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  • One Rodgers installation upgraded

    I'd like to brag, if you all will let me, about a nice upgrade we just completed. A church where the organ was not doing the job now has a much more serviceable instrument and a new appreciation for the KOI.

    About 10 or 12 years ago one of the larger Baptist churches in this area built a new sanctuary which seats about 1700. Not a fully traditional facility, it has more or less fan-shaped seating with a large balcony in stadium style. But at least it has pews, a real choir loft, a towering ceiling, and pretty good acoustics for a modern building. A new organ was purchased when the sanctuary was built, a Rodgers Trillium 967 (largest 3m stock model at the time). At that time, Rodgers was represented here by a one-man firm, a nice guy who was actually an audio-visual expert but not an organist. For some reason, the church was sold this organ with only the bare minimum speaker set -- six FR1.7 boxes and two subs (7.5) -- for the main speaker array..... for a 1700-seat room.... I don't know what they were thinking!

    Oddly, there was a HUGE antiphonal -- twenty FR1.7 speakers placed into alcoves all around the back wall of the church, some on the main floor, some in the balcony. A stack of five S-200 amps drove these twenty antiphonal speakers. The antiphonal was of course just a two-channel signal, so all the speakers carried all the divisions whenever the antiphonal was engaged. The antiphonal proved so unsatisfactory that the amp rack powering it was unplugged. Folks sitting near the back of the church just couldn't stand it. No wonder because many of the speakers were not much above ear level to the folks on the back rows.

    Several months ago we began discussing with the organist and music minister the possibility of re-vamping this unfortunate installation. We finally got the go ahead in March. There were some unexpected obstacles and our plan had to be altered before it was over, but we have now completed the main phase of this new setup and the results have been pretty spectacular.

    The new setup begins with double amplification of the main channels. Eight S-200 amps (16 total channels) comprise the main amp rack. The plan we had was to put two speakers on each amp, thus quadrupling the speaker array. Because the chambers are widely separated it seemed best to duplicate the entire organ in each one rather than separating the divisions. (The original setup had the great and choir on one side and the swell on the other, but from the console it was hard to even hear the swell. Thus the decision to have a fully duplicated arrangement.)

    The Pedal system needed to be greatly expanded. You can imagine how puny a single pair of SW7.5 subs sounded in a 1700 seat room with a 50 or 60 foot ceiling. We had some old Rodgers P-32 cabinets in storage, so we put brand new 15" rubber-surround woofers into them and put one of these on each of the four pedal channels. (Actually, we were short one P-32, so we put new speakers into the existing SW-7.5's and used both of them on one channel in place of a P-32.) So now, instead of just two (2!) 15" speakers trying to make some bass in that room, we now have EIGHT of them pumping in unison. No shortage of bass power now!

    We doubled up great and choir speakers on each amp, so now instead of two speakers for the entire great division there are EIGHT, and eight for the choir as well. We ran short of speakers though, because they thought they could get all the FR1.7 speakers out of the rear walls but found that some of them could not be pulled out due to structural issues. We came up with a unique solution for the Swell speakers.

    I know this will raise eyebrows, but the church could not afford to purchase eight new FR1.7's for the swell, so we went in with four old Rodgers M-10 speaker panels for the swell -- one per amp -- and created an awesome swell organ sound! Yes, we've often dismissed these old car speaker panels as lo-fi and unworthy of a fine organ, but in careful listening tests we became convinced that these humble units actually sounded every bit as good as the FR1.7 boxes, at least in this setting. A single M-10 also puts out a few decibels more sound than a pair of FR1.7's due to their higher sensitivity. The fact that they radiate sound from both front and rear (bi-polar) had an unexpected benefit. The organ chambers are enormous rooms -- each one is perhaps 16' x 36' with about a 12' ceiling and hard smooth surfaces all around. These bi-polar M-10 speakers throw their rear output back into these large cavities and the sound is incredibly sweetened by the liveness and multiple reflections. We actually wondered if the organ might not have turned out even better if we'd had M-10's for all the manual channels.

    After getting it all hooked up, we connected the laptop runing GC-10 software and began voicing. It was necessary to lower the overall volume of the swell division by several decibels to compensate for the hotter speakers on it. Then we began, with the highly accomplished organist advising us, adjusting the levels of individual stops. The swell reeds had always screamed so we mellowed them out somewhat. The huge Festival Trumpet and Tuba Major we left big, so there is a big reed sound when she needs it. We didn't spend days, but we did listen to each stop and made sure the levels were appropriate to the room and correctly balanced among themselves. We only found it necessary to boost a few individual notes on a pedal stop or two to smooth out the pedal sound. It's amazing how much difference it makes just taking a little time to listen to the stops!

    How does it sound? Pretty awesome. Some of the church people had believed that the analog Rodgers left behind in their old church was a better organ than this Trillium, and I would have agreed before we made this upgrade. Now they have a fine digital, one of the largest in this area in terms of audio, and I'm confident there will be a new excitement about the role of that organ in their worship services.

