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I'm thinking of purchasing an electronic organ for practice at home. I'm on a tight budget and space is limited, so for now, I just want to get a modest, two-manual instrument with built-in speakers. I prefer a digital instrument than an analog instrument, but can make compromise if need be. I have only played on Allen and Rodgers organs, so prefer them over other brands. I have a slight preference for Allen. The Rodgers instruments that I played had decent sounds, but I didn't like the pedalboard.

 

Do you have any recommendations? As I understand, electronic organs of the same brand vary in quality depending on the time period and where they were manufactured.

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I'm thinking of purchasing an electronic organ for practice at home. I'm on a tight budget and space is limited, so for now, I just want to get a modest, two-manual instrument with built-in speakers. I prefer a digital instrument than an analog instrument, but can make compromise if need be. I have only played on Allen and Rodgers organs, so prefer them over other brands. I have a slight preference for Allen. The Rodgers instruments that I played had decent sounds, but I didn't like the pedalboard.

 

Do you have any recommendations? As I understand, electronic organs of the same brand vary in quality depending on the time period and where they were manufactured.

 

Seriously, look at Hauptwerk. It won't be as pretty as a bought in console, but for the cost of a computer, two keyboards and a pedalboard, you can have a fantastic sounding organ (organs). You can buy ready made ones too. I'm in the process of putting together a console, and I reckon that it'll cost me under £400 to have a 2 manual console. Hauptwerk now does a free edition, which is limited to the number of ranks it can play at any one time, but there are a surprising number of instruments available that work on the free edition. My current plan is to buy a 2m Silbermann sample set and use the free edition until funds let me get a paid edition and Salisbury.

 

The basics are a really easy to put together - buy 2 midi keyboards off ebay (£60 each), plug 'em into your computer via USB, and you've got two manuals up and running straight off. Pedalboards are slightly more complicated in that you either have to buy them already midified or do the electronics yourself. Pre-done, you're looking at about £350 - http://www.classicorgans.co.uk/Pedalboards.htm

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http://www.mander-organs.com/discussion/in...?showtopic=1318

 

This may be of some use to you, even if it is from a while ago...

The "virtual pipe organ" software referred to in the early pages of the above-mentioned thread of 2007 has come on by leaps and bounds in the intervening three years, and anyone considering using it should consult the relevant website for up-to-date info. It was stunning back then, despite its limitations; now it is much more user-friendly (and likely to become much more so later this year with the release of v.4). Polyphony is handled much more effectively and organ loading times have reduced remarkably. Quad-core computers with 8GB or more of RAM can be had for under £500. Complete modular console solutions from German and Canadian suppliers are now easily available in the UK (and here I have to declare an interest). In addition to the Salisbury Fr Willis (of which the first instalment has just been released), there is another English cathedral Willis due for release later this year, and permission has been given to sample a well-known cathedral H&H. For those with less deep pockets there is an excellent IIIP/41(60) 1901 JJ Binns set available for just over £200, and a number of very useful freeware and shareware sets.

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Bringing the subject back to pipe organs, I note that 'Choir and Organ' now has a regular feature on practice organs; this may not be unrelated to comments made by members of this Board (in some cases, on it).

 

I haven't seen a Mander organ featured yet, but it's surely only a matter of time...

