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Audio Channels

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  • Audio Channels

    I am in the process of gathering information for our Organ Committee and am having trouble making comparisons between audio features. We are replacing a pipe organ and will be purchasing a digital instrument due to limited funds.
    I have proposals from Allen (Q390) and Johannus (AC VII).
    The Allen proposal simply states Multi-point Audio/24 channel audio/24 speaker cabinets.
    The Johannus proposal includes the following information:
    Digital to Analog audio channels 96
    Audio System 12.2 HP (High Power):
    14 channels
    14 speaker cabinets
    38 speaker drivers
    3180 Watts

    Both instruments are within our budget and my impression is that more audio channels the better the sound quality. I much prefer the Allen console construction and am looking for confirmation that I am comparing apples with apples and that 24 really is better than 14.

    Any information or advice would be very helpful.

  • #2
    Yes, all else being equal, more channels is better for sound realism. (Of course, all else is never equal!) On that score, the Allen has 24 channels, with apparently one speaker cabinet per channel. The Johannus appears to have the capability of 96 audio channels, but for your installation, they are recommending using only 14 channels with two speakers per channel (most organs can be mixed down to a fewer number of channels than their maximum capability). The number of speaker drivers and watts is irrelevant here, more or less. Also, the fact that the Johannus installation uses two speakers per channel probably won't improve the sound quality, but "might" improve the sound dispersion and volume capability. Be sure you audition several installations from both dealers so that you have an idea of how effective their finished products are.

    Wurlitzer/Viscount C-380 3 manual with Conn pipes.


    • #3
      Hi organshopper,

      When it comes to audio channels things are getting more confusing, especially as organs get larger in size. I do favour more audio channels rather than fewer, and as the other poster replied, makes for greater realism, greater spread of sound, and less intermodulation distortion.

      I am not in on all the secrets that manufacturers have up their sleeves when it comes to audio routing and channel assignments, but this may be of help. Both Allen and Johannus (and other manufacturers do this as well), have a certain number of audio channels, and then ramp the bass frequencies into a bass channel amp and speaker. Hence the term x.1 audio (e.g. 6.1 audio). This is similar to what home theatre audio does.
      The Allen Q390, if I have it right, has 12 main channels plus 2 pedal channels as it's standard configuration. With multi-point audio, they make it 20 channels plus 2 bass channels. Well, you say, that still doesn't add up. Well, there are 2 channels for the optional acoustic portrait ( like a reverb set-up).

      With the Johannus AC-VII, the Special Edition has 12.2 high power audio. Standard Edition has 12.4 audio, and also available is the organ with 24.4.

      I wouldn't dwell on the number of speaker drivers. If a speaker system has a woofer, a mid-bass and a tweeter, it has 3 drivers but is all in 1 cabinet.

      Also, I wouldn't fuss about watts of audio power, total watts etc. This can be totally meaningless, unless one knows the efficiency of the speaker drivers. Efficient speakers can be made to sound very loud with only a watt or 2 of audio power. Generally speakers designed by organ companies are fairly efficient, and can play decently loud, otherwise they couldn't fill larger spaces such as church sanctuaries with sound. Where generous watts are needed is in the bass, especially 32' flute stops.

      In the end though, it should be the sound of the instrument that decides the matter. Once the dust settles on buying this big new toy, it is the sound that determines whether there will be abiding interest in the instrument. So whoever gets the deal, you make sure they work really hard on making it a great sounding install.

      I have worked in this field now for over 30 years, now doing mostly service work, and there is no end to the number of poor installs I come across. Some of it was done in ignorance, some being cheap, mostly just careless workmanship and tonal finishing. Don't add to the long list of lousy sounding pipeless organs.



      • #4
        Thanks for the information. I am trained as a pianist and have been playing pipes for decades with rare experiences playing electronic organs. My familiarity with and understanding of electronic lingo is limited at best. Stereos and electronic instruments are either PASS or FAIL to my ears. I have visited several installation of both Rogers and Allen. Locally, the Allen installations have a much more realistic sound. I suspect that has to do more with the expertise of the humans responsible for installation and voicing. I have heard a decent installation of a small Johannus but the nearest AC VII is over 300 miles from me. They have not penetrated the market in my region and are eager to place an instrument. I have not visited the AC VII because of distance but am told (by the Johannus dealer....) that it far exceeds the realism of any Allen or Rogers. My skepticism is based on the price and my belief that you get what you pay for. I spoke with the owner of a respected organ service firm who does most of the repair work in my region and while he wouldn't disparage the Joahnnus line, he did emphasize that he has few service calls on Rogers and fewer on Allen and that parts are easy to acquire. I can't help recalling the excitement of buying a snazzy European used car years ago and the inconvenience and expense of having it repaired after the shine wore off. At this point my ears and gut tell me not to dwell on the audio components too much. thanks for the input.


        • #5
          Of course the Johannus rep will talk up his product and talk down the competing products- that's almost to be expected. It does not, however, dictate reality. The things which do are as follows:

          1. The sound quality of your local dealers' installations. This is actually more important than the inherent tonal possibilities or potential of the instruments themselves. I have heard both very good and very poor examples of the exact same model of organ with the exact same speaker complements in similar acoustical environments. The difference was all about the folks who installed and voiced them.

          2. The build quality of the instruments, warranty, and their service history. Are they reliable, and does the company have qualified boots on the ground to quickly rectify any problems if they do occur? A local service presence is important.

          3. How well does the instrument serve your congregation and the musical requirements of your worship ministry? How well will it do that for future generations after you're out of the picture?

          4. Cost

          Everything else, including tech specs, bits, bytes, audio components, desire of the rep to place a demo instrument, etc, is very much secondary.


          • #6
            There is one aspect of multi-channels which I believe to be very significant in determining whether an electronic organ is satisfying, at least to some listeners (and certainly to me!). The matter in question is whether the channels are stereo or at least quasi-stereo. I worked in a church for ten years where the digital electronic organ had quite a number of audio channels, but they were all mono. So when you played across the range on a single stop, ALL the sounds came from a point source. This was quite apparent to me, despite the fact that I was hearing the sounds some distance from the speakers. More recently I played another digital organ where the sounds were split into two channels (C/C# etc.). I suppose this was a bit of an improvement, but it was still mono channels, only now there were two of them.

            I currently play a virtual organ where by programming in panning details, the sounds are truly spread across the acoustic range. It is not a true stereo, as there is no perception of depth, but it is certainly a sideways distribution of the individual sounds, and I find it very satisfying.

            John Reimer


            • #7
              Originally posted by j reimer View Post
              More recently I played another digital organ where the sounds were split into two channels (C/C# etc.). I suppose this was a bit of an improvement, but it was still mono channels, only now there were two of them.
              I did not know that this scheme was used in any new digital organs - very interesting! Gulbransen did this in the 1960s with some higher-end electronic theater organ models. Splitting groups of notes into two mono channels (carrying C,D,E,F#,G#,A# and C#,D#,F,G,A,B) keeps 4th and 5ths from mixing in the amp/speaker, and is a way to get around intermodulation distortion since they mix in the air instead. It is very helpful for complex voices that are rich in harmonics. For flute/"pure" tones, it makes no real difference.
              Jimmy Williams
              Hobbyist (organist/technician)
              Gulbransen Model D with Leslie 204