The Digital Electronic Organ Used In These Videos

Some of the music of these Video subpages was recorded using a Baldwin/Viscount "Symphonia" electronic organ (photo), an instrument manufactured in and imported from Mondaino, Italy during the 1990's (Baldwin first began importing Viscount organs into America and selling them as their own brand in late 1988).  This 5-manual console was a self-contained MIDI-capable product having stored DS4 digitally sampled sounds aboard (this was an earlier and unrelated precursor of the physical remodeling technology supplied to the Viscount instruments available today).  Produced in blocks of 50 at a time, the Symphonia was the largest and only stock console Viscount ever built.  According to an extremely reliable source only one block was ever ordered for the United States, but all 50 of them were sold.  At the time, Viscount had a 3-manual organ of fixed design in regular production (model C350) to which one or two extra manuals could be piled on top creating a 4-manual (model C450) or 5-manual (model C500) console, respectively, while everything else, including the Pedal division, remained identical to the C350.  Production of the C450 and C500 models ceased in 1997 when Viscount turned to producing a line of strictly 2- and 3-manual church organs.  

  This console's sampled voices were sourced, separated, and stored by division on 6 separate "slave" computers, one for each division, all of which were governed by a 7th master computer.  Voices, couplers, and tremulants were brought on or retired by means of lighted drawknobs and lighted manual and toe pistons.  Lighted rocker tablets paired with an 8-position factory-set Crescendo indicator built into the rail above the top manual controlled MIDI, Voicing Variations, and divisional Reeds Cancel.  All drawknobs and rocker tablets remained in alignment in both on/off positions.  Output channel phone (1/4") jacks in the back of the console allowed for up to 3 separate outputs per division, thus as many as 18 separate powered speaker cabinets (3 for each division) could be added.

The console was equipped with a self-contained speaker system consisting of a pair of 12-inch drivers each powered by its own 80-watt (80W) amplifier.  This 160W of power amplification is all that is needed ordinarily for home practice, as one needs to consider the eardrums of other family members.  Audio engineers know however that when a single master-of-all-work 12-inch driver tries to reproduce the entire frequency range all by itself the mammoth movements it undergoes to generate the lowest sounds will interfere to a degree with its ability to reproduce the finer movements needed for higher frequencies.  The resulting intermodulation distortion typically robs the sound of some of its midrange clarity.  The solution is to send the main output signal stream from the console to a system of loudspeakers equipped with multiple crossovers which divide the signal into specific frequency bands and then send it to speakers of different sizes which best reproduce those bands.  

In this installation the specific combination of external ampliers/speaker cabinets is a non-factory mix of pre-owned and new equipment which are grouped into RIGHT SIDE, LEFT SIDE, REAR, and FRONT systems.

The RIGHT SIDE system, being the largest and most powerful, receives signals from all 6 divisional channels via 1/4" output jacks in the back of the console by means of a new 600W Peavey XR8300 power mixer supplied with separate main (stereo) and monitor (mono) output channels.  The main channel is looped through a new Samson S-Curve 215 15-band dual graphic equalizer, mixed with reverb, and  routed to a preowned Velodyne Servo F-1800RII powered subwoofer having an internal amp rated at 600W (1000W max), a massive 18" driver, and a low crossover set at 40Hz.  This particular sub, which at one time was one of 15 identical units originally installed at Gesu Church in Milwaukee, functions to reproduce those mammoth frequencies below the range of determinate musical sound by setting it to capture all frequencies below 40Hz [corresponding to 16-foot E, the low E of the contrabass of the grand orchestra].  The equalized signal thus filtered of its extremely lowest frequencies is sent from there to a free-standing BSR passive sub retrofitted with a new Memphis 15" driver which captures all remaining frequencies below 120Hz.  The outgoing signal from this sub is then routed to a pair of BSR Colossus R/L stereo cabinets each rated at 200W.  These cabinets retain their own original pair of BSR 2" ceramic tweeters but were retrofitted with new Memphis (15") and Pyle (8", 5") drivers.  A crossover network in each BSR cabinet divides the audio stream into 4 different frequency bands which are sent to each of its 5 loudspeakers designed to receive them (120-800Hz to the 15", 800-1200Hz to the 8", 1200-3400Hz to the 5", and above 3400Hz to both tweeters).  This arrangement comprises part of the RIGHT SIDE external speaker system [See photo below] with a power consumption of 600 + 600 = 1200W, the entire organ plays through it, and it multiplies the audio power of the console by more than 7 times.

