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Jbird604 Virtual Organ Project 2020

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    Jbird604 Virtual Organ Project 2020

    This is going to be more complicated than I thought, "documenting" a VPO project. For one thing, I'm a big talker (writer) and it's hard for me to be concise. I'll do my best.

    For another thing, it takes numerous skills. Not just writing, but taking good photos, making and editing videos, making decent sound recordings. And one thing I tend to overlook -- PLAYING the organ, not just noodling. I've gotten by over the years with sloppy work in all these areas, but I'm determined to do better this time, even if it takes a while.

    Elements of this thread may include:
    • Introductory matters -- why I'm doing a VPO, what I want it to be and do
    • Descriptions, photos, videos of the hardware, sources and costs, repairs needed, connecting and assembling the system
    • Software options -- the various VPO types, pros and cons of each, where to get it, how to install it
    • Screenshots of the software, and maybe videos as well, talking about configuration and adaptation, optimization
    • Recordings, both audio and video, to demonstrate the actual results with SOUND, which is the ultimate goal, of course
    • Reflecting on how much benefit I gain (or not) from entering into this project -- was it worth the work?
    I'll try to keep this basic outline before me and cover these different elements in time. It could take a while just to lay out what I've done so far, but I'll do my best to pace it. Herewith some introductory matters...

    Why a VPO? My pleasures and frustrations with organs have been detailed on this forum. I've brought home 13 or 14 different practice organs over the years, but for some reason I've not kept any of them for very long. Some of them I didn't like much anyway. Even if I got attached to one, someone came along and wanted to buy it, and I can't resist an easy sale

    I've owned some great ones -- the Allen R-230 and the Rodgers A677 being the most recent, the newest and most voiceable, and both pretty satisfying. I probably could've lived the rest of my life with either. And yet I wasn't TRULY satisfied with either one. No doubt I want my organ to TRANSPORT me to a grand cathedral where I'll play (as if I could) glorious music on a massive instrument impeccably designed and voiced. I've never gotten quite that experience, though I've enjoyed some nice sounds courtesy of today's digital technology.

    The VPO holds out the promise of transporting me to those great cathedrals with the sonic experience of their historic organs in native acoustics. If this works as promised, I may finally have the sound that I want, though I'm aware that it still can't be the same thing. Perhaps there is a section of heaven just for organists...

    So what are my wants and needs and goals here? I simply want a home practice organ that feels and sounds good. It needs to sound pleasant with headphones, as I must practice that way much of the time. It should have good tonal variety so that I can experiment with colors and textures, hopefully transferable to my playing in church. My ideal stop list isn't complicated -- nice principal and flute choruses, some lovely strings and celestes, some solo reeds, chimes, a reed chorus, and a big Festival Trumpet. Solid pedal division, a nice 32' stop being a plus but not required.

    One day I hope to try out all manner of historic organs and examples of various schools and styles, which is quite easy in the VPO world. But for now, I will concentrate on getting just one or two dispositions that meet my requirements properly set up and voiced to my liking. Cost is a factor, so I'll try the free stuff first. Though a full sample set of the actual organ in a real historic cathedral would be nice, I'll settle at first for some well-made "tribute" dispositions that mimic or pay homage to some of the great organs.

    I want certain playing features and conveniences, and eventually hope to emulate the "deluxe" layout of Allen's premium models -- a full set of pistons, divided expression, crescendo pedal, toe studs. A touch screen monitor will have to do for a stop rail, at least for now, as I don't plan to invest in the extra circuitry needed to control SAMs and such. I do plan to place a row of pistons below the lower manual. That should be much more convenient than having to reach for the touch screen just to tap a piston.

    Eventually I'd like three manuals, but I'll start with the two-manual Allen console at hand. As you know, I don't currently play complex organ music, just hymns and simple arrangements for church. And the church organ has two manuals, so I will be content with two at home right now. Sample sets with more divisions can be easily altered to make the extra divisions "floating." It won't be that hard to add a third manual to this old Allen console, so that will eventually happen.

    Bottom line -- my immediate goal is to have an acceptable organ to play at home. I'll need to set up the pieces as neatly as possible -- the computer and monitor, the audio equipment and speakers. And then get to work on configuring and voicing a useful VPO program and a suitable sample set.

    As soon as time allows, I'll move on to describing and photographing the hardware. See you back here soon.

    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
    This should be interesting, John. I look forward to reading about your journey.
    Bill

    My home organ: Content M5800 as a midi controller for Hauptwerk

    Comment


      #3
      An early observation is that my jOrgan sample sets can sound really good with headphones, but not so good in my current speakers. My cobbled-together speaker setup is surely far from flat, and I'd already noticed certain "humps" in the response just using the MOS and the two MIDI modules.

