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Thread: Cheaper Rodgers Models and a long rambling

  1. #1

    Cool Cheaper Rodgers Models and a long rambling

    Sorry for the insistently asked questions, but I woke this morning from a nightmare that gave rise to a few question which have probably been addressed on here. You probably just want to skip down to the part beginning

    "THE ORGANS." or "So, my questions are.." as this thing rambles on forever.

    So woke up from a nightmare (I'm not making this up as it is not interesting enough to be fiction) in which I just appeared at church one day and was told to sightread a wedding ceremony whose participants were all DMA organists and the congregation was basically an AGO meeting held at one of the small country churches I played for in my youth. Anyway, it brought back memories of when I had to play four services a Sunday in four different church buildings which were all part of the same Lutheran parish. In a town of less than 500, we had four physical buildings for one parish because no one wanted to close their own church building down. So the pastor and I would drive two miles between the buildings in the country and get to each church just in time for him to get his vestments on and me to start the prelude. I know I'm rambling here, but is there any other denomination as stubborn as Lutherans? I mean, we were all parts of the same church and we still had to have four services a Sunday. I loved it because the congregations always sang embarrassingly well and we used the REAL Lutheran Liturgy (not that current 'thing' that the ELCA uses now, but the old LBW) ...but now that I think back it was absolutely ludicrous. Why couldn't everyone just come to one church?

    Anyway, despite the small size of the congregations we were fortunate to have (and I know some of you are going to go absolutely monkey excrement on me here) four digital Rodgers instruments. Ours was not a parish that ever had a pipe organ, which I never understood, considering how musical it was and all the stunningly ambitious choral music sung in the early parts of the last century.


    The one church unfortunately had what just barely passed for a Rodgers 'organ' I think it was a 530 that just about was the end of me. For reasons I don't understand, the reeds were out of tune (?!), the flute sounded like a toy piano, the external speaker system was connected via 1/4" stereo headphone jack, the expression pedal was constructed out of metal as strong as that found in a tube of crest tooth paste, the lights in the stop tabs were problematic to say the least, if they weren't burning out (why weren't they LEDs?) they were beginning to melt a bit (looking back on this that is what I remember, but I can't imagine how this was possible) and sometimes random notes wouldn't work on the pedal board. This was clearly the cheapest thing every engineered with the designation 'organ.' I can distinctly remember thinking sometimes, "...I need an adult, I don't feel safe.." as I never knew what would go wrong next. Thank God the bench never gave out.

    Two of the other churches had Rodgers 535s which, despite what you may think worked really well in the situation. I never thought it possible, but I absolutely fell in love with these organs in the smaller country churches. I even said that should they ever close down one of the churches for greater efficiency (ha!) I'd be happy to take one of the organs off their hands. I know they were still on the very cheap side of the Rodgers line and probably made in Italy, but they were 'nummy.'

    The last, biggest church had what must have been the smallest available 'real Rodgers instrument, perhaps equivalent to the Insignia Line but contemporaneous with the other organs for the most part. The sanctuary was significantly larger in this last church and the speaker system was very well implemented by the Rodgers folks.

    So my questions are:
    1. Were the 530 and 525/ 535 really as different as I remember?
    2. What are the differences of the really inexpensive line 535s and the Insignias?
    3. Are some of these things sold like caskets on a 'price point' basis, i.e. "Well.. we COULD bury your grandmother in this burlap sack but for only a few thousand more, we could sell you this fine pine box.."
    4. What are the differences in sound generation for these models?
    5. What do you think a reasonable amount would be for these? I've seen anywhere from $1500- $9000 and as soon as one ends up that is affordable in my great state I'm pouncing on it as I've had it with moving my ALLEN 600 beast around.
    6 What the heck is the Rodgers 440 or 411 or whatnot. It looks a lot like a cheaper version of the 530, but with less class. I guess if it were cheap enough I'd buy that too and use it as a Hauptwerk 'thing.'

