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Advice on buying a church Organ

Date: Sun, 10 May 1998 20:54:25 -0400
From: Nelson and Tracy Denton
Subject: Betty Roe's organ purchase dilema - organ related web resources

> 8) Church organs: Digital vs. Pipe
> by "Betty G. Roe

Sorry for the slightly of topic reply but I think that this topic is one
that affects many Choral Directors and Musicians. And it is one that has
major ramifications to the happiness of any choral group or church choir .
I've seen too many fine groups destroyed by well meaning but ill-informed
decision makers.

My suggestions for organ related resources are listed below.


>I need help! My church is building a new sanctuary (budgeted at
>approximately 2 million) and the chairman of the building committee, by
>trying to hold to the budget, is pushing the organ committee/building
>committee to consider a digital organ at a considerable savings to the
>church. I need some ammunition from my colleagues to give to the building
>committee, organ committee and pastoral staff as to why the pipe organ is
>the superior organ for worship. Have you ever faced this problem? What
>arguments have you used? Do you have any resources that I could turn to?

If you require any information about pipe organs and other builders
comments and thoughts simply look at my website

http://www.freeyellow.com/members/radentonson

"The Pipe Organ Tracker Project"

This website contains thousands of links to organ builders all over the
world and is the largest source of Pipe Organ and Related Keyboard
Instrument Links on the web.

You may also wish to subscribe to Piporg-l, Pipechat, orgue-l or
organ-list These e-mail lists like Choralist are for organ builders organ
lovers and organists. I'm sure you can get loads of help on making a
decision about a new organ for your church.

The list's archives contain hundreds of similar questions to yours and
there are many many good replys available.





My thoughts on this topic.

>The cost to move the present organ with minor
>enhancements and repairs is $225,000.00 and the cost of a new pipe organ
>built by the same builder is about $250,000.00.


Moving and making minor enhancements to any organ should cost much less
than the cost to build an entirely new instrument. Unless the organ is
suffering from major problems the amount of $225,000.00 seems to be an
awfull lot of money to spend moving and rebuilding a 3-32.

We generally consider the cost of buying, rebuilding and re-installing an
organ to be 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of a new instrument. To spend 90 percent of
the cost of a new organ simply moving an old organ and doing "minor repairs
and enhancements" is a bit much. If the old organ is in that bad a shape
then you will know it. ( it won't work most of the time)

To spend $250,000.00 on a new organ is OK. To spend that kind of money on
an old one that is just being moved from one room to another seems very
excessive.

I hope that you have taken the time to make sure that you have contacted at
least 3 major organ builders and taken the time to make sure that your
choices are correct and that everyone knows every possible option.

People should spend as much time picking an organ as they would their new
home, car or spouse. Anything less and you will always regret your choices
later.


My personal opinion is that if you are planning on spending $225,000.00 you
would be best served by buying a new instrument and keeping the old one
where it is and use it for services in the "chapel". If the existing organ
is still operational why trash it. For most organs tuning and minor
repairs are just a few hundred to a couple of thousand dollars a year. This
is a tiny portion of the cost of any new instrument and remember you will
still want an instrument for your "chapel" and this will cost money.


Some years ago we had the same situation with Knox College Chapel at the
University of Toronto. Someone had donated the money for a brand new
tracker organ for the balcony of the Chapel. The old romantic 3 manual 40+-
rank Casavant organ was put up for sale.

We were asked to remove the old organ from the chapel as it was deemed
unnecessary and was just taking up space and was to be sold for a few
thousand dollars.

When we pointed out the fact that the space gained by removing the old
organ was only going to be a 5' x 5' area for the console ( as the old
organ chambers were to be left intact) we suggested that the organ be left
as it was ( it was in good working order) and simply tuned and serviced as
it always was. ( cost about $1500.00 per year).

The old organ was perfect for playing Romantic music and the new organ was
only suitable for Baroque Music.
Don't you think that a world class theology and music college could use
both organs?

Duh???!!!!

Fortunately somebody listened and the old organ was spared removal.
Unfortunately the church that had decided to buy the organ and had placed a
major downpayment on the old organ had to start all over looking for
another organ.


My choice?

Keep the old organ and buy a new organ for your new sanctuary. The best of
both worlds, and the cheapest.