      This tells me that to be successful a VPO needs pretty darn flat speakers. Much more so than in analog or MOS days, when many organ speakers were quite lo-fi. With a VPO we are in fact approaching what we always claimed we were doing with digital organs -- playing back actual recordings of pipes. As the playback becomes more accurate, our ears demand more accurate speakers.

      Another thing -- response irregularities that might be tolerable in a large room or church, especially with lively acoustics, can be devastating in a small non-reverberant space like my organ nook.

      Add another task to my project list -- upgrading the speaker system.
      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

      Comment


      • jbird604
        jbird604 commented
        Editing a comment
        I hadn't seen Tom's post when I commented. He is correct that jOrgan itself is not a tone generator. The Fluidsynth program that is piggybacked to it creates the sound by rendering data stored in "soundfonts," more or less analogous to what we call "sample sets" in other VPO programs. And you make voicing changes by editing the soundfonts with Vienna.

        As jOrgan is not a tone generator program at all, it can be used simply as a control relay or interface between any MIDI input device and any sound generator. It can even serve as an intermediary between a MIDI keyboard and a program like HW or GO. The beauty of jOrgan is that the layout and appearance of your screen is vastly editable.

      • tbeck
        tbeck commented
        Editing a comment
        I agree that it is much easier to make a nice looking virtual console than with GO. Not sure about HW.

        My issue with jOrgan is in fact the soundfont/fluidsynth combo. Soundfonts, at least the last I heard, are limited to 600MB. Most of the dispositions I have looked at have only two or three samples per octave. Plus, it doesn't deal with release samples. For these reasons, I believe the resulting sound quality is not not even close to GO or HW.

        I was introduced to VPOs by jOrgan and I was amazed at the sound. Until i discovered GO and I've never looked back.

      • jbird604
        jbird604 commented
        Editing a comment
        While jOrgan may lack some of the more sophisticated functions of GO or HW, what I like about it is the great flexibility of the soundfont system. Since I started exploring it again recently, I've discovered that some of the guys I knew back in the early days have taken the concept much further than I would've thought possible. Some have sampled actual pipe organs note by note, and others have developed elaborate methods for synthesizing organ tones. Their synthesized stops sound so real it's hard to tell the difference, and I even prefer some of the synthetic stops to true samples, as they avoid the tonal flaws that individual pipes often exhibit.

        Of course jOrgan started out and has remained a completely free program, and all the soundfonts, as far as I know, are free, though some creators will gladly accept a donation. Without the profit motive, development has been limited to whatever the group has wanted to do as a labor of love and as an interesting hobby. There is a neat community of enthusiasts and developers, and I enjoy visiting with them. Some overlap with this forum as well.

        For those doing VPO with older computers and less RAM, jOrgan is certainly worth a try, as the hardware requirements are low, and excellent performance is possible on a tight budget.

      #4
      Just like me, I'm getting ahead of myself, not sticking to the plan! But I had to branch out just for fun, and try Grand Orgue, since I hadn't tried it before, that I recall. So I downloaded it (not even that big, about 57 MB). Installed it (quite quick and easy), then started it up. Very pleased to find that it's not a complicated process, about as easy as jOrgan, and, best I recall, somewhat quicker and simpler than the free HW4 that I installed a year or two ago. Nice work by the GO developers.

      Once I started it, it presented me with a "demo" organ to play with. Not bad for a demo -- 20 stops, the usual couplers, 6 general presets (not changeable) and 10 programmable generals, divided expression. Quite adequate for a small practice organ. Not everything a person needs, but a pleasant surprise. Of course there are many free organs to download, once I get around to exploring, and others to buy.

      Setup was pretty easy, but a peculiar obstacle met me, which I blame on one of the Harrison Labs converter's peculiar features. To wit -- right-clicking on any keyboard brings up the dialogue box to set the MIDI channel, etc. I clicked on "Listen for Event" and tapped a key, but nothing happened. Couldn't get it to recognize any of the organ divisions.

      After I went to bed last night, it occurred to me that the HLabs board sends a continuous "All Notes Off" message, and maybe that was confusing the program. So this morning, I tried a different method. I held down a key on each manual and on the pedal board, then, continuing to hold these keys down, clicked on "Listen for Event" and then tapped a key on the desired division. That did it! Got all three divisions connected to GO, and then it would play.