The monitor output channel of this Peavey power mixer is connected in series to a pair of preowned Peavey PV215 quasi 3-way trapezoidal enclosure PA cabinets each equipped with a pair of 15" heavy duty woofers and a 1.4-inch RX14 titanium tweeter driver mounted on a 60 X 40 degree coverage constant-directivity horn.  These Peavey cabinets, also part of the RIGHT SIDE external speaker system [See photo below], receive a flat signal, are rated at 700W each, and have a single crossover frequency of 2.6kHz, a frequency response of 58Hz to 17kHz, and a frequency range of 40Hz to 21kHz.  Both output channels (main/monitor) are set to play when the power mixer is turned on, and they function primarily to provide an expansive sound and a strong, pervading bass.  

The LEFT SIDE system [See photo below] is configured with a new 600W Rockville RPM80BT 8-channel power mixer also fed by all 6 output channels of the console. This unit creates one flat mono output signal, mixes it with reverb, and sends it via a line output to a preowned Klipsch KSW 200 powered subwoofer having a 12" bass reflex driver, 200W amp, and crossover set at 40Hz.  From there the signal is routed to a new pair of Acoustic Audio BR10 3-way Karaoke monitors each rated at 800W and equipped with a crossover network, 10" X 4" tweeter, 10" lower midrange, and one 4" upper midrange driver.

  This mixer also sends power and signal output to 2 sets of preowned Conn speaker pipes; model 145-1 with center elevation is operational on frequencies from 200Hz [tenor G] on up, with model 146-2 with right elevation affecting the 12 chromatic notes below that.  These Conn pipes are treble units which impart to manual stops of 8-foot pitch and higher a) a subtle brightness of color to flutes, diapasons, and unimitative strings, b) a finespun but discernable and highly desirable edge to the reeds, c) a refined spatial dispersion of the sound, and d) a very slight delay and reverb when keys are pressed and released, respectively, as the pipes begin to resonate and the sounds within them dissipate.  These speaker pipes add a certain something to the sound -- something audible and real -- something that direct beam loudspeakers and treble controls/equalization alone cannot duplicate.  The power consumption of this LEFT SIDE system is 600 + 200 = 800W, the entire organ plays through it, it multiples the audio power of the console 5 times, and it functions primarily to gently strengthen and enrich the treble.

A REAR system [See photo below] was developed by routing the flat mono line output from the LEFT SIDE Klipsch subwoofer to a new 250W Radio Shack MPA-250B amp and from there to a pair of Sony SS-F6000P floorstanding 4-way tower cabs each rated at 180W and supplied with a 6-1/2" woofer, 3-1/3" midrange speaker, and 1" tweeter.  From this amp the signal is also sent separately to a preowned Sony SS-MSP1 powered subwoofer having a 50W amp and 7-7/8" bass reflex speaker with a frequency range of 28-200Hz, high end crossover set at 150Hz, and maximum power input rating of 100W.  This system has a power consumption of 250 + 50 = 300W nearly doubling the audio power of the console, the entire organ plays through it, and it functions to further disperse and enlarge the sound.    

A softly driven FRONT system sitting atop the console also was specially assembled [See photo below].  Here only the Swell, Solo, and Echo channels are amplified using a preowned 60W Choice Select ST2060 amp connected to a pair of preowned Realistic MC-1800 cabs each rated at 50W and supplied with an 8" full range speaker and 2-1/2" tweeter working in a frequency range of 70-20KHz.  Driven gently at minimum treble this adds an additional 60W of audio power to these 3 divisions and functions to provide to the player a sense of additional presence to these voices.

