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Guest Andrew Butler

Any Views?

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Guest Andrew Butler

I have always been impressed by the sound of the "Phoenix" system, and enjoy browsing their website

http://www.phoenixorgans.co.uk/index.html

 

as i shall be in the market for a home organ in a year or so.

 

However, I do have misgivings about some of the specs of recent installations - although I know that they are built to customers requirements, so the fault (if any) does not lie with Phoenix.

 

Any views please?

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Guest Paul Isom

The problem with slightly 'off the wall' stoplists tends to lie with the customer most of the time. I think it would help if the builders were to give a little more guidance to clients. In the case of churches - avoiding over large pipeless installations in relation to the size of building. In the case of the home and church instruments, just trying to ensure a little more stylistic unity rather than building a generic 'all things to all men' instruments, devoid of character. What worries me more is the ordingary churches that purchase instruments which have the possibility of several different voicings and temperaments, and in the wrong hands this could be catastrophic.............. Just think of Mrs Blue-Rinse on a Sunday attempting to play Immortal invisible in Ab and having accidentally set up a Meantone tuning - it has happened!!!!!!!

 

I think the biggest problem with the electronic trade, is that , in order to try and become competitive they are find new and strange gimmicks which are really alien to anything other than a home enviroment.

 

For those of you who know me, I worked in the 'substitute' trade before becoming a school teacher and a Diocesan Organs Advisor..................................

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Guest Paul Isom

My apologies for the spelling and grammer. The post was written while I'm choking on a cup of coffee between lessons!

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I have always been impressed by the sound of the "Phoenix" system, and enjoy browsing their website

http://www.phoenixorgans.co.uk/index.html

 

as i shall be in the market for a home organ in a year or so.

 

However, I do have misgivings about some of the specs of recent installations - although I know that they are built to customers requirements, so the fault (if any) does not lie with Phoenix.

 

Any views please?

 

I own a 3m Phoenix, and spent a great deal of time designing the spec I wanted right down to the mixture breaks. Phoenix implemented what I asked for, and I guess they would do this even if the requirements were "quirky"!

 

With my instrument, I wanted 3 completely independent specs - English, French and German - so that these areas of repertoire could be played without too much compromise. But there are some restrictions - the same stop controls have to suffice for all 3 organs, so for example, on the english romantic spec where one wouldn't normally want so many mutations, they are there to avoid the confusion of stops labelled at the wrong pitch or timbre. In the German spec they come into their own. This may be one reason why the number of stops appears larger than necessary.

 

Of course it takes some getting used to - one needs to know that the french "basson-hautbois" is a french horn in the english spec (and labelled as such). But the benefit is in being able to play eg, Franck or Widor with the proper registration, and beginning to understand why an english oboe is not a direct substitute for the french variety.

 

I think it is important to avoid having a complete hotch-potch of different stops, and where possible to use samples from a single organ. So on my instrument the German data comes almost entirely from one instrument, the English choruses are by Hill and the French spec is Cavaille-Coll. If this approach of using samples from single pipe instruments is adopted, then it should lead to a stylistic unity in the simulation (depending on the quality of the original instrument, of course!)

 

I've also come to the view that the requirements for a home organ and a church are rather different. Unless one goes for a 3-stop chamber organ, the home instrument is more like a flight simulator, aiming to create a realistic impression of what an instrument would sound like in a building much bigger than one's living room. For a church however, I agree with Paul that the starting point should be the spec of a pipe organ that could reasonably fit with the building. And I would add that a large proportion of the budget should be spent on the amplification and speakers, in preference to extra stops.

 

And as far as the Phoenix sampling technology is concerned, I am convinced it offers at least the same (and often considerably better) sound than much more expensive synthesis technologies. Sheffield Cathedral would be worth listening to in this respect.

 

JJK

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Guest Andrew Butler

 

I own a 3m Phoenix, and spent a great deal of time designing the spec I wanted right down to the mixture breaks. Phoenix implemented what I asked for, and I guess they would do this even if the requirements were "quirky"!

 

With my instrument, I wanted 3 completely independent specs - English, French and German - so that these areas of repertoire could be played without too much compromise. But there are some restrictions - the same stop controls have to suffice for all 3 organs, so for example, on the english romantic spec where one wouldn't normally want so many mutations, they are there to avoid the confusion of stops labelled at the wrong pitch or timbre. In the German spec they come into their own. This may be one reason why the number of stops appears larger than necessary.

