may find the piano 50 cents plus or minus sharp of what would be theoretically in tune. So by all means tune the organ if it's strayed from A-440, but be aware of the limits involved.

      By the way, it's not surprising at all that no one has noticed the pitch problems. We tuners (I'm semi-retired) would be busy IF ONLY... And you play a lot, so your ears will only get more and more critical. Ithink Godcreatedthirds to be naturally out of tune just to keep us humble...