Phoenix vs. Rodgers Organs
  • First off, I don’t want this thread to become another “digital vs. pipes” battle. I’ve seen so many of those types of discussions, and I understand that people are very passionate about it, but I’m not interested in that argument!

    I have a specific question: is anybody very familiar with both Phoenix organs and Rodgers organs, and how would you personally compare the quality of their sounds? I’m ready for people to have divergent opinions, and again I don’t think there’s much point arguing, but I am curious to see if there is any sort of consensus on this or not.

    I ask because I am seeking to expand the capabilities of the small Austin pipe organ at the mission church where I am employed, but given extremely minimal space constraints I am considering the option of hybridizing. I am in touch with people from both Rodgers and Phoenix Organs, who both have attractive proposals to offer me. So I thought I’d get a feel for others’ experiences with both companies.
  • Palestrina
    Posts: 394
    When you say ‘expand the capabilities’, what do you mean?

    Can your existing pipe organ support the singing of the congregation adequately? If not, what do you see as its major deficiencies?
  • The current Austin can support congregational singing well enough, but it simply has a very limited variety of sound. Only 7 ranks of pipes, only six of which are really used - because there is a very loud Open Diapason that I hardly ever touch - no 2 foot stops, no mutations, no mixtures, a very limited selection of string stops. All this makes for a very weak principal chorus. It’s simply incapable of the quintessential “sparkle” of the organ sound. So it can “do the job” when supporting congregation or choir, but it does so in a rather boring way with hardly any possibility for more variety. Plus, it’s simply not big enough for much of the solo organ repertoire that exists.
  • TCJ
    Posts: 975
    We are also looking at either Phoenix or Rodgers. I'm interested to learn more about Phoenix, but at the moment, I've only been able to test an installation in a very small carpeted church, so it's rather hard to compare to the showroom models that Rodgers has for playing.

    Also, when I started my thread about this last year, I specifically mentioned what you did about the pipe/digital battle because the feasibility of the pipe organ was already ruled impossible. Someone came in and asked the inevitable - why don't you get a pipe organ? It WILL happen on this forum, guaranteed!
  • francis
    Posts: 10,703
    First off, I don’t want this thread to become another “digital vs. pipes” battle.
    Not possible

    Tracker! Tracker! (Lol)
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  • Palestrina
    Posts: 394
    A few further questions:
    1. Does the instrument have octave couplers?
    2. Are all ranks 'straight' or is there extension in the instrument?
    3. When is the last time the winding (including checking for leaks) was inspected?
    4. Re the Open Diapason, have you discussed re-regulation with the organ builder responsible for maintenance?
  • francis
    Posts: 10,703
    (I’m sorry I got that started.)

    Don’t know much about either. So sorry.

    Allen mostly And Roland which beats them all I would suspect.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,951
    Sometimes, it is possible to get more out of a small pipe organ. I would agree 7 ranks is pretty small. I had a 10-rank 50s vintage Schantz. When the console was rebuilt I wanted the screaming 3-rank mixture revoiced. I discovered a 2-foot principal in the mixture and had it made into a playable stop with its own stop tab. That provided some upper tones without using the mixture. It still played in the mixture, too. I had a tab put on the swell to bring up a 16' soft pedal gedackt to that manual. The pedal had a strong independent rank subbass 16 to which I added the switching to make it also playable as a 32' resultant vastly improving the weak pedal division. The organ had a strong trumpet which when coupled to the subbass gave a good-enough reed sound to the pedal. You have to get really creative with those small organs but can sometimes improve them. I would be the first to admit, however, that they are limited compared to larger instruments. The church had no room for additional pipes unless they were put in the vestibule - not a practical solution.

    I have also seen the extreme when a local church added digital stops to a 62-rank pipe organ. Come on! Was that really necessary?
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  • francis
    Posts: 10,703
    Lol… the organ world… I’m sure God has a whole “division” set aside in heaven for all the organ nerds… and it will be very far away from the people who scream about “too loud”

    I got the “too loud” complaint today.

    OK… it’s the Jerusalem Bible translation, so I’m not sure about the accuracy but nevertheless, here goes…

    Psalm 96:4 Yahweh is great, loud must be his praise, he is to be feared beyond all gods.
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  • I believe the organ has been serviced pretty recently, since around Christmas time anyway. The wind stuff is in pretty good condition as far as I know. The instrument has no two foots, but it does have some octave couplers, which is the only way I can manage to simulate the sound of 2’ pipes. Its two 4’ flute stops are extensions of the unison flutes. Rebooting the big Diapason has been discussed with the original manufacturers, so I am hoping for some movement on that front. Aside from that, it MAY be possible to add a mutation like 2 2/3 nazard… but I’m really not sure if there’s any room for a mixture. Somewhat doubtful. But even just one mutation and a better voicing for the Diapason would be a big improvement.