If you must buy a new "Toaster" for your "chapel" keep the old organ as it
is. Thus you will have 3 organs

Nelson Denton

( We have been building and servicing organs for over 125 years so we've
been around the block with this problem a few hundred times)

Remember

"Progess is not always towards the good"
Nelson E. Denton
R. A. Denton and Son
Pipe Organ Builders
Hamilton Ontario, Canada

The Pipe Organ Tracker Project
http://www.freeyellow.com/members/radentonson
The worlds "second" largest collection of organ related links

Date: Wed, 27 May 1998 13:02:58 -0400
From: "Dr. Angela L. Batey"
Subject: Digital Organ Results (Very Long)

Many thanks to all who replied!!!! Some responses are quite passionate and
have the potential of beginning a "flame war". Please note that names have
been deleted to protect the innocent {or guilty!} and all opinions are of
the individual writers! :-)

Results of the question:

Of the digital organs available, which brand do you prefer?

For those who do not wish to wade through all the comments, here's the
voting:
Advent: 1
Ahlborn-Galanti: 3
Allen: 10
Baldwin: 3
Johannes: 1
Norwich: 1
Rodgers: 7
Temple: 1
VanKoevering: 1
Walker: 1
Zimmer: 1

And the comments:

We have a new Ahlborn-Galanti, and are very happy with it!
*******
Allen Digital Organs - all the way - no comparison!
*******
Not speaking from personal experience, but my dad has a Norwich Organ at
his church, and electronic copy of a pipe organ in Walsingham. He thinks
very highly of it.
*******
We purchased Baldwin, but the GREAT price had a lot to do with it. Rodgers
probably has the best technology and support for its instruments. If I had
the money to buy one, I probably would go with the Rodgers, although the
Baldwin works well for us. Their tech support is not as good and the
Church Organ Division of Baldwin has been sold.
*******
Without doubt, I think any organist would tell you that in the best
of all possible worlds a good pipe organ is always the preference.
The important word there is good. This means dependable, well
voiced, suited to the room in which it is placed and built by a
reputable builder. I have played on organs that have been butcher
jobs to say the least and probably should never have been installed
in the first place.

So, to your question. There are a number of electronic organ
builders out there in the world. I would without reservation
recommend Allen. There technology is up to date and is in a
leadership role. They are committed to traditional values often
thrown off by some electronic builders in favor of the latest visual
gadget. I have visited the Allen works in Mucungie, PA and was very
impressed with what I saw. I should stress that I am NOT an Allen dealer
nor do I receive any kind of retainer from them or their
dealers. I have owned and played other electronic instruments but, I
have found Allen to be the best. Since these instruments are built
here in the US there is always easy access to the company.
*******
Part of your job will be to hear various digital organs. Each company
specializes in some portion of the market. The one company that seems to do
it best, in my opinion, is the Allen Organ Company. Their new Renaissance
Technology is astounding and makes the digital organ completely flexible.
They have a CD rom capability that will allow you, with little effort, to
make your digital instrument sound different each week to support authentic
sounds which
you wish to use.
*******
We recently bought a Rodgers 960(3 manual) w/a Rodgers PR300 sound
module/sequencer. What a GREAT instrument! Of course, it is MIDI'd, has a
great list of instruments to add to the organ sounds(GS compatible). It
cost around $50k(included installation-which was VERY involved). Would
recommend very highly.
*******
This is in response to your question about digital organs. I have been an
organist for 40 years (can't possibly be -- I'm only 35 years old. . .),
and have played just about everything invented, from electrified reed
organs to huge, 5-manual pipe organs. I have also taught organ at two
local colleges. Fortunately it has been my privilege to play only pipe
organs in church positions. However, I did work for Rodgers Electronic
Organs for a while, selling and demonstrating.

I do recommend the Rodgers very highly. If there is any chance of pulling
a few extra dollars out of the congregation, I further recommend the
Rodgers pipe augmented organ, especially with the Principal pipes. The
only part of the organ which has yet not been successfully duplicated is
the Principal (diapason) sound, and that is the "backbone" of the organ.
If the principal/diapason sound is good, the rest of the organ will be
greatly enhanced. Flutes are easily duplicated electronically, with or
without chiff, and reeds and strings are quite satisfactory on most
instruments.

If you look at Allen digital organs, listen carefully to the speaker
systems. In my experience there has been an extraneous "noise", a humming
kind of sound, coming through the speakers. Also, it has been my
experience that they are less flexible than the Rodgers, tending to a more
knife-edge type of sound.