    Now they've decided to try having an antiphonal again. Soon we'll go back and wire up just a few of the speakers left in the rear wall, and only the ones that are up high, and my plan is to configure it so that only one division can be sent to the antiphonal, probably the swell. I suspect this will be much more acceptable to the people who sit in the balcony and will be the icing on the cake for this organ!

    It was really nice to get do an organ right. Plenty of power, plenty of speakers, huge chambers, nice acoustics, careful voicing ... Why can't every organ get installed with this kind of care?
    John
    ----------
    *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

  • #2
    John,

    Sounds like a massive improvement.

    This kind of initial install happens all too often. And when a audio/visual person gets involved, it is a sure bet that an organ is going to sound like a sound reinforcement setup rather than an organ. These FR 1.7 speakers really are not meant to fill a room that big. I'm not sure that those Rodgers amps are the answer either. But sometimes you have to deal with the hand you are dealt.

    With some care and musical sense, maybe, just maybe you have kindled an interest in the organ with some folks, especially young folk. Bad sounding organs is one reason why so many folks are turned off the instrument.

    Keep fighting the good fight.............

    AV

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    • #3
      Thank you very much for sharing this. It would be very cool to see pics of the install.

      These bi-polar M-10 speakers throw their rear output back into these large cavities and the sound is incredibly sweetened by the liveness and multiple reflections. We actually wondered if the organ might not have turned out even better if we'd had M-10's for all the manual channels.
      This is very interesting to me as I have been considering this approach for our (hopefully) upcoming installation. Do you know off hand where the f3 point on the bass lies for these (baffle losses)? Do you limit them to 8' and above? Crossover to subs?

      mike
      If it is Caesar that you worship, then Caesar you shall serve.

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      • #4
        John - if only more 'speaker-organ' dealers and installers put in the effort you did, perhaps many of us would be playing better installed, and much more musical instruments. I am envious of the organist at the church who is the beneficiary of your work.

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        • #5
          Add my appreciation for sharing this.

          I am always amazed at how good the old Rodgers multiple 6x9 speaker panels sound.

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          • #6
            Thanks for the comments, guys. There is no greater joy in this business than helping an organ work better and make better music "for the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul." Throughout my 30+ years in the organ business that has been my desire, though I've fallen short of the goal more times than I care to admit.

            To answer the question about the low-end cutoff of the M10 speaker, I don't really know, but obviously you won't get much bass from an open-back cabinet that is less than 8" deep. The organ's internal processor crosses all the channels over to the subs, possibly around 150 Hz, so no appreciable bass is sent to the manual channel amps. 150 Hz isn't far from the fundamental pitch of the tenor C on an 8' stop, so even the lowest octave of an 8' stop has its fundamental tones coming from the subs. Of course the upper harmonics are coming out of the manual speaker, which makes your ears think you are hearing all the sound of the stop from the manual speaker.
            John
            ----------
            *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

            https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

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            • #7
              The improvement must be spectacular! Can you figure out a way to put the the Festival Trumpet up high in the balcony? At least as an option?

              David

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              • #8
                We've actually talked about that, David. I know we can put it into any audio channel using the GC-10 software. We'll have to discuss all this with the organist and music minister when we get back to the church in a few weeks.
                John
                ----------
                *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

                https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

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                • #9
                  John, a 967 is fabulous when- as you did- properly installed and voiced. I played one last December for a major program and it blew me away. It had a huge (Rodgers) audio system and many channels... I'm guessing 16.
                  Congratulations!!! You may have made a "pilgrimage" Rodgers Organ down thar!
                  Last edited by beel m; 06-06-2013, 04:42 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
                    We've actually talked about that, David. I know we can put it into any audio channel using the GC-10 software. We'll have to discuss all this with the organist and music minister when we get back to the church in a few weeks.
                    Would you consider using a horn-style speaker? I doubt that the stop would be used for more than one or two notes simultaneously.

                    David

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                    • #11
                      That could be done (horn speaker just for the Festival Trumpet) if this setup were being done from scratch. The organ does in fact have an "assignable" audio output jack which could be made to carry just that stop. The GC-10 voicing and setup software is very flexible and allows the installer to move the stops around freely among the audio output channels, including the eight normal channels and the two antiphonal and two assignable channels.

                      Putting that stop by itself into a channel pair (and you have to remember this is Rodgers and there are no "mono" channels, everything is "PDI" or stereo) would be quite effective and a speaker designed to accent the frequencies of that stop could be used on that pair. However, we have only one two-channel cable running from the console to the rear of the church where the antiphonal amps will reside, so we'd have to choose between having one full division back there or just the one stop. I think the organist has in mind using the rear speakers primarily as a sort of "echo" organ and would benefit most from having the entire swell division playable from back there. At least that's my take-away from our conversation. (And to anticipate a question, it would be almost impossible to pull in a second audio cable going to the rear. All the wire-pulling was done by the electrical crew when the church was built and it's about a quarter mile of conduit anyway!)