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Guest Hector5

I have nearly done my head in trying out the various options in looking for a new house organ. Our musical menagerie consists of one grand piano (Bluthner), a harpsichord, a Clavinova and a five stop pipe organ (single manual). Some people may say that this is enough, but since ceasing to be a regular church organist I have been stuck for a house organ since our analogue organ blew up on new year's eve. There have been fruitless searches through the small ads, failed bidding wars on ebay. I have searched high and low and have investigated every option mentioned elsewhere in this forum. To be honest I was strangely satisfied with my old toaster. It had a comfy console and a reasonable sound, and was strangely satisfying to play. There were no pretentions about it and I managed to get meaningful practice done. Since it died, I have had on loan an extremely respectable instrument which really fulfills every musical desire, and more. Sadly, it has to go back soon, but it has taught me how valuable having an instrument at home is, even, yes even a simulation. Our budget for our new organ is miniscule, and we have at last found a second-hand instrument which meets our needs. The manufacturers are kindly taking the organ and customising the stoplist/sounds for me to the specification set out below. This instrument will always be a compromise - BUT, if I want to practice at 11:30pm with a nice chilled glass of something to accompany I can do so. If you have a pipeless instrument, you have to suspend belief. All rules go to the wall, and you have to acknowledge that it is a mere simulation (just like aircraft training equipment) and simply an aid to rehearsing. I would love to have a pipe organ, and we are searching for a house which buildings which will allow us to realise this dream - but for the moment, we have to make do. When we finally achieve our dream house, I will then start a no doubt frustrating search for a redundant pipe organ. But for the moment, we will enjoy dabbling around with the following:

 

Grand Orgue

Bourdon 16

Montre 8

Flûte Harmonique 8

Bourdon 8

Salicional 8

Prestant 4

Flûte Douce 4

Doublette 2

Cornet V

Fourniture IV

Trompette 8

 

Recit

Flûte Traversière 8

Cor de Nuit 8

Viole de Gambe 8

Voix Celeste 8

Flûte Octaviante 4

Nazard 2 2/3

Octavin 2

Plein Jeu III

Basson 16

Trompette 8

Basson Hautbois 8

Voix Humaine 8

Clairon 4

 

Pédale

Bourdon 32

Contrebasse 16

Soubasse 16

Flûte 8

Violoncelle 8

Flûte 4

Bombarde 16

 

All of this has been achieved within a tiny budget and is the result of dogged determination in trying to find something that will do the job. The days of easy access to churches for practice are over, and I personally have thrown all principles to the wall so that I can maintain my playing technique, and have something that is also a little fun into the bargain.

 

I am grateful to our hosts for allowing this discussion, and acknowledge that there is no substitute for the real thing, but when faced with a budget, what can you do?

 

Hector

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I have an Allen, so am biased towards them, but I think it depends on how much you are going to spend. If we are talking sub £10,000 then I would look at Allen Protege series - don't go for the Chapel series as they use inferior keyboards etc. Otherwise Viscount offer very good value for money. Also beware because the cheapest models of both use non standard size pedalboards etc.

 

Personally I would go the secondhand route, as I do not think the latest small Allen Organs are nearly as the MDS range, which was in production until about 1998.

 

Whilst the Hauptwerk option is a good one tonally, it always leaves very important factors to people who generally don't know about things such as speakers, amps, keyboards etc. At best they look like glorified Midi keyboards, and I like something tactice like a stop knob or tab, rather than a computer touch screen. Is there any company who custom build hauptwerk consoles/sound systems?

 

Hope this helps

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Whilst the Hauptwerk option is a good one tonally, it always leaves very important factors to people who generally don't know about things such as speakers, amps, keyboards etc. At best they look like glorified Midi keyboards, and I like something tactice like a stop knob or tab, rather than a computer touch screen. Is there any company who custom build hauptwerk consoles/sound systems?

 

Hope this helps

You can get Hauptwerk consoles with stop knobs or tabs - at a price.* How effective they are I cannot really say, since, despite having played HW organs on several occasions, I have yet to see the system interacting properly with the console. Either the stops haven't worked, or the pistons haven't worked, or neither. This is merely my experience and no doubt there are others who have had greater satisfaction. However, it seems clear to me that setting up a Hauptwerk system to interact properly with a console requires a detailed understanding of MIDI, so I would not recommend it to anyone who is not a computer expert. My experience has certainly put me off going down the HW route, which is a pity since, as you point out, the tonal results are good (though still not as satisfying as a live pipe organ).

 

* It must be a pain re-labelling the stops every time you want to load up a new organ though.

