May. 15, 2016

Virtual Pipe Organ (VPO), Part II

To retrofit a digi organ as a VPO these days involves disabling the instrument's factory voices and internal console speakers if present to configure it to play sample sets; this makes it impossible to create blended ensembles pairing a VPO sample set with the sound colors provided to the console by the manufacturer.
Duet was a solution to that -- a complete virtual theatre pipe organ which consisted of a lighted control panel (photo), a sound generator box, a MIDI cable, and an audio cable; to assemble this system to an existing MIDIfied organ one would connect a cable between the console's MIDI OUT plug and Duet's sound generator box, another cable between Duet's control panel the sound generator box, and the stereo audio cable from the sound generator box to the instrument's auxiliary Audio Inputs or audio system; after that, one simply connected the power, and the unit was ready to use.
Duet worked with any MIDI host keyboard or set of keyboards; it was made in the USA by MIDI Concepts LLC and was designed by former Conn Organ engineers and developers; the product carried a 2-year warranty and was provided with ongoing live support; it was a separate and complete instrument which required no special soldering, programming, or technical expertise to connect.
Duet was NOT a retrofit and NOT an expander module that played representative composite organ sounds -- it was a complete secondary instrument that contained the entire works of a digital VTPO and relay, less console and audio system, in a 24" x 10" control panel 3-1/2" deep with a 10-1/2" x 12-1/2" sound generator box 3-1/2" high; it produces 24 sampled pipe ranks times two (tremmed and untremmed), provided footages from 32' to 1', and had lots of couplers including Blackpool (Great to Solo) couplers; it also offered 8 Double Touch stops for Great and Accompaniment manuals equipped with this feature, had 4 tremolos (Main, Solo, Tibia, Tuba/Diapason), 11 sampled tuned percussions, 11 struck percussions (traps), 8 toys (effects), and responded to MIDI expression messages with all important bass compensation; it's output was 2-channel stereo (R/Main, L/Solo) and could be specially configured with 5.1 output.
The control panel (photo) provided artistic vari-colored, registrable "Smooth Touch Lighting Tactile Stops" that allowed one to register each division as desired; by making stop changes to one division at a time, the number of controls one could access exceeded most comparable 3-manual 24-rank theatre pipe organs.
The Duet Type II Premium unit featured a 10-step front panel user-adjustable Ambience/Reverberation control which permitted room and depth setting for each selection one played; it also had a front panel Master Volume knob which permitted adjustment of the strength of Duet's voices to any degree desired for blending with the host organ's voices; it also had a Solo Pizzicato coupler and a unique Solo/Great transfer switch to give single and 2-manual instruments much of the playing flexibility of a 3-manual organ.
Duet had 256 note polyphony and utilized Sven Meier's J-Organ and its relay which has sound fonts from a number of sources and makes, including Wurlitzer, Kimball, Barton, Page, and some ranks the Conn engineers themselves had sampled, all balanced and refined with emphasis on ensemble and a big-organ sound; individual stops could be played alone, and stop changes could be made present on combination pistons or made on the fly.
Duet's sampled sound fonts were designed to play through the 61- note manuals and 32 pedals of a 3-manual console, a 2-manual console, or through a single MIDIfied digital keyboard.
There were 3 ways to use or mount the Duet panel: 1) on the rack -- where it worked surprisingly well even with sheet music in place, as the piston buttons were always accessible (as a variation, a rack extender could be obtained so both Duet and music can sit side by side), 2) under the organ knee panel -- where it could be extended or retracted as desired, like a drawer (the piston buttons would still be accessible with the drawer closed), or 3) mounted using a side stand to the left or right side of the instrument.
The addition of a MIDI device like this can add a new dimension of orchestral sound colors and effects to the already existing and wonderful sounds of the traditional church or concert organ, thus giving it a theatrical side, adding special couplers, trems, tuned percussions, traps, and effects, more than doubling its existing sound colors, and multiplying its utility at least tenfold.
This unit was portable and could be taken on gigs outside the home and connected to any MIDIfied digi keyboard, stage piano, or organ where it can provide entertaining theatre organ sounds of uncanny realism at a variety of venues including hotels, nursing homes, extended care facilities, school auditoriums, churches, and even concert halls.
Duet had everything aboard that would be needed to accompany a silent motion picture in the best theatre organ tradition.
It had a very stable Linux Computer system which did NOT involve one's home computer or monitor and a solid-state (non-moving) hard drive with removable and upgradable flash memory; since Duet never connected to the internet, it never had virus problems, and, since it was all digital, it did not use electronic components such as capacitors, resistors, coils, transistors, and connectors, all of which could age and fail.
Duet had physical piston buttons mounted in its "piston box" which also housed the toy sound effect pistons; it provided 10 levels of 10 general pistons which could be used as divisional pistons, if so desired.
These units are an extremely rare find these days, only about 200 of them were ever manufactured, but they were the most cost-effective VTPO on the market at the time, and their great advantage was that they played without disabling the host console's voices.
Possibilities for tremmed and untremmed voices and couplers available from this product which show on its stop control panel, custom graphics, and piston row (photo) were as follows:
One 32' stop (Diaphone) -- playable only on Pedal keys;
Eleven 16' stops (1 Diapason, 1 Tibia, 1 Flute, 2 strings, 1 Vox, 5 more reeds);
Sixteen 8' stops (2 Diapasons, 3 Tibias, 2 Flutes, 2 strings, 2 Voxes, 5 more reeds)
Eight 4' stops (1 Diapason, 3 Tibias, 1 Flute, 1 string, 1 Vox, 1 Harmonic Tuba [Clarion]);
Three 2' stops (1 Tibia Clausa, 1 Flute, 1 string);
4 Tibia Clausa mutations ((5-1/3', 3-1/5', 2-2/3', 1-3/5');
1 Tibia Minor mutation (2-2/3');
1' Tibia Clausa (Fife);
Nine pitched percussions with piano available at 16-8-4';
Three percussion modifiers
Eleven struck percussions (traps);
Second Touch stops (for keyboards so equipped) with Pedal traps disable tablet;
Eight toys (effects) -- Ooga, RR crossing bell, Train whistle, horses hooves, bird song, telephone ringing, siren, gong crash);
Manual to pedal unison couplers;
Solo pizzicato coupler;
Intra manual couplers (Sub, Super, Unison Off);
Five Blackpool (Great to Solo) couplers (Sub, Unison, Super, Quint, Sub-tierce);
Four Tremolos for Main, Solo, Tibia, and Tuba/Diapason;
(con't in Part III)