     In summary, the instrument's audio system consists of its own self-contained speaker system supplemented with 4 additional external speaker systems made up of 44 different speakers housed in 16 separate external cabinets powered by 7 more amplifiers which draw 2520W of electrical power altogether, more than 15 times what the manufacturer built into the console [the speaker sizes are as follows:  18"(1), 15"(7), 12"(3), 10"(2), 10" X 4"(2), 8"(4), 7-7/8"(2), 6-1/2"(2), 6" X 9"(8), 5"(2), 4"(2), 3-1/3"(2), 2-1/2"(2), 2"(4), 1-1/2"(2), 1"(2)]. 

Needless to say, in this restricted residential space, the player doesn't begin to use the full measure of audio power placed at one's command.  The primary goal of this project was the creation of an enlarged and pervading but balanced and proportioned sound with improved realism and tonal edge with enhanced tonal dispersion throughout the listening space, this in the most cost-effective and space-effective way possible, rather than pursuit of absolute audio power.  This was done by having more speakers and driving them all more gently than by overdriving a much fewer number.  By combining new and repurposed materials like this which were carefully and strategically matched to each other, multiplying amps of differing strengths and speakers of differing sizes with strategic purposes in mind, and using the ear to balance volume and treble/bass levels, equalization, and artificial reverb, a big, unforced sound with a punchy low end and a high end rich in upper partial tones was made possible.  The lesson here is that one does not have to be a Kenneth Strickfaden to come up with add-ons for an electronic organ of dated technology which brings out the very best it still has to offer.  One has to hear this instrument in person to fully appreciate the transformation these various retrofits and add-ons have made in the sound.  The result is something finer and more beautiful than before, something that can hold its head up a whole generation later.

The audio/video was captured using a Sony HD Handycam camcorder mounted on a tripod at a distance of 3-10 feet from the speaker system and elevated 7 feet above floor level.  

Most manufacturers of sampled organs, for marketing purposes, say they record (or sample) every note of every stop (not necessarily every rank).  They may even say that their original samples are 30 seconds long or even 60 seconds long.  They may even boast about what bit-rate, sampling rate, etc., they use.  In actual fact it is very hard to get all notes of a rank in a pipe organ to sample perfectly.  Most ranks have notes which are "off" either in volume or tone.  What they actually put into their instruments therefore is going to be something that is vastly reduced, so, just a basic sampling system doesn't really make a digi organ sound exactly like a pipe organ.  The behavior of a wind instrument also needs to be reproduced.  Therefore things like wind noise ("chiff") as pipes get on speech have been put into digi organs like this one but still they end up sounding a little too focused and straight.  The biggest problem manufacturers face is, what can be done at what price.  Companies experience periodic lulls in sales, there has always been serious price competition, and, in order to stay price-competitive, most sampled organs are seriously compromised.  The marketplace for digi organs is such that, most purchasers want more stops, more manuals, etc., rather than the very highest quality musical result.  This has everything to do with the way manufacturers must design their line of products.

Much of the success of the sound of this instrument depends upon how and to what degree the various divisions are tuned to the Great.  If tuned exactly true to the Great and each other the sound is lifeless, sterile, and artificial, but if they sound too far off pitch the tuning undulations, or beats, that result can be downright objectionable if not unbearable.  The trick with this organ to get it to sound with richness is to find that very narrow sweet zone which has each division tuned just barely different from the Great but not so far as to produce noticeable undulations.  The entire organ's pitch is adjustable up or down from A440 by means of a general pitch control knob.  The other 5 divisions are made tuneable up or down to the Great by means of their own individual pitch control knobs, all of which are situated out of sight under the bottom manual within reach of the organist's left hand.  Since the ear will tolerate a little sharpness but not the same degree of flatness, it was decided, using the ear to adjust the amount, to tune the Echo very slightly sharp and the Solo very slightly flat so that when the hands go to the Solo the Echo can be blended in.  Similarly the Swell was tuned barely sharp to the Echo, the Choir barely flat than the Solo, and the Pedal barely sharp to the Swell.  This was accomplished by drawing the loudest 8-foot reed in each division, coupling them one at a time to the Great Trumpet, listening carefully for the speed of the beats as the tuning knobs are turned up or down, and then checking what the full organ sounded like, the desired result being a rich and realistic sound that dies away without any noticeable beats.

