Pipes vs Digital
  • I'm wondering what effective arguments I could make to people to go down the pipe route for an organ. The advantages being obvious to musicians and not so obvious to those who are not.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,593
    Longevity is a good one. In 25 years, they will have an obsolete box of circuitry and parts may or may not be available. A pipe instrument can be repaired in 100 years. Electronic organs are not a good investment over time.

    Do they know about the organ clearing house? It isn't necessary to pay "new" prices. Sometimes a reconditioned older pipe instrument makes good financial sense.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,930
    longevity, quality of sound and craftmanship, permanence, attracts higher quality musician (some won't even consider the job if you have a digital). a real organ says 'serious' about the music program
  • TCJ
    Posts: 703
    Our brand new digital organ has had issue after issue. It seems we always have the repair man out here doing something. Considering how much money is being plunked into keeping up a box of computer chips that will be obsolete in 15 more years, I definitely think that it's a poor investment long-term. Unfortunately, almost nobody thinks long-term anymore.
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 379
    My parish has an organ fund in the works now for a couple of years for an Allen Organ. I believe they are a company out of Pennsylvania. The current organ was purchased back in the 70s. I help keep the parish website up to date and recently set up a web page. I don't know too much about organs but the one we have has reached a point of no return...lol.
    https://stpaulakron.org/organ-fund
  • Ted
    Posts: 163
    It is always desirable to have the real thing, ideally a tracker, but the usual issue of installation and purchasing costs and then maintenance involved in pipe organs makes budged strapped churches seek alternatives. One does not use an inexpensive piano tuning meter found on eBay to regularly tune a pipe organ.
    I disagree with several of the comments made here. There are bad pipe organs as there are bad electronic organs and the organ builder and digital manufacturer need to be specified when making comparisons. Electronic organs can be upgraded, but more importantly, even a very old electronic organ with MIDI interface is here to stay for a very long time since software like Hauptwerk is here to stay for a very long time, and samples are continually being produced for these. But even without it, MIDI can be retrofitted into electronic organs. The biggest problem with older electronic organs, like the Allen, is that they often used open switches for the keys which over time become oxidised and need to be cleaned. Newer electronic organs tend use hermetically sealed switches.
    Moreover value for the buck is another issue. A 4 manual 80 stop pipe organ cannot compete in price with its digital clone. As for sound quality, the church acoustics determine a large amount here, and a good sound artist to install the digital instrument is very important. A pipe organ installed in a well carpeted church is more problematic than a digital organ which can produce reverb and other sound manipulation to compensate for the poor acoustics of the particular space.
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  • Nisi
    Posts: 80
    An electronic substitute will never be able to compete with a pipe organ, no matter how much enthusiasts of electronic sound will try to convince you. This is not sentimentality but science. Don't make the mistake of not searching far and wide for a real organ. You don't want to leave your parish's children and grandchildren with an electronic machine rather than an actual musical instrument. Many of us grow up on electronic organs but we never seek a job which has one. While there are many avenues, here are a couple of places to start:
    https://www.organclearinghouse.com.
    http://apoba.com/
    It's a wonderful and long journey - enjoy it!
  • Aside form all the comments above that were favourable and sane in their preference for an organ, a real one, versus a simulacrum (an imitation), ti is fundamentally a matter of deciding whether one wants real live sound coming from pipes actually made to speak living sound by wind, or whether one prefers an ontological fake, a fraud whose sounds are those of what are essentially tuned buzzers (no matter how sophisticated and 'digital') amplified through speakers. When one realises that one is hearing speakers and not living pipes there is no comparison. And, a so-called 'digital' fake does not and cannot by the laws of physics sound 'just like a real organ' because the sound source is not the same and therefore cannot produce a sound identical to that of pipes. Does one wish to worship God with what is real or what is a fraud? The simulacrum industry's fundamental assertion is that its products sound like real organs. They don't. They were created as simulations of organs. They are poor simulations which have a fraction of the lifespan of an organ.