    The nice thing about hybridizing is that none of the above would thereby be ruled out. I can still get improvements to the pipe work after getting the new digital sounds, and indeed I hope to do so. I want to get the most out of this instrument, and if I can get a console that play this instrument plus a host of digital sounds that blend well with the original, I figure why not? But I want to get a good sense of my options in digitals.
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  • francis
    Posts: 10,703
    I once played a Rogers hybrid and it was difficult to hear where you were hearing real pipes, and then the digital.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen CharlesW
  • Palestrina
    Posts: 394
    Is the organ on unit chests or slider chests?
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,766
    Allen mostly And Roland which beats them all I would suspect.
    Roland isn’t even in the game anymore, as best I can tell, and they never specialized in it the way the others do. Allen has gotten better in the last few years, but from what I’ve heard my ear still prefers Rodgers stuff if it’s voiced well. We had a Rodgers installed at my last church and I was very happy with it.

    Sometimes, it is possible to get more out of a small pipe organ.
    only if the organ is DE. In any case, I highly suspect Austin would have done more unification during install if it made sense for the spec list. They wouldn’t arbitrarily limit the already limited instrument if more unification had really been possible.

    So please, let’s just answer the man’s damn question and stop talking about the pipes or asking why he’s doing it.

    ——
    I’m afraid I cannot speak to phoenix as they aren’t all that common in my neck of the woods, but as I said, there is some really nice Rodgers stuff. You just need to make sure it’s actually voiced and not just a dump and run install. Their consoles (which I presume you would have to have) are nice, esp. if you manage to get moving drawknobs. They have a ton of memory levels, sequencer, playback, etc. I was very happy with mine.
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  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,766
    Oh—and if you do unify, avoid faking mutation stops. They aren’t tuned pure since they are derived, and it’s painful. Digital mutations would sound a lot better. (I lived with a 5 tank schantz that was unified to kingdom come and I did not come away impressed… the mutations bothered me the most. They unified one flute rank 16 thru 1 1/3, with everything in between. Talk about squeezing out every last drop… don’t do that. Please don’t do that.)
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  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,951
    If you are in a church with little money, you have to make the most of what you have. I suspect the original poster needs to get with a company that can service/modify pipe instruments and has a good track record for incorporating digital additions. I don't know what part of the country he is in but some such as Colby in my area, can do it. Some make the mistake of assuming that because it is digital, it is inexpensive. Not so. Do we even know your console will work with digital additions without rebuilding? Lots of unknowns here.
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  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,766
    Colby is undoubtedly using Walker in its backend, and Walker is almost as much as pipes these days…
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  • You might look into Viscount. They seem to be aggressively trying to position their consoles and technology in the hybrid direction. They just released a whole new product line of organs for the North American market with their newest version of Physis Technology. The software makes a physical model of the pipe which can be modified to blend with existing pipe work. Also with the console being software based rather than hardware based, replacement parts shouldn't be a problem.
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  • Palestrina
    Posts: 394
    Before looking into any companies, I’d suggest getting a good, independent and highly experienced consultant.

    I can well appreciate some of the frustrations of playing an instrument of this type, Jonathan, but the ultimate success of any alterations will depend on whether (or not) these are sustainable by the underlying tonal parameters of the organ. I certainly have reservations about the introduction of mutations.

    I’d also suggest looking at instruments by the same builder and of the same period to see what stops the builder added when there was a bigger budget. Ultimately, additions must speak the same language as the original instrument. Further questions arise as to what is necessary and what is not.

    Last (but not least) - no instrument will play the entire repertoire. The eclectic instruments of fifty years ago have been miserable failures, by and large. There is far more to be gained from learning to work within the limitations a specification presents than attempting to extend it beyond what is tonally feasible.

  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 542
    PM me about Phoenix. I’m in a church with pipes and Phoenix.
  • DavidOLGCDavidOLGC
    Posts: 79
    Mattspmusic0320 May 21
    Posts: 53
    You might look into Viscount. They seem to be aggressively trying to position their consoles and technology in the hybrid direction. They just released a whole new product line of organs for the North American market with their newest version of Physis Technology.


    I've been very happy with the small Viscount Cantorum Duo organ that was donated to our church a year or so ago.
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  • MBennett
    Posts: 6
    Have you looked at Viscount?
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  • Oh—and if you do unify, avoid faking mutation stops. They aren’t tuned pure since they are derived, and it’s painful. Digital mutations would sound a lot better. (I lived with a 5 tank schantz that was unified to kingdom come and I did not come away impressed… the mutations bothered me the most. They unified one flute rank 16 thru 1 1/3, with everything in between. Talk about squeezing out every last drop… don’t do that. Please don’t do that.)