      Had to do a little tinkering with settings to get latency down to 23 ms, which is basically undetectable. I could probably get it lower than that, as I see there are numerous options for the audio output, as well as tweaks for buffers, sample rate, polyphony, and other factors that affect latency. But for now I just wanted to play it and see how it sounds.

      It sounds quite nice. In fact, this little "demo" organ sounds about as pretty and smooth as anything I've heard yet. Even has a default reverb of some sort that is pleasant enough, especially in headphones. I didn't even try using the Convolution Reverb yet, but for now I can play around with whatever this built-in reverb is.

      Ok.... Now I'll try to get my feet back on the ground and get on with the step by step process I laid out for myself. That's not easy of course when all you want to do is PLAY the organ!
      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

      Comment


      • tbeck
        tbeck commented
        Editing a comment
        I'll be happy to give the ODF to anyone who would like it. It's very basic. It uses the built-in graphics and the layout isn't beautiful. Also, there are no stop or tracker noises. I really don't like tracker noise, even if it is a truer representation of an instrument. To me it is just noise and I believe that any of the organ builders would be happy to have been able to eliminate those noises.

      • jbird604
        jbird604 commented
        Editing a comment
        Would love to have it whenever you have it ready. And I need to start learning how to do stuff like that. I know it's like anything else out there -- there are plenty of resources to tap, once you look for them. I found a great set of tutorial videos on YouTube that I'll have to watch, and found the massive user forum with a good search feature.

        I sure need to get back to my PLAN though! I've already sidetracked myself, just sitting here this morning exploring the control panel on this little demo organ. And already wishing I knew how to do something as simple as making a copy of the Gamba that I can tune sharp and make a celeste, or copy the swell reeds to the great. This is probably kid stuff once you get familiar with the program.

      • tbeck
        tbeck commented
        Editing a comment
        A GO ODF is just a text file. Unfortunately, there are no good tools for manipulating with a GUI app. I saw several years ago that someone was working on a project, but I don't believe it got very far.

        In any case, once you understand the structure of the ODF and how the elements are related, it's quite easy to make a basic organ, even with mulitiple releases and tremmed samples. It's just very tedious. There is a lot of cutting and pasting. I've written a couple of quick and dirty python scripts to do some of the grunt work, but now that I have so many ODFs, I can pick one as a template and work from there.

      #5
      If you want to do some fine tuning of soundfonts, I would recommend having a look at Polyphone. You can do some neat things in there using batch operations on samples, for example, emulating pipe layout through distributing pan in only a few clicks: set spike, C-C# M-shape, ascending, descending, random. You can also easily create celeste ranks. You can create mixtures from a single rank of pipe samples. A lot of these things are time consuming tasks if you wanted to create or change them by hand, but you can easily fine tune groups of samples with Polyphone. It is free and open source.

      https://www.polyphone-soundfonts.com/

      Comment


      • samibe
        samibe commented
        Editing a comment
        I also really like Polyphone for it's ability to make wholesale changes to groups of samples, instruments, and presets.

      #6
      Where am I?

      Beecher.mp3

      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

      Comment


      • jbird604
        jbird604 commented
        Editing a comment
        BTW, what sounds like a bit of reverb is just the release tails of the samples. I'm finding that I don't really even want reverb with GO samples, since they contain these tails. The demo set that comes bundled with GO has even longer tails that I interpreted as reverb.

      • myorgan
        myorgan commented
        Editing a comment
        The reverb tail feels right, not too dry, but also not wet. Of course a reverberant space would take care of that on its own.

        Michael

      • Admin
        Admin commented
        Editing a comment
        I have an extended version of the Pitea set for Hauptwerk, and was until recently my go-to, every-day, sample set. The amount of reverb is just about right for my taste and the organ is appropriate for most repertoire.

      #7
      Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
      This tells me that to be successful a VPO needs pretty darn flat speakers.
      Add another task to my project list -- upgrading the speaker system.
      jbird, I wouldn't be too quick to blame it all on your existing speakers. In my experience, the (small) room can have devastating effects on so-called "flatness". The jOrgan dispositions I have made with my own recorded samples use 6 samples per octave on most stops, which means that every two notes share the one sample. Yet the room can sometimes make me feel the need to adjust one of those notes and not the other. I am sure it is not the speakers, because a careful analysis I made of levels and using sine-wave samples showed astonishing differences between notes that were only a semitone apart.

      By the way, that GO demo organ you were quite pleased with seems to use the one sample spread across perhaps 4 notes. GO (and presumably also HW) have the ability to "spread" the samples (surprise, surprise!). You don't seem to have noticed that "handicap", so perhaps it isn't quite as important as some people claim. Of course, that enabled the download to be somewhat smaller than usual, so it makes sense in this case.

