Allen’s Proprietary Digital Technology Versus PC-based Technology

Aelln Report

 February 4, 2015


Re: Allen's Proprietary Digital Technology Versus PC-based Technology

In 1971 Allen Organ Company introduced the world's first digital musical instrument. The Digital Computer Organ pre-dated other digital sound production products by years with the first Allen digital organ now residing in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, a testimony to the significance of Allen's contribution to digital sound technology. Since 1971 Allen continuously has advanced the state-of-the-art with its current Quantum-based technology including millions of times the power of the original Digital Computer Organ.

More recently, general-purpose Personal Computers (PCs) have developed the ability to produce organ sounds. While this approach provides some cost benefits for suppliers, it presents compromised results to the end-user. By comparison to the off-the-shelf PC approach, Allen Organ Company designs and uses dedicated hardware that provides Allen customers the benefits described here.

Musical Superiority

All digital organs, whether based on PC's or dedicated sound generation technology, digitally record organ pipes sounds and place these recordings in the organ's memory for playback.

A significant difference between PC and Allen's dedicated hardware is the way pipe sounds are recorded and then processed on playback. PC-based organs, often referred to as "Virtual Organs", include pipe sounds that were recorded with the original building's acoustics (reverberation). With this recording technique microphones are placed out in the room at a significant distance from the pipes with the recorded samples referred to as "wet". While this is the easiest way to record pipes it results in compromises. For example, when a digital organ with "wet" samples is installed in a building with its own acoustics, the two acoustics can collide, leading to unnatural results.

Allen Organ Company records pipes with microphones placed close to each pipe resulting in pure or "dry" samples. This is a more complex recording process that requires access to the pipe organ chambers. However, Allen makes this extra effort to provide more accurate and realistic tonal results. With the Allen "dry" sampling method, the result is that of real pipes installed in the room where the Allen digital organ is located. This is the same reality for every pipe organ installation. With Virtual Organ "wet" samples, the pipe sound often seems distant and disconnected from the room in which the organ is installed. This explains why the experience of playing a Virtual Organ is more like playing a recording, rather than a real instrument.

The Allen design philosophy is similar to that of master pipe organ builders. Allen's dedicated tone generation surpasses PC digital sound capabilities. Like a fine pipe organ, the detail of Allen's technology creates warm and cohesive ensembles that properly build and connect with the room's natural acoustics.


Technical Superiority

Allen Organs with Quantum technology provide acoustic enhancement in a very different way from that of Virtual Organs. Unlike the "wet" acoustics that are permanently affixed to the sound of Virtual Organs, the Allen method allows the acoustical parameters of the organ to be adjusted nearly infinitely and independently from the pipes sounds. This method, known as convolution, requires hundreds of million calculations per second to create a level of acoustic realism not provided by any other digital organ in the world. PC's lack the computing power to provide this Allen convolution benefit. As a result, Virtual Organs force users to accept the acoustics supplied with the sound samples, irrespective of whether it helps or hinders the tonal results of the installation.

Reliability/Product Longevity

Pipe organs are reputed to last for decades. Allen Organs are designed to withstand a similar test of time as the company's track record attests. Many of Allen's earliest instruments built seven decades ago are still in-service and serviceable today. No other builder matches this record of customer service. This remarkable history has been accomplished by building instruments with superior quality and just as important, stocking millions of dollars of service parts for customers. This customer centric approach continues to be built into every Allen Organ.

PC-based organ suppliers take a different view of product longevity and customer support. These organs are "virtual" not only based on technology, but because of the support philosophy of their suppliers. PC-based organs are kits put together using PCs from one supplier, sound samples from another (often Hauptwerk), MIDI controllers from another, organ consoles from another, keyboards from another, stop controls from still another, etc. No one company or supplier is responsible for product support or customer satisfaction. In addition, any Virtual Organ warranty that exists is dependent on the capabilities and willingness of each subassembly supplier. The problem with this approach becomes more apparent when one considers that PCs typically have a lifespan of five years or less.

The piecemeal design of Virtual Organs has resulted in customers reporting unreliable or unserviceable products, even shortly after their purchase. This shorter lifespan greatly increases the actual yearly cost of owning such products.


Value is determined by the price at which quality is provided. While the initial allure of Virtual Organs is often the low-price, with the shortcomings of PC tone generation and the absence of integrated long-term product support, it is hard to make an argument for a Virtual Organ's real value. Finally, if a Virtual Organ is equipped with a quality console, keyboards, amplifiers and speakers, the associated costs prove that even low-price is an illusion.

Allen has become the world's favorite digital organ by supplying the most realistic pipe organ sounds and the finest quality of construction; a fully integrated approach with product support that is second to none. The combination of these attributes provides real and lasting value.

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