In a real pipe organ the mistuned ranks (celestes) inserted by the builder typically are never drawn in fuller ensembles, but with a digi organ like this one some of these celeste stops, provided they're not too assertive and don't create a disturbing pitch "warble," might be included with discretion in fuller ensembles to simulate those minute pitch variations among real pipe ranks.  Hear again, the ear will be the best judge.  In this organ all celeste ranks automatically draw the "mate ("mate" ranks are given their own drawknobs in this organ, save for the Echo Celeste), and, with manual division tremolos in this organ being adjustable for depth and speed, compound tones of great beauty are possible by coupling voices -- some mistuned (celestes), some tremmed, and some untremmed -- located in different divisions.

This instrument came with 2 percussion stops (Great Chimes & Solo Harp).  The top octave of the Great Chimes (C#50 to C61) was wired to double back an octave, but, unlike the Chimes in many pipe organs, it did go all the way down to bottom C1 and thus represented 49 equivalent bars.  The Solo Harp ran all the way up to top C6 without doubling back and thus comprised 61 equivalent bars.  Every stop in this organ including Chimes and Harp was equipped with 2 voicing variations (A and B) controlled by tilting tablets which permitted the organist to select from 168 equivalent ranks.  The A voicing reflected more traditional voicing whereas on B the change in harmonic content in the strings and reeds resulted in a different tone, brighter in many cases, the open flutes changed to stopped, and the Principals and Diapasons became either brighter or more bland and flutey-sounding.

The Choir Hohl Flute on A, for example, is open with more harmonic content but stopped and hollow-sounding on B;  both A and B are good for solos, with or without Tremolo.  The Great Flute Celeste is awfully strong but good if it's turned down a bit.  The Great Rohr Flute is a big burbley flute full of color.  The Solo Gamba on B coupled to the Swell Principal, Viole, and Great Salicional on A is very French-sounding.  The Cromorne is also very French-sounding on A, more like a Clarinet on B.  The Bassoon on A is very realistic for an actual Bassoon and on B is brighter in the mid-range and rounder in the bass.  The Cor De Nuit on B is also very French-sounding.  The Vox Humana is quite good on A where it's mixed with a soft helper stop and on B it's all by itself.  The Principals and Diapasons on B are big, flutey, and lose some of their characteristic tone.  Save for being paired with the Tuba to add volume for carrying a line over the top of the full organ, the Solo Diapason (as it often is with many large pipe organs where it is inserted in the division having the largest chorus reed battery) is probably the most useless stop in the organ.

Each voice or "stop" in this organ is independent with no unification or duplexing.  The Pedal Fourniture V is the only mixture in the organ which extends throughout the compass of its clavier without breaks and is thus of the proper class of mixture to adopt for this division.  All manual mixtures save for the Plein Jeu have one or more breaks.  The Swell Plein Jeu III is wired to sound through only the bottom half of the Swell manual's compass; from F#43 it drops back to replay notes from the previous octave and thus sounds with the same quality and strength of tone, and thus without equalization very shrill, above that note.  All 5 manual 16-foot stops are wired to sound clear down to bottom C1 without breaking back to the tenor octave.  All 5 manual 2-foot stops and those of higher pitch either break back in the top of their compass or have "dead notes" which are unwired to sound above the limits at which a functioning pipe can be inserted in an organ.  These are as follows:


2' Super Octave G56 -- C61, 6 dead notes


2' Flautino G56 -- C61, 6 dead notes

1-1/3' Larigot doubles back from C#50 -- B60 over 11 notes (C49 and C61 are dead notes)