      Just for the record, it is the non-use of release samples (vital for the all-important reverb if it is not available using other methods) which is the reason for my PREFERENCE for jOrgan. As a player, I find the use of staccato touch is handled very poorly using release samples. And as an ex-engineer, I think that the loading penalty of so much extra RAM along with the extra polyphonic needs is to be deplored in a world where resources should be shared around a lot more than they are.

      Comment


      • jbird604
        jbird604 commented
        Editing a comment
        Yes, it's all a trade-off. Each added degree of accuracy in reproducing the precise details of on-site sound exacts penalties. RAM, polyphony, and possibly even clarity. I know very well that in some very lively churches it's hard to even sing hymns with the organ due to the lengthy sustain tails. I can't imagine trying to play polyphonic music in such an environment.

        I probably could never make up my mind to use one system exclusively. Fortunately, I now have a 100% dedicated VPO computer with 2TB of storage and 16 GB RAM. I can collect as many organs a I want without running out of space!

        It's becoming clearer to me all the time that a tiny space like my organ nook is not going to let me project these big organs properly and with pleasing sound. But then I'm doing nearly all my listening and practicing these days with headphones, which happens to be the way they all sound best so far.

        At some point I want to bring in the best speakers I have in the shop, probably a pair of HC-12's augmented with a pair of PP-3's. That way I can hope to hear decently balanced sound on those occasions when I do play out loud. But I hear you on how much the room can affect individual notes. I noticed a long time ago that even on this old MOS Allen (which of course uses just ONE sample for the entire keyboard range of a stop), adjacent notes can sound different, and if there was a way to do it I'd sometimes want to turn one of them up or down!

      • tbeck
        tbeck commented
        Editing a comment
        Actually, it is one sample per note. Perhaps, John, you are thinking about the jOrgan version of this sample set?

      #8
      So here's a recording just for reference. I recorded a few measures of a hymn with each source, spliced them together for easy comparison. I only used the one sample set (Pitea for GO) to demo the VPO, and did not include a jOrgan demo this time. I will demo some jOrgan sets when I get further along. The purpose of this is to contrast the VPO with the hardware systems. Here is what you'll hear, in order, with notes:

      (1) MOS Allen with basic 8/4/2/mixture and a 16/8/4 pedal. This sounds pretty gruesome, but it's not terribly fair, since MOS sounds totally raw without some room reverberation. This recording has none of that, as I took audio straight from the mixer, eliminating my poor speakers and the quirks of my organ nook. So this is MOS, straight out of the DAC.

      (2) The Content CSE-220 organ module. Again, a basic 8/4/2/mixture and a 16/8/4 pedal. Surely sounds "better" than MOS, but still raw without any reverb.

      (3) Ahlborn Classic Module. This one sounds weak because, as you know, this module is a "supplement" to augment an existing organ, not a stand-alone instrument. I used the Diapason 8, a couple of 8' flutes, a 4' flute, a 2' SuperOctave, and a Cymbal III. The pedal is especially weak, as there is only a 16' string stop and manual to pedal couplers. (I didn't want to throw in the 32' stops or the 16' reed.)

      (4) The fourth clip is a BLEND -- some MOS stops, the Diapason 8 and SuperOctave 2 of the Ahlborn, the Octave 4 and Mixture of the Content. The pedal is primarily the MOS, as it has the strongest pedal division of the three. To sweeten the deal, I added some REVERB to the mix. This is pretty much the best I have been able to do using the three non-VPO resources together. Not bad for practice, just not terribly exciting either.

      (5) The VPO with great 8/4/2/mixture, pedal 16/8/4. Not nearly all the resources, but comparable to what I used on the other three. No artificial reverb at all added to this one. The short sustain on each note is the sustain tail of the sample.

      Sorry my playing is so sloppy. I thought I was straightening up, but haven't practiced in several days and it shows! I seem to be almost "rolling" chords instead of playing in strict organ style. Don't know what gets into my fingers!

      My impression is that the VPO is simply far more real than the best you can get otherwise. I even play a little better when using the VPO, possibly because the attacks and transients are so pleasant. I think good organ tone encourages a player to do better.

      Compare organs.mp3
      Attached Files
      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

      Comment


      • myorgan
        myorgan commented
        Editing a comment
        John,

        WOW! I asked for comparisons, and got it! It's amazing how stark some of the differences are. However, the question then becomes, in a favorable environment (not a "nook" in someone's home), which of these would shine? You've also discussed taking a signal directly from the mixer vs. live over the speakers, so that makes a difference as well.