    Any expert got any interesting info on these organs even though I know they are the bottom line. What makes them tick, etc.. How did they compare to the comparable Allen lower priced models in terms of sound, construction, etc.?
    Last edited by buzzyreed; 08-24-2010 at 08:04 AM.

  2. #2


    I'm not an authority on Rodgers organs, but I do service organs, and have seen a bunch of these organs. It seems to me that you need to be brought up to speed on low end Rodgers organs.

    When Roland bought Rodgers in 1988, from what I heard they were aghast at the state of technology and processes used at Rodgers. They worked like beavers for a couple of years transforming Rodgers technology into digital and also built low end organs in Japan. These models were the 440, 441, etc. With these I believe Rodgers lost a lot of credibility. Consoles looked and felt cheap. No more veneers for the exterior, they were vinyl clad. Early pedalboards fell apart in transit. Sound wise they were not great, but they did break a couple of cardinal selling points that Rodgers always used, that of being able to tune the instrument and voice them. These were plug and play instruments. Anyways, they did seems to work, and were no doubt good MIDI controllers.

    Then in the mid 90s, Rodgers/Roland started building the 500 series organs in a Roland plant in Italy. If the early 4xx series organs were nothing special, the 5xx that then appeared were a definite step down. Everything was downright cheap about them. 520/530 were replaced with the 525/535, which were really not much of an improvement. In 2001 they revised the line again and came out with the 557 and 577. These were somewhat better. If I remember correctly, they also came out with a 527, which no doubt was a direct revision of the 525. These organs all used a single voice module, probably poached out of a Roland sound canvas, were not voiceable, used few and very short samples etc. In other words "extreme budget" comes to mind. In fact they didn't sound a whole lot better even with external speakers. The tone generator systems in all these organs would have been quite similar. In successive models they would have updated them a little bit and addressed certain problems or criticisms on these organs, so they did get better over time.

    Rodgers realizing that there may be a problem, did a somewhat unusual thing, they produced versions of the 557 and 577 in the US, and called them Allegiant. They were badged as 657 and 677. These were built to the usual Rodgers standards, had upgraded audio system, and sounded better as a result. Also cost the customer $5,000 extra.

    About the best that can be said for most of these Italian Rodgers was that they were good MIDI controllers.

    As to comparison to Allen offerings, the Allen sound may have been uninspiring, but at least they didn't stoop that low in terms of basic build quality. Allen too has been offering cheaper organs, that they probably would rather not admit to building. In the 80s they used to advertise that only moving stop controls were any good, that lighted systems were garbage. Well in the 90s they came out with a lighted system, gave it a fancy name of "Lumitech", and pretend it is somehow all right now. Also, Allen now has a whole series of organs using Fatar keyboards, just like what everybody else uses. They used to always brag about the quality of their organs because of Allen-made keyboards.

    I don't know how good any of these Rodgers organs are for running Hauptwerk, unless you just want to use keyboard action and expression. As far as I know, the Rodgers organs never did communicate well with Hauptwerk as far as stop action and pistons were concerned. I think it had to do with patch commands vs sys ex commands and how they were sent and received that were the problem.

    You can probably pick up a 520/530 or 525/535 for very little these days. I wouldn't pay more than $1,000 for the smaller one, and maybe $1,500 for the larger one. Just remember, that low price was the reason these were made and sold. So figure that a short lifespan, plus no warranty, plus obsolete technology and sound, these would still be at the very low end of used organ prices. The other thing that has changed prices a lot is the fact that Johannus is offering new organs, full AGO for under $10,000.

    You would be better off, if you can afford it, and find one to get an Allegiant.

    Just remember, when the most important thing in a product is to make an organ at the absolute lowest price, like these Rodgers, there must of necessities be compromises, and usually that means little craftsmanship, artistry, cheap components, etc. The experience is never a grandly positive one.