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One factor in Hauptwerk's success is evidently that you can take it at any level. You could download the free taster version off the internet and hook up a midi keyboard to your laptop. You could - at a price - commission a fully fitted console from specialist companies that will fit Hauptwerk inside just like an Allen comes with the Allen sound generating electronics, a Johannus with Johannus electronics etc. Or somewhere in-between there are companies that will sell you all the bits - keyboards, pedalboard, computer etc and tell you how to put it all together (plus the specific table model you need to pick up from Ikea to mount the keyboards!). Drawstops are evidently a rare luxury; touchscreen monitors are far more versatile and obviously change the appearance of the console whenever you change the "organ" being played. Version 4 is coming out later this year and is supposedly much more beginner-friendly than before.

 

I'm tempted to try it when I eventually return from my work in Africa to replace my old Johannus toaster that is on permament loan to my church. If on the other hand you prefer the idea of an inexpensive toaster you may well find much greater choice (and lower prices) if you buy from Holland. Even after paying for a British pedalboard and shipping costs I saved a few grand. But in fairness to our hosts I won't mention any suppliers here but if you want more info then feel free to PM me.

 

Contrabombarde

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You could - at a price - commission a fully fitted console from specialist companies that will fit Hauptwerk inside just like an Allen comes with the Allen sound generating electronics, a Johannus with Johannus electronics etc.

But, if you don't have the specialist knowledge of MIDI, what happens further on down the line when you buy a new sample organ? Presumably it won't set itself up automatically to interface with your console...

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I had some time on a Phoenix organ today, this is the first time I've played/heard one of these and I was very impressed.

 

It's the large 3 manual installation at St. Elphin's Warrington done about 2 years ago.

The R&D has been 'moth balled', Phoenix have installed a new console in the space of the old one and speakers within the existing organ chambers. It's an unusual set-up, Sw/Gt/Ped spread across the west wall, console Ch and a Ped rank in the crossing.

The keyboards are budget plastic but 'a lot' better than many I have come across with quite a nice feel. The spec. is very similar to the pipe organ, supplemented with the usual additions you would expect - 32s, mutations, solo reeds loud and quiet.

It's a big church and the Sw/Gt/Ped speakers are a long way from the console which allows the sound plenty of space to mellow (not what you get with a home organ!), but gives you some problems with delay.

Usually with electronics the mixtures are a dead giveaway, I found these most acceptable indeed. The only criticism I would make was that the 2 loud solo reeds were not particularly pleasant or refined, but on reflection I suppose the Phoenix Tuba was probably better than many pipe ranks of that name I've come across!

 

DT

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At best they look like glorified Midi keyboards,

 

Sorry, but I don't think you can say that - have a look at:

 

DanielCook.jpg

 

or

 

 

90520x3021x315ct4.jpg

 

Both of those are not what I would call glorified Midi keyboards. Yes, the first one (Daniel Cook's console) has a bit more computer gadgetry than many would like.

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We currently have a 2-manual Rodgers at church and it is excellent. Not cheap by any means (£30k+ all in), and it has external speakers (12 of them!) which may not be what the OP wanted (perhaps using internal speakers would reduce the cost - or you could get some decent headphones which is even cheaper). The sound quality is very good, the full organ sound is rich but there are also some excellent solo sounds (for example - a lovely Clarinet, a decent solo trumpet, and last week I spent a bit of time improvising on the strings - Unda Maris on Great coupled to Gamba and Celeste on Swell - absolutely gorgeous). Rodgers enable you to have more than one voice available for some stops which increases flexibility - you just select using the computer. I find it a joy to play, a very comfortable console (thank goodness we ordered drawstops - it costs more but it is worth it) and lots of registration aids which I make full use of.

 

I can't really compare with other firms. What I will say is there is a lot of competition in the market, and since I studied Economics I should know that that means that the quality should keep getting better, whoever you go to. Digitals will never recreate true pipe organs, but technological advances means they will keep on getting better - the disadvantage of this is of course that things quickly become obsolete!

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Sorry, but I don't think you can say that - have a look at:

 

<photos above>

 

Both of those are not what I would call glorified Midi keyboards. Yes, the first one (Daniel Cook's console) has a bit more computer gadgetry than many would like.