I no longer work for Rodgers. I did play a lot of Hammond, Baldwin and
Allen organs during the time I was working for Rodgers. They simply
confirmed my already strong opinion that Rodgers was the best. In my
humble opinion.
*******
Without question, Allen is the way to go. It's no accident that Allen is
the world's largest producer of church organs.

I have hands-on, regular experience with several Allens of various sizes in
several churches (since 1971). Perhaps more significantly, when it came to
buying my own organ (with my own money), I purchased an Allen.

By the way, my first love in organs is Casavant - but you can't always
afford pipes.
*******
I am fortunate to play a 52 rank pipe organ (Temple Organs) built prior to
their becoming involved with the Artisan Digital. I've played a couple of
their instruments in recital and rehearsal apart from the recital and I'm
convinced they're the BEST of the BEST.
*******
Allen Digital. For about $45,000 you can get the equivalent of a 36 rank
pipe with speakers at each end of the sanctuary. You can even get your
digital pipe to have the "whoosh" sound coming through. You can pretty
much pick and choose your stops if you want to. I play a pipe at my church
(seating capacity 300) with 13 ranks. It is wonderful, but the flexibility
that I've encountered with the Allen Digital Pipe has been wonderful when
I've played for weddings at other places.
*******
My very enthusiastic opinion is to go for the Allen organ. this
company is intensely serious about ever-improving their technology.
They sell more church organs alone than all other manufacturers
*combined*, including their main competitor, Rogers. You don't achieve that
by making a bad product!

The Allen organ sounds are amazingly pipe-like. Their research and
development department is always busy. I urge you to hear a
demonstration of a well-installed Allen organ.

I bought a four-manual Allen in 1982 and the church fell in love with
it instantly. ***** Baptist, a mega-church in Dallas, has bought a nearly
half-million dollar Allen for their new church worship center. My own
church in ****, Texas, will be buying a $300,000 Allen. BUT, fear not, even
their less-expensive organs sound great. They will help match your organ to
your budget.

No, I don't work for Allen, but I sure do believe in what they're
doing.
*******
In my humble and very learned opinion as a professional organist, Rodgers
is by far the best. Each individual pipe (note) of each rank is voiceable
which is not available on Allens. The Rodgers sounds are MUCH better, the
electronics are the best in the industry, and they really know what they
are doing and take the time in installing and voicing each instrument.

Allens prices are terribly inflated (which includes a finders fee) ...
usually to the tune of 10 to 13 THOUSAND dollars more for comparable
instruments. A really nice sound IS possible on an Allen, but the only
really satisfactory instruments I've heard are the few where the company
has taken 2 weeks to voice the instrument (and unless you are shelling out
HUGE dollars, they aren't going to take that much time). Allen is a large
company with big hype -
don't let them pull the Golden Fleece over your eyes. Actually, the BEST
instrument I have heard recently was a ZIMMER - but their prices may be too
high, although you might check them out. Before you decide, contact Allen,
Rodgers & Zimmer and take a trip to see some installations near you - see
and hear as many as you can and play. That is really the only way to make
the decision. In the long run it's the sound, capabilities and quality of
the instrument and
not the price that should be the deciding factor.
*******
ALLEN ORGAN is by far the finest digital. We recently, installed a new 4
manual Allen Digital, called the "DeCou" Organ by ALLEN. It is really
wonderful in its versatility!
*******
We've gone through this twice in my 20 years at ******** Christian
Conference Center, and we finally settled on a Baldwin Organ four years ago.

I confess to not being up-to-date on the competition, since I'm currently
not in the shopping mode, but we are very happy with the Baldwin. I found
it more user-friendly than Allen. However, it depends what your needs are.
The Allen has a more liturgical sound, and could perhaps be considered more
authentically "pipe" sounding than others.

Rodgers also has a new (amazingly small) digital organ that is programmable
and produces quite an amazing sound. It is not as user friendly at first
glance, but is not terribly difficult to learn. Pipe organ snobs or
purists would have a terrible time with it. Again, it depends on WHO is
using it, and for what purposes, what the acoustics are like, and what your
budget is. Are you planning to make your site available to local "legit"
organists for concerts? Is the church rapidly moving toward a contemporary
style, or is it
more traditional and likely to remain so?

Most of the major companies will now do hybrid pipe/digital combinations,
that really reduce the cost of pipe, but give some of the benefits. Midi
is amazing, and you can do so much these days with combinations. And
remember, when the "price" issue comes up: most churches find it is easier
to raise money for an organ than for almost anything else in the church.