    Congratulations on your new position -
    I wish you much luck and good fortune in your pursuit of an organ in your new church. It might help to arrange for an organ builder to address the relevant committee in your new church. After all, one might assume that they have consulted a simulacrum manufacturer. There should be fair play. I will send up tome prayers for you. Let us know how this works out.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,930
    purple - besides... a real pipe organ moves a lot of air... good against COVID! - end purple
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 838
    How old is your church building? How many more years of service do you expect to get out of it? If the building is nearing the end of its useful life, does it make sense to invest in a pipe organ? Why did they decide on an electronic organ rather than a pipe organ? Was it simply price? Is space an issue? Is the area where a pipe organ would be placed unable to physically support the weight? You need to know why they decided on an electronic organ instead of a pipe organ. What are they replacing? Do they already have an electronic organ? Are they replacing a piano? Did someone donate money specifically for an electronic organ? Have they already decided on make & model?



  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,593
    All valid considerations. There is a multi-million dollar new church in my area that is beautiful to behold. The loft will not support the weight of a pipe organ. Bad planning, lack of foresight, bad design, other? It happens.
    Thanked by 2marymezzo bhcordova
  • Well-voiced pipe organs gain in clarity and definition as more ranks are engaged; the opposite is invariably true with simulacra, even those of crystalline North German instruments.
  • davido
    Posts: 309
    There are buildings - like mine - where it would make no sense to install a real organ. There is no loft, no space on the floor, and a variated roof shape that would prevent it from speaking properly to the other side of the room. A four stop, one manual organ would make the congregation think less of organs than they do now.

    To my knowledge, Allen continues to supply parts for all its past models of organ. With all due respect to the real organ proponents above, and despite agreeing with the principles they state, I have heard some recently installed Allens, and they sound fantastic.
  • Nisi
    Posts: 80
    Don't forget that the original questioner was "wondering what effective arguments I could make to them to go down the pipe route." It rather looks to me as though he was not looking to be convinced that an electronic organ was a good thing.
    Thanked by 1francis
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,593
    I have dealt with Rodgers and have only played an Allen a couple of times. I have heard some older Allen organs that might have been state of the art when built, but no longer sound so great in comparison to newer technology. I would agree the Allen organs will hold up longer than some other brands. I have also seen the prices on new Allens of size, and it seems you are getting into small pipe organ territory price wise. They were not cheap.

    I have given some thought to converting my aging home Rodgers into Hauptwerk. No pipes here. I would have to either move into the yard or build a bigger house for pipes.
  • ...and they sound fantastic.
    Davido, with a little more than all due respect, your points are well taken, but I'm curious as to what you mean by 'fantastic' in this context. Fantastic in relation to what? (Purple if you wish.)
  • davido
    Posts: 309
    Pretty darn exciting. It was in a live acoustic and installed well. As good as the half-million dollar rebuild my church at the time was having done.
    Are there some colors that weren’t as great? Sure. But I think we could all criticize any real pipe organ.

    Now I’ve also played what I think was Adam and Eve’s Allen organ. Not quite the same...
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,036
    @seantunney

    I'm wondering what effective arguments I could make to people to go down the pipe route for an organ. The advantages being obvious to musicians and not so obvious to those who are not.


    The short answer is: why do we get an organ? If it's to show forth the glory of God, praise Him, and build a monument to Him (much as our churches are), then a pipe organ is fitting. A mechanical action pipe organ is especially fitting because the maintenance costs (over time) are much, much lower, even if the up-front is 20-30% higher, and because the control afforded the player makes it more similar to other acoustical musical instruments. We are replacing an electric-slider pipe organ by a major builder after 30ish years, which should NEVER have to happen. I can also vouch that it feels very distant to play, and it is difficult to communicate. My students have this same experience with it.

    In addition, the pipe organ sings with breath as do humans. A digital organ can never do that. The comments above about the sound improving as stops are added is certainly a truth, too, in my experience.
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  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 379
    In the parish I grew up in, installed an Austin organ in 1929. This organ is still in use today. It uses electro pneumatic switches, the pipes themselves as I understand it do not produce any sound on there own. I was surprised to see after a quick search on the internet that the company is still in business.

