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Cheapest (Yet Dependable) VPO

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  • Cheapest (Yet Dependable) VPO

    I think this is where this post should go. Feel free to move it if need be.

    Does anybody have any personal experience of a company that provided them with a sweet deal on a VPO? I would also be interested in purchasing an organ that a company would MIDI-fy for me. I'm starting to consider this option and was curious to hear from all of you. Thanks in advance. - Philip
    Last edited by Philip Powell; 01-10-2021, 05:59 PM.
    “I play the notes as they are written (well, I try), but it is God who makes the music.” - Johann Sebastian Bach
    Organs I Play:
    - Allen 2100(T); 1951 M.P. Moller, 3 manual, 56 stop, 60 ranks, (Opus 8152); and 1965 Balcom and Vaughan 3 manual, 34 stops, 25 ranks (Opus 690)

  • #2
    It depends on your budget and skills. The cheapest will always be an old electric organ that you midify yourself. I don’t think any company will be able to provide you with too much of a deal, as the cost of production is so high for an all new machine.

    Comment


    • Philip Powell
      Philip Powell commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks. I should mention that a company that would sell me a MIDI-fyed console is an option (i.e. Arnold Organs).

  • #3
    I believe Content organs have been mentioned here before. They make a line of instruments specifically for Hauptwerk. Apparently, you can provide the audio system or they offer it as well. I do not know if they are dependable. "Cheap" is relative, of course.
    Content Hauptwerk Models

    Their dealer locator map shows three dots in the USA/Canada, but no details on exactly where.
    Content Worldwide

    No personal experiece.
    George

    Comment


    • Larason2
      Larason2 commented
      Editing a comment
      It looks like the cheapest Content model is in the 15,000 range (12000 euros). That’s about what you’d expect to pay for the entry level model for a new organ from almost any builder.

  • #4
    I have been very pleased with my Content. I purchased a 12 year old used instrument that I use as my midi console. I disabled the internal sound system of the organ by putting a jack adapter into the headphone jack. I use the Midi out function to send info to Hauptwerk and it works well.

    The original owner of my instrument purchased a library of additional voices, for which Content uses the Midi In function. Therefore, I cannot get midi in information from Hauptwerk. However, that has not been a problem because I use my touch screen to select stops individually or, more often, I use the pistons on my Content to activate Hauptwerk pistons.

    My used 3-manual instrument cost a fraction of the price of a comparable new instrument.
    Bill

    My home organ: Content M5800 as a midi controller for Hauptwerk

    Comment


    • Philip Powell
      Philip Powell commented
      Editing a comment
      Did you purchase this used organ via Content?

    • voet
      voet commented
      Editing a comment
      No, I got it from a private individual who advertised it on this forum.

  • #5
    It's probably quite difficult to find the perfect ready-to-go VPO without spending many thousands of dollars. Organs simply aren't mass-produced at low cost like many consumer items, or even like keyboards or digital pianos or synths or whatever that are aimed at the popular music market. Ready-made VPO consoles are an even narrower field than hardware organs, so unless somebody is building them as a labor of love in their own garage, the barebones costs of production are going to be higher than the cost of an entry-level organ model from one of the large companies.

    As much as I'd love to have one of those beautiful purpose-built consoles like the Content 325 or even the Johannus Live! or the Viscount Hymmersive, they will always be out of my reach financially unless I win the lottery, and that's why I've settled for my ugly little home-brew Frankenstein's monster VPO.

    I certainly don't recommend that other people do what I've done. I'm in a unique position, with old clunker organs coming through the shop for salvaging on a regular basis. So I got my console by gutting an otherwise ruined Rodgers Cheetah, saving the pedal board that came with it, though the pedals need re-felting. And my keyboards came from a 1980-something Baldwin that was beyond repair electronically, but the excellent LoDuca keyboards were in perfect condition. I had a MIDI encoder kit left over from a junked-out pipe organ. And I've settled for an ordinary touch-screen in place of real stop controls until I can do better. But few people will be able to pull together the same set of junk parts and have them all fit together and work as well.

