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Need Advice on Purchase of Used Theatre Organ

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  • Need Advice on Purchase of Used Theatre Organ

    Hello, folks,

    I own two tonewheel Hammond organs but would like to have a theatre organ as well. I am not looking for a new one. I also don't care if the organ is 50 or 20 years old, etc., but in a perfect world I'd like to have one with lots of bells and whistles (with full pedalboard), and preferably, three manuals. I also prefer tubes over transistors, but should this be a consideration with a theatre organ?

    So what models may I come across that I would be wise to buy? I used to own a Baldwin Cinema III but had to sell it when I moved out of state. I don't know if that's considered a "good" one or not. So if we're looking at vintage theatre organs such as Wurlitzer; Lowrey (there seem to be a lot of newer ones of these that can be had cheaply), Conn; Baldwin, etc., what's the one to own? Any that I should stay away from? Thanks!
    Last edited by Doctor Robert; 12-11-2018, 06:57 AM.
    sigpic
    1956 Hammond C-3
    Circa 1965 Leslie 145
    1963 Hammond D-152
    1963 Hammond C-3
    1959 Hammond HR-40 Tone Cabinet
    Motion Sound Pro 3
    Motion Sound Low Pro
    1958 Hammond M-3
    C.Bechstein D282 9'3" Concert Grand
    1977 Wurlitzer 200A

  • #2
    In my opinion, the only theatre organ builder worth considering is Allen. If you're open to organs prior to 1990, you can add Rodgers analog models to your list.
    -Admin

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

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    • #3
      Depends also on how accurate you want the sound. If you want accurate and digital then Allen and Rodgers are really your only two options. There are threads on here extolling the virtues of their older analogue models too. If you want a good 'theatre type' sound, then there are quite a few Conn 2 and 3 manual theatre models out there, usually for very little money. The 3 deckers will have 32 note AGO pedalboards. They have a warm sound that's quite distinctive.

      The other makes, like Baldwin, Thomas and Lowrey, all produced instruments that looked theatre-ish, but the sound wasn't really theatre. And you could add a couple of older Gulbransen models onto that list, like the venerable Rialto K, from the early 60s!

      There are dozens of threads on here about the two main makes, detailing their good and bad points, so have a search and a read through!
      It's not what you play. It's not how you play. It's the fact that you're playing that counts.

      New website now live - www.andrew-gilbert.com

      Current instruments: Roland Atelier AT900 Platinum Edition, Yamaha PSR-S970, Kawai K1m
      Retired Organs: Lots! Kawai SR6 x 2, Hammond L122, T402, T500 x 2, X5. Conn Martinique and 652. Gulbransen 2102 Pacemaker. Kimball Temptation.
      Retired Leslies, 147, 145 x 2, 760 x 2, 710, 415 x 2.
      Retired synths: Korg 700, Roland SH1000, Jen Superstringer, Kawai S100F, Kawai S100P, Kawai K1

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      • #4
        If you can afford a price in the range of $7,000 to $10,000, I strongly recommend the Allen MDS Theatre III organ. It is very pipe-like in tone, and has an excellent selection of tuned percussion voices. It offers full MIDI, an AGO full pedalboard, and a good theatre sound. It has a full moving-stop combination action.

        Rodgers offered the Olympic 333, Marquee 327, and Century 340 as their newest analog models with AGO pedalboards, but these were discontinued in the early 1980's, so any of these organs would probably need a high level of maintenance, and, of course, their sound is analog so they don't sound as pipe-like as the Allen Theatre organs. Rodgers also built various models of their Trio (320, 321, 322) which had a 32 note pedalboard, but it was smaller than AGO. They built a 360 and 360 Deluxe digital theatre organ, but these were not built in large quantities and are harder to find. Earlier Rodgers Theatre organs were the 33E, 34E, and 36E. These are from the 1960's and the circuitry will need a lot of maintenance.

        With any electronic organ, being assured of a source of parts for maintenance is very important: Rodgers did not use custom electronic parts in their analog organs, except for the rhythm module IC, so their electronics can be maintained with generic electronic components. Mechanical parts are more of an issue, but these parts are not generally subject to failure.

        Allen maintains parts for every organ they made.

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        • #5
          If an MDS-III is too much there is this one on ebay that is slightly overpriced. It would be a good deal at around $4k. Maybe the seller will negotiate. It has plenty of bells and whistles. Although the Allen percussions where a bit lacking through the 80s. It looks like it has MIDI so it might be possible to do some VPO traps and percussions.

