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  • #2
    Re: Best Sound Module to Enhance a pipe organ.

    Hi Sparky,

    I had the privilege of being able to choose/select and organ MIDI module to update an older, Romantic type pipe organ at one of my last parishes. Let me offer you some advice on MIDI modules.

    We ended up selecting the Ahlborn Archive Classical Module from Ahlborn-Galanti (you can do a google search for Ahlborn-Galanti). The module cost us between $2500-3000. I designed an in-house speaker systems, using a Mackie mixer, a Crown amplifier, four smaller speakers, and two larger speakers (I think we used Audio Centron), installed at various locations in the room, including the pipe organ chamber. In our situation, we were primarily looking to have the digital stops available as a pseudo-antiphonal for the choirs/cantors, being that the pipes were in the back and console was in front.

    The advantages of the AG module, as I see it were as follows:
    Sampled stops are reasonably good, and voiceable
    The unit was relatively inexpensive
    The company has a pretty good track record
    The unit has a temperature sensor which, when installed, automatically tunes the digital voices to the pipes

    The unit is only two channels, and despite having six speakers, you can't have 20 some stops divided across two channels sound very pipelike
    Voicing controls could be better
    You need to have a good installer do this for you

    Overall, the pastor (a fine musician in his own right), congregation, and I were all very pleased with the results.

    You mentioned you were using the Musicom equipment. Why not inquire about adding some digital stops via the Musicom sound engine? Some of the world's finest digital organs (i.e., Copeman Hart, Saville, etc.) utilize the Musicom system of digital synthesis (not samples) to recreate digital stops. Given the right installer, the right audio equipment, etc., the stuff is REALLY GOOD. Many organists believe Musicom stuff is top of the line. The only issue here would be the expense involved in acquiring the Musicom equipment, adding the speakers/amplifiers, and paying a decent installer/voicer. If I'm not mistaken, the people at Schantz currently use Musicom sound engines in some of their organs you might check with them.

    There are plenty of other MIDI modules out there, each with varying quality levels: Johannus, Allen Ensemble (just came out), and the Rodgers MX-200 (I'm told is excellent). Given all these choices, and considering your situation, if I were looking to have the digital stops match your current setup, in terms of divisional layouts, etc., and considering the best 'value' for your money, I would seriously consider using the Ahlborn Archive module (there are four to choose from). Installed well, voiced correctly, and given the proper audio setup (don't be cheap here), I think you'd be very pleased. I would also give the Musicom digital synthesis a long, hard, thought (though be prepared to pay more).

    If you are simply looking to add a few good solo voices here or there, my first choice would be the Rodgers MX-200 (check out www.rodgersinstruments.com), or the Allen ensemble (www.allenorgan.com), followed by the Johannus sound module.

    Mixture -wise, I think if you want the most authentic sounding mixtures, look at the Musicom, because it offers more channels (four to start, going up from there).

    Hope this helps. If I can be of further assistance, let me know. Good luck - this sounds exciting.

    Remember, don't be chinsy with the voicing, installation, or audio!


    • #3
      Re: Best Sound Module to Enhance a pipe organ.

      Dear Hybridlover,

      WOW! Thank you for your information! Quite extensive information. I totally agree with you in not being chinsy with the speakers, amplifiers and mixers ..... And I certainly want whatever we decide on to be as authentic as it can be.

      I will look into what Musicom has to offer and also the Rodgers information you kindly offered. I am new to the MIDI industry. I have been blessed most of my career as a church musician in having a pipe organ. I've played on everything from a Hammond, Conn, Allen, Rodgers to the other spectrum of Mohler, Kilgen, Wicks, Schantz and even Hillgreen and Lane pipe organs. The only digital that I have heard that I have been impressed with is Walker.

      I've played on two Walker pipe marriage instruments and both are quite impressive. The one was a 38-Rank Cassavant married with 16 digital Walker voices and you just couldn't tell the different between the two. Absolutely spectacular. The other was a Schlicker/Walker marriage and the majority of the Schlicker pedal pipework was removed and replaced with the Walker (36-Rank Schlicker/63 Walker digital voices). This marriage was more digital than pipe and the end result while sounding beautiful and the variety of sounds to choose from was awesome, the negative side of this marriage was that there wasn't enough pipe work left to support the organ as a stand alone and you just couldn't feel the organ (especially the bass end of it). Walker did beef up the amplifiers and it helped quite a bit but the lesson learned on this installation was too many digital voices surpassing the actual pipe ranks leaves you with not enough air moving and a so, so marriage between pipe and digital.

      Anyway ... got off track a little. I realize and appreciate the support you have given in not being chinsy when it comes to creating a MIDI system. If you want quality .... you've got to invest in it.

      I certainly appreciate all your information and will diligently look into the world of MIDI for our fine Schantz pipe organ.

      During the three-year study on our instrument I found that most organ builders back in the 40s, 50s, & 60s voiced their instruments at the factory and then installed the instrument at the church and tuned it. Because of the surge in organ building in his time period, the luxury of voicing each instrument to the room wasn't followed. There just wasn't the luxury of time to do this because of the building boom in pipe organs and because that was the current style in organ building.

      Many organs of this vintage have high-quality pipework and were voiced on the smaller scale due to style. I have been told that once the organ company re-voices our instrument to the sanctuary, that it will actually fully bloom and be a richer, more supportive presence in the worship space.

      I am not in any hurry to implement the MIDI sound module and will continue my study on this future addition. With technology advancing at the rapid pace it continues to, it will be interesting to see what is available and how advanced digital enhancements will be in the next few years.

      Thanks again for all your information and support.



      • #4
        Re: Best Sound Module to Enhance a pipe organ.

        You might also check out the Content expander. Content organs has a website:

        One nice thing about their expander is that you can have adjustable chorus and windpressure controls.