        Thank you for doing this! It is very educational to have all these devices recorded back-to-back for comparison purposes. What a unique opportunity you've taken advantage of.

        Michael

      • jbird604
        jbird604 commented
        Editing a comment
        I can tell you that even a little single-computer MOS can sound amazingly good in the right acoustic. I used to service one in a super lively but smallish church -- stone and wood, very high ceiling, little self-contained Allen just like mine up in a high balcony, with a pair of lousy old Monitor II speaker cabinets hung on it. But when I went to service it, the organist would sometimes be playing as I entered, and it sounded for all the world like a lovely little pipe organ in that place!

        The Content box is acceptable too, in the right setting. That time a few years back when the Allen at church was down for several weeks, I used the Content box (played it via MIDI from the Allen console, even though the Allen wouldn't play its own stops). It was less articulate and interesting than the MDS-45, and it doesn't have enough variety or pedal power, but it was better than nothing. In a good acoustic setting it probably would sound fine, and if used only to supplement another organ, it would be great.

        Same for the Ahlborn. I know those boxes can do a good job, especially the version that has in effect a small organ spec. The sounds are more refined, smoother, prettier than MOS or Content, but they over-emphasized the slowness of the attacks, IMHO. Makes it sound sort of anemic. In a lively room, that would probably be masked.

        Bottom line is that, as we all know, the room is the most important element. And I have a lousy room, so I'm dependent on a system that brings its own acoustics, as the VPO does with grace.

      #9
      Thinking out loud, stuff that won't really interest anyone else. I actually had these thoughts as I lay awake for a while last night...

      It occurs to me that I need a dual-mode organ -- a mode for headphone playing, and another for playing out loud, which I do only when we practice playing hymns together for about a half hour each day. Honestly, that is the only time I play without headphones, since my wife is not interested in hearing me try out the different VPO programs and samples and such and tinker endlessly, playing repetitive notes, etc. (I wonder why not?)

      These two modes have different requirements. The HEADPHONE mode needs to sound good in headphones, obviously. I like to experiment with a variety of organ styles, practice different tone colors and textures, plan out my communion improvisations and so on for church services. And I get a charge out of hearing the details of attack transients and other minutiae of various stops. So the VPO is perfect for headphone mode. And so far my VPO's seem to sound best in headphones anyway.

      The SPEAKER mode needs to sound decent enough in speakers, but not necessarily authentic. When we are practicing hymns, we are simply working on playing the hymns smoothly and in sync, getting the notes right, etc. When we're working out our hymns, I'm not listening closely to the organ's tone anyway, just working on my tempos, dynamic changes, ritards, etc. Thus exotic and perfect organ sounds are not required in this mode.

      Further, in headphone mode it doesn't matter that some futzing with computer is required. But in speaker mode, it's preferable to have it turn on instantly, registers with physical tabs, have a physical expression pedal, require no tinkering. Given enough time one COULD get one's VPO set up that way, but for now, my VPO is not truly ready to play out loud when another person is involved.

      Perhaps I'll leave the MOS intact, fix those old T-50 amps and reconnect the internal speakers exactly as they were. Let it serve for my out-loud-practice-with-piano instrument. It honestly sounds good enough for that purpose. Once fully repaired, I might even sell this old MOS to somebody as a bargain-priced MIDI-ready organ, then bring the three-manual Viscount home from the shop, if the board ever comes back from Italy.

      Separating these two disparate organ functions, I can do away with nearly all the extraneous equipment that takes up space in my nook. All I need to enjoy the VPO is the computer and touch screen, which can sit conveniently on the small rack beside my bench. When I am eventually ready to use the VPO full-time for both headphone and speaker functions, all I need to add to it is an amp with headphone jack, and a suitable speaker setup.

      So that's my new plan, at least this morning...
      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

      Comment


        #10
        Update on 21 May 2020. I've let the VPO slide recently, as there were many other things pressing. Had to make a video last weekend to post on the church's website in lieu of the pastor's sermon that Sunday, and I've agreed to do that again for Pentecost (May 31). My videos consist of a few minutes background on a given hymn, then I play and sing it. Not a big deal, but you'd be surprised how difficult it is to pull this together, get it recorded well, edited down to the allotted time, etc. Anyway, I've already got my Pentecost hymn chosen and the script written, so had a bit of leisure time today

        You'd think I could've used one of my VPO sample sets and recorded the video at home, but my VPO sound is still not ready for prime time, so I went to church and played the Allen. It was such a pleasure to hear her sounding so good, after so many weeks of standing silent! And the acoustic environment of the church, even though the sustain is not very long, helps SO much, with both the organ sound and with my singing!