    Ultimately, what kind or type of instrument is selected will depend on the parish budget so back to the OP, it would be a good idea to have a musician(s) on the finance counsel.
    960 x 638 - 115K
    2032 x 1520 - 1015K
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  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,930
    My last full-time gig was in Virginia and I had the privilege of being the organist at post to the Martin Pasi Opus V. You should contact him immediately and open up a conversation with one of today’s best builders. I imagine he can give you a lot of advice that will sway people in the correct direction.
  • Francis is spot on about Pasi. We have two of his instruments in Houston. One, about twenty or so ranks, at a Lutheran church; the other, approaching eighty or so ranks, at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. I have played dozens of instruments in my life and the Pasi at the co-cathedral is by far my favourite one. It is tracker, but in spite of its size it is a remarkably intimate instrument to play. Every stop is a work of art in itself. Every single stop. Do consider Pasi when the time comes. There are quite a number of other American builders who are quite fine, of which I'm sure you are aware.
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  • The church I play for has a 3 manual Rodgers organ. There is not the space in the building to install a pipe organ of any decent size (we have thought about adding a couple ranks of pipes to supplement the Great, but that is waiting on funding). I enjoy the organ I play, but I would rather have a real organ. I consider it a special treat whenever I have the opportunity to play a real pipe organ.

    It all comes down to sound, and it has nothing to do with the quality of sound production on our digital organ. The sound from a digital vs a real organ feels different. The sound from a real organ feels alive. It has a presence in the room beyond just the volume produced. It is because there is air actually moving through the pipes and throughout the room. It may seem like a small amount of air compared to the total volume in the room, but it makes a difference. You don't get that experience with a digital organ.
  • Ted
    Posts: 163
    I really wonder if I would be able to pass the blindfold test, of going into a church blindfolded to determine whether the organ being played is a pipe organ or digital, especially when the latter is properly set up by sound professionals. Playing them may be a different story, however.

    Getting back to the original question, some have answered that cost and early obsolescence would suggest pipe as the better option. But again, it depends on what one is comparing. If one wants ooodles of stops/ranks, then arguments for the digital are more convincing in terms of value for the buck. Perhaps Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC) is of some help here in its praise for the pipe organ. But even that is a shaky argument considering that a digital tries to replicate a real pipe organ, and can do so perhaps not "perfectly" but well enough to satisfy most people on the parish committee. I would also be careful in calling a digital a fake, because like electric guitars have become, a digital is in a class of instruments having its own unique sound characteristics, and certainly suitable for a church. Yes, I would agree that a digital has a different "feel" from the pipe organ, but that just puts the digital into its own class of suitable instruments for church use, and, at least in my opinion, more appropriate than electric guitars. But what, then, is the purpose of the organ in a typical Novus Ordo church if not mainly to support congregational singing, to promote that active participation of faithful above all else? A digital is more than sufficient for this. Arguments on quality of sound would not be convincing here.

    However, I recall a number of years ago the music director and organist of a fairly wealthy downtown church asked the parish to replace its aging Willis pipe organ (from England) with a Hellmuth Wolff tracker and the parish agreed and went all out to raise money for it. The parish has had very fine traditional sacred music for a long time, and a mostly paid choir composed mainly of music students from a nearby university. The argument was that because of the church's downtown location, getting such a nice pipe organ would make the church a suitable place for concerts, and through "osmosis" would attract some concert goers to the liturgy with its very fine music and be a way for the Holy Spirit to offer grace for conversion. While the wrecking ball is threatening a few churches around it, this one is still going strong. So I think that it is convincing the parish that fine music in the liturgy is a very important way of grace, and putting the money into the best it can afford for this is perhaps the only convincing argument for a pipe organ today.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,593
    Don9of11, yes Austin is still in business - I think they are over 100 years old. They build fine and durable instruments. I knew of one that came up and played every Sunday for over 50 years with no service beyond tuning.

    Be careful of fads in the organ world. I remember when many instruments were thrown our during the 1960s because they didn't fit what organists thought German Baroque organs sounded like. They didn't sound like historical instruments and were so unpleasant most of those sixties instruments have been either re-voiced or trashed. The organ world is stylistically quite fickle. Too many organists want to buy period instruments that don't do any music outside that period very well. These are academic organs that don't make good church instruments.
  • ...digital organ tries to replicate...
    (Emphasis added.)
    That really says it all.
    Attempted replication of what it isn't is its sole raison d'etre.
  • Reed organs would be invaluable in many of the circumstances that would not permit a full pipe organ, though I don't know if anyone makes them any more.

