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Retro fitting/updating my console

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  • Retro fitting/updating my console

    I have a Baldwin C-400 digital organ built in the mid 90's. The console is in excellent condition, I want to change the 57 lighted drawknobs to mechanical. I also want to change the 3 plastic key manuals to wood core ones. I am sure I would have to change the internal audio system too. Does anyone know of a company in my neck of the woods that would do such work? I live in central Florida.

  • #2
    That sounds like a lot of work. Why not look for a replacement instrument with the features you want, and sell your current unit to cover the cost of the new organ. If there is money to be had in used organs, and it is limited at best; folks are more likely to pony up cash for a good working used organ that is as it was built by the manufacturer. Doing the modifications you are suggesting would be costly, and most likely kill any potential possible resale value of the instrument.
    Until The Next Dimension,
    Admiral Coluch.

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    • #3
      Sort of depends on what your ultimate goal is. If you are just wanting better hardware but not necessarily the latest in tone generation, any Allen built since about 1976 or so could meet you needs. (All Allen drawknobs are mechanical, they never built them lighted.) Once Allen made the switch from the old "clickety-clack" sequential action to the fully modern "DM" action in the mid-70's, all their drawknob consoles have been solid and reliable with full-featured memory. And all Allen consoles except the low-end models of today with Fatar keys have excellent wood-core keyboards and the best pedalboards in the industry.

      Otherwise, what you are describing is essentially building a new organ inside your existing shell. Since organs are not exactly modular, but built up from individual parts, the cost of such a project could be in the tens of thousands of dollars, due to the high cost of organ parts and the large amount of specialized technical work involved in installing such components into a console shell.

      Obviously, a used Allen organ with mechanical drawknobs would be a much better starting point for your project, since the hardware would already be up to your specifications. You'd only need to add whatever MIDI or other tone generation equipment you want to give you the sound you're looking for. Pre-MDS models are not equipped with MIDI though, so you'd first have to add the necessary MIDI encoders.

      It's actually possible nowadays to get for a reasonable price a used Allen that already has full MIDI implementation (any model built since MDS came out, about 1990), so plug-and-play ready to connect to Hauptwerk or other VPO, if your goal is to have the very latest in tone generation technology. Of course you may find the existing sounds of an organ that new to be good enough already.

      John
      ----------
      Church: Allen MDS-45 with Allen MIDI-DIVISION-II expander
      Home: Allen Renaissance R-230 with expanded four-channel audio and MIDI-DIVISION-II
      Shop: Bunch of organs in varying conditions, some good, some not...
      Half of an incredible two-man organ service team -- servicing all the major digitals in Arkansas churches
      https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

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      • #4
        I remember coming across a site that said if your console (shell) was in good shape they could retro fit new components into it. You could be totally right about the cost though. I don't care about Midi and I am happy with my external sound systems. I only need four outputs (one for each division) as this is a home organ. The Allen, I would hope, would be a more current year then my mid 90's. What could I expect to pay for an Allen as you describe?

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        • #5
          Used Allen organs are offered over a huge range of prices, from free to tens of thousands. You could browse them on ebay for some examples, but keep in mind that there are certain sellers on ebay who list organs for exorbitantly high prices and never sell them. I think they manage to circumvent ebay by having buyers contact them directly, then they negotiate a price and accept private payment, avoiding the 10% cut that ebay would get.

          But prices on ebay are a starting point, and many organs are put there by sincere sellers, frequently churches that are doing away with organ or letting go of an instrument that has been replaced, often for not much money.

          You'd have to sift through all the ads and zero in on some models that look good to you. Any Allen built since the mid-70's could work for you, but the newer ones are of course much better in sound quality. Many people think the late 80's models were a sweet spot, with great sound and features, and the organs old enough now that they go for low prices. I've seen nice three-manual drawknob Allens listed for just a few thousand dollars. But older ones would be even cheaper than that. Just depends on how demanding you are of the sound.