I'd just ask at least the three major companies (Allen, Rodgers, and
Baldwin) to bring out some equipment and let you "test drive" it. Or at
least ask for some places that a committee could see and hear an actual
installation. Just taking the results of a poll can really end up skewed.
But hopefully you'll get some good input from other users of digital
equipment.
*******
Advent - there is no other real choice in America. They use the same
technology as a London company - and the same technical experts.
*******
I am Director of Music for a Methodist Church in ****, CT which has a small
congregation and a smaller budget. We were blessed and received an
anonymous donation when we needed to purchase a new organ. An Organ
Committee was formed (inevitable) which consisted of myself, my organist,
one of our choir members who represented our Administrative Council and
Staff Parish Relations Committee. Since our money was limited we really
wanted to get the most out of it. Interestingly enough my organist and I
were of one accord on this issue. We both preferred either Rodgers or
Allen, with Rodgers being the absolute favorite. We both said we would
prefer a cheaper Rodgers than a more expensive anything else. Rodgers is
the Mack Truck (Sherman Tank, aka "built to last") of organs with the most
glorious tones per square inch than any other organ I know of. We got a
Rodgers, we're very, very happy.
*******
We have recently purchased a digital organ for our new sanctuary of seating
capacity 1700. I looked at many organs and a variety of installations all
over Texas and Milwaukee. We decided on the Allen Renaissance organ
because of its particularly authentic sounds and versatility. I highly
recommend that you check it out.
*******
I think the two top organs to consider are Allen and Rogers. At this
time, I give Allen a slight edge.
*******
Until one has carefully considered the possibiliteies of a used
and often high-quality pipe organ from *name of company*, one cannot
properoly conclude that a pipe organ is not possible.

Some of this discussion involves an issue of integrity. How often
we see digital organs installed behind a display of "false," i.e.,
non-speaking pipes. The whole situation intends to give people the
impression that they are hearing what they, in reality, are not!! In
other words, it seeks to create a false impression. If ever authenticity
and integrity ought to be paramount, they should be thus in the Church.

Admittedly, some people are more attracted by slick, "impressive"
things, whether buildings with artifically "grand" appearances, organ
consoles with lots of stops, pistons, etc., flashy trim on one's car, etc.,
etc., than by matters of "honoest workshmanship," etc. Such people think
that a three-manual electronic instrument with perhaps 60 stops is more to
be desired than a two-manual pipe organ of, say, 20 stops. Such people
confuse quantity with quality.

When we see so much of society seeming to lose sight of real values of
things, too often we need look no further than the Church's example
provided to our own people as to just why the deeper values of
things are so often forgotten. Having and making clear the real value and
honest integrity of a pipe organ provides just one example of many in this
regard.

Apart from the above: some firms pride themselves in making small
pipe organs available to church with limited resources.
Taking the long view, the purchase of a pipe organwhich is likely
to last a long time, especially if a tracker action organ, is ultimately
cheapter than buying a succession of electronic instruments over the life
of that one pipe organ, each more expensive than the one before, at least
in the face value of the dollars spent, if not in real value of the
dollars spent. In the long run, electronic organs cost more.

Electronic instrument builders pride themselves in a claim that
their imitation organs sound like pipe organs, which they admit is the
"real thing." We see electronic instrument firms hiding their speakers
behinds displays of pipes. Did anyone ever see a firm hiding genuine,
speaking pipes behind a display of electronic speakers?
*******
Your choice of organ is largely going to be determined by the type of music
you generally use. There are two leaders in the field of digital organs as
far as I am concerned. Baldwin and Ahlborn-Galanti are the current leaders
in the area of technology. The Allen people will tell they are the best
since they "pioneered the digital organ; however, their technology is about
15 years behind what others are doing today.

I use a very nice Baldwin three manual with drawknobs. They also make a
four and a five manual. There is an excellent four manual installation in
an Episcopal church in Milwaukee and a five manual in Gesu Church at
Marquette University in Milwaukee. These have variable voicing for
traditional or a more romantic sound, full MIDI capability, etc. They are
very versatile and well suited for a broad spectrum of music from classical
to traditional to contemporary. With a sound module connected through
MIDI, you can do some
very nice things with contemporary music. This allows you to use strings,
voices, and a full range of sounds to supplement the more traditional organ
stops.