        So, today I decided it was time to make some decisions. First, it was time to ditch the two modules sitting atop the console, because there just isn't room for all that stuff, and if I'm serious about making a VPO I should quit fooling around with halfway measures. As good as some of the sounds are from both the Ahlborn and the Content boxes, it's extra work to futz with their tiny buttons, having to place them right where the music rack ought to be, and having to tweak the levels and such every time I do something a little different.

        Reluctantly, I put them both aside. I had seriously considered, in just the past week, dropping the VPO concept altogether, and letting that Content box be my organ. It really does sound nice, either in speakers or headphones, once you figure out just how to use it, and once I got the tone controls on the mixer set to best effect. It even has a nice built-in reverb that was plenty good enough. The Ahlborn also has a lot to commend it, the Festival Trumpet, the nice flutes, the 32' Contra Viole and Bombarde. But just too much trouble trying to coordinate all this hardware!

        I put the music rack back in place on the Allen console, put the Allen's expression and muting circuits back on the amplifier inputs where they belong, and simply tapped the audio at that point with a Y cable. The internal amps are still useless, but the input panel serves as a tie point for the muting and expression, so there they are. I took off from the Y cables and connected the MOS to my mixer, and there I can easily tweak the bass (boost it a little) and treble (cut it quite a bit), and send it out to the Lexicon on the effects loop. The old MOS sounds perfectly acceptable for playing along with my wife on our hymn practicing.

        Then I set the computer's small form factor tower on top of the console and connected it to the Yamaha USB-MIDI adapter which goes to the HLabs converter. The computer uses a wireless mouse and a wired but very light and small keyboard (which I keep tucked away by the music rack in case I need it). The touch screen monitor I placed beside the bench on a rack I got for the purpose, along with the mixer. The Lexicon is below these two, separated by a shelf, but I can reach it to make fine adjustments as needed. (Right now I've set it for a pleasing reverb and don't feel the need to tinker.) The power amp is on the bottom shelf of the rack and I continue to use the old Makin organ speakers, though in future I'd like to have better ones.

        I'm constantly going back and forth among several VPO dispositions. I like the Pitea School of Music set (GO) that I discussed above. These sounds are quite beautiful and pleasant, whether in headphones or speakers, and the organ is pretty well sampled. I've discovered a few rogue pipes that I'd like to go in and tune, and may eventually do it, but for now I'm enjoying the sounds.

        But I also like, oddly enough, the DEMO set that comes with GO. I haven't tried to find out exactly what was sampled for this little disposition, but it's pretty darn good. Quite small and a bit limited, some obvious unification, but the sounds are nearly perfect as a general purpose practice organ.

        And I'm using jOrgan as well. There are certain things that jOrgan excels at, such as chimes. The absence of the release sample and reverb tail makes jOrgan's pipe tones less pleasant right out of the box, but sweetening the sound just a tad with the Lexicon is all it takes to make them as good as I want them to be. I'm enjoying a disposition called "American Classic Organ" (Paul Stratman) and also spending some time with his big English Cathedral Organ (based on Willis and Harrison sounds), and I have a couple others, one German-flavored and one by Piotr Grabowski. They are all different, and some stops are better than others. I love the way jOrgan is so customizable, how you can dig a little bit and totally change a stop or create new ones.

        Anyway, I'm having plenty of fun and keeping busy while COVID keeps us from doing all the regular stuff. I hope everyone is doing well. I will EVENTUALLY get around to providing pics and more documentation on this project. Right now I'm still in the "having too much fun to stop and write about it" stage!

        John
        ----------
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        • mutti_wilson
          mutti_wilson commented
          Editing a comment
          Are you using any of Piotr's sample sets for Grand Orgue? They are fantastic.

        • jbird604
          jbird604 commented
          Editing a comment
          The only one by Piotr in my current collection is the jOrgan version of the St. John Cantius, Cracow. It sounds very good on jOrgan, has amazing speech characteristics and beautiful chimes. At this time I only have two installed for G.O., the small demo organ that came bundled with GO and the luscious Pieta School organ by Lars Palo.

        • mutti_wilson
          mutti_wilson commented
          Editing a comment
          My all time favorite is Friesach. I'll play other sets and always end up back at that one. I recently added a third manual and my organ matches it perfectly now. I've gone through and adjusted some of the stop values and individual notes and it works really well with my speaker setup. Sounds good in headphones too but speakers are my favorite way to play. Giubasco and Strassburg are my next favorites.

        #11
        Oh, I hear you regarding ditching one thing for another. Here I am sitting and enjoying my two VSTs just to discover enough flaws to be ready to shell out $$$ on a hardware module that promises to overcome before mentioned flaws just to probably introduce others into the equation. I guess this is part of the life style.