    SO......... Here's what I would recommend to a typical player who wants to get into a VPO. Get yourself a good working used Allen MDS model that exactly fits your needs hardware-wise. You don't have to like the sound of it, just the hardware. If you want three manuals, get a three-manual. If you want knobs, get knobs. Just make sure it's an MDS model, and preferably one of the slightly later MDS models with two MIDI OUT jacks -- one intended specifically for a sequencer. The sequencer output is the one to use for a VPO because it is "unswitched" -- sends out the MIDI stream for all divisions even without the MIDI coupler being drawn. That makes it perfect for connecting to a VPO system. Then all you have to do is right-click on each stop, piston, division, etc. in Hauptwerk or Grand Orgue and assign it to the corresponding control on your Allen console.

    This way of doing it will (1) probably cost less than buying any ready-made VPO console, (2) give you Allen's superb keyboards and pedals and real moving knobs at a fraction of the cost of buying premium hardware from a VPO supply store, (3) be in a beautiful sturdy console, (4) and you'll be able to use it as a straight hardware organ if and when you so desire, because the MIDI is built right into the Allen system and you won't have to gut the console to convert it.

    You may have to pay $10K for a large 1990's Allen three-manual, but that's a lot less than the cost of any three manual VPO. You might even get lucky, as I've seen several people do in recent years, and get yourself an Allen that cost $200K when new for well under $10K.

    Though we have a large number of forum members who have ADC or MADC Allens, and they love them, I'd recommend the MDS series for someone like you who really wants to use it for a VPO base, since full MIDI implementation is built in and ready to use. ADC/MADC models can be converted for VPO usage, but quite a bit of work is required, and the parts to do it right can be expensive.
    John
    ----------
    *** 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!

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

    Comment


    • #6
      Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
      Here's what I would recommend to a typical player who wants to get into a VPO. Get yourself a good working used Allen MDS model that exactly fits your needs hardware-wise.
      Philip, as usual, John has excellent advice. He and others on this forum have a wealth of knowledge that they freely offer. "Ask and you shall receive."

      John's advice would also work for other brands that send out a MIDI stream. If you find something that looks good to you, just be sure to ask for the opinions of people on this forum. The collective wisdom will most likely include someone who has experience and knowledge that will be invaluable to you.

      Best wishes in your quest.
      Bill

      My home organ: Content M5800 as a midi controller for Hauptwerk

      Comment


      • jbird604
        jbird604 commented
        Editing a comment
        Yes. Though I tend to focus on Allen, and Allen hardware is generally of a more premium quality, other brands of digitals from the late 80's onward often have very complete MIDI implementation. Rodgers in particular was doing an extremely thorough job of send out console data on MIDI by the end of the analog era, around 1989. PDI models, which came out in 1990, will have a full MIDI system and need no modifications to run a Hauptwerk system. Just be sure to ask all the right questions and make sure that whatever you get is 100% ready to interface with your VPO. An Allen MDS model is certainly going to work.

        One reason to prefer Allen though is that the parts are still readily available, whereas Rodgers has limited support for their older models. Same thing can be said for other brands. Viscount, Johannus, etc have good MIDI support going back about as long, but the parts could be harder to find if your organ ever malfunctioned.

    • #7
      I agree as well. In my area there are less older organs with Midi, but quite a few organs from the 70’s to 80’s. That means that not many of them are set up for midi, but there have been quite a few available with good pedal boards and manuals that can be converted to midi. You would need an enterprising local tech to make the conversion though, unless you would like to learn the skills yourself. I found a local organist who was happy to take my old VPO which was in good working order and quite reliable, so there may be some people in your area who have similar skills and undertake similar projects.

      Comment


      • #8
        You people may cringe or think I'm crazy, but when my Wurlitzer 950 gave up, I wanted to repair it but I modified it to a VPO. I hope to repair the Wurlitzer, I have the replacement boards, but I would like to make it that I can play either the Wurlitzer or VPO. I am still trying to figure out a solution to do that. I am using 4 Arduino's for the VPO. The modifications that I did to the organ can easily be undone.