 

Of course it takes some getting used to - one needs to know that the french "basson-hautbois" is a french horn in the english spec (and labelled as such). But the benefit is in being able to play eg, Franck or Widor with the proper registration, and beginning to understand why an english oboe is not a direct substitute for the french variety.

 

I think it is important to avoid having a complete hotch-potch of different stops, and where possible to use samples from a single organ. So on my instrument the German data comes almost entirely from one instrument, the English choruses are by Hill and the French spec is Cavaille-Coll. If this approach of using samples from single pipe instruments is adopted, then it should lead to a stylistic unity in the simulation (depending on the quality of the original instrument, of course!)

 

I've also come to the view that the requirements for a home organ and a church are rather different. Unless one goes for a 3-stop chamber organ, the home instrument is more like a flight simulator, aiming to create a realistic impression of what an instrument would sound like in a building much bigger than one's living room. For a church however, I agree with Paul that the starting point should be the spec of a pipe organ that could reasonably fit with the building. And I would add that a large proportion of the budget should be spent on the amplification and speakers, in preference to extra stops.

 

And as far as the Phoenix sampling technology is concerned, I am convinced it offers at least the same (and often considerably better) sound than much more expensive synthesis technologies. Sheffield Cathedral would be worth listening to in this respect.

 

JJK

 

 

 

Good points thank you JJK.

 

Interestingly, I can see where yours, and most of the other "home" specs are coming from - it is some of the "church" jobs that worry me. Not least that Quint 5.1/3 on the Choir Organ at Sheffield.......why?

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Guest Andrew Butler

 

This may be one reason why the number of stops appears larger than necessary.

 

JJK

 

Ah - so that explains your Great Tierce as well as the 5rk cornet. makes sense now!

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- it is some of the "church" jobs that worry me.  Not least that Quint 5.1/3 on the Choir Organ at Sheffield.......why?

 

I see what you mean - I can't think what you'd use it for, and I guess you'd have to look a long way to find another double quint on an enclosed choir organ. Maybe Atlantic City? There's one on the solo/bombarde at St Sulpice. I think the stop is usually part of a big 16' chorus, and usually on the Great.

 

JJK

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Ah - so that explains your Great Tierce as well as the 5rk cornet. makes sense now!

 

Indeed. Although, as the mixtures are of the quint variety, I find that on occasions the tierce, which is of principal scale, can give a nice twang to the Gt ensemble before adding the reeds - like having a FW tierce mixture.

 

By the way, if you want to hear/play a Phoenix instrument in the flesh you'd be most welcome. Just PM me.

 

JJK

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Guest Andrew Butler

 

I see what you mean - I can't think what you'd use it for, and I guess you'd have to look a long way to find another double quint on an enclosed choir organ. Maybe Atlantic City? There's one on the solo/bombarde at St Sulpice. I think the stop is usually part of a big 16' chorus, and usually on the Great.

 

JJK

 

 

Yes, usually part of a big 16' chorus (H & H used it a lot I think...? B) )

It also plays a part in the classical French Basse de Tierce, but that needs a Tierce at 3.1/5, which I don't think there is at Sheffield.

 

Does anyone have the 1998 Copeman Hart spec of which this is a rebuild/re-use of console? I suppose the Quinte could be used coupled through to the Great because there was perhaps no room on the Great jamb but there was on the Choir...? I would love to know the real reason though...

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I'm very happy to re-state my absolute delight with the custom built Wyvern organ installed in my church in February this year. This, of course, uses the Pheonix system. The quality of the flutes in particular, closely matched by the principals and reeds, is just phenomenal. There have been several occasions when I've been practicing and vistors have come up to me to ask where the pipes are - even though they're staring at an unappologetic battery of unscreened loudspeakers.

 

I undertook a great deal of "field research", followed up by on site visits with a subset of my PCC, before our contract was awarded to Wyvern. In what is, of course, a very subjective area, to my ears it came down to a straight choice between Wyvern, who are very competitive in their pricing, and Copeman-Hart at double the price. I'm sure Phoenix would have matched the Wyvern sound - which in the end I thought was the best.