Wowee! I think for the price and space of the second console, one could have obtained themselves a nice little pipe organ... It also seems a bit limiting to have motorised draw stops on a Hauptwerk console. I suppose that console is fine if you want to recreate the organ at Sacre-Coeur but it's not ideal for being a Spanish organ or a Silbermann... or anything else you might want to try!

 

I really don't mind Hauptwerk consoles looking like "glorified midi consoles". At least they're being honest about what they are and their intentions. They're really products of modern technology so I feel the aesthetic of them being unashamedly modern is something to be embraced - I think the idea of touch screen stop jambs, etc, is the right approach, with form following function perfectly. I think a blank, netural canvas would be best for Hauptwerk to do its thing.

 

A practical point about Hauptwerk: the processing power required for a large organ is quite considerable (I see most people are building computers with quad cores and 8GB+ RAM) - and this means quite a bit of heat - and consequently noise. Do most people build water cooled PCs to cope with the cooling requirements without generating noise? What about the sound processing in the computer? I know I've got my eye on a pretty top-end sound card for the new computer I'm contemplating building (which will be water cooled) but this card is £200-300 and I know is nowhere near the fidelity of a top-end hi-fi amplifier, even if it is much better than most PC sound cards.

 

I guess an advantage of the "separates" approach is you can upgrade parts of it (i.e. computer system, sound system) as required without having to replace the entire thing in one go.

 

As (real pipe) practice organs go, this one caught my eye: http://www.orgelsite.nl/kerken40/dronten.htm

 

I like the layout of this practice organ for 2 reasons:

 

1. Height and space requirements - it doesn't look like it takes up much more space than many electronic organs

2. Personally, I'm not a big fan of having the pipes immediately behind the music desk speaking directly into my face. It's a bit too intense, especially with the voicing and key "regulation" of some of these organs I've played. Having a bit of distance and having the pipes speak away from the player seems like a good idea. The only downside of this organ (to me) appears to be that there's no bellows/regulator, so I guess it uses a schwimmer but I understand wind supply in these small organs is always a difficult area to make work really well (along with key action, pipe speech, etc).

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I use Haupwerk with a custom built 4 manual console and two touch-sensitve screens for the stops, not to mention an adjustable bench. At present I use the Skinner Illinois organ which is a 3 manual but my fourth manual should come into use when, eventually, the whole of the Salisbury cathedral organ becomes available for download. I wonder whether I will need larger screens for the Salisbury specification but we must wait and see. Of course, I would like a small mechanical action pipe organ but, in a very moderate sized terraced house, I am restricted in my options. As someone else has already mentioned, I find the series in "Choir and Organ" on home pipe organs for practice most interesting.

 

If anyone is going to be in the area of Brighton at any time they are welcome to send me a PM about coming to see it.

 

As ever, we are grateful to Mr Mander for permitting mention of a subject which is strictly taboo.

 

Malcolm

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I really don't mind Hauptwerk consoles looking like "glorified midi consoles". At least they're being honest about what they are and their intentions. They're really products of modern technology so I feel the aesthetic of them being unashamedly modern is something to be embraced - I think the idea of touch screen stop jambs, etc, is the right approach, with form following function perfectly. I think a blank, netural canvas would be best for Hauptwerk to do its thing.

Sorry, but I don't agree.

 

Such electronic organs are, by their very nature, imitations of pipe organs. I find it quite frustrating on such instruments to find lots of MIDI switches, pistons and the like being installed in place of other more traditional registrational aids. On an electronic Nave Organ in a certain Cathedral I played on for a Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago, I found that - where a Swell to Great thumb piston would normally be expected - there was some sort of MIDI piston instead, and the Swell to Great piston had been placed in a rather unrealistic position towards the treble end of the Great manual. I wonder what use these MIDI devices are in the actual playing of the instrument. And why, too, include such devices as "Harp" and "Chimes" in an electronic which tries to imitate a pipe instrument?

 

I'm not a stick-in-the-mud (I hope! ;) ) but I wonder why it is generally quite easy to spot an electronic imitation of a pipe organ from its console even before "switching on the wind"....