    @ServiamScores
    Thanks for this. This interests me because, over a year ago, Austin actually shared a proposal with my predecessor which included wiring one of the existing 8’ swell ranks to play a nazard 2 2/3 voice. If I understand you, this is precisely what you are warning against doing? Better to hybridize and use digital mutations?

    Going back to the original topic, I’ve been in communication with both Phoenix and Rodgers for some time now. Phoenix is attractive for the custom consoles, which are made with real craftsmanship at a high quality. Phoenix is pretty aggressive and competitive with their marketing, but the guys at Phoenix have also been forthright with me that Rodgers should be able to reduce a good tonal quality in their organs. The technology is good enough that there is no excuse. So my decision will really come down to a question of the console, the cost, and the ease of servicing — Rodgers obviously has a much wider presence, and they have reputable technicians in my area, whereas Phoenix has hardly any presence here.
  • Nisi
    Posts: 149
    Why are so many looking at electronic organs when there are plenty of used pipe organs available? Of course they're more trouble but not more expensive than electronic organs when you do your homework. There is absolutely no comparison between an actual organ and an electronic substitute. Is our American church becoming "socialized" into electronic organs and their sounds (God forbid)? I despair when I hear such topics as these discussed as though it were completely normal.
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  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,302
    I am seeking to expand the capabilities of the small Austin pipe organ at the mission church where I am employed, but given extremely minimal space constraints I am considering the option of hybridizing


    In this case, I think the reason was pretty well explained
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,951
    What you really need is 3 stops - principal, sharf III and a snort regal so you can play the complete works of Buxtehude. Then you need 6 singers so you can do the Coronation Mass. That ought to do it.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,951
    Have you looked at Viscount?


    I would like to hear one of them but there isn't a dealer in hundreds of miles. They don't have the network Rodgers and Allen have.
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  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,188
    FWIW..the parish that I took over last year was about to buy either an Allen or a Rodgers.
    The offers were somewhere in the 70-80,000$ range with three manuals as the norm and about 50 stops. All this for a room that seats 300.

    I looked at the Organ Clearing House and found several instruments but finally settled on a 12 stop 2 manual with enclosed swell, a Great and pedal.. It was built in 1906 and is being rebuilt right now and the builder is adding a reed, a flute harmonique on the Swell and a flute harmonique on the Great, in addition to 8,4,2 principals and strings on the swell. It is a mechanical action organ...all for 72,000$ delivered. It will last for ages. It will accompany hymns, chant, do some of my favorite literature and will be a great aesthetic addition to the space.

    The electronic organ sellers are aggressive, demeaning and downright dishonest from my experience. There are great old instruments out there for the taking. It takes work but is worth it.

    My.02.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,951
    And unlike the electronics, it can be repaired in 100 years.
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  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,766
    The first two sentences of the OP’s original post in this thread:
    First off, I don’t want this thread to become another “digital vs. pipes” battle. I’ve seen so many of those types of discussions, and I understand that people are very passionate about it, but I’m not interested in that argument!

    For Heaven’s sake gentlemen, not again. Ugh.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,766
    Thanks for this. This interests me because, over a year ago, Austin actually shared a proposal with my predecessor which included wiring one of the existing 8’ swell ranks to play a nazard 2 2/3 voice. If I understand you, this is precisely what you are warning against doing? Better to hybridize and use digital mutations?

    Correct.

    It’s not the end of the world, in truth, but it is also a compromise. One derived mutation is better than no mutations at all. But the intervals will not be pure. Organ tuning being what it is, that doesn’t mean it would be “offensive”, it’s just not ideal. Whether or not you’d prefer a hybrid mutation to a slightly-detuned real one is tough to say. I suppose that depends on how well the digital stop was installed and voiced and what your acoustics are. (There are tons of organs that have derived/borrowed mutations. It’s not weird, per se. I just happened to have an organ that abused the privilege which is what I’m trying to discourage you from doing. Don’t let them take the same stop and derive 4 ranks from it.)
  • Nisi
    Posts: 149
    For Heaven’s sake gentlemen, not again. Ugh.


    I resemble that remark.
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,188
    I could care less whether you get an electronic or a pipe organ. I have played my share of electronics. I know of churches that have no room for pipes or simply do not have the money. I respect those situations.

    What I do resent is the notion ( and it is a common one) that "We cannot afford a pipe organ". You don't know until you look.