 

Phoenix and Wyvern, I believe have an agreement not to quote against each other, but I'm sure both offer an unmatched ability to deliver a top quality digital instrument and a very competetive price.

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Guest Barry Oakley
I'm very happy to re-state my absolute delight with the custom built Wyvern organ installed in my church in February this year. This, of course, uses the Pheonix system. The quality of the flutes in particular, closely matched by the principals and reeds, is just phenomenal. There have been several occasions when I've been practicing and vistors have come up to me to ask where the pipes are - even though they're staring at an unappologetic battery of unscreened loudspeakers.

 

I undertook a great deal of "field research", followed up by on site visits with a subset of my PCC, before our contract was awarded to Wyvern. In what is, of course, a very subjective area, to my ears it came down to a straight choice between Wyvern, who are very competitive in their pricing, and Copeman-Hart at double the price. I'm sure Phoenix would have matched the Wyvern sound - which in the end I thought was the best.

 

Phoenix and Wyvern, I believe have an agreement not to quote against each other, but I'm sure both offer an unmatched ability to deliver a top quality digital instrument and a very competetive price.

 

I thought Wyvern used the Bradford System or am I miles adrift of what's happening in the digital field?

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I thought Wyvern used the Bradford System or am I miles adrift of what's happening in the digital field?

 

That was true until 3-4 years ago - now all their custom instruments use Phoenix technology. Both Wyvern and Phoenix get their consoles made by Renatus in Devon (which used to be the Wyvern factory), so there is technically no difference between a custom Wyvern and a Phoenix.

 

The standard spec Wyverns are imported from Holland - but I believe these are also sampled instruments, using Wyvern's own data.

 

JJK

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Could anyone explain please - in a normal sized living room, not using headphones or external speakers - does the sound of even a moderate sounding 2 or 3 man not sound something of a parody? I am interested one day in getting (and it will have to be electronic) a house instrument but rightly or wrongly imagine that 16' Pedal Opens, large churuses and reeds would sound rather odd in the space available - is this not the case? The trouble is that when I have asked various companies to quote for something small they tend to come up with the excuse that the 'number of stops as against cost' factor would mean that I could actually have more for my money than I actually want! I would like something above all with versatility over two manuals and pedals - contrasting 8', 4' & 2' and maybe a Mixture, a string, some sort of Sesquialtera and small chorus/solo Oboe etc. and some sort of basic 16' Pedal tone and possibly not even a combination system. Certainly not the complete recreation of St-Ouen, Rouen or St Bavo Haarlem - I can reel out stoplists for them by the mile. The trouble is that the only house organs I have heard have been elderly and although much prized by their owners have sounded completely awfull to me!

 

AJJ

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Both Wyvern and Phoenix get their consoles made by Renatus in Devon (which used to be the Wyvern factory).

 

 

Well, that explains a good deal...

 

Personally, I just can't get my head around all this. The whole point, to me, of a house organ is something upon which to practice - i.e. become a better organist, learn notes and improve articulation. For that, I would rather have a mini tracker soundboard with 2 contrasting 4' flutes and pedal coupler, plus a tremulant, which would probably occupy about the same amount of space. Or a 2 manual harpsichord with pedals fitted.

 

I often hear a lot of guff talked about "releasing the note". I was surprised yesterday to learn that when proper scientific experiments have been conducted with oscilliscopes, even on an electric action instrument, the difference between a perceived "good" performance and "bad" performance was scientifically found in the release of the note rather than the start of it. That would seem to make a harpsichord or little tracker job the most demanding and productive route to take for practice, no matter what you usually play.

 

Unless it's just for fun, of course...

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Well, that explains a good deal...

 

Personally, I just can't get my head around all this.  The whole point, to me, of a house organ is something upon which to practice - i.e. become a better organist, learn notes and improve articulation.  For that, I would rather have a mini tracker soundboard with 2 contrasting 4' flutes and pedal coupler, plus a tremulant, which would probably occupy about the same amount of space.  Or a 2 manual harpsichord with pedals fitted. 

 

I often hear a lot of guff talked about "releasing the note".  I was surprised yesterday to learn that when proper scientific experiments have been conducted with oscilliscopes, even on an electric action instrument, the difference between a perceived "good" performance and "bad" performance was scientifically found in the release of the note rather than the start of it.  That would seem to make a harpsichord or little tracker job the most demanding and productive route to take for practice, no matter what you usually play.