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A practical point about Hauptwerk: the processing power required for a large organ is quite considerable (I see most people are building computers with quad cores and 8GB+ RAM) - and this means quite a bit of heat - and consequently noise. Do most people build water cooled PCs to cope with the cooling requirements without generating noise?

 

I suppose the cooling fan could sound a bit like a blower. Even more realistic!

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Now I'm sure that everyone participating in this discussion will accuse me of being completely crazy but I'd just like to ask what it is that you are doing in the privacy of your own home on these amazing things with zillions of stops and gadgets? Not practicing properly, I should imagine.

 

I have at home one rank of nice gedackt pipes played from two manuals and pedals on direct electric action and - guess what - I've ended up doing nearly all my practice on it, because I don't much like practicing in a freezing cold church and also because the pedals actually play in time with the manuals, which certainly doesn't happen on my church organ. Because there are no gadgets to fiddle with I just get on with learning the notes and listening properly to what I'm doing. Once that's all sorted out I take it to the church and add all that stuff that tries to get in the way of the music - swell pedals, combination pistons, stop changes, fiddling about with CCTV cameras, seeing what mischief the choristers are up to etc etc and now that's easy because I've learned the notes properly. And try learning a big French toccata on one rank of fast-speaking gedackt pipes in a completely dead acoustic and you'll be amazed how easy it is when you get it on the church organ - it'll just play itself.

 

Back to basics, chaps.

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building (which will be water cooled) but this card is £200-300 and I know is nowhere near the fidelity of a top-end hi-fi amplifier, even if it is much better than most PC sound cards.

 

I think you're comparing apples with oranges here - a sound card is just a sound source, an amplifier merely, well, err amplifies it, for want of a better word. A decent one should be able to provide very clean and high resolution audio, otherwise they wouldn't be the tool of choice for mobile recording, etc. Something like the M-Audio 192 series is a very capable card, certainly when I've used our school one hooked up to my hifi system I can hear an improvement in detail and separation over my CD player. Admittedly I'm not talking top end hifi, but it's not at the lower end of things either - top end Pioneer gear.

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Now I'm sure that everyone participating in this discussion will accuse me of being completely crazy but I'd just like to ask what it is that you are doing in the privacy of your own home on these amazing things with zillions of stops and gadgets? Not practicing properly, I should imagine.

 

Actually, I'm mostly using a 10 stop sample set, and practising on very few stops. I don't actually care about the number of stops, I care about how it sounds. There is absolutely no way I can have any instrument that actually speaks out loud - I live in the middle of a boarding house; girls boarding immediately below (and last night they complained they could hear my wife's flute), boys just outside the door...

 

Everybody has different needs/pleasures when it comes to playing and practising - yours is a perfectly valid viewpoint, but others simply want an organ they can fiddle with at home and enjoy the colours it makes, etc. Others enjoy playing large instruments. Some enjoy the whole gadgetry/tinkering thing, and some want to be able to practice on as close as they can get to a cathedral organ in their living room. Horses for courses.

 

To whoever it was said that Hauptwerk organs are impressions - yes, they are, to a certain extent; I would suggest it's more like playing a CD recording of the real organ, which has both good and bad points. Bad points; it's still not a pipe organ and the sound you get is not the same as you get at the console. Good points; the sound you get is still a damn sight better than most other digital instruments around, and if, for example, you play the Salisbury organ for real occasionally, having the organ sound like the organ actually sounds at the entrance to the Choir, rather than how it sounds up in the loft can help you with balance, etc.

 

I think many people on the Mander forum might get offended by the idea of Hauptwerk-style instruments; we tend to give the impression of being a bunch of purist (even elitist?) types who scorn "fake" instruments. I don't think anyone who has tried or owns a Hauptwerk instrument would say that they would prefer it or that it is a substitute for the real thing (assuming the "real thing" is a decent instrument), but it's about as good as it gets at the moment in terms of sound. The console interaction is not for some. Personally I was dead against electronic instruments of any sort, particularly as I've now had the "pleasure" of being DoM of 2 churches with toasters, but having tried Hauptwerk for myself, I actually ENJOY playing that little 10 stop sample set from Haverhill (Binns); just playing the Gt Flute on its own is something I regularly do and enjoy. I prefer it to playing the 2m 1911 Norman & Beard I have downstairs from me, which is sacrilege, I know.

