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Thread: Comparing and Contrasting the different organ brands

  1. #1
    pp Pianissimo mak1457's Avatar
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    Aug 2005

    Comparing and Contrasting the different organ brands

    As a person who plays the organ, yet was born long after the home organ market slipped into oblivion, I keep hearing all these different name brands, e.g. Conn, Lowery, Baldwin, Wulitzer, etc. and they mean nothing to me. I see them at Thrift Stores and they sound either terrible or they don't work at all. Yet I'm sure thatback in the day they were high-value items.Can anyone compare the different brands and tell why one brand was preferredover the other or some of the benefits some brands had over other brands. I'm sure this will be an interesting history lesson for us all and I'm looking forward to it.</P>

  2. #2
    fff Fortississimo NYCFarmboy's Avatar
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    Mar 2004

    Re: Comparing and Contrasting the different organ brands

    i have two "home organs".. a Conn spinet I grew up with..mid to early 60's spinet, tube organ. Is very screachy until it warms up then it is fine. VERY nice flute tones, so so diapason, not so great strings and really ugly reeds.

    It has a pretty neat sustain feature that is quite useful and musical (well at least to my ears, i grew up with it).

    Issues: lots of tubes, but they are replaceable and a can of deoxit would probalby cure all the screaching on my Conn but its at my sister's house and I don't forsee messing withit anytime this decade.

    Another organ I have for the home market: A Hammond M3: Really classic sound, you'll either love it or hate it... built like a tank, with that classic "hammond tonewheel sound" that is unique to itself.

    Maintenence is basically oiling it once a year and fussing with the tubes should it be screachy.

  3. #3
    ff Fortissimo Austin766's Avatar
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    Jan 2007
    Cleveland, OH

    Re: Comparing and Contrasting the different organ brands

    I have played my grandfather's Lowrey, and it sounds in general allright, it has been a while since I last played it, the style of voicing is really more along the lines of a theater organ than a church organ (but what did you expect a lowrey Satellite to sound like, Cavaille-Coll,Skinner, Austin?) The problem with it is that F# doesn't really work right, and despite my uncle's best efforts to find a new module for f# no such part has been found.

  4. #4
    ff Fortissimo Hammondlover's Avatar
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    Oct 2006

    Re: Comparing and Contrasting the different organ brands

    Lowreys have a small cultfollowing, butI have found there is a dedicated group of people who despise them. (even my mother thought they were cheesy - but with her Hammond D152 I can see why). I have heard a few. The sound in my opinion is, uninspiring at best. Even for the tube ones. (andyg is going to beat me for this : O).</P>

    I agree with farmboy on theConns. The tibias are the best in the business, IMHO. As far as reed stops go, I also agree with Farmboy, but on a different basis. I really don't like ANY reeds stops AT ALL, even on real pipe organs. I find them incredibly grating and obnoxious. </P>

    However I disagree with Farmboy on the strings. I like them, they have a wonderful fluid, thick quality that I find pleasing. </P>

    Baldwins I have no experience with, I have heard some so-so and also not-so-nice opinions of them from other people. </P>

    Wurlitzers- O'grinders 4600 has a wonderful stringy ethereal quality that sounds like no other organ. I'm contemplating gettingthe 44, which I havve seen fromtime to time.I have not heardthe transistor models (other than the funmaker which was really icky!) but I hear good things about the 4300. I have also heard the 805, which is so-so. The strings are blah. </P>
    <P mce_keep="true">Hammond m3's are EVERYWHERE. If you can't find at least 4 or 5 Hammond M3's for sale at any one time, you haven't really looked. I was looking for something better than an M3 and an L100, which has no vibrato scanner. I have an M101 that I would never part with. I love it to death. </P>
    <P mce_keep="true"></P>

  5. #5
    Moderator andyg's Avatar
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    Feb 2005
    Newhaven, UK

    Re: Comparing and Contrasting the different organ brands

    [quote user="Hammondlover"]