  3. #3

    Thanks, AV! Just the advice I was looking for!

  4. #4


    "Well in the 90s they came out with a lighted system, gave it a fancy name of "Lumitech", and pretend it is somehow all right now."
    The difference was it used LEDs instead of incandescent bulbs, which, as of my visit to a Rodgers dealer last year, seem to still be used. (if not they are using a very bright LED with the closest spectral equivalent to incandescent that I've ever seen.)
    Point being the LEDs will never need replacing.

  5. #5

    Quote Originally Posted by circa1949 View Post
    "Well in the 90s they came out with a lighted system, gave it a fancy name of "Lumitech", and pretend it is somehow all right now."
    The difference was it used LEDs instead of incandescent bulbs, which, as of my visit to a Rodgers dealer last year, seem to still be used. (if not they are using a very bright LED with the closest spectral equivalent to incandescent that I've ever seen.)
    Point being the LEDs will never need replacing.

    I understand your point, but a couple of things. Allen in the 80s condemned lighted controls, not LEDs. The company I used to work for, used LEDs in the 70s. So, LEDs were used as stop controls at least 15 years before Allen started using them.
    Also, while LEDs do not "burn out", they can and do fail sometimes. But they do not often need replacement like stop lamps do.

    Last edited by arie v; 08-27-2010 at 11:39 PM. Reason: added word often

  6. #6


    Just to let you know, that i own an italian "Rodgers" 535, and that their pedal contacts "stink", i already replaced the contacts twice or three times, the last ones i replaced were by a different manufacture. I hope that they hold up! I wiil say this, it is NOT the Allen that i play at the lutheran church, that
    is an older "Digital" organ w/ drawknob console. A real "tank", just keeps playing and playing, Sunday after Sunday. Humm! What can i say? I am Italian
    and i have my doubts about the organs they build.
    I think that all the 535 is a Guallanti organ with the Rodgers name on it.


  7. #7

    Quote Originally Posted by diapason View Post
    I think that all the 535 is a Guallanti organ with the Rodgers name on it.

    It's definitely not a re-badged Galanti, but I think it may be a re-badged Viscount. Galanti's only adventure into OEM for the American market was with Baldwin in the mid-late 80's with the "Howard," the model that eventually became the Praeludium II when Galanti started distributing directly.

  8. #8


    These Rodgers organs were neither Galanti (A-G) nor Viscount, but there may have been some co-operation with another Italian manufacturer named Orla. This is speculation on my part though.

    According to information I have, Roland built these organs in a Roland factory in Italy. They do show design characteristics of Italian design though. The electronics in them is definitely Roland.


  9. #9


    See, as i've said, i am glad i'm back to the organ forum! As i have said before, i do not know it all, soooo.......This is where i learn things about
    the organ world.Roland, Eh!, did'nt they have something to do with Rodgers at one time? It seems to come back to me somewhat, that Rodgers did
    build Roland. Come to think of it though, i do not hear of Roland anymore. The "Atlier" organ of today, Rogers built, Yes?/ No?. Confusing! Confusing?
    Gad! they re-badge these organs, they go in with different manufactures that you do not know who builds what? If i were to do it over, i would'nt
    have bought this particuler instrument, not knowing that it WAS NOT a throughbred "ROGERS". For what i spent, i could have probibly have gotten an
    Allen throughbred. The dealer did say though, that he would give me what paid for it on trade for an "Allen". Hummm.....yea Right! Probibly if i go for
    a "new'' $50,000 three manual.I think i'am stuck with half-breed Italian made Rogers/ Roland.


  10. #10

    I'm looking at a Rodgers c-445 to use with Hauptwerk. It's listed at $3750, but I'm assuming that since it has MIDI, I can plug it in to my PC and go, without having to buy any additional stuff. However, by these posts, if the console is no good, or the keyboards or pedalboard is junk, then it's not worth it.

    Any thoughts?

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