          There are always Rodgers Trios available for sale. They are analog and have smaller (non-AGO) pedalboards and other limitations but they can still be fun.
          Last edited by samibe; 12-11-2018, 11:25 AM.
          Sam
          Home: Allen ADC-4500 Church: Allen MDS-5
          Files: Allen Tone Card (TC) Database, TC Info, TC Converter, TC Mixer, ADC TC SF2, and MOS TC SF2, ADC TC Cad/Rvt, MOS TC Cad/Rvt, Organ Database, Music Library, etc. PM for unlinked files.

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          • #6
            I guess it depends on why you want a theater organ. You mention tubes but let's face it, anything that old will not do nearly as good a job of creating sounds that mimic actual theater organ style pipework as a modern digital instrument will. I love my analog Allen theater organ but that is because I embrace the "period" way it sounds and wanted an affordable horseshoe console with traps and percussion sounds.

            But I also play a virtual theater pipe organ via MIDI (using my Allen ADC organ keyboards) and I am blown away by how much it sounds like the real thing. That virtual instrument has a lot more stops and the percussions are spot-on. Playing these two very different instruments are dramatically different sonic experiences. The analog organ has the sound I grew up with. The virtual organ has a sound that in the past I could only hear when playing the real thing or listening to a recordings of them.

            I should also mention that Walker makes theater organs in the USA, although they are rarely found on the used market and when they do sell they are quite expensive.

            A suggestion - add your location to your profile so we know where you live. Since this is an international forum, if nothing else knowing your country helps. And if you are in the US people can suggest instruments closer to where you live if we know the state.
            Last edited by AllenAnalog; 12-11-2018, 11:40 AM.
            Larry is my name; Allen is an organ brand. Allen RMWTHEA.3 with RMI Electra-Piano; Allen 423-C+Gyro; Britson Opus OEM38; Saville Series IV Opus 209; Steinway AR Duo-Art, Mills Violano Virtuoso with MIDI; Hammond 9812H with roll player; Gulbransen Rialto; Roland E-200; Mason&Hamlin AR Ampico piano, Allen ADC-5300-D with MIDI.

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            • #7
              In a perfect world I'd like to have both, but because I'm not a spring chicken, I think I'd opt for the vintage sound of my youth (the 1960s). I will look into adding my location (I appreciate the tip). I'm in Dayton, Ohio, by the way. I'd also like to figure out how to add the instruments I own to the bottom of my posts, but haven't been able to figure out how to do that just yet.
              sigpic
              1956 Hammond C-3
              Circa 1965 Leslie 145
              1963 Hammond D-152
              1963 Hammond C-3
              1959 Hammond HR-40 Tone Cabinet
              Motion Sound Pro 3
              Motion Sound Low Pro
              1958 Hammond M-3
              C.Bechstein D282 9'3" Concert Grand
              1977 Wurlitzer 200A

              Comment


              • #8
                I think you'd be amazed at the beautiful sound of the more modern digital theatre organs, and it's certainly much easier to find a 3-manual digital theatre organ than a 3-manual analog, except for the Rodgers Trio organs.

                If you can accept a 2-manual organ with a 25-note pedalboard, the venerable Gulbransen Rialto K has a vintage sound you might like. Service parts may be a problem.

                Really, if you are looking for a 1960's model the most difficult issue will be service parts especially nechanical parts except for Allen. All of the other manufacturers are defunct except for Rodgers, who has been sold to Johannus so spare parts for the analog organs may become an issue, as Johannus is focusing on the newer digital Rodgers designs.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Doctor Robert View Post
                  I'd also like to figure out how to add the instruments I own to the bottom of my posts, but haven't been able to figure out how to do that just yet.
                  Doctor Robert,

                  Welcome to the Forum. You've obtained really good advice so far, however, I would recommend digital both for reliability and for fidelity of sound. One piece of advice that was left out regards the weight of the instrument. The digital organs will be much lighter because they don't require as much circuitry and equipment like an analog organ would. The weight difference can be well over 100 lbs. depending on the organ.

                  You are in the right area to pick up an organ, though. I can't remember how many theatre organs I've seen listed in Ohio or Michigan lately. I'll keep my eyes open.

