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  • Organ improvements and a happy customer

    Hi y'all

    Just thought I would relate a wee tale (true story) about an organ install that after almost 20 years finally sounds like it should have in the first place. I did the job yesterday.

    I'm not sure where I should begin this story, but just to say, that the area Johannus rep. sold this church a first generation digital organ from that firm, and to confuse things further, he took the Johannus label off and private labelled it. For speakers it looks like he re-cycled some previous organ's speakers, or used what was lying around in his shed. They looked to be 8" full range drivers built in sort of a PA array that was popular years ago. The bass speaker was a home brew plywood box, that had been further modified to accommodate a 12" full range driver. This 12" driver weighed almost nothing, so it could never have put out serious bass. The speaker cabling was approx 24 gauge solid wire, that after a 25' run produced 2 ohms resistance. Apparently, the church was never impressed by the organ install.

    About 2 years ago, they got the dealer in for something, maybe to deal with a speaker issue, I'm not certain. Anyways, someone there told him to take a hike, figuring he didn't know what was going on. They then decided to find out the manufacturer of the organ. After several months, they found the manufacturer's plate underneath the keydesk. Found out it was a Johannus organ. They then contacted the Johannus factory, who forwarded the message to me. I contacted the person listed, and spoke to her, but realized quickly she didn't know what she was talking about, but she was at the time on the worship committee. Tried contacting her again when in the area, but then she was no longer on the committee, and didn't know what if anything had been done to the organ.

    About a month ago, I was in Nova Scotia (Canada east coast), and got a call from a pipe organ chap who I know. He said some guy from the above mentioned church called him about servicing their organ, as it didn' t sound right and was misbehaving. So I contacted the organist who didn't seem to know what was going on, but the organ was not really playable. So, a few weeks later, doing a service loop in that area, I stopped by, and met with a different guy again, who said he signed the cheques. Not a bad person to talk to in the grand scheme of things. Anyways, I got most of the story from him, and then tested the organ. Well it didn't take long to realize that screwup number two had occurred.

    About a year ago, this church engaged the local sound guy to put on some new speakers on the organ. But.....he doesn't know anything about the organ. So what does he do? The organ has 5 channels of audio, coming out on octal plugs. This guy must have thought that all audio coming off the organ was the same. So... he snipped the cable from the octal plug, and left one octal plug lying on the floor of the organ. To the other one he hooked up some lamp cord, and to that he hooked up the speaker wire where it went into the wall. For speakers he used 2 Yamaha BR 12 (sound reinforcement speakers with a horn loaded tweeter, not my kind of sound), and wired then in parallel. The big problem with what he did, was only the stops that were designated for that audio channel worked, about 75% of the organ didn't work through external speakers except a little bit when the reverb was turned on. To boot, the amp I think didn't like the 4 ohm load that it was trying to push. The interesting thing was that after a year of this, neither the organist nor anyone else could tell me really what was wrong. By the way, the organ still played on all channels through the internal speakers.

    So, I told the treasurer of the church, what needed doing, in terms of audio, and some service work, and said I would put it in writing what the costs were going to be.

    Somehow, I got the feeling that the church realized it had been had twice, and that there was at least some determination to have things put right. I also felt a bit sorry for them. So I proposed to add 2 more Yamaha speakers, in this case BR 10s, as they were called treble speakers, and give them to the church at my cost. I would supply a decent 15" woofer, and put it in the existing plywood box. I would supply speaker cable 18 gauge, to where the cable went in the wall, and from there, double all the lines.

    On Tuesday night last week the church board discussed my e-mail, and I got a call Wednesday morning to go ahead. I did the job yesterday. And how did it go? Well, it took a couple of hours longer than anticipated, it was a pain, the speaker chambers were hard to get into, as the openings were small, no floor up there, the ladder could not be perched underneath the opening, but to the side of it, the halogen light threw up so much heat, I almost turned into a puddle. I lost 3 lbs. doing this job. Who needs Jenny Craig when doing this kind of work.