    Lowreys have a small cultfollowing..... (andyg is going to beat me for this : O).</P>


    Er, HL, they were the biggest selling American built organ for many years, so small cult following isn't exactly right!</P>

    Beat you? You know me by now, I'll respect everyone's opinions (however wrong they are! [])</P>

    This could be a thread that goes on and one, and I really do hope it brings out lots of information and (divided!) opinions. Forgive me if I don't pitch in for a while on this one. I could give you a pretty good history of most of the major organs and what they are like, but that's forming a big part of the Fellowship thesis I'm preparing for one of the major UK music colleges. I've had enough writing about it for a bit! [:S]</P>

    <P mce_keep="true"></P>
    It's not what you play. It's not how you play. It's the fact that you're playing that counts.

    New website now live -

    Current organ: Roland Atelier AT900 Platinum Edition
    Retired Organs: Lots! Kawai SR6 x 2, Hammond T402, T500 x 2, X5. Conn Martinique and 652. Gulbransen 2102 Pacemaker. Kimball something-or-other.
    Retired Leslies, 147, 145, 760 x 2, 710, 415 x 2.

  6. #6
    ff Fortissimo Hammondlover's Avatar
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    Oct 2006

    Re: Comparing and Contrasting the different organ brands

    I meant today - the organ world as it is. Present tense.Not 30 years ago. Sure, Lowrey and Hammond went at each other's throats for years, as did Lionel and A. C. Gilbert, Pensylvania and New York Central RR's, asdo Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola, Apple and Microsoft. It all ends with who made the better stuff! []</P>
    <P mce_keep="true"></P>

  7. #7
    pp Pianissimo Victor Jules's Avatar
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    Aug 2008

    Needed: specifics on when it was that MIDI technology had truly arrived in the different major church/classical organ makes. Let's say the ADC era was the best recent one for Allen (or was there another between it and their present phase? -- have seen thread on it). What MIDI features, for instance, came with an ADC instrument?

    The Rodgers I play has some great MIDI sounds in each division (can be coupled), touch-sensitive keyboards, the big 3 MIDI connectors, and built-in sequencer. These are are what I'd like to have in whatever highly reliable and long lasting instrument I settle on except the sequencer is not a top priority by any means, ditto for easy interface with laptop or other externals though that would all be nice too.

    Ergo, How far back does the level of stuff in blue go in Allen, Rodgers or other noteworthy brands' history?

    For that matter, for how how long has it been possible for a user (not only a tech) to doctor and adjust individual stop sounds in these major brands -- the laptop factor again? Boy, that would be nice. My church's Insignia has the regulation of about a 1929 Austin or something.

    Many thanks..... VJ

  8. #8
    ff Fortissimo seamaster's Avatar
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    Mar 2004
    Global Britain

    Quote Originally Posted by andyg View Post
    Forgive me if I don't pitch in for a while on this one. I could give you a pretty good history of most of the major organs and what they are like, but that's forming a big part of the Fellowship thesis I'm preparing for one of the major UK music colleges. I've had enough writing about it for a bit!
    Can't wait to read that when it's finished.

  9. #9
    ff Fortissimo paulj0557's Avatar
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    Oct 2010

    I'm sometimes in a typing mood, but right now I haven't much time...

    Hands down, the 1960's Wurlitzer electric organs were the most well made. Some might argue for Hammond, I agree, but have you looked inside a 4300 Wurlitzer?