    I would still take a half-decent simulacrum over the best Steinway grand for liturgical use.
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  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,930
    i would forsake instrumentation and have a cappella singing.
  • m_r_taylor
    Posts: 156
    Off-topic but since it comes up every now and then, I can instantly tell (and am instantly disappointed) when there is an electric organ in an unfamiliar church where I haven't checked the rafters to find pipes or not.

    Maybe this would be solved by some clever engineering but one factor in how I can tell is how incommensurate the sound is to the space I am in. Resonance, reverb, direction. It invariably sounds thin, even and especially in full voice.

    I'm sure this isn't absolute, and perhaps I wouldn't pass a blindfold test or two. But my comment isn't helpful since you aren't trying to persuade seasoned musicians with baked-in opinions. ;)
  • m_r_taylor
    Posts: 156
    Francis, your comment on Pasi led me to his site and now I'm listening to recordings from his dual-temperament (well-tempered / mean-tone) Op. 14 at St. Cecilia in Omaha NE. Buxtehude, Organ Music, Vol. 5 played by Julia Brown. Quite glorious!
    Thanked by 1francis
  • Ted brings up an interesting point regarding size of organs. If given the choice between installing a 25 stop pipe organ or a 60 stop digital (not considering other factors), I would be tempted to go with the digital. There is a lot of solo music that requires a third manual. Even though the sound quality might be inferior, the benefit of the extra stops would be very tempting. Then of course there is installing a hybrid, but that makes it even more complicated.

    I think Charles' comments regarding period instruments are interesting. While playing Bach on a 1700s German organ and Vierne on an early 1900s French organ is the ideal, unless you have the space and money available to install both with reasonable numbers of stops, should you go with a period instrument since it makes other periods of music unplayable? In my opinion, it would be better to go with an organ that can play all, but not perfectly. For example, I would want an organ that is not as dark as the British, nor as bright as the French, nor as chiffy as the German. I would think something right in the middle that I could play all three on is the best option. This is assuming a church installation not an academic.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • davido
    Posts: 309
    Let’s take this discussion in another direction: real piano vs digital.

    Cause that’s also a world that some of use have to live in =)
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  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 289
    @Nathan I disagree strongly. I played a 2-manual, 26-stop pipe organ from 1890 full-time for three years, and I cannot think of a single piece I couldn’t perform for want of a third manual. Messiaen, Howells, Vierne and Widor symphonies, scads of Bach and Buxtehude, heck, even Calvin Hampton and Gerre Hancock and Dan Locklair. I played everything there, and because it was fundamentally a good, well-thought-out organ in a good room, it all worked gloriously.

    Previously I had a job on a 3-manual, 80ish-stop Allen, with Fancy Complement of Extra Speakers and MIDI and Speshul Hosanna Horn Package and it was a constant struggle to find anything to play that would not sound like death warmed over. Romantic music was lousy because the 8s were hard-sounding and emphysematic: baroque music was miserable because the mixtures were pitched way too high and the principal choruses made no sense, modern music was out because the console was so poorly laid out and the combination action was slow, hymnplaying was awful because I could either assault the congregation with a bombardment of grating reeds and screaming 4’ stops and upperwork, or play on the fonds which were so characterless as to provide no sense of pitch, and so poorly reproduced by the Amazing Amps and Speakers that they could not fill up the room and support the singing. And this was a digital that was Artistically and Meticulously Voiced by a Brilliant Craftsmen....
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,593
    Nathan, I agree church instruments are primarily service instruments not concert instruments. However, I have heard some well-built organs, including 19th century American organs that can do most anything passably well. I have decided the people who have to have a certain style of organ to play Buxtehude probably have no real idea what Buxtehude sounded like in the first place. I also agree on the electronics. Speaker sound often seems to miss overtones moving columns of air produce in a pipe. In reality, it might be nice to have one of every possible stop to use, but I have heard 18-20 pipe ranks do quite well in the right hands.
  • Gamba, you make a good point. I think it would have to be the right two manual, though. I've played one where the Great has an overly powerful mixture and no reeds. Combined with the limited number of pistons available, that instrument would be more difficult to play some of the French music with the frequent stop changes (the final choral variation from Durufle's Veni Creator Spiritus comes to mind). I should add that it is a very good organ in the sound it produces. One of the pedal stops (I believe a 16 ft Open Wood, but I don't remember since it's been a while) provides such a wonderful bass. It gives such presence to the sound.