For a truly traditional pipe-like classical sounding organ take a good look
at the Ahlborn-Galanti. They are made in Italy by a long-standing organ
company that has built pipe organ for centuries. Their digital samples are
of the finest organs in the world and simply cannot be topped if you want
the most pipe-like sound possible for an electronic organ. Their
technology is far ahead of anyone elses. With both of these instruments it
is also possible to add ranks of wind-blown pipes to be used along with the
electronics. You could add a rank or two (or more depending on your
budget) of principal pipes
and have a truly outstanding installation.
*******
Try Walker Technical Company Inc. They are doing digital installations and
retrofits all over the country and are probably the est kept secret in the
business. They have developed proprietary digital systems that put the
others to shame. You would be amazed
to see who they have done installations for.
*******
I'd take a serious look at Galanti or Johannes - I'm not too crazy about
Rogers.
*******
Definitely Rodgers!
*******
In the last month we purchased a new Rogers organ- 3 manuals with all the
trimmings. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the sound it
produces. There are some bells and whistles that I could live without, but
they will come in handy for special occasions, such as children's choir,
plays, etc.

I was on the faculty of a university where the "chapel" (seats over 2000
people) had 2 organs, one which was over 100 ranks. What a joyful sound
for the Lord! HOWEVER, I
must say that digital organs have come a long, long, l o n g way in recent
years. I was surprised at the quality of sound that the Rogers produced.
Allens are fine too, but don't overlook the newest Rogers if possible.
*******

*Name's* recent criticism of electronic organ technology may have inferred
things that aren't true. First, to infer that all electronic organs are
essentially equal may be debatable as philosophy, but as fact is wrong. The
two leading makers spend enormous sums of money in R&D ever-improving their
product. The differences between the top two and all the rest are
remarkable.

Second, regarding "fake" pipes, it should be noted that such things
are quite often *requested* by the church, *not* "sold" by the
manufacturer's rep.

Thirdly, it should be noted that at least 2-3 of the leading makers
offer combination instruments (pipe with electronics). Therefore those
"fake" pipes might not be fake after all!
*******
There are none out there that are built better and sound better than ALLEN.
They are producing the clearest pipe-like sounds in the business. Call them
in Macungie, PA -- they will send you a recording that will knock your
socks off. I play a large ALLEN each Sunday morning that I still have
people who are somewhat knowledgeable asking, "Where are the pipes?" It's a
given that
someone as well trained as you probably are will be able to tell the
difference. BUT 95% won't.

Another suggestion: Listen to all the organs: Rogers, Baldwin, Galanti
(sp?) and have an open mind Technology is changing so rapidly that someone
may have surpassed ALLEN. But I am a living testimonial for them that will
take a great deal of convincing to change me to another manufacturer.
*******
Either Rodgers of Allen with pref. to Rodgers because you are able to
combine pipes with it.
*******
Check out the VanKoevering line of instruments. I believe you will be amazed.
*******
We are currently getting a new digital organ too, so may I
recommend to you what we are getting. I have always been pleased with the
Rodgers Organ Co., so we are continuing our associtation with them with the
purchase of the 751i. The organ has a MIDI interface, so we are installing
a Rodgers Synthesizer unit as well. I think you will be well pleased with
the sound.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
* Angela L. Batey, D. M. A. * e-mail:
batey(a)utk.edu
* Associate Director of Choral Activities * Phone: 423-974-6649
* University of Tennessee * FAX: 423-974-1941
* Knoxville, Tennessee 37996
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

on June 9, 2002 10:00pm
Come on you Yanks, get real
Forget these plastic flower imitations. You are the country that has some of the finest pipe organ tradesmen in the world. Order a comprehensive 25 or so stop 2 manual mechanical action organ and you will have a musical instrument that lasts and will do a variety of worship and musical tasks. The financial figures do work out.

In New Zealand Allen's have lost their integrity. They are far behind the technology 8 ball. Try Copeman Hart if you must-at least their consoles are real. Viscount/Galanti are superior to Allen now.

Better still, buy a redundant Victorian organ from the 1850s-1890s period and have it restored. It will happily accompany around 200 people, play a wide repertoire and be suitable for soloist or choral work. The OHS will provide details or BIOS in England.