                  Again, welcome to 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)
                  • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Doctor Robert View Post
                    In a perfect world I'd like to have both, but because I'm not a spring chicken, I think I'd opt for the vintage sound of my youth (the 1960s). I will look into adding my location (I appreciate the tip). I'm in Dayton, Ohio, by the way. I'd also like to figure out how to add the instruments I own to the bottom of my posts, but haven't been able to figure out how to do that just yet.
                    There aren't too many spring chickens here, Robert. To add instruments owned or previously owned to the bottom of your posts, click on "Settings" at the top of the page, and then select "Edit Signature" in the left-hand column. You can "Preview" it as much as you want and then, "Save" sets it... to ALL of your posts.
                    -- I'm Lamar -- Allen TC-4 Classic project, 1899 Kimball project
                    -- M-37C, 44HPV2 melodicas, Rodgers W5000, RD300NX, Juno DS-61/88, FA-06 - Conn 643 - Hammond M3
                    -- Public domain hymn search: https://songselect.ccli.com/search/r...t=publicdomain

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                    • #11
                      I sure appreciate how helpful everyone's been. It's nice to discover I'm not the only one still consumed with these majestic instruments. Does anyone have any thoughts on a Lowrey, such as the Lowrey LX 500 Celebration? Sure wish it had the full pedalboard, but I'm sure there are some other Lowrey models I could find that do. They seem to be rather plentiful, and seem affordable.
                      Last edited by Doctor Robert; 12-11-2018, 08:29 PM.
                      sigpic
                      1956 Hammond C-3
                      Circa 1965 Leslie 145
                      1963 Hammond D-152
                      1963 Hammond C-3
                      1959 Hammond HR-40 Tone Cabinet
                      Motion Sound Pro 3
                      Motion Sound Low Pro
                      1958 Hammond M-3
                      C.Bechstein D282 9'3" Concert Grand
                      1977 Wurlitzer 200A

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Silken Path View Post
                        There aren't too many spring chickens here, Robert. To add instruments owned or previously owned to the bottom of your posts, click on "Settings" at the top of the page, and then select "Edit Signature" in the left-hand column. You can "Preview" it as much as you want and then, "Save" sets it... to ALL of your posts.
                        Much obliged!
                        sigpic
                        1956 Hammond C-3
                        Circa 1965 Leslie 145
                        1963 Hammond D-152
                        1963 Hammond C-3
                        1959 Hammond HR-40 Tone Cabinet
                        Motion Sound Pro 3
                        Motion Sound Low Pro
                        1958 Hammond M-3
                        C.Bechstein D282 9'3" Concert Grand
                        1977 Wurlitzer 200A

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Thanks for your help with the instrument list. May it ever keep growing.
                          sigpic
                          1956 Hammond C-3
                          Circa 1965 Leslie 145
                          1963 Hammond D-152
                          1963 Hammond C-3
                          1959 Hammond HR-40 Tone Cabinet
                          Motion Sound Pro 3
                          Motion Sound Low Pro
                          1958 Hammond M-3
                          C.Bechstein D282 9'3" Concert Grand
                          1977 Wurlitzer 200A

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Lowrey tends to focus on auto-play, auto-chords, auto-accompaniment from what I can tell. This is as opposed to reading music for solo, accompaniment, and pedal play. You'll find the discussion of Lowrey organs under the Home Organs category. This Theatre Organ category is more focused on organs that sound and play like theatre pipe organs but use electronics.

                            Kawai was the latest builder of Lowrey organs, and they have recently announced the discontinuation of the Lowrey products.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by toodles View Post
                              Lowrey tends to focus on auto-play, auto-chords, auto-accompaniment from what I can tell. This is as opposed to reading music for solo, accompaniment, and pedal play.

                              Kawai was the latest builder of Lowrey organs, and they have recently announced the discontinuation of the Lowrey products.
                              Ah, if that's what the Lowrey's are all about I'm not interested. I do recall my Cinema III was cheesy with that sort of thing, and I'm definitely wanting something more substantial than that. The first thing I want to play on the theatre organ I purchase is Ride of the Valkyries. It may not be what's considered Theatre Organ music but boy, is that music thrilling!

                              Kind of sad to hear about the demise of Lowrey all the same, but regretably, not so surprising.
                              sigpic
                              1956 Hammond C-3
                              Circa 1965 Leslie 145
                              1963 Hammond D-152
                              1963 Hammond C-3
                              1959 Hammond HR-40 Tone Cabinet
                              Motion Sound Pro 3
                              Motion Sound Low Pro
                              1958 Hammond M-3
                              C.Bechstein D282 9'3" Concert Grand
                              1977 Wurlitzer 200A

                              Comment

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