    The biggest thing I would miss in this hypothetical from a three to a two manual is that two manual organs don't normally have a Chamade Trumpet. You generally need at least three manuals to get one of those.
  • I played a Rodgers once for about two years many years ago.
    It was the most hideous sounding thing I had ever heard.
    But the people all said 'you make that thing sound like a real organ'.
    A nice enough compliment, but it was all touch and articulation and trying very, very hard to imagine what I wanted to hear and to ignore the horrid sound that I did hear.

    I think that this is what many do who, astonishingly, prefer eighty 'ranks' of buzzers ('oh, but you see, they are 'digital' buzzers!) to twenty ranks of pipes.
    They are so fascinated, dazzled, with all the stops and sounds, pistons and buttons at their command that they become accustomed to the sound and accustom themselves to beliving that it sounds like what it doesn't.
    And, having pulled the wool over their own ears they tell all their people and any other gullible persons who may happen by that their simulacrum sounds 'just like a pipe organ'.
    It doesn't.

    I subbed for several Sundays several years ago on a new four manual state of the art Allen which had all the extras.
    The church (Catholic) was rather new, rather large, and, with marble paved floors and all, had reasonably good acoustics.
    While this 'organ' was producing a very close but obvious approximation of real pipe ranks, I could not escape the realisation that what I was hearing was that dead, dead sound which issues from a battery of very sophisticated speakers, not the live and breathing sound of pipes.

    These manufacturers and their customers are fond of saying to anyone unwitting enough to believe them that 'you can't tell the difference'.
    Well, there is a difference, and you can tell it.

    We have here an entire industry that is built on deception, calculated and painstakingly researched deception; and many people are all too happy to be deceived.
    In fact, some are more impressed at having been deceived than disdainful of the fraud that has deceived them..
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  • marymezzomarymezzo
    Posts: 204
    Davido, maybe we should start a new thread. As it happens, I'm interested in the piano question at the moment.
  • I truly don’t understand the militant snobbery that I’ve encountered on this topic my entire life.

    I have played on a small 2m Austin, two tinier 2m Schantzs that were unified to the hilt, a nice, new 3m Rodgers, a 4m Walker, a fancy Diane Bish Allen with faux facade, a H&H on the historic registry, a modern reclaimed (frankenpipe) instrument, and everything in between.

    I’d take the Walker 10/10 times to some of the alternatives I’ve had. Yes, it can’t keep up with its real equivalent at fff, but up until the extreme of tutti, you’d be damn hard pressed to know it wasn’t real (particular attention to the pedal department is necessary for the realism). But I can tell you right now that the Skinner style Walker filled a 1400 seat room beautifully. (It also had a subwoofer almost as large as my refrigerator.)

    The tiny unified organs were sooooo limiting it was painful. And don’t think for a minute that it’s not equally sad for a non-purist to play Widor on a tiny Schantz Christmas morning as it is for a purist to—heaven forbid!—play an electronic instrument.

    They both have their places. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good here. The new technology is verrrry good. I speak from experience. I’m fully sympathetic to the arguments pro/con once you get into the 200k+ territory, but if you suffer from a limited space, budget (or more likely, both) then exploring digital is perfectly legitimate.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,593
    These manufacturers and their customers are fond of saying to anyone unwitting enough to believe them that 'you can't tell the difference'.
    Well, there is a difference, and you can tell it.


    Sometimes you can both hear and feel the difference.

    I played a 10-rank Schantz for some years. It was a service instrument built to play the mass and was never intended as a concert instrument. I could get away with playing some larger works but many compositions I would have liked to play wouldn't work with the instrument's limited resources. You have to choose what to play carefully on a smaller instrument.