 

Unless it's just for fun, of course...

 

I would agree that learning notes and articulation is the most important use for a house organ - but there are other aspects which can be explored, such as registration. The church instrument I play is rather limited - there are large parts of the repertoire that it would be impossible, difficult or at least unsatisfying to play on it. I do not have the time or opportunity to regularly play other, more varied instruments. So for me, as well as addressing the basics, a house organ allows study of the wider repertoire. As well, of course, as being a good deal of fun.

 

Also, the better electronic instruments do simulate note release as well as attack, so it is quite feasible to practice articulation. For sure I'm not claiming it is as good as a good tracker action - but much better than many pipe organs I've played with poor electric or pneumatic actions.

 

Of course, if I needed just an instrument to allow me to practice music for church, then a much simpler organ would suffice - and a 3-stop tracker instrument would be great. But I would not try to learn a Widor symphony on it!

 

JJK

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I often hear a lot of guff talked about "releasing the note".  I was surprised yesterday to learn that when proper scientific experiments have been conducted with oscilliscopes, even on an electric action instrument, the difference between a perceived "good" performance and "bad" performance was scientifically found in the release of the note rather than the start of it.  That would seem to make a harpsichord or little tracker job the most demanding and productive route to take for practice, no matter what you usually play.

 

Unless it's just for fun, of course...

 

Because, for a lot of us, we have to worry about not waking up the offspring, or the neighbours, or suchlike, so headphones are very useful.

 

Trouble I find is that I hate playing both my crap old electric organ and my digital piano, because they're not gratifying to play - they feel fake. So I don't, therefore I never get any practice in.

 

The harpsichord's ok, but it needs a lot of time spending on getting it working properly, and, even then it has a "fake" feeling - cheap plastic keys...

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Could anyone explain please - in a normal sized living room, not using headphones or external speakers - does the sound of even a moderate sounding 2 or 3 man not sound something of a parody? I am interested one day in getting (and it will have to be electronic) a house instrument but rightly or wrongly imagine that 16' Pedal Opens, large churuses and reeds would sound rather odd in the space available - is this not the case? The trouble is that when I have asked various companies to quote for something small they tend to come up with the excuse that the 'number of stops as against cost' factor would mean that I could actually have more for my money than I actually want! I would like something above all with versatility over two manuals and pedals - contrasting 8', 4' & 2' and maybe a Mixture, a string, some sort of Sesquialtera and small chorus/solo Oboe etc. and some sort of basic 16' Pedal tone and possibly not even a combination system. Certainly not the complete recreation of St-Ouen, Rouen or St Bavo Haarlem - I can reel out stoplists for them by the mile. The trouble is that the only house organs I have heard have been elderly and although much prized by their owners have sounded completely awfull to me!

 

AJJ

 

 

Well I guess that if you can listen to a CD of a large instrument in your living room, then there is no fundamental reason why you can't listen to a simulation of an organ. The actual sound levels produced would be much less than in the appropriate sized building of course, to create an approximation of the right sound at your ears. I'd agree that external speakers improve the realism no end - but of course, with your eyes open, there is an anomaly. You are hearing a sound that could not possible emanate from pipes in your living room. I think that is one reason why many people prefer a smal tracker pipe instrument, which is then scaled and appropriate for the room. It will allow a lot of serious practice - but of course will not simulate a much larger instrument, and will not have the registrational possibilities.

 

One way to get a good small 2-manual electronic organ would be to go the custom route, rather than standard specs. The problem is that the smaller instruments, as well as fewer stops, tend to have more basic sound and speaker systems - and this definitely limits the sound quality. But if you went for 20 stops over 2 manuals, external speakers, 10 channels of sound then I reckon you'd have one of the best-sounding organ simulations. Much better than a 40-stop standardised instrument with internal speakers, which might be the same price. Of course you'd need the space for the speakers....however don't be fooled by salesmen who tell you that you need large expensive organ speakers - domestic hi-fi speakers and a sub-woofer work very well in a living room, and can be quite small.

 

JJK

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...and a 3-stop tracker instrument would be great. But I would not try to learn a Widor symphony on it!

 

JJK

 

Whyever not? The perfect vehicle for taking apart every last inner part & getting everything JUST right.