    And the result.......... the church couldn't believe what they heard. For the first time, the organ sounded like it should have in the first place. These Yamaha speakers are very efficient, and have reasonable frequency response and dispersion characteristics. I only used them, as the sound guy had already sold them a couple, and didn't want them to junk them, just because I told them they were not my preferred setup. The bass solution worked quite good as well. My preferred solution would have cost them a good bit more, but then there is a chance that they wouldn't do anything, or worse would just no longer use the organ.

    These folks were astonished to say the least. Got comments that the organ sounded like a pipe organ (those kind of people generally don't know what a pipe organ sounds like). For the first time in almost 20 years they will enjoy singing to the organ. I am happy for them.

    So what is my point here. Organ dealers, do better work....don't just sell something, hook up some speakers collect the check and run. Churches, individuals, institutions, be prepared to spend decent money on audio for the organ. Don't hire the local sound guy, who may know something about an electric guitar, but diddly squat about organs.

    And the problem exists almost everywhere. I was talked to a fellow from Nigeria the other day, and he said many organs sold there such as Viscount and Rodgers are sold with no speakers at all. Yes, you read that right. No speakers at all. What do they do then for sound? The run the left-right outputs into the sound mixer of the house sound system. From a vendor's point of view, saves them hassles, they can save the purchaser money, or better yet, tell the buyer that they can give them a deal. But this fellow told me, the results sound bad, even the churches know quite often the sound is bad.

    And we wonder why the organ is being abandoned in some many places.

    I do this kind of thing maybe twice a year. My little contribution to making the organ enjoyed by those who have to listen to them and play them. I don't even care what the make of origin is. I view it as a challenge sometimes to make things better. And believe me, the customer is more than happy when they hear radical improvements.

    Just my little thought of the day.

    AV

  • #2
    A tale of horror with happy ending. Great work Arie!
    -Admin

    Allen 965
    Zuma Group Midi Keyboard Encoder
    Zuma Group DM Midi Stop Controller
    Hauptwerk 4.2

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    • #3
      Arie, I would think that Johannus would have wanted to have a word or two with the pillock who originally sold the organ.

      Comment


      • #4
        Arie,

        Do you remember what the private label name was after the Johannus name plate was removed ?

        Comment


        • #5
          Hi,

          The organ was re-labelled "Principal". The same dealer sells made in China pianos with his daughter's name on the fall board.

          AV

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          • #6
            I wonder if her name is Octavia?

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            • #7
              Hi,

              Continuing my tale from yesterday, another one that took place yesterday.

              This one was a Classic organ, that I helped build from 1983.

              The organist from a United Church in North Bay, which is over a 3 hour car drive one way, called me a few weeks ago and asked me to service the organ, as the church just got it. There were some issues with it. She told me that I serviced it in 2000. Apparently, the R.C. Church it was in got re-jigged when a new bishop got appointed there, and the parish that got closed down had a much newer Content organ. So, a local U.C. bought the organ.

              What I didn't realize was that this organist played the instrument at the Catholic church, almost from the time it got installed, and further more that I helped her get interested in the organ. You see, I participated in the opening recital, she even showed me the program. One of the pieces I played was the first movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. I don't remember ever playing that on the organ, and thought back then I was more of a purist.

              Anyways, getting back to speakers, the original speakers must have been giving them problems. So they did as many churches do, went through the Radio Shack flyer, and got a good deal on some P.A. speakers. This was a 4 channel organ. Three manual type cabinets, and and pedal box. The pedal speakers had been replaced with some drivers that "fit the hole" if you know what I mean. The organ got transplanted with only 2 of these R.S. speakers. Who knows what the story is about the missing one. Anyways, there were a number of minor issues with the organ that needed to be attended to.