        Comment


          #12
          Yes, every change involves a trade-off. I hated to lose the Content box in particular, as it sounds SO much better than the MOS stops, and could make a perfectly decent organ in a pinch. But the setup I chose is working for me. Got to practice hymns last night, with my wife playing the piano, and the old MOS was just fine for that purpose. Actually has some nice sounds, especially if you tweak the tone controls on the mixer just right. And the Lexicon sweetens it up too.

          But for headphone practice, I'll resort to the VPO. Fortunately, it's easy to switch between the two now. Once I get some pistons installed on the Allen's key slip below the Great manual, I'll be able to control my VPO sounds without turning sideways to look at the touch screen. Then I'll enjoy it even more. So the piston rail is probably my next big project.
          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!

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          • jbird604
            jbird604 commented
            Editing a comment
            You are so right about the curse, Michael! With so many choices, I'll waste time wondering what organ to use when I could be practicing. And of course, being the inveterate tinkerer, I have to find fault in some way with every one I try, so I could waste a ton of time trying to fix the perceived problems with each one, further delaying my needed practice time.

          • myorgan
            myorgan commented
            Editing a comment
            Sounds like fun, though, John. Either way you win! Tinker or practice, practice or tinker? Oh, to have only those 2 choices in life!

            Michael

          • jbird604
            jbird604 commented
            Editing a comment
            I hear you, buddy.

          #13
          On this Memorial Day with nowhere to go, I managed to tinker with the GO Demo organ a bit, and found myself growing fond of these little stops. Listening critically, I found the odd note that I wanted to tune up, so I did, and a few notes that were clearly a decibel or two out of the scale, which I also corrected, and there are other minor fixes I'll make as time goes by. These minor fixes have gone a long way toward making me love this little trifle. If it only had a Krummhorn, and some chimes...

          I recorded a little two-minute improvisation using several of the stops so as to convey a sense of how sweet this organ can sound, even under the fingers and feet of an amateur klutz. The limitations of the organ can be sussed out, but simple music like this actually obscures most of them.

          The Demo set, bundled with GO, is a skimpy organ, as they go, but what's there is remarkably nice. It's only 7 actual ranks, and the ranks are not even extensively sampled. Would you believe only TWO samples per octave? Yep, the creator sampled the F# and the G in each octave of each rank, and then used the simple GO trick of stretching each sample up or down as needed. Thus the middle F# sample of the Montre rank provides the C, D, E, F#, G# and A# of the central octave. The middle G sample provides C#, D#, F, G, A, and B.

          You might think this parsimonious, but I suppose the goal was to package a little organ that didn't take up much space but could show proof of concept, as it were. And though a careful chromatic listen allows one to detect this trickery, in normal playing this drawback would be hard to spot.

          Same with the unification and borrowing. There are only 7 ranks -- Bourdon, Montre, Flute Harmonic, Gamba, Octavin, Hautbois, and Trompette. But there are 20 stops, and two of them (Plein Jeu III and Cornet III) being compound stops, that would make this a "26-rank-equivalent" organ in standard digital parlance! Obviously there's some cooking of the books going on.

          But the creator knew what he was doing. The unification is highly judicious, perhaps about the cleverest unification scheme I've ever seen. I could've ignored it completely, except for one side effect -- you can't alter the level or tuning or other parameter of a stop without affecting the other stops drawn from the same rank. This is a compromise often faced in voicing even modern day digital organs, though, and can certainly be tolerated.

          A side note about the compound stops -- both the Plein Jeu and the Cornet are composed of tones borrowed from various other stops, but the ODF is written up in such a way that these stops do NOT express their individual components with the source of the sample. Both express solely with the Great shoe, as they are located in that division. (Example: The Plein Jeu is made up of tones from the swell Gamba, Bourdon, and Octavin, along with the great Flute Harmonic. But it expresses only with the great.) This is a really cool trick, and I'm not sure how it's accomplished. I think it may be that the program makes "copies" of the pipes it is borrowing from other ranks and places them, as it were, on a dedicated "chest" in the great enclosure.

          Anyway, give this little jewel a listen and see if you find it as smooth and easy on the ears as I do. (Pardon the klutzy editing. At one point I played a wrong note, which I clipped out, also removing the release tails of everything else at that spot!)

          Demo-ComeThouFount.mp3
          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!

