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Thread: Allen theatre spinet rescue

  1. #1
    pp Pianissimo Bob Pierce's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013

    Allen theatre spinet rescue

    So while the search for a Conn 640-something continues, I took a chance on a little spinet to tootle around on in the meantime:


    The ad didn't specify what it was (seller had no idea other than it used to be Grandma's), but with the help of the Blue Book and a few threads on this forum I was able to tell it was an MDC Allen, specifically the Digital Theatre Compact -- elsewhere identified as model MDC-10, though this one actually just says "Digital Theatre Compact" on the ID plate.

    It had been sitting in an out-building for untold years since Grandma passed away, so it required a pretty serious cleaning. But once I had it spruced up, it was time to cross my fingers and plug it in... and what do you know, it still works fine! There were a few key contacts and tab contacts that needed a quick cleaning, but this little thing is already 100% functional, save for a few sticking buttons on the silly rhythm machine.

    I think it should be a lot of fun; obviously being an economy model it has its limitations, but for $25 I don't mind.

    Obviously though from the picture you can see it's got a couple of broken keys. I know a lot of us on here have various projects going, MIDI and otherwise, which often includes parts-donor instruments... so, does anyone have 2-3 MDC-era Allen keys they'd be willing to sell? I'd also be interested in a "frequency separator" board, if anyone's got one of those lying around from a defunct MDC.

    PS- a mildly interesting side note: what appears to be the main tone generation board has a date stamp of Sept. 2, 1995 on it! That threw me for a loop -- this being a late 1970s model -- until I realized, the previous owner probably needed to have that board replaced at some point. (Er, some point in 1995 or 1996, evidently!)

  2. #2
    fff Fortississimo toodles's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Logan UT

    1 members found this post helpful.
    The "Florida Flipper" is offering keys at $10 each:

    I would think that any Allen technician would have replacements, since I don't think Allen has changed their key design in over half a century. Try your local Allen dealer, if you have one. I would think they would sell the parts to you to do your own replacement on something so simple and mechanical.

  3. #3
    pp Pianissimo Bob Pierce's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013

    Thanks toodles, I have a request in with my local Allen dealer - they said they may have some spares kicking around. I'm reluctant to encourage flipper types though, so hopefully I'll come up with something else, instead of buying from the "FF".

    This is turning out to be a nifty little organ though! The tones are just the basics: flutes at four footages, strings at three, reeds at two; plus piano and a few sound effects ("wah" on the reeds etc.), but there's reasonable authenticity there given we're talking 40-year old technology. And I really like the "transpose" capability it has. The main drawback is the lockstep tuning, which makes it a bit sterile... but I've rigged in an Alesis Nanoverb, and the chorus setting on it really opens up the sound on the Allen. My only disappointment is the tremulants aren't fast enough to my ear, for a real theatre effect. So I'm going to try to wire in a Leslie on just the flutes.

    Anyway thanks again for the suggestions.

  4. #4
    p Piano sadatoni's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2008

    I wonder if it has the same tremulant unit that my mother's TH-436 had. It allows for adjust the the FM and amplitude shifts as well as the speed.
    Allen MDS-317 at home / Allen AP-16 at Church / Allen ADC-3100 at the stake center

  5. #5
    pp Pianissimo Bob Pierce's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013

    Thanks for the suggestion. Actually it's the Allen "Tremulant II," which does have independent AM and FM controls as well as a Rate control. It's just that the Rate doesn't go nearly fast enough even when maxed out. It would be fine for a church organ, but I don't know why Allen wouldn't have built in something a little more pronounced, in an organ marketed specifically as a Theatre organ?

    I was kind of idly considering whether it might be possible to change the value on the Rate pot, and be able to get the tremolo to go faster. But I'll probably end up just tacking on a Leslie.

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