          You'd need to start a thread somewhere to let actual Allen owners and players give you specific info about models and types. That might help you decide what series organ you're most interested in.
          John
          ----------
          Church: Allen MDS-45 with Allen MIDI-DIVISION-II expander
          Home: Allen Renaissance R-230 with expanded four-channel audio and MIDI-DIVISION-II
          Shop: Bunch of organs in varying conditions, some good, some not...
          Half of an incredible two-man organ service team -- servicing all the major digitals in Arkansas churches
          https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

          Comment


          • #6
            John, thanks for the advice. Sounds like you are an Allen fan. If I was to buy a used Allen would service be a problem in central Fl? Also, would it be helpful to give a price point I am willing to pay or would that be asking for trouble?

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            • #7
              You should start by deciding on your requirements. Two manuals or three? Drawknobs or tabs? Speakers in the console or speakers in boxes? How large a console can you accommodate? (Some 3m consoles are HUGE, while others are more manageable, about the size of the one you have.) It may be a major adjustment for you to have external speakers, but that is the way the vast majority of Allen drawknob models are made, so you should consider how much space you can allocate to speaker cabinets.

              Then start watching online for organs that meet your specs. When you see a model that might be of interest, you can certainly post about it on the forum and have someone to fill you in on the details of it. As I said above, I recommend ADC model Allens because they're not so new as to be still expensive, but the sound of ADC models is very good. But a good price on a MDS model might come along, and they are even better in many ways.

              I just don't want to mislead you. Certainly it would be a large step upward in quality going from that C-400 to a solid Allen console with mechanical knobs. But it is a major investment in space to bring in a typical Allen 3m drawknob model, as it will have at least four large speaker cabinets, possibly even more. And buying a used organ may set you up to have some updating, some maintenance, some routine repairs done, as many of our forum members can attest who have bought a used Allen. A 30-year-old Allen may need speakers re-coned and possibly other repairs, as well as a very thorough routine cleaning/maintenance procedure.

              You should try out some Allen consoles and be sure you're willing to invest the money, time, space, and work that may be involved. And that you are ok with the different sound. While your C-400 isn't necessarily "modern" in sound, it does have a rather pleasant tone quality from the built-in speakers, and the tone it has is not bad for up-close listening and small-room playing. An Allen built for a big church may sound a little more "raw" to you in a home setting, so you should be prepared for that, so you won't be surprised at the difference.

              If the touch and feel of wooden keys and mechanical knobs is important to you, then you'll have to go through with it. But be careful and cautious!

              Once you decide to do it, you'll find that prices are simply all over the place. This morning someone put up an ad that was linked to this forum for an Allen 3m ADC drawknob model from the late 80's for the unheard of low price of $2000 on ebay. Absolutely shocking. It looked legit too, being sold out of a church in Pennsylvania going "modern" with their music, apparently. That is one that a dealer might reasonably try to re-sell for $20K to the right buyer. So it may get snapped up immediately by a dealer or even a flipper. But if you are willing to take one that large and go that far to pick it up, you can catch something like that now and then if you keep your eyes and ears open.
              John
              ----------
              Church: Allen MDS-45 with Allen MIDI-DIVISION-II expander
              Home: Allen Renaissance R-230 with expanded four-channel audio and MIDI-DIVISION-II
              Shop: Bunch of organs in varying conditions, some good, some not...
              Half of an incredible two-man organ service team -- servicing all the major digitals in Arkansas churches
              https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

              Comment


              • #8
                John, I haven't used the internal audio on my C-400 for years. I do have 4 large speaker cabinets now. Since I am not familiar with Allen model numbers I was trying to check to see when particular models were made. ADC and MDS appear to be older and therefore cheaper? Are the Renaissance models good? They appear to have been made in the late 90's to early 2000's. I would expect them to be pricier. Their prices are probably all over the place too? Have you seen any prices on them? I saw that ebay listing also. Sounded too good to be true for the 3m ADC. Of course, you'd have to go to Pa. to get it! I'm really looking for the 3m console. The room in our house that the C-400 lives is almost 1000 sq. ft. so I'm not too scared of the size. I just want to get a quality organ that will last and that can be serviced. I have had the C-400 for @25 years now and It is showing some age. I am almost 70 now so this would be the last chance to get my dream organ. Thanks again for all of your valuable assistance. I really appreciate your feedback.

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