III Plein Jeu doubles back from F#43 over 19 notes


2' Doublette G56 -- C61, 6 dead notes

1-3/5' Tierce D52 -- C61, 11 dead notes

1' Sifflote G44 -- C49, G56 -- C61, 12 dead notes


2' Octavin G56 -- C61, 6 dead notes


2' Flautino G56 -- C61, 6 dead notes

This represents a total of 111 equivalent small pipes in the manual divisions which do not sound.  When this is factored we find an instrument capable of commanding the equivalent of 5,779 sounding pipes on the A voicing variation, and the same number on B.  This means that it would take a total of over 11K individual and separate organ pipes (11,558 to be exact) to make available to the organist the same tonal spread and range of pitches.

Three 1/4-inch phone jacks per division provided in the back of the console allow all 6 divisional output channels to be sent to as many as 18 separate powered speaker cabinets.  The console is Guild standard, supplied with Fatar premium keybords, MIDI friendly, and equipped with lighted MIDI rocker tablets for MIDI program changes by division which make it capable of storing sounds from an external sound module on its piston memory.  It may also be retrofit with Hauptwerk sample sets, should that be desired.  Separate divisional cancels which operate by pressing the various divisional labels situated at the top of the stop jambs are also provided.  The combination action is computer capture with 8 programmable memory banks.  Additional controls provided include Ventil tilting tablets which silence reeds or mixtures (duplicated with toe studs), a Pedal to Great (Automatic Pedal) reversible piston, a reversible Tutti piston and toe stud, "O pistons" which remember starting hand registrations, all the usual intermanual and manual to pedal couplers, a registered Crescendo shoe with 8 lighted positions, separate expression shoes for the Swell, Choir/Positiv, Solo, and Echo divisions, an All Swells to Swell piston which makes the Great and Pedal expressable through the Swell shoe along with all the other divisions, divisional Tremolos adjustable for depth and speed, adjustable Great, Pedal, and Master Volume, adjustable Brilliance control, transposer, pitch control, divisional generator tuning, and headphone jack.

The hardest thing about playing this instrument is developing one's own individualized plan for tuning its divisions, discovering which stops sound best paired with another in a different division, and which stops need to be blended or avoided in order to create balanced ensembles and a rich-sounding full organ that can be listened to for long periods of time.  This organ is overly supplied with upperwork, undersupplied with manual 16-foot voices (there are only 6 in the whole instrument -- they are all independent however and go to the bottom without breaks), and, lacking sub couplers is seriously deficient in manual suboctave tone.  The Great sub coupler, in particular, is an essential element of the sound universe known to 19th and early 20th century French organists, especially Franck, Widor, and Vierne, and it determined the way they notated loud or climactic passages in their compositions.  When this coupler is missing the music is far less sonorous and sounds thin when performed exactly as written.  To create something of the same random chorus effect typical of a pipe organ one needs to draw voices of different pitches from different divisions and play them all coupled together, usually on a lower manual.  With all manuals coupled the full organ may sound too assertive to leave the right hand on the Great, in which case some of the upperwork may have to be dropped and the right hand moved to the Choir/Positiv.  Some of the voices are quite beautiful and very useful on both A and B.  Some of them are so dull or shrill in tone on A or B that they do not recommend themselves to any use at all, dated technology being largely responsible.  Curiously, the Pedal division of 16 stops, relatively few for an instrument of this size, is supplied with 6 stops of 4-foot pitch or higher but only 5 stops of unison (16-foot) pitch.  The non-programmable Crescendo (and Tutti piston) also add, unfortunately, all of the big, tubby-sounding diapasons and flutes in the buildup to full organ, creating a very thick, cloudy, muddy, opaque sound that is just the opposite of the lean, transparent full organ so many organists have come to appreciate and desire.  All of this seriously limits what the player can do with it. 