        Comment


        • Larason2
          Larason2 commented
          Editing a comment
          Definitely don’t think you’re crazy! My first organ was an analog Yamaha E3R that I gutted. I regret gutting it because I would have liked the experience of trying to repair it, and also I regret not keeping the parts, many of which would have been useful! On the other hand though, I now know the difficulty of trying to implement midi on circuits that are still operational, and it’s not trivial! I think I need to study more electrical engineering to get better at it! For my current model, I’m glad I didn’t gut my Allen because I am enjoying the onboard sounds, and it turned out to be not too hard to midify with a commercial board. So the decision to gut is a tough one, and I respect it either way.

      • #9
        Jbird’s advice is very good of course, but just as an alternative...

        If you’re patient you may be able to find a used console cheap which supports MIDI. I have less than $2000 into my VPO which includes an early 90’s 3 manual Viscount console with full MIDI (which I got for free), an 8 channel audio system, and an i7 Mac Mini. This was something I put together over time, waiting for really good deals on parts I wanted. The Viscount console isn’t high quality like an Allen and I’ve had to do some repairs, but it plays well with very little maintenance now.
        Viscount C400 3-manual
        8 channels + 2 reverb channels (w/ Lexicon MX200)
        Klipsch RSX-3 speakers and Klipsch Ultra 5.1 subwoofers

        Comment


        • jbird604
          jbird604 commented
          Editing a comment
          You did well, RJS. I'm happy that yours turned out so well. Nothing wrong with the path you took. Right now, I'd love to have an intact console as new as yours with lighted controls so I could ditch the touch screen. While a superb Allen MDS model would be a dream come true, it's unlikely to come free. Perhaps something like that will come along for me one of these days.

        • Philip Powell
          Philip Powell commented
          Editing a comment
          This is what I'd hope to do but I may not have the patience to wait for a MIDI supported console.

      • #10
        I probably have spent a bit over 10K on my VPO, BUT it was important to me that it feel like a more traditional organ and not like a PC with manuals and a pedal board. The great thing about a VPO is that you can build it over time, so that $10-ish-K was spent over six years. The Hauptwerk software itself was around $600, stop controls were $1K, toe studs $250, I used an old PC, I'm on my fourth audio interface (now a MOTU with 8 channels), on my fourth amp, I have four sets of speakers (Started with Definitive Tech Towers, then Klipsh towers, Rockville's with dual 15" subs, Macke book shelf speakers), I've swapped out the computer for a server-class machine, added a sub woofer (Definitive Tech Super Cube 4000, current at my church connected to our Allen, but coming home soon), and upgraded Hauptwerk to the last version soon to do the current version. My console was a Pipe console, so I had to get encoder cards from DTS (I don't remember how much these were, but I think they were around $400-$500), I added a third manual (a Fatar manual) for around $350. I want moving stop controls, so I've started collecting SAMS. I think, by far the most amount I've spent is on audio, so if you're not as worried about how it sounds, you could probably put something together for $3-ish-K, including the Hauptwerk software.
        Mark
        At Church: Allen MDS-15
        At Home: 3 Manual Hauptwerk VPO

        Comment


        • #11
          I have a basic question regarding the "use an old electronic organ console" approach from someone ignorant of how audio systems and these digital organs work (me!). I have an Allen MDS organ and understand how MIDI could be used to control Hauptwerk. My question comes to the audio. If I want to keep the option of using either tone source (Allen generated or Hauptwerk generated) individually, NOT simultaneously, is it possible (reasonable/easy) to do so, assuming I want to use the MDS stop controls to also control Hauptwerk? (Of course, that begs the question that the Hauptwerk sound would be so awesome and who would want to go back to the MDS tone, but that's a separate question.)

          I can see the following three scenarios:

          1. The two systems are totally separated, including separate audio systems, only interconnected by MIDI. No Hauptwerk - OK, just don't turn the PC on. No MDS - what, wire up a separate switch to control power to the MDS amps (outside of opening the back and turning down the amp volume, for example)?

          2. The Hauptwerk system uses 2 or more channels/amps/speakers from the Allen as well. Any way to knife switch the Allen tone generation into the amps?