 

A friend has a little 4 stopper in his front room - quieter and smaller than the grand piano next to it. I recently found it was the only thing that could help me out of a tricky corner in some Vierne - for the first time, I was able to notice that the problem I was having was because of a fingering malady earlier in the bar. There was just nothing else I could possibly HEAR that amount of detail on.

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The whole point, to me, of a house organ is something upon which to practice - i.e. become a better organist, learn notes and improve articulation...
no matter what you usually play.

You're right - in an ideal world, a house organ should be all of these things, but I think you're assuming the existence of a non-house organ on which these skills could be used 'for real'. The pipe organs I get to play regularly are all desperately in need of rebuilding and/or chucking. Articulation is something of an abstract concept if you're praying that the note will sound at all.

...unless it's just for fun, of course...

er, probably, guilty as charged. I think of it in terms of getting my fulfilment out of my 44/IIIP at home, cos I don't get to play such things in the normal course of events anywhere else. (And while it's true that a clinical little 3-stopper might improve my technique to the point where I might aspire to higher things, I sadly haven't the hours available).

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Because, for a lot of us, we have to worry about not waking up the offspring, or the neighbours, or suchlike, so headphones are very useful.

 

Trouble I find is that I hate playing both my crap old electric organ and my digital piano, because they're not gratifying to play - they feel fake. So I don't, therefore I never get any practice in.

 

The harpsichord's ok, but it needs a lot of time spending on getting it working properly, and, even then it has a "fake" feeling - cheap plastic keys...

 

My brand new digital piano - for my needs & where it has to go is one of the best things I have ever bought (well nearly!) I now practice piano more, can play the harpsichord in Kirnberger etc. if I want and some of the organ sounds are quite like my 1 manual at church. Ok the touch is wrong for the last two but I am playing more proper music (as opposed to the stuff required for my 'day job') and for me that's a good thing. It aslo has no silly automatic chord things. (My old upright had just about got to the end of it's life - it had seen me through the ABRSM grades and moved 3 times as we moved. Latterly it started also to get mildew due to my wife putting washing on the radiators in the same room! It has now gone to a good home and two small girls are about to to grades 1 and 2 on it.) I now need to broach the subject of house organs - which should be fun!

 

AJJ

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Well, that explains a good deal...

 

Personally, I just can't get my head around all this.  The whole point, to me, of a house organ is something upon which to practice - i.e. become a better organist, learn notes and improve articulation.  For that, I would rather have a mini tracker soundboard with 2 contrasting 4' flutes and pedal coupler, plus a tremulant, which would probably occupy about the same amount of space.  Or a 2 manual harpsichord with pedals fitted. 

 

I often hear a lot of guff talked about "releasing the note".  I was surprised yesterday to learn that when proper scientific experiments have been conducted with oscilliscopes, even on an electric action instrument, the difference between a perceived "good" performance and "bad" performance was scientifically found in the release of the note rather than the start of it.  That would seem to make a harpsichord or little tracker job the most demanding and productive route to take

for practice, no matter what you usually play.

 

Unless it's just for fun, of course...

 

I agree with David, here.

 

Insofar as the release of a note is concerned, I have heard somewhat more nonsense spoken concerning the 'attack'. So far, I have not been aware of any experiments conducted which would challenge my belief that some people are talking rubbish, here.

 

The only large tracker instruments with which I could live, are those at Christ Church, Oxford (a dream of an organ) and Chichester Cathedral (another dream - but for entirely different reasons). However, in the case of the latter instrument, it would have to be re-arranged to include a Swell to Choir coupler.

 

I have never heard or played an electronic organ which did not bore me after about half an hour. However good the digital sampling (or whatever method employed) is, they still do not 'move the air'. Full Organ is always a 'dead', flat, wall of noise - which I find unbearable.

 

I have certainly never heard an electronic which was good enough to justify the expense of three different stop-lists. Unless one is talking about a moderate to small two-clavier instrument of doubtful provenance, I find it difficult to believe that the difference between a toaster with 'authentic' French Romantic or a North German Baroque scheme, and a good English pipe organ (versus actual French or German instruments) is that great.