              The pedal cabinet, which somehow got hooked up properly to the amp as they just guessed, which only did the 16' stops on the pedal didn't work too badly, a bit peaky in it's response, but otherwise serviceable. Only 1 of the Radio Shack speakers was hooked up. Since they were guessing, they hooked up the speaker to signal of channels 4 and 5 instead of hooking up to signal and ground. So, that speaker actually sounded 2 channels instead of 1. The other speaker was just parked on the platform, unhooked. So, that is why a good chunk of the organ wasn't sounding. I found some cable, and hooked it up. The response of these speakers is uneven, but they sounded better than I might have expected.

              Anyways, the organ is sounding fully, through 3 instead of 4 speakers, located in the wrong spot, and everything fully operational.

              The organist who really likes the organ was scribbling down notes as I was expressing my thoughts. I told them to get some better speakers, where they should go, what size cable to use, how to route the cables, where to balance the stops in case that was needed, etc. I also said if they wanted the job done right, to just get me to do it, and I would send a proposal. The organist thinks that is the way to go. The problem is costs, and North Bay is over 200 miles each way from me.

              My guess is that they will do it right, and get me to do it. And then they too will be happy.

              Currently, I am also doing a speaker/amplifier system for a church that has a Content organ. The speaker(s) hooked up to the organ sound awful. Again something the dealer put on as part of the package deal. Anyways, the church put up a new sanctuary that is far bigger. So, the new speaker system is designed to improve the sound, give better bass, and more clarity, and also will work with a new and improved organ when the time comes.

              So even in these challenging times, there are places where people still listen to organs, and can tell when things sound really bad, and are willing to improve on the situation without buying new, which is not always an improvement.

              AV

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Menschenstimme View Post
                I wonder if her name is Octavia?
                Or maybe Vulnavia?

                David

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by davidecasteel View Post
                  Or maybe Vulnavia?

                  David
                  Victoria?

                  (PRICE-less!)

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                  • #10
                    You rock! I wish someone would fix the piss-poor Allen installation at my church. I bet it would sound nice with a proper speaker configuration.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Arie V - it must be so gratifying when an organ comes together like that. Getting credit and paid for it is almost gravy (an essential gravy, but gravy none-the-less).

                      Dell

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                      • #12
                        As an addition to the "cheaped out on speakers" line of thought. When I was in college I attended a nearby church (which will remain nameless here). They had installed a Rodgers (model unknown) into the new building built in the mid 80s. However, they didn't get the matching speaker system, preferring instead to install cheaper ones they bought themselves. Although wired properly and probably sounding half decent, one of the organists blew half them out when playing full organ once. They then went back to the Rodgers dealer and got the 'proper' speakers for the installation....pay now or pay later!
                        -Gary

                        If it's not baroque, don't fix it.
                        YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/thevande...?feature=guide
                        Web Site (with sheet music): http://www.garyvanderploeg.com

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                        • #13
                          Dell,

                          It is gratifying when an enormous improvement is made with a very modest expenditure, and the folks who have to listen to it instantly recognize the difference.

                          Another story. A couple of years ago, I did an install in Montreal. The organ was an A-G 2100 with 6 bi-amped audio channels and a powered sub-woofer that has no trouble playing low C on the 32' Bourdon. It was maybe a couple of years old when the church got it. It had been in a residence before with a different audio system. It went into a large R.C. church that seated maybe 900. The organ sounds just fine. It was somewhat of a budget job, and I suppose the church had little or no money for an organ.

                          The competition was Viscount. I guess it was because it was an Italian parish. In any case, the Viscount dealer who has to travel even further (like 7 hours by car one way), went there and proposed a bottom feeder Viscount organ, and hooking it up to 50 year old speakers that were part of a previous install. These speakers looked rather dismal as organ speakers. It was recommended to use these speakers to save money. Fortunately, the parish council rejected this silly proposal. The sound would have been awful and inadequate. I still think that good audio, even on an average organ, which is well setup will sound better than poor audio, poorly installed superior instrument.

                          As Gary says, better to pay now and get it done right.