GREAT (26 ranks)

16' Principal, 8' Principal, 8' Bourdon, 8' Flute Celeste II, 8' Salicional, 4' Octave, 4' Rohr Flute, 2-2/3' Nazard, 2' Super Octave, V Cornet, IV Mixture, VI Fourniture, 8' Trumpet, 4' Trumpet, Chimes, Tremolo

SWELL (16 ranks)

16' Lieblich Gedeckt, 8' Principal, 8' Gedeckt, 8' Viole, 8' Viole Celeste II, 4' Geigen, 2-2/3' Nazard, 2' Flautino, 1'1/3' Larigot, III Plein Jeu, 16' Contra Fagott, 8' Trompette, 8' Hautbois, 4' Trompette, Tremolo

CHOIR/POSITIV (14 ranks)

8' Principal, 8' Hohl Flute, 8' Dulciana, 8' Unda Maris II, 4' Principal, 4' Stopped Flute, 2' Doublette, 1/3/5' Tierce, 1' Siffote, IV Mixture, 8' Cromorne, Tremolo

SOLO (13 ranks)

8' Diapason, 8' Major Flute, 8' Gamba, 8' Gamba Celeste II, 4' Gemshorn, 4' Orchestral Flute, 2' Octavin, 16' Bassoon, 8' Tuba Mirabilis, 8' French Horn, 8' Cor Anglais, 8' Orchestral Oboe, 4' Tuba Clarion, 8' Harp, Tremolo

ECHO (18 ranks)

16' Dulciana, 8' Cor De Nuit, 8' Erzahler, 8' Erzahler Celeste II, 8' Echo Celeste II, 4' Flauto D'Echo, 4' Erzahler Celeste II, 2' Flautino, III Mixture, 16' Bombarde, 8' Festival Trumpet, 8' Bombarde, 8' Vox Humana, 4' Bombarde, Tremolo

PEDAL (20 ranks)

32' Contra Bourdon, 16' Principal, 16' Sub Bass, 16' Violone, 16' Lieblich Gedeckt, 8' Octave, 8' Gedeckt, 4' Super Octave, 4' Flute, 2' Block Flute, V Fourniture, 32' Contra Bombarde, 16' Fagott, 8' Trumpet, 4' Clarion, 4' Schalmei


Swell to Great, Choir/Positiv to Great, Solo to Great, Echo to Great, Swell to Choir/Positiv, Solo to Choir/Positiv, Echo to Choir/Positiv, Solo to Swell, Echo to Swell, Echo to Solo, Great to Pedal*, Swell to Pedal*, Choir/Positiv to Pedal*, Solo to Pedal*, Echo to Pedal*

(* with toe piston)



18 DIAPASONS -- Pedal Principal, Octave, Super Octave, Great Double Principal, Principal, Salicional, Octave, Super Octave, Choir/Positiv Principal, Dulciana, Unda Maris, Principal Octave, Doublette, Swell Principal, Geigen, Solo Diapason, Echo Double Dulciana

26 FLUTES -- Pedal Lieblich Gedeckt, Subbass, Gedeckt, Flute, Blockflote, Great Bourdon, Flute Celeste, Rohr Flute, Nazard, Choir/Positiv Hohl Flute, Stopped Flute, Nazard, Tierce, Sifflote, Swell Lieblich Gedeckt, Gedeckt, Chimney Flute, Nazard, Flautino, Larigot, Solo Major Flute, Orchestral Flute, Octavin, Echo Cor De Nuit, Flauto D'Echo, Flautino

6 STRINGS -- Pedal Violone, Swell Viole, Viole Celeste, Solo Gamba, Gamba Celeste, Echo Celeste

22 REEDS -- Pedal Contra Bombarde, Fagott, Trumpet, Clarion, Schalmei, Great Trumpet, Trumpet Octave, Choir/Positiv Cromorne, Swell Fagott, Hautbois, Trompette, Trompette Octave, Solo Bassoon, Tuba Mirabilis, Tuba Clarion, Cor Anglais, French Horn, Orchestral Oboe, Echo Double Bombarde, Bombarde, Festival Trumpet, Vox Humana