Digital Church Organs

The two types of digital organ suppliers are Manufacturers and Assemblers, each with very different capabilities and commitment to customers.

Organ Manufacturers offer instruments built in their factories.  Assemblers are much smaller and do little manufacturing, buying major assemblies from third-party suppliers.  Often, even their tone generation technology is procured from another supplier.

Digital Church Organ Manufacturers include:

Allen Organ Company – Allen produces a larger percentage of their product in-house than other organ manufacturers.  This includes:  consoles, pedalboards, drawknobs/stop controls, keyboards, tone generation circuitry, amplifiers, powers supplies and more.  Allen 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.

Johannus Organs – Johannus is a Dutch builder who began offering church organs with sampling in about the late 1980s .  They generally supply organs in the lower price ranges.  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.

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 Organs – Rodgers began producing 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 2018 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 has been sold and the company has morphed from a traditional manufacturer to an assembler.

Viscount Organs – Viscount is a manufacturer located in Italy that entered the digital organ market in about the late 1980s.  They have historically offered organs at lower price ranges.  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 retail dealers in North 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).

Micro-Assemblers

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 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.  Their tone-generation technology is sourced from England and Phoenix’s website indicates they will be using Hauptwerk tone generation.  Phoenix uses aggressive marketing claims in promoting its products.

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 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 – Hauptwerk offeres software that enables a PC to produce organ sounds.  This approach requires significantly hardware to create a complete, functioning organ, as reviewed in the article.  A handful of Micro Assemblers offer organs based on PC-based tone generation.  These include Noorlander (Holland), VPO (USA) (now defunct), Martin (USA) Marshall & Ogletree (USA), and others.

11 thoughts on “Church Organ Suppliers

  1. Can you describe the tecknology difference in an Allen mds series and the renaissance and later series ? Where is the best quality among used instruments ? Some of your comments might indicate that older Rodgers are better than current models. Your adticles are very helpful.

    1. As Allen’s technology progressed, the sophistication of its sampling tone generation technology continued to improve. This was the result of the availability of increased processing power and memory for sound reproduction.

      MDS organs used EPROM memory that was state-of-the-art in the 1980s and early 1990s. While a significant increase of memory compared to earlier organs, by today’s standards it is small. MDS organs had sophisticated control systems that included full MIDI capabilities.

      Renaissance Organs of the later 1990s moved to advanced DSP technology and flash memory. The tonal advancements were significant and the organ stops could be changed infield via a special CD-ROMs. Over a decade later came Quantum Organs with substantially increased computational power, billions per second, that allowed for additional tonal advancements including convolution reverb; i.e. sampled acoustics.

      Allen’s most recent technology is GeniSys-based. An in detailed discussion of this generation is included on Allen’s website; http://www.allen-organ.com . In conclusion, as Allen’s technology has advanced, its instruments tonal improvements are apparent, as well as additional features added.

  2. I am a novice when it comes to organs but came to this site for help wrt purchasing an organ for our church. I can’t find any information about who publishes/sponsors this site – but it looks like a “front” for Allen Organs (which we are considering). Can anyone tell me where I can get INDEPENDENT advice? This all looks very heated and combative – not what I need. The decision is hard enough without this. Thanks in advance. Greg

    1. Greg,

      The site is hosted by Allen Organ and that fact is not hidden.

      All photos on the site are unedited. The quality differences between organs are stark to the point that comparisons may seem unfair. However, that is the reality of organ qualities and their builder’s philosophies. Those differences should be of concern to consumers since they will affect an organ’s long-term reliability and support, and ultimately value. The facts “included” in the photos can be verified by independently examining and comparing any instrument considered.

      If quality, longevity and long-term value are not required, then the choice can be made via the lowest price offered. And that requires little product or builder study/comparison.

      Good luck on your search.

    2. Greg;
      How is it “heated” and “combative”? I don’t see that happening here. Facts are facts,and as the organ-editor stated,…photos are unedited and may I add,…undoctored. This blog should actually make your decision to choose Allen over the others easier,…not harder. I would advise that you consider only Allen if you want long term value,support,quality,and dependability. Just because a competitor’s organ is lower in price doesn’t make it a better value.

  3. Amazingly, on this site I see mostly information and statements regarding the quality of the parts and consoles (and I feel sure Allen makes quality hardware and consoles). What I don’t see a lot of is the same enthusiasm for the sound of an Allen organ. Sure, they sound good but, without naming, I have heard other brands (in person) that sound more realistically pipe-like in many ways.

    1. Sound is subjective. Quality is not. You avoid an important question: Would you accept the low quality exhibited in various photos on this site? If so, what kind of discount would you expect for such quality short cuts?

  4. Viscount Physis modelling is under patent, and widely regarded internationally as far superior to other organ tone

    1. Patents do not imply technological superiority. They merely indicate that someone paid to get a patent. Also, this patent is now quite old. Your comments will not be posted in the future unless you offer proof of any claims.

    2. I would much rather have real samples than generated ones. Takes a lot of painstaking work to get real samples. Whwn it comes to build quality all guys that build organs. It’s not rocker science there tons of inside pictures of Allen. There is NO excuse for the cheap construction i see out there. Baldwin made sone great consoles but not to the quality of Allen but they prove you can build better than you all except Allen of course better hardware. Even Lowrey is far better than most builders.

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