    A problem I notice on electronics, to give an example, is that a given "stop" on the Great is identical to a similar stop on the Swell or Choir. Although given different names, they are the same circuits producing the same sounds. So having more stop knobs or tabs doesn't mean you have more voices to work with.
  • Charles, I wonder if this has to do with the electronics that you have played. I don't notice this on the one I currently play (an older three manual Rodgers). Do you think this could have something to do with the quantity of separate speakers available? If there is, for example, separate sets of speakers for each division do you still notice this?
  • Ted
    Posts: 163
    If I may add one more comment. There is a huge categorical difference with digital organs built in the previous millenium and one built during the past 10 years, and here I specifically refer to sound quality. I briefly played an early digital Allen built in the 70's some years ago and it was not the most pleasant experience, since no matter what stops you chose they all sounded similar with slight variations, and they all sounded as if you had loose wax in your ears even with its giant sized and mechanical tremolo speaker system. I think I would have preferred an old analogue tube organ like the Hammond H100 with its unique and clever tone wheel that needs to be oiled ever so often.

    Today's digitals are very different. Unlike older digitals, they are in fact powerful computers running on operating systems which can be upgraded, but more importantly their sound samples can be replaced, modified, upgraded etc. These samples are not just simple recordings of organ pipes. They are different recordings of the same organ pipes to reproduce the "attack" sound of when the key is pressed, the change in sound due to slight air pressure changes when other keys are pressed, and the "decay" sound of when the key is released as well as other variants. In other words, you have a darn close clone of the original performance sound of the particular pipe organ in electrical form heading to the speakers.

    I was recently consulted on the purchase of a new organ for a medium sized church also with an early poor sounding digital Allen. This was a typical Novus Ordo church outside the city where many in the congregation preferred "This little light of mine" as a recessional to say Newman's "Praise to the Holiest" sung to RR Terry's wonderful melody. The parish had been donated a fair sum of money, and the pastor agreed that the musical tastes should be improved slowly but eventually, and part of that effort would be to start with a decent sounding organ to help the organist, and lest parishioners decide to bring in electric guitars when this organist-for-50 years there finally retires. The final cost of a decent sized "used" pipe organ for that size church after installation was just out of the question. They ended up purchasing a 3 manual Viscount Sonus 60, with a professionally installed speaker system. The difference was unimaginable. This organ is amazing. You can chose different tonal organ styles for all the stops, English, French, German, American, Baroque, etc., lower/raise the pitch, programme complex registrations, etc. It has 17 tuning temperaments to chose from, particularly important when accompanying singers: the equal temperament is great for organ concerts, but not for accompanying singers singing Gregorian chant. With the huge subwoofer, the 32ft stops will make the pews shake. The touch of the keys is founded on a hard tracker. And yes, it can accompany "This little light of mine" to a country and western sound, as well as finely reproduce the colour details of Messaien's mystical visions. In short, modern digital organs are light years away from those built even 20 years ago. I would certainly not be able to pass the blindfold test with this organ.



  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,593
    "This little light of mine"


    Thanks for the ear worm
  • Nisi
    Posts: 80
    An electronic substitute will never be able to compete with a pipe organ, no matter how much enthusiasts of electronic sound will try to convince you. This is not sentimentality but science.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,141
    I don't doubt that a difference of 10 years makes for a 'categorical' difference, but hasn't it always been the case that the obsolescent model suddenly became an embarrassment? I felt that way when the local First Methodist replaced the c1980 Rodgers with a 1996 model. I subbed a couple of weeks ago on another 805 B and didn't take the opportunity of using an acoustic piano to play HELMSLEY, PICARDY and LLANGLOFFAN to a congregation listening on their computer speakers; one of the things that made me sweat a lot was that meantone, Werkmeister &c aren't saved to piston memory ;-)
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,593
    Nathan, there were not enough speakers for the divisions. I also think some brands cut costs by using the same circuits for multiple sound generation. Unfortunately, it often all sounds alike.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,141
    At yet another First Methodist I've encountered an electronic 'unit organ' of 4 ranks, one which regularly went out of tune! Fortunately there were only 12 knobs that needed to be twisted.