Please people, lets get some autheticity back into worship. That's what the church needs- or should we water the plastic flowers?
on November 21, 2004 10:00pm
When I first started my career as an organist, I was very much pro pipe. Today, the church where I am Music Director has a custom three manual draw knob Allen which was installed five years ago and has performed admirably without any maintainance problems for all types of services.
I have heard all of the arguments of pipe versus computer organs and I believe that if the church has a limited budget, the computer organ is the way to go.
My reasoning is this: What organist has gone in to play a service or program and because of temperature and humidity found the reeds horribly out of tune, or a cypher. Our church turns the heat or air conditioning off after every service and the organ suffers extreme temperature change winter or summer and plays with no problems.
Concerning versatility-What organist has gone to a church to play a concert or service and was unable to play a large work, Bach, Widor, Vierne etc. because all that was in the pedal was a 16'Lieblich and perhaps an 8'flute, diapason and some couplers. There is quite a difference in sound between a limited Pedal Division and one with 32' stops and Reeds.
How about Weddings, trying to play one of the Trumpet Voluntaries with an Orchestral Oboe or Diapason instead of a Festival or Spanish Trumpet.
I prefer Allen because of availability of parts regardless of age.
I will agree I have heard some poor Allen installations because of improper speaker placements.
I don't think that it is a case of pipe organs being replaced by Computer Organs.It is like accoustic pianos being replaced by electronic keyboards. Each has a place and can coexist.
Roger R. Sethmann
on March 19, 2007 10:00pm
I can olny speak for Allen Rodgers and Walker organs.
My indirect dealings with Allen have left a bad taste in my mouth. There reed stops have such a fake sound and the string stops sound more like a symphony rather than a true pipe organ string soung. This come from seeing two Allen organs installed with in the last two years. One install was at my previous church and the other was a installation at a mega church which uses it maybe once a month.
I have been down to 2nd Baptist Houston and I must say that there large Rodgers is very similar to the Allen sound. I was totally unimpressed
Walker is doing some amazing things with digital reproduction. Every thing from the principle stops to the great percusion stop are so real. Futher evidnce is that some of the best and most traditonal pipe organ installers such a Schoenstien and Casavant are using Walker stops in their installations. The church I currently attend is more conservative musically than any church I have ever attended. The fact that the ultra traditonal organist added walker digital to his Reuter says something about the quaility.
on April 14, 2007 10:00pm
Don't even think about a toaster. You WILL certainly regret it. Any electronics would last for only so long, like your stereo or TV. However, a well-built pipe organ will last for a very long time, 50, or even 100 years. A well-built tracker needs almost no maintenance. If you really need to, consider an used instrument. Go to organclearinghouse.com. They can certainly help you with that.
on May 9, 2007 10:00pm
I play upon a three manual, 25-rank pipe instrument. There are so many (often emotionally-charged) reasons why one digital organ is preferable over another. Organ sales people have created this hostile environment. Have you ever noticed that organists who play pipe organs usually do not get so vehemently defensive of their organ's manufacturer over others'? Allen and Rodgers are both building acceptable instruments. I have recently played new instruments by both, and I am able to come up with some very pleasant registrations, useful in liturgy or solo work. The Viscount Presige is very nice, and tends to have more of an authentic European pipe organ sound--elegant and certainly majestic at times. Johannus has a beautiful ensemble sound, almost too ethereal for me, though; i.e., lacking "presence." I have not played an Ahlborn Galanti, recently, so cannot comment on their instruments. Organists: Please, try to remain open-minded, despite electronic organ salespeople encouraging you to "join their camp." There is no organ, pipe or electronic, that is the "perfect" instrument for every taste, no matter how outstanding the organist. Try to find merit in each. Then, decide positively which organ has the best of the best--not advantages over disadvantages! Doing so will create a joyful environment for you and your institution, with little chance of alianating anyone, except, perhaps, certain salespersons!
on May 18, 2007 10:00pm
Good pipe organs are wonderful, truly a profound joy! Bad pipe organs are, at best, a disappointment. The same can be said about digital organs. I play on a ten-year-old Allen at a Lutheran church. Even after a decade, the instrument is utterly, absolutely reliable, and the sound has not degraded in the least. Not only that, but it produces a sound that has elicited, "Where are the pipes?" from more than one visitor.

And that's a decade-old instrument. I have recently spent several hours on a new Allen Quantum instrument, finding it "to die for!"

I've not played on a Rodgers younger than 10 years old. Pretty good sound, a little thinner than the Allen's. The mechanics of the Rodgers seemed a little flimsy compared to the Allen.