                          AV

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Arie V,

                            I learned in high school how important speakers and amp were to the entire audio chain -- it was amazing how much better a portable cassette player would sound when played through even a modest sized speaker in an improvised sound container. Making equivalent improvements on the other end had much less effect: The speakers are what actually move the air that tickles your ear drums. Of course, keeping a clean signal start to finish would be ideal.

                            Good for you on the Montreal install - Good to hear that good taste is still in fashion.

                            Dell

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Hello AV,

                              I completely agree with your thoughts in regards to sound systems on organs. It is essential to any organ installation, and standard PA systems are not made to produce the range of frequency found in an organ with just a couple 'full-range' cabinets. The problem I face as a dealer and installer of organs is that the church sometimes does not agree with my sentiment about externals.

                              Recently, I installed an organ at a large church (for our region) with over 1300 members. The church had a magnificent sound system with all state of the art equipment, probably valued around $50,000+. To go along with the sound system, they also had a team of 'sound engineers' that knew everything there is to know about sound. They wanted to run the organ through their sound system, or run it through their own independent system they designed for the organ. I explained to them the differences in the way a real pipe organ should sound, and how a couple PA speakers, even of good quality, could never produce a truly authentic replication. They didn't care. I told them that they can do what they want, but first hook up just one of their speakers to the organ, without using their very nice house system. I instructed them to play the organ at full volume with 32' stop. Let me preface this by saying I also told them I would not warranty or guarantee any product hooked up to the organ, even if it was purchased through me, that wasn't recommended by me to be proper for the organ.

                              They still knew better and wanted to prove me wrong with this little experiment I suggested. The organist played less than ten minutes, and their full-range high quality PA speaker was destroyed. Literally, the outer rim of the speakers busted from the pressure of the 32' stop, and the horns sounded like balls of paper had been stuffed inside and were rattling. Needless to say, they promptly signed a contract for the organ INCLUDING a 2000 watt multi channel external sound system. They have been very happy since with the organs performance, and it is a showpiece for their church.

                              NOW, I must say that as a seller of organs, I also find myself in situations where the church simply has no money for an external system at the time of organ purchase. I almost always recommend external systems even in smaller churches because it's the right thing to do for the organ and congregation. What has worked well is that we approach the installation in a two part process. Getting the organ into the church, and then the externals as a second portion installed at a later date. This is also okay in certain situations. For instance, if a church is not playing on their organ because it is no longer repairable, a new organ is better for the church than no organ at all. Almost all churches who we work out this arrangement with, will come back and have the externals installed at a later date. Now understand, I rarely do this. But it's something that has worked in extreme cases.

                              As someone who's family has collectively sold and installed over 1,100 organs, I can tell you that there are certain manufacturers out there that purposely recommend a smaller (too small) sound system because they can make more money on the organ. It also puts the church in a situation that requires them to come back later and purchase a larger sound system. This is wrong and deceitful, and not anything as a Christian that I could agree with. This was one of many reasons I stopped a relationship with a manufacturer we represented for over 50 years. The manufacturers also push their dealers to sell larger organs, even if it is not in the best interest of the church. I can remember countless numbers of times my grandfather would receive calls from company headquarters where they scolded him for installing a 2 manual organ instead of 3 or 4 manuals. They never said congratulations. They said we want more. more. more.

                              There are still many good and honest organ manufacturers out there. I work with one of them now. They have no chip on their shoulder, and they make a truly unique and cutting edge instrument. And it's a relief when a company can say they have the 'best', but also say we still want to make it better.

                              God knows I'm certainly not perfect, but I wonder how some people can sleep at night doing what they do to churches in this business. I pray for God's guidance with each organ installation. My expertise and know-how can only get me so far.
                              Joshua Dove
                              Managing Director
                              Viscount North America
                              www.viscount-organs.com

                              President/CEO
                              Whitesel Church Organs
                              www.whiteselorgans.com

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