          3. For all practical purposes, it would be best to just go to Haupwerk and abandon the MDS tone generation, simply by not powering up the amps (scenarion #1) or unplugging the MDS inputs to the amps (scenario #2), and if it ever became necessary to go back to MDS, these changes are easily but not conveniently reversed - OR - if both tone sources must be available easily and conveniently, use touch screens to control Haupwerk, not the stop controls of the organ console.

          Is scenario #3 the only real choice?

          George

          Comment


          • Larason2
            Larason2 commented
            Editing a comment
            On the Audio side, you could feed Hauptwerk back into the Allen amp, but you would have to rewire it. For my Allen Mos2 225RTC, what I did was cut the input to the amp, wire that to a small mixer, then wire the mixer output back to the amp. You could then have either Hauptwerk or the Allen audio or both fed into the Allen amp/monitors through the mixer. As well, it makes a nice headphone solution. It's not a hard DIY to do, and you could do it with a fairly inexpensive mixer. I recommend the Yamaha MG06 or the Behringer Xenyx 1002FX.

            Having the stop controls work with Hauptwerk is another story, however. I'm not sure if the Allen Midi board also sends midi messages for the stops. John Kinkennon's solution seems to control stops, so that is one to look into for MDS organs. If whatever solution you adopt doesn't control stops, you could always control them in Hauptwerk with a touch screen or something like the Launchpad product.

            I'm a Hauptwerk user, but I also appreciate Allen's built in sounds, so I would want to have both. It also makes your organ more marketable once you no longer need it.

          • SchnarrHorn
            SchnarrHorn commented
            Editing a comment
            Thanks!!

            Yes, my MDS does send MIDI info for the stops. When I first got the instrument, I played around a bit with MIDI recording, using Cakewalk (very cheap back then, not the expensive software that replaced it) on a PC with a MIDI interface card (no USB back then!!). All stop setup, changes and expression pedal movements were captured accurately.

            "I also appreciate Allen's built in sounds, so I would want to have both. It also makes your organ more marketable once you no longer need it."

            This.

            George

        • #12
          If you would want to use the speakers in the Allen, my idea would be to consider putting relays in the audio line and a switch under the apron of the organ to control the relays. Flip the switch one way for the Allen audio and flip it the other way for the VPO. I would use one relay per channel. Just my idea.

          Comment


          • SchnarrHorn
            SchnarrHorn commented
            Editing a comment
            Thanks!

            George

        • #13
          While it was recorded about 6 months ago, I just came across this video that explains how to connect an organ with MIDI to Hauptwerk. I thought it might be helpful to people who are following this thread.

          Bill

          My home organ: Content M5800 as a midi controller for Hauptwerk

          Comment


          • Philip Powell
            Philip Powell commented
            Editing a comment
            If only I had an organ with MIDI.

        • #14
          An update: I found a website in Minnesota (Arnold Organs) that offers to either MIDIfy your console or one from their shop for only $1500 (doesn’t include shipping I assume). That sure does sound like a steal to me. UNFORTUNATELY, they’re so busy that they aren’t taking any rebuilds this year. That sort of thing happens in 2020!!! Are we having a carry over to 2021😳 Beware everyone, beware.
          “I play the notes as they are written (well, I try), but it is God who makes the music.” - Johann Sebastian Bach
          Organs I Play:
          - Allen 2100(T); 1951 M.P. Moller, 3 manual, 56 stop, 60 ranks, (Opus 8152); and 1965 Balcom and Vaughan 3 manual, 34 stops, 25 ranks (Opus 690)

          Comment


          • iPlayKeys
            iPlayKeys commented
            Editing a comment
            Arnold does really great work. I worked with them for some of the parts for my Hauptwerk setup, and the Hauptwerk software itself. My church ALMOST bought an instrument from Arnold for our sanctuary, but we ended up going Allen and spending literally twice as much. Their demo instrument was beautiful and sounded great. In the end the committee decided that Allen was the safer choice because these new fangled PC based things are just too scary

        • #15
          What is your budget? I may have a lead on two already completed Hauptwerk organs (converted by a Minnesota builder, not the one you mentioned) that might be purchased in spring or early summer.

          Comment


          • Philip Powell
            Philip Powell commented
            Editing a comment
            I was hoping for around 5k but it sounds like that might not be close to what I need.
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