Another factor in your decision (far too often ignored): the Allen company has maintained a commitment, going back to the pre-digital days, that it will always provide parts for any Allen organ in existence, no matter how old.

One other thing: the percentage of the organ that the manufacturer actually makes is a factor. That percentage can be much less than 50 percent for some manufacturers; it is much higher than that for Allen.

So, I give a strong recommendation to Allen.
on July 1, 2007 10:00pm
I agree with Elizabeth 100%. Not only is my church in the digital vs. pipe organ debate, my husband is a pipe organ builder. We have an old, dead, Rodgers at our church and are working toward a new(er) instrument. The problem is that electronic "toasters" are the inexpensive quick fix...for now, but REAL organs are built to last. So what's more important, installing something inexpensive for instant gratification (that you'll end up having to replace in possibly 20 years because the components are so outdated you can't repair it) or pony up the funds and get something that lasts for generations that your church can be proud of, and will entice some really wonderful musicians to make music at your church! In hearing, building, and playing pipe organs around the US and Europe the only digitals my husband even considers worth your time are the Marshall and Ogletree's. Gorgeous sound, but for much less you can get the real thing.
on July 20, 2007 10:00pm
Unfortunately, Sarah, you're basic premise, that a digital organ is irreparably obsolete after 20 years, is inaccurate, at least as regards an Allen organ. You can verify with any Allen representative that they continue to make components for every instrument they have built that still exists.

On the other hand, my original statement, which also you ignored, stands: bad pipe organs, like bad electronic organs, are a disappointment. And I've had the opportunity to play both, just as I've had the opportunity to play both good digital and good pipe organs.

The digital vs. pipe debate will continue. For the good of your church, I recommend you end this debate and focus instead of getting the very best for your church's investment.
on December 20, 2007 10:00pm
While looking up several of the manufacturers listed above, I happened to come across this: http://www.eminent-usa.com/

If you have a look at the first page, you'll probably not want to leave the website until you've seen a lot more (and maybe not even then :>).
on May 3, 2008 10:00pm
As you can see there are varied responses to your question about which is the best way to go. In the end it remains a judgment call. Whether a church should purchase a pipe organ, or not depends on the circumstances. I would rather a 100,000 electronic organ, then a 100,000 pipe organ. But I would rather a 500,000 dollar pipe organ then a 200,000 electronic organ. The problem with pipe organs is that if the congregation is not willing to spend the money for even a modest size- 20-30 ranks, then in my opinion it is not worth it. Anything smaller then 20-30 ranks and you start getting the unification technique. When pipe organs are unified in order to give the impression of a large pipe organ, the sound is comparable to a box of whistles. Like anything you get what you pay for. Hence don't let a pipe organ company sell you on a cheap pipe organ- in the end it ain't worth it. You will be stuck with it. For a pipe organ, the only way to go is to spend the money and don't cheap out. If the congregation is not willing to spend the money, then go with an electronic.

The Allen vs. Rodgers probably will never be solved due to a large number of circumstances. But here is my opinion based on experience:

1) Allen Organ PARTS are of finer quality then Rodgers, HOWEVER the sound is and always has been sterile. Allen does not seem to have been able to over come that problem yet (though of course they would disagree.) Allen doesn't seem to grasp the concept that pipe organs have good sound due to IMPERFECTION. It is the imperfection which gives the organ warmth and character. Allen organs lack character and warmth. They are too perfect and sterile sounding.

2) To some extent (but not entirely) the problem can be over come through purchasing EXTRA speakers for the organ. The more speakers the organ has, the more random the sound, hence the more realistic. So IF you get an electronic Allen, spend money for EXTRA speakers- MOST ESPECIALLY if you purchase a Quantuum.

3) An Allen is not a bad investment overall, and parts are garunteed to always be avaliable no matter how old and outdated the organ is. As an added bonus the company is USA based. Again however, you get what you pay for. Allen organs will work with any buget, but quality is lost for churches who cheap out. For around 100,000 dollars, you can get a high quality three manual organ, with good speakers. I know a Church where they got a "deal." For 100,000 Allen gave them a four manual organ. The organ sounds alright, but not great. The Church should have gotten a three manual, and the sound would have been much better and more realistic.