    For the record, I am an organist and an old one at that. A pipe organ shall remain in my mind the crown of all efforts. The electronic sound is...well,electronic. It is not the best sound. It is an appoximation...and sometimes a very good one. The sound of air through a pipe is one that still conjures for me a beauty that can only be captured by the human voice.

    Do what you wish. Its not going to change one iota of my thinking. Just be willing to defend your position reasonably well.

    Allez, mes amis.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,766
    Again, Kevin, that’s all well and good. Go make your arguments in another thread. If people don’t want to answer the actual questions of the OP (or cannot due to lack of exposure to the two specifics brands mentioned), they are more than free to go comment on other threads.

    And it’s all well and good to be able to afford a used pipe organ, but you also have to have somewhere to put it. And rarely is it a case of simple disassembly and reassembly. Typically other retrofitting is involved, and it’s not always a straightforward process. In any case, the OP already mentioned that he has pipes, so we cannot presume there is even space to add more anyway. We’ve all been in organ chambers where there wasn’t a a square millimeter to fit any more.
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  • Palestrina
    Posts: 394
    My misgiving when it comes to enlargements is whether they are appropriate and necessary in the circumstances.

    If the instrument fills the building then the scales and wind pressure are obviously fine.

    Beyond that, aren’t the essentials congregational and Schola accompaniment? If it can do all that, it may not be ideal but it’s self evidently enough.

    Registration is one way of creating variety. Another - far less used - is to vary textures and harmonisation.

    My next reservation is the appropriateness of any additions, having regard for the tonal character of the instrument. Mutations? Do they really belong in all organs? I’d say they don’t and will never be successful in a particular breed of symphonic instrument.

    I think there is a real virtue to making the best of whatever situation you find yourself in - without losing sight of what the ideal is and translating it into your circumstances. That, in my view, is what means tk be a professional church musician.

    Finally, I think that tinkering with specifications is best left in the hands of seasoned professionals - organists and builders with extensive experience and track records of success. Organs are expensive and correcting mistakes can take decades.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,951
    Organs are expensive and correcting mistakes can take decades.


    Sadly, sometimes they never get corrected.
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  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,766
    Let’s not pre-condemn the OP’s desire to enlarge his instrument… we don’t know the intricacies of the instrument or church situation. It’s very evidently been found wanting, hence the whole purpose of the thread…

    And it’s all well and good to tell someone to “make the best of it” when you’re not the one that’s in that post. I “made the best of it” for two years on a 4 rank instrument. Great people, great church. Crap organ. Don’t think for a SECOND that it wouldn’t have been better to have more than one flute, one principal, one reed, and one mixture.

    To the OP—sorry this thread derailed (again). Follow your instincts and don’t let nay-sayers hold you back from improving your situation.

    The main thing is that no matter who you go with, make sure they VOICE the stops they install, be they physical or digital. My last church had a digital, but the reason it was as successful as it was is due to the fact that they came and did 3 rounds of voicing. Note by note
  • No worries, I am far from dissuaded. :) I am constantly experimenting with different ways of making the best of my current instrument, and after installing a digital component (it looks like plans are moving forward!), I hope to still make more improvements to the pipe work. There are some pipes that add hardly anything to the overall sound which can be removed to make room for some real 4' and 2' pipes. I also hope to have the Great open Diapason pipes revoiced, because they are just too loud currently to act as the foundation for a well balanced principal chorus. This is why making the best of what I have is not enough at the moment: my great division does not even have a usable 8' principal! Let alone the other ranks that could be used in a principal chorus. So I have no way of building up that “quintessential organ sound” except by borrowing from the swell - which sounds nice enough, but it’s a bit stringy, so those are just not the sounds you expect from a regular great division. The digital voices (which I will definitely make sure are voiced properly by the installer) will more than plug this gap, adding the possibility of mutations and mixtures as well — but even so I do hope to get the pipes up to par.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,951
    Makes perfect sense to me. I had the fortune/misfortune of playing a pipe instrument that nearly everyone condemned as a horrible organ. With selective revoicing and tinkering, those same critics agreed it had never sounded so good.
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  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,766
    We are in need of revoicing my current instrument too. It was originally installed in a room with padded chairs and carpeting. Now that we have hard-wood pews and the terrazzo was restored, the balance of the room is wildly disparate to when the organ was installed, and consequently, all the voicing decisions that were made to make the instrument sound better at the time have the unfortunate effect of making it sound worse today. Good problem to have, on the whole, but there's no denying that the tonal balance is in need of remediation. My upperwork could peel the plaster off the walls now since there's no padding to temper it anymore.