    Your thrift store observations might turn up some real duds so don't judge the pot by the kettle...or whatever that expression is. In the mid 70's LSI came about . LSI stands for Large Scale Integrated Circuits. This is the era that everyone was trying to out do each other. Conn organ company was one of the few companies that avoided lots of bells and whistles, but they became the butt of jokes as a result of their old fashion methods. Conn has the last laugh though because it is a brand which is sought out for it's great theater organ tone.
    My Wurlitzer 625t is LSI. It is loaded with components! There are over 100 transistors for the filtering of the flutes alone. I paid $100 for the organ in basically mint condition. It's the dark brown ( solid hard wood BTW, no particle board here) cabinet instead of the often seen antique 'theater white'. If you ever have an extra $150-$200 get a 625t or a 630t ( same as 625t, but w/ presets- or so one article says). I have many organs, but I will discuss the 625t for my contribution to this 'cheesy era' in organ history. Yes, there were many pieces of garbage out there, but take a moment to really put aside your first impressions. I want to conduct a test for you. My goal is to 're-train' your sensibilities about the electronic organ. So let's try something here. Below I am going to direct you to a link. The link is to a record I've posted called, 'Harry Wach, Californian Here I Come'. The title is a play on words referring to the Thomas Californian 262 organ- the very first organ with a genuine Thomas wah wah pedal installed into the volume pedal ( wah starts where volume is to wah wah loud! lol). I own a Thomas Californian 263. These organs are spinet size ( meaning they have 43 note keyboards. If the keyboards are 61 keys each then it is called a console organ).
    So here is the training session...
    Play this link today ( while you are reading this even). Then in about a week or so, after you've learned a little more about 'home organs' ( BTW we don't call them home organs we call them organs or 'A Hammond', or 'A Lowrey console', or ' A Thomas theater' etc.) play the record again. Organ music becomes more understood over time. Like anything, the more you do it the more you comprehend it. This example might always sound cheesy to you, but at some point you'll recognize it and say, ' That's cool- it's a transistor organ. The LSI organs have a more synthetic tone. This is why the better the brand and the higher grade the model, the more effort the designers put into tone generation, filtering, and workmanship. There were many many types of buyers during the organ boom. Some people wanted an organ to play itself while they tapped out a 1 note melody. These organs existed in so many forms. Some were garbage, but some had these features almost hidden in them because the goal was to fake out your home audience into thinking you were really getting down on that organ. A good example was the Hammond Composer series of organs in the early 80's. Not a bad little organ. It also was the first fully Japanese Hammond. So most people would say it wasn't a real Hammond. Actually the only 'real Hammond's' are the tone wheel Hammond organs...a whole world of info on them, but DON'T get caught up in all of the bologna that the Hammond B3 is the ONLY organ that is any good. I play the electronic theater organ or ETO for short. Of course nearly every organ player has a great admiration for the Hammond tone wheel organ. Even if we've moved on to other sounds of organs, or organs better suited to a certain genres of music making, we still consider the Hammond tone wheel the organ of organs. Of course there are the die hard Hammond players, and the die hard classical organ types, and the theater organ types, and finally the combo organ types ( ie. Vox Continental AKA the Doors).

    Give this a listen- ( a little digital skipping from my laptop upload on 1st track, going to redo soon)

    I've made 3 playlists entitled 'Organ Tunes even Organ Haters will love!' I,II, & III. Each play list has 200 videos of all organ music of different styles. Not too much Hammond B3 because the web is full of Hammond organ videos. This is the link to my Youtube channel. Just go to my different playlists. I even have a favorites playlist of all sorts of cool videos. I'm into old movies from the 30's especially. ( click on the white box in the very top center of the red page titled 'PLAYLIST')

    So many organs, like ANY musical instrument will sound like crap the second you walk up to it. It takes practice to master an organ, but it's not that difficult if you keep an open ear.
    For instance, watch a really good player grab this little Conn organ by the horns and beautify tones that might normally sound like 'screetching' or buzzing to a beginner.
    Wurlitzer '46' Model 31 Orgatron & 310 rotary cab, 56' 4410 , 65' 4300
    Hammond '55' S6 Chord Organ,HR-40,ER-20, 1971 X66/& 12-77 tone cabinet w/ 122 kit & TREK Transposer- of which I've retrofitted a Wurlitzer/Lowrey 'PedAL gLIdE' awesome!
    Gulbransen 61' 1132 '76' Rialto II & Leslie 705 + two 540
    Conn '57' 406 Caprice '59' 815 Classic (the 29th 815)

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