 

My 'own' church instrument plays just about everything quite convincingly and, whilst one may occasionally miss the trenchant 'rip' of a true Cavaillè-Coll Pedal Bombarde (or a six-second reverberation), I would not part with it, even for the best toaster in the world - not even if I was also elected to the board of directors of the company concerned....

 

I would rather have this:

 

PEDAL ORGAN

 

Quintatön 16

I to Pedal

II to Pedal

 

MANUAL I

Rohrflöte 8

Gemshorn 4

Sesquialtera (12-17)

Tremulant

II to I

MANUAL II

 

Stopped Diapason 8

Recorder 2

 

The lowest twelve notes of the Quintatön could be placed horizontally. In a small room it would not need a large scale. The sound is arguably more interesting and versatile than a Bourdon.

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I agree with David, here.

 

Insofar as the release of a note is concerned, I have heard somewhat more nonsense spoken concerning the 'attack'. So far, I have not been aware of any experiments conducted which would challenge my beliefe that some people are talking rubbish, here.

 

The only large tracker instruments with which I could live, are those at Christ Church, Oxford (a dream of an organ) and Chichester Cathedral (another dream - but for entirely different reasons). However, in the case of the latter instrument, it would have to be re-arranged to include a Swell to Choir coupler.

 

I have never heard or played an electronic organ which did not bore me after about half an hour. However good the digital sampling (or whatever method employed) is, they still do not 'move the air'. Full Organ is always a 'dead', flat, wall of noise - which I find unbearable.

 

I have certainly never heard an electronic which was good enough to justify the expense of three different stop-lists. Unless one is talking about a moderate to small two-clavier instrument of doubtful provenance, I find it difficult to believe that the difference between a toaster with 'authentic' French Romantic or a North German Baroque scheme, and a good English pipe organ (versus actual French or German instruments) is that great.

 

 

I must admit to agreeing with quite a bit of this (though maybe not about CC Oxford!) unfortunately pipes are not really an option here though if they were (if we had a bigger house, no small children and the cash) this might do - I believe it is now in Bournemouth - Robin Jennings built it.

 

Great

Stopped Diapason (wood) 8

Principal (metal) 4

Fifteenth (metal) 2

Sesquialtera II

 

Swell

Gemshorn (metal) 8

Chimney Flute (metal) 4

Flageolet (wood) 2

Oboe 8

 

Pedal

Subbass (wood) 16

Couplers

Sw/Gt

Gt/Ped

Sw/Ped

 

Tremulant (My 'extra')

 

AJJ

 

PS A good digital version of this would do if necessary though but as stated above people do not seem to want to build them this small!

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I agree with David, here.

 

 

I have certainly never heard an electronic which was good enough to justify the expense of three different stop-lists.

 

The incremental expense is about 500Mbytes of memory - less than £100? - per stop list.

 

Unless one is talking about a moderate to small two-clavier instrument of doubtful provenance,

 

I am!

 

I find it difficult to believe that the difference between a toaster with 'authentic' French Romantic or a North German Baroque scheme, and a good English pipe organ (versus actual French or German instruments) is that great.

 

Well of course the good English pipe organ will be a better musical instrument - no loudspeakers to distort the sound! But a good electronic with proper French samples is likely to be better imitation of a French organ. It all depends what you're trying to achieve I guess!

 

My 'own' church instrument plays just about everything quite convincingly and, whilst one may occasionally miss the trenchant 'rip' of a true Cavaillè-Coll Pedal Bombarde (or a six-second reverberation), I would not part with it, even for the best toaster in the world - not even if I was also elected to the board of directors of the company concerned....

 

I wish I could say the same of my church. However, there is light on the horizon. We may soon be commissioning a brand new 15 stop pipe organ. I've no doubt that it will be a fine instrument, but I will still be glad of my home organ.

 

I would rather have this:

 

PEDAL ORGAN

 

Quintatön 16

I to Pedal

II to Pedal

 

MANUAL I

Rohrflöte 8

Gemshorn 4

Sesquialtera (12-17)

Tremulant

II to I

MANUAL II

 

Stopped Diapason 8

Recorder 2

 

The lowest twelve notes of the Quintatön could be placed horizontally. In a small room it would not need a large scale. The sound is arguably more interesting and versatile than a Bourdon.

 

Well I'd also like that - as well as my toaster. I would practice on both, I'm sure. :o

 

 

 

JJK

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