 

I think it's interesting to note that an organist of the standard of Daniel Cook has embraced Hauptwerk fully (that 4m console above is his), and I hear rumour that another cathedral (not too far from Salisbury) assistant who lurks on here has similar plans...

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Sorry, but I don't agree.

 

Such electronic organs are, by their very nature, imitations of pipe organs. I find it quite frustrating on such instruments to find lots of MIDI switches, pistons and the like being installed in place of other more traditional registrational aids. On an electronic Nave Organ in a certain Cathedral I played on for a Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago, I found that - where a Swell to Great thumb piston would normally be expected - there was some sort of MIDI piston instead, and the Swell to Great piston had been placed in a rather unrealistic position towards the treble end of the Great manual. I wonder what use these MIDI devices are in the actual playing of the instrument. And why, too, include such devices as "Harp" and "Chimes" in an electronic which tries to imitate a pipe instrument?

 

I'm not a stick-in-the-mud (I hope! ;) ) but I wonder why it is generally quite easy to spot an electronic imitation of a pipe organ from its console even before "switching on the wind"....

 

I totally agree with this. One of the first things I did with my 3 manual practice organ was to remove all the superfluous rubbish enabled by a computer, but for which I could not, and still cannot find a musical use. Yes I had to build a new kneeboard and resite the toe pistons, blank off flashing lights, make new returns etc for the console and do a bit of wiring as some switches which logic told me should have been wired in parallel were wired in series instead, but it only took a couple of days. The thing is much less distracting to play, and with speakers now at ear height rather than knee height (I haven't yet met anyone who listens with their knees, although similar anatomical comparisons are quite widespread), it's very revealing of bad phrasing and inconsistent touch.

 

AJS

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if, for example, you play the Salisbury organ for real occasionally, having the organ sound like the organ actually sounds at the entrance to the Choir, rather than how it sounds up in the loft can help you with balance, etc.

[...]

I think it's interesting to note that an organist of the standard of Daniel Cook has embraced Hauptwerk fully (that 4m console above is his)

And indeed, Daniel has also remarked about the usefulness of hearing the balance better than he can at the real console.

 

Paul

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Bringing the subject back to pipe organs,...

No disrespect or discourtesy intended, but the subject line of this thread clearly has nothing to do with pipe organs.

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No disrespect or discourtesy intended, but the subject line of this thread clearly has nothing to do with pipe organs.

 

I was wondering when we'd get back to real pipe organs again! As previously said, it is discourteous to our hosts to discuss electronic organs in any detail. Hauptwerk is an interesting diversion though - after all, it allows you to experience the exact sound, albeit at CD-level quality, of playing some of the world's finest organs, and one can hardly complain that some producers of sample sets donate a percentage of each sale to the upkeep of the real organ. We happily discuss our favourite recordings of organs on this forum, and at one level Hauptwerk is just a glorified recording, pipe by pipe, of the very same organs. Maybe though we should avoid too much discussion of Hauptwerk, at least until someone samples St Ignatius Loyala!

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I was wondering when we'd get back to real pipe organs again! As previously said, it is discourteous to our hosts to discuss electronic organs in any detail. Hauptwerk is an interesting diversion though - after all, it allows you to experience the exact sound, albeit at CD-level quality, of playing some of the world's finest organs, and one can hardly complain that some producers of sample sets donate a percentage of each sale to the upkeep of the real organ. We happily discuss our favourite recordings of organs on this forum, and at one level Hauptwerk is just a glorified recording, pipe by pipe, of the very same organs. Maybe though we should avoid too much discussion of Hauptwerk, at least until someone samples St Ignatius Loyala!

 

I mean no discourtesy, but one thread discussing digital electronics among so many pertaining to the pipe organ (and many other things!) will surely not bring the mighty Mander empire crashing down will it?

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