                      However, a Rodgers PDI console has four available "audio mappings" that can be accessed via pistons. Map #1 is normally the main speakers playing and the antiphonals silent. A second map is used to throw a certain division to the antiphonals. That leaves two others, and we could use one of them to throw the choir division back there (which is where the Festival Trumpet resides by default). So she can have it both ways, sort of. There just isn't any way to separate out the Festival Trumpet itself in one of the audio mappings.

                      It may be a month before we get back to the job because they needed to appropriate the additional funds before calling us back. But I'll post about the final setup when we get it done.
                      John
                      ----------
                      *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

                      https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

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                      • #12
                        This may be a stupid and off-topic hijack, but I'll go for it:
                        When one employs the pedal couplers, do the manual voices thus engaged by it come through the pedal channel or the appropriate manual channel?
                        Casey

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                        • #13
                          Hi,

                          As I understand the Rodgers audio setup, the default is a left and a right channel per division. It is said to be a stereo pair, as Rodgers has a sample for each left and right channel. This may sound somewhat more 3-D when playing few notes per division, but means a lot of signal jamming (and resulting compression of tone) when trying to build up choruses, ensemble etc.

                          However, the Great and Pedal divisions are basically shoe horned together, in a left and right configuration, but the low frequencies are bled off into left and right sub-channels.

                          Coupling does not affect how the audio routing is done.

                          A number of Rodgers installs I have seen, seem to have had little treatment as to how the base frequencies are done, resulting in a very boomy, colorless bass, which is obviously very electronic sounding.

                          Typically a 3 manual Rodgers, has a basic complement of 8 audio channels. Additional channels are generally used for reverb, anitphonal, etc.

                          John, can enlighten us further on this, I'm sure.

                          AV

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                          • #14
                            Casey, to answer your question, the coupling works just like in a pipe organ or any standard organ. Putting on a manual to pedal coupler simply makes the corresponding stops in the manual division play through their own speakers.

                            Arie, your assessment of the basic Rodgers setup is correct, AFAIK. Each division of the organ has a stereo pair of audio channels and in a standard default setup each channel goes through a 100-watt amp into a single speaker cabinet. Speaker pairs are supposed to be placed a certain distance apart, depending on the size of the room, but I can't really see how that makes much difference since you only have a few listeners who would be in the sweet spot, equidistant from both speakers of a pair. When I set one up I do usually put the left and right speakers of a pair several feet apart. I'm a little superstitious I suppose!

                            We once did a setup in a smallish church only about 40' wide with the organ console smack in the center of the chancel choir loft, just behind the altar. We put all the left channel speakers on the left side of the chancel facing upward at the hard wooden cathedral-style ceiling, and all the right speakers at the right. Sitting at the console, one was engulfed in the massive stereo image, like being right in a pipe chamber. There were clearly some stereo effects with some stops appearing to sweep from side to side going up the scale, others in a quasi-C-C# pattern, celestes and mixtures with their ranks subtly separated. But in the typical setup with speakers in a chamber some distance from all listeners the stereo effect is probably pretty meaningless.

                            In this newly-enlarged setup, we have eight speaker cabinets per division -- four of them for the left channel and four for the right. While this does nothing to separate the stops from one another, it apparently makes for a remarkable improvement in clarity, possibly because the speakers were being overdriven in the minimal setup we found there, and the amps were probably clipping at times as well.

                            So, while the individual stops of a division don't get their own speakers as they would in a really elaborate digital (such as M&O or Walker), there is at least adequate power and enough speaker cones to produce a believable composite sound. Then, when you couple multiple divisions together you bring in additional audio channels so the sound expands in a somewhat useful way. Not just louder, but more expansive and broadly dispersed.

                            I haven't explored the audio entanglement between the great and pedal divisions. I know that all three manual divisions have their lowest frequencies crossed over into the subs, but that probably contributes little to the load on the subs or the amps, since manual stops don't get played a lot in their bottom octave. I assume that the upper frequencies of the pedal stops are crossover over into the manual audio channels, since the subs have no tweeters. I haven't noticed any deleterious effects from this, though I'm sure it aggravates the signal jamming and compression that we already have to deal with.

                            Theoretics aside, this organ really does sound quite good now. I walked into the sanctuary when it was being played just after we'd gotten all the speakers hooked up, even before we did our detailed voicing, and my first impression was that it sounded pretty much like a large pipe organ playing. Of course the big open room is very friendly to the organ sound and greatly aids in the illusion.

                            The later and better Rodgers analogs, such as the 890, 925, etc., typically have two channels per division as well, but of course each channel carries its own mix of stops, normally either the flute rank or the diapason rank for that division plus an assortment of the straight stops. One might argue that this is actually a better way to channel the stops, and indeed Allen continued to do this, more or less, well into the digital age. I think now a lot of Allen digitals use C-C# channeling on all stops, and some even divide the stops into four channels. But this two-channels-per-division Rodgers concept works acceptably well and may even have some advantages. Ultimately though there are many factors that make more difference than how the stops are channeled -- power, placement, acoustics, and finishing, to name a few.
                            John
                            ----------
                            *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

                            https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

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