Digital Church Organs
The two types of digital organ suppliers are Manufacturers and Micro-Assemblers, each with very different capabilities and commitment to customers.
Organ Manufacturers offer instruments built in their own factories. Micro-Suppliers are much smaller and do little actual manufacturing, buying major assemblies from third-party suppliers. Often, even their tone generation technology is procured from another supplier. More details are reviewed in the article, Organ Manufacturers versus Micro-Assemblers.
Digital Church Organ Manufacturers include:
Allen Organ Company – Allen produces a larger percentage of their product in-house than any other organ manufacturer. This includes: consoles, pedalboards, drawknobs/stop controls, keyboards, tone generation circuitry, amplifiers, powers supplies and more. Allen is well known for research and development, having invented the first electronic organ in the late 1930s and the world’s first digital musical instrument (sampling technology) in 1971, nearly two decades prior to other organ manufacturers. Allen remains owned and managed by its founding family with its 200,000 sq. foot manufacturing facility located in Macungie, PA, USA. Photos of Allen quality.
Johannus Organs – Johannus is a Dutch builder who began offering church organs with sampling about 20-years after Allen Organ Company introduced the first digital organ. They generally supply organs in the lower price ranges through the use of lower cost (quality) materials and construction techniques. In recent years they purchased Rodgers Organs of USA, and the smaller English builders, Copeman Hart and Makin. While these four brand names are still offered, the quality of these brands and the instruments produced under the parent company’s own name have become less distinct. Photos of Johannus quality.
Makin – Makin is a relatively small organ builder that mainly sells organs in the United Kingdom. It has been purchased by Johannus. Their website indicates that they have used various technologies over the years, but it is not clear on the source of their current organ technology, nor where the organs are currently built.
Rodgers Instruments – Rodgers began producing analog organs in 1958. Since the 1970s Rodgers has had multiple owners including CBS and Steinway Pianos. In the late 1980s Rodgers was purchased by Roland of Japan and in about 1991 began offering digital church organs. As of September 2017 Rodgers continues offering digital organs based on Roland’s technology, even though in 2016 it was purchased by the group that owns the Dutch company, Johannus. Since its acquisition by Johannus, the Rodgers’ manufacturing facility and equipment have been sold and the company has morphed from a traditional manufacturer to a final assembler. This operation is performed in a facility in Oregon, USA. Photos of Rodgers quality.
Viscount Organs – Viscount is a manufacturer located in Italy that entered the digital organ market about two decades after the introduction of the first digital church organ. They have, historically, offered organs at lower price ranges through the use of lower cost (quality) materials and construction techniques. Viscount has made multiple attempts to distribute church organs in the United States, including distributing organs through Baldwin Piano Company prior to that company exiting the organ business. It then distributed organs through Church Organ Systems prior to that company going out of business. More recently, Viscount has established a small number of retail dealers in America. While their marketing currently promotes a modeling technology, some of their models use sampling technology and others use a virtual-type tone generation supplied by Hauptwerk (see below). Photos of Viscount quality.
Content Organs – Content is located in The Netherlands. Their organs are typically priced similar to Johannus and Viscount Organs with similar quality. In 2017 Content started building “stencil” organs now distributed in the U.S. by The Verdin Bell Company (see below).
Copeman Hart – Copeman Hart is located in England with few installations out of the United Kingdom. While this company previous used Bradford digital tone generation technology, since being acquired by the Dutch firm, Johannus, it has not published information regarding its current tone generation technology.
Phoenix Organs – Phoenix Organs is located in Canada. According to published information, Phoenix purchases most of its assemblies from third-party suppliers (See article Phoenix Organs Assemblies Suppliers). Their tone-generation technology is sourced from England and Phoenix’s website indicates they will be using Hauptwerk tone generation in the future. Phoenix uses aggressive marketing claims in promoting its products. In 2017 it was required to retract false information. (See article Phoenix Organs False Claims Retracted.)
Verdin Organ Division – While Verdin’s website touts a 175 year history in bell production, it first began offering organs in 2017. Verdin imports most of its models from the Dutch firm, Content. Verdin’s Organ Division Manager, Dewey Kuhn, previously worked for Baldwin, Church Organ Systems (prior to those companies exiting the organ business) and Rodgers Organs prior that company sale to Johannus.
Walker Technical – According to its website, “Walker produces electronic tonal enhancement equipment and speaker products, used by a large network of organ builders and dealers throughout North America.” The Walker website does not indicate whether it, its suppliers of assemblies, or the organ builders to which it supplies digital tonal additions, are responsible for long-term product support.
Hauptwerk Organs – Hauptwerk is software that enables a PC to produce organ sounds. This approach, however, requires significantly more hardware to create a complete, functioning organ, as reviewed in the article (See article: Requirements for a PC-Based “Virtual” Organ). A handful of other Micro Assemblers offer organs based on PC-based tone generation. These include Noorlander (Holland), VPO (USA) (now defunct), Martin (USA) (See article: New Virtual Organ Replaced) Marshall & Ogletree (USA), and others. Information comparing PC-based and dedicated organ tone generation solution is included in the article “Wet” Samples Versus Pure Pipe Samples.