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          Comment


          • jbird604
            jbird604 commented
            Editing a comment
            BTW, the stops heard are, line by line, Stanza 1: (1) Montre 8. (2) add the Prestant 4. (3) Flute Harmonic 8 and Flute Douce 4. (4) same, with a 16' pedal, solo on swell Hautbois 8. Second stanza: (1) Montre 8 + Prestant 4 with 16' pedal. (2) Add the Octavin 2'. (3) Add Plein Jeu III and Flute Harmonic 8, remove Octavin, increase pedal, Trompette 8' on swell solo. (4) Restore the Octavin 2', played on great only. (5) Increase pedal, melody on swell Trompette 8.

          • myorgan
            myorgan commented
            Editing a comment
            John,

            Good demo of the organ and its stops. I can see how it has captured your interest! The F#/G sampling trick doesn't show that well in your recording, so they must've done something right. Thank you for sharing your observations!

            Michael

          • jbird604
            jbird604 commented
            Editing a comment
            I cracked into the "ODF" -- Organ Definition File -- for this organ, hoping to gain some understanding of how it's put together. With the right knowledge, I might be able to do some customizing, add a stop or two, clone the Gamba and make a lovely celeste, clone the Trompette and make a Festival Trumpet, etc. But alas, I have no idea what I'm looking at. It's a plain text file, but filled with all kinds of keywords and codewords and such, and I foresee a steep learning curve before I could build myself a custom disposition.

            OTOH, when I was using jOrgan all those years ago, I pretty much understood how an organ is built up -- samples assembled into instruments, instruments assembled into what Soundfont calls "presets" but which we would call "stops." It was relatively easy to create a new one, copy one, alter it in numerous ways. But I've forgotten a lot of that and will have to relearn it too.

          #14
          As I wade a little deeper into my project, I'm becoming painfully aware of how hard it is to make an organ of any kind sound GOOD in my little nook. I don't recall being quite as obsessive about this in the past, but given that I now have two options for playing -- VPO or MOS -- and neither of them sounds very good in my speakers, I'm more focused on it. (This is all the more apparent to me because the VPOs sound so incredibly good in headphones!)

          There is a little FREE program called SweepGen (it's totally free and has no ads, just a labor of love by a dedicated audiophile hobbyist). Google it if you don't know about it. It turns any PC into a very flexible single-tone generator. Can generate any frequency from 1 Hz to a hundred thousand Hz I suppose. I can only hear from about 20 Hz to 13,000 Hz.

          It's just way too cool. It can generate sine waves, square waves, white noise, and other sounds. It can automatically sweep across any band you specific or you can use your up/down arrow keys, your mouse, or whatever to sweep the frequency up and down as you like, stopping anywhere you want. It displays the current frequency right on your screen.

          In other words, a fabulous tool for checking the response of your speakers, or for evaluating what's going on acoustically in your room.

          So I played around with it just now and I was quite horrified at what it revealed. For one thing, the response of my current speakers in my current space is so flawed a graph of it would surely look like a roller coaster! Moving the frequency slider up and down, I find that at many frequencies across the spectrum there are enormous peaks and dips. It's surprising that I can get any semblance of good organ tone out of it.

          Anyway, this just goes to prove that the first thing I need to do is set about improving the speaker situation. Different speakers (Allen HC cabinets?), or a totally different placement, acoustical treatment (horrors!) of my nook.... I don't know. But this is unsettling, to say the least!
          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!

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          • myorgan
            myorgan commented
            Editing a comment
            Originally posted by jbird604
            For one thing, the response of my current speakers in my current space is so flawed a graph of it would surely look like a roller coaster!
            Sell tickets!!!

            John, have you considered re-connecting the standard HC-12 or HC-14/15 speakers and then doing an analysis of the space? It feels like you have too many variables in the situation, and it might be time to settle for some constants. Also remember, you have the mixer equalizer, effects, custom speakers, and other customizations in your space. Perhaps it's time to standardize the setup with known variables and then build from there? Also analyzers (or sweepgen) are only as good as the microphones you use.

            Just my 2¢ worth.

            Michael

          • jbird604
            jbird604 commented
            Editing a comment
            You're so right -- it's a shame that I have surplus Allen speakers in the shop while I assault my ears with these old cheap ones. The main obstacle to some HC's is space, and I have no one to blame except myself for having too much stuff in here.

          • j reimer
            j reimer commented
            Editing a comment
            John, the "enormous peaks and dips" are almost certainly due to the room, and not to the speakers. I had exactly the same experience when using a microphone to assess why I was getting such big differences with adjacent notes using the same sample.

          #15
          John, if I happen to come through AK, I just may want to buy a couple of HC15’s from you! You know, just like any tourist on vacation - you buy a souvenir!!!

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