    Apart from obsolescence and one's changeable perception of what sort of sound is accepable, electronics just don't have longevity on their side. I've described before the hybrid Wicks at St. David of Wales, on which Messiaen used to be passable. The electronics gave out some time ago, so no celestes, no great or antiphonal reed, no plenum without coupling the swell…
  • Has anyone here had the opportunity to play a Marshall and Ogletree digital organ? How does it compare to other digital instruments?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,593
    Those M & O are E_X_P_E_N_S_I_V_E out the wazoo. You could probably get a pipe instrument for what they cost.

    Take a look at this https://www.azcentral.com/story/entertainment/arts/2017/03/14/cameron-carpenter-international-touring-organ/98961654/

    I think you can get a decent enough pipe organ for $1.4 million.


  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 289
    As to improvements over the last ten years.....uh....

    Allen’s new organs are still running on the same Renaissance tech since 1998. Some minor tweaks and new stops added, but the fundamental architecture (and the samples) haven’t changed in 22 years.

    Rodgers are still working with their PDI (Parallel Digital Imaging) technology introduced in 1993. Since their sale to Global Organ Group a year or two ago, they are starting to change their lower-end models over to the same (also-antiquated) sounds GOG uses for their Johannus organs; it is unknown how long the bigger ones will stay on the old tech, which incidentally still sounds lightyears ahead of the Eurotrash Johannus noises.

    Viscount is constantly talking about Completely New Revolutionary Developments, but keeps churning out flimsy consoles with the same horrible sounds.

    So yeah....not really much new under the sun as far as I can see. Just more advertising copy, LEDs in the music racks, and USB combination storage instead of floppy disks.

    Walker and M&O do so much better, but usually exceed the cost of a (restored, installed, voiced) pipe organ. If I HAD to have a digital, I guess I’d go Walker, the only ones with consoles built as well as a fine pipe organ, and truly good samples and always custom speaker/amp installations. Incidentally, they don’t advertise and don’t have stock models, so....but you may know them from hearing the ones temporarily installed at the renovated Christ[al] Cathedral in California, or St. John the Divine in NYC, which are both currently waiting for their landmark pipe organs to be reinstalled.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW BruceL
  • I didn't realize they were that expensive. I knew they were more than your average Rodgers or Allen, but not that expensive. Why would you buy one instead of a pipe organ except if space is limited?
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,593
    My aging Rodgers is starting to need work. I know Rodgers has been sold and don't want to buy another one. The Allens are pretty pricey where I live and I am not convinced they are worth it. Hauptwerk sounds good but I wonder if I would need a live in technician to keep it operating. I don't have the time to constantly tinker with an instrument. This is a home practice instrument, not a church organ. I would have to move into the yard to accommodate pipes.
  • We were hoping to get a new instrument prior to covidtide and I took the opportunity to go play the M&O at Ave Maria University whilst on vacation. It was an impressive instrument but it wasn’t quite head and shoulders above some other digitals (Walkers) I’ve played. Some of the color reeds were truly wonderful and had lots of character and realism. I couldn’t crank it as much as I wanted and the console was off axis in the loft, but I enjoyed it. I didn’t enjoy it enough to justify the premium that would have been involved, however, but I can tell you that they do retrofit other digital consoles and some of their options are more affordable than you think. It will still be 150k+ though. (But you could squeak by under 200.)

    The statements that modern (read: last 10 years) use the same samples just modified is patently false. It is certainly true of old instruments (including the one I play in now, where when you pull out a particular stop on the great, hold a note and pull a second knob on the choir you can hear the great note change character...) but not the newer stuff. Modern instruments use extensive sampling of real instruments (viscount is different in this respect) and you can dial in umpteen different flutes that are all very different in character and have great realism. Everything is driven by very powerful computers and is completely digital. I also fail to see how continued development and improved iterations of a particular patented technology is a bad thing. The typical limiting factor (after the quality of the samples / tone generation) is the number of channels they install. The more speakers, the better (typically). That way you get more natural mixing in the air. Installing speakers high up, behind a faux (or now-mute) facade or in chambers also all aid in the realism.

    I don’t think most of us are trying to claim that the two are the same thing, but it’s certainly fair to say that the newer instruments (when properly installed and VOICED) are perfectly legitimate instruments that often solve very real problems for smaller churches.