Rodgers Organs:

1) Overall they have a better sound quality then Allen, and I am told their speaker quality is better. I however not knowing anything about speaker quality cannot first hand attest to the truth of this statement. Rodgers sound is "warmer" and less "perfect" and sterile then Allen's, hence more realistic.

2) The draw back is that the console's are of less quality, and once the organ gets old and outdated, you risk not being able to find parts. This is not to say you can't find parts, but it is to say there is always that risk, which is not present with an Allen. I am not aware that Rodgers can give the same garuntee Allen does regarding parts.

3) As with the Rogers, don't cheap out. Get all the speakers, including the "Echo Organ" speakers. It helps to get extra for the main organ too.

In the end due to the number of circumstances, this is a case of six of one half a dozen of the other. If your church has a decent amount bugeted for the pipe organ- 250-500,000 then try to convince them to get the pipe organ. One argument goes thusly:

Tell me: Would you buy your wife a fake diamond ring? No. Why not? She will never be able to tell the difference! Look at all you save! Look how much of the savings could go to help people, or go to the church, or whatever you want to do with it! Yes, but I will know. Nothing but the best for my wife. That ring is a symbol of our love. Right! So if this is the case for your human wife, how much more the case should we give God only the best. So what if most people can't tell the difference between a pipe and an electronic! We can! So can God! God must come first. If you will accept no less then real for you wife, why should God accept anything less then our very best, and real?

on June 24, 2008 10:00pm
Is this organ pipe or electronic?

http://zionorgan.com/Organs/Opus1/BWV659.mp3
on June 29, 2008 10:00pm
Anyone thinking about buying an organ now should at least look at the website for Marshall & Ogletree. In scanning through the responses, I didn't see the name mentioned.
on July 1, 2008 10:00pm
First of all, I completely agree with those before me who suggest a nice, 2-manual, 25-30 rank tracker. Not a lot of money, not a lot of maintenance either, and you can end up with a remarkably versatile instrument. A 15-rank Swell division gives you room for foundations, a good string and celeste, a mixture, and even a 16 8' 4' reed chorus. Throw in an oboe or a vox humana if you're feeling generous. A small, but full-voiced Great with foundations at 8' 4' and 2', an 8' flute, a mixture, and maybe even another Trompete would be a nice complement to the Swell, and you don't need a huge pedal division to balance this ensemble. But I've found myself preaching. Since the consensus seems to be leaning toward the digital side, here's what I've found:

I highly recommend Rodgers over Allen. I've played many examples of both companies' work, and I've almost always found Rodgers organs to be better sounding instruments. Allen's individual stop samples are impeccable, but they do not blend well and the ensemble tends to be sterile and shrill. Rodgers also does a much better job building the ensemble from the 'bottom up' - the 8' stops are fuller and more broadly voiced than the 4' stops, etc. On an Allen, if you register a Principal chorus of 8' 4' and 2', all you will hear (practically) is the 2'.

If you have a bit more money to throw at this project, and are really serious about quality, I suggest you abandon both Rodgers and Allen and look at a Walker or, better yet, a Marshall & Ogletree. Their approach seems to me to be less 'cookie-cutter' and more about building quality musical instruments with individual character and qualities. Best of luck!
on November 14, 2008 10:00pm
I read most of the above and there is a lot of good information but an overload. I direct a choir, play both a Custom Allen and a 20 rank pipe organ in two different churches and service ALL brands of electronic organs for a living. First the concept that pipe organs last longer; any electronic organ can last basically forever if parts continue available. Allen still supports the first digital organs they made over 40 years ago. Maintenance on electronic organs will always be a small percentage of the cost of maintaining pipes.
Here are the considerations of pipe versus electronic (digital).
There is no digital organ that can exactly duplicate the sound or ensemble provided by pipes, but in a good acoustical environment they sound amazingly similar. The edge to digital comes from its greatly increased versatility. Unless you have an unlimited budget you cannot buy a pipe organ that will duplicate what a good digital organ can provide: if you want to play baroque, romantic, modern, or even gospel, the digital can do it.
Which brand? I get to see both new Allens and new Rodgers and I actually prefer the current Allen. I have serviced a 4 manual Renaissance Allen that is absolutely gorgeous. But Rodgers also makes quality instruments. Someone mentioned Walker Technical and I would also strongly consider them. Listen to all three without listening to the salesmen! Play all three!
If the pipe sound is essential, purchase an electronic organ with wind-blown pipes which provide a solid background.
I hope this helps.
Norm Jonkman