The Digital Electronic Organ Used In These Videos

Some of the music of these Video subpages was recorded using a Baldwin/Viscount "Symphonia" digital 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 MAIN/MONITOR, MANUAL/PIPE, and PVC PIPE speaker systems.

The MAIN/MONITOR external speaker system, largest and most powerful, receives output signal from all 6 divisional channels of the instrument through a new 600W Peavey XR8300 power mixer supplied with two separate ouputs, main (stereo) and monitor (mono).

The MAIN division 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 massive powered sub 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 subwoofer 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).

The MONITOR division 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 receive a flat mono 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.

This MAIN/MONITOR speaker system has a power consumption of 600W (Peavey) + 600W (Velodyne) = 1200W, and the entire instrument plays through it.  

The MANUAL/PIPE speaker system is also separated into two divisions.  The FIRST DIVISION begins with a new 600W Rockville RPM80BT 8-channel power mixer which receives signal from each of the 5 manual output channels of the console and mixes them into a single flat mono output signal with reverb.  Both of the Rockville's 8 Ohm outputs then rout this powered signal to two sets of gold Conn speaker pipes [models 145, 146] each equipped with four 6" X 9" Cletron oval speakers wired in series parallel.  The Rockville's line out is connected to a preowned Klipsch KSW 200 powered subwoofer equipped with a 12" bass reflex driver and 200W amp with crossover set at 40Hz.  The Klipsch speaker terminals are wired to four sets of silver Conn speaker pipes (two 145s, two 146s) each equipped with four 6" X 9" Cletron oval speakers wired in series parallel, the addition of which triples the effect of the gold pipes.  The Conn pipes are narrow scale, cylindrical metal, treble units which impart to manual stops a subtle brightness of color, a finespun but discernable edge to strings and reeds, enhanced spatial dispersion of the sound throughout the room, and a gradual buildup and decay of sound when keys are pressed and released -- effects which can be heard but not counted.  While their volume output is inefficient compared with the power needed to run them, mere amplification is not their function.  Their purpose is to amplify the upper partial tones of the voices and add subtle pneumatic effects which are real and audibly detectable, things which direct beam loudspeakers and adjustment of treble controls and equalization alone cannot duplicate.  The power consumption for this FIRST DIVISION is 600W (Rockville) + 200W (Klipsch) = 800W, and it functions to strengthen and enrich the sound of manual voices.

The SECOND DIVISION begins with a line out jack at the Klipsch subwoofer.  The Klipsch line out sends the Rockville signal to a new 250W Radio Shack MPA-250B amp.  Speaker terminals of this amp are wired to a pair of Sony SS-F6000P floorstanding 4-way tower speaker cabinets each rated at 180W and supplied with a 6-1/2" woofer, 3-1/3" midrange speaker, and 1" tweeter.  Additional speaker terminals of this amp are wired to a pair of Acoustic Audio BR-10 3-way Karaoke speaker cabinets each having a crossover network, 10" X 4" horn tweeter, 10" lower midrange, and 4" upper midrange driver.  A single line out from this Radio Shack amp sends the signal separately to a preowned Sony SS-MSP1 powered subwoofer equipped with 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 SECOND DIVISION has a power consumption of 250 (Radio Shack) + 50 (Sony) = 300W, and it functions to further disperse and enlarge the manual voices.

The combined power consumption of this MANUAL/PIPE speaker system is thus 800W (Rockville/Klipsch) + 300W (Radio Shack/Sony) = 1100W, and all five manuals play through it. 

A 60W Choice Select ST2060 amp is employed separately to power a single custom-built PVC PIPE speaker specially created in Lodi, California by the McCurdy Corporation to work with Conn speaker pipes.  This unit of singular contruction is composed of 12 general purpose PVC [polyvinyl chloride] cylindrical pipes all of the same size [3-1/2"] bundled together and positioned vertically on end over a wire baffle situated above a round opening in the top of a square, hollow wooden box, inside of which is mounted a single upward-firing, passive 12" woofer.  The pipes are painted in a metallic gold leaf color and cut to various lengths determined by their locations over the speaker cone so that they sympathetically resonate with fundamental frequencies generated by the 12 chromatic semitones below 8-foot bass G#.  In covering a range of one octave the 2 shortest pipes overlap the bottom two chromatic semitones (8-foot bass G# and G) of the Conn model 146 speaker pipes, thus extending the effects of gradual buildup of sound, gradual decay of sound, multi-directional dispersion of sound, and enriching harmonic upper partial tones one octave lower down to 16-foot G# with no audible break.  Inputs at this amp allow for the Pedal and two manual divisions to speak through this unit, and, in this application, the Great and Swell were chosen.  Its total power consumption is thus 60W, and the Pedal, Great, and Swell play through it.  

     To summarize, the instrument's self-contained speaker system is supplemented with 7 additional amplifiers powering 57 additional loudspeakers of various sizes from 18" down to 1".  The system includes 6 sets of Conn speaker pipes, one special set of PVC speaker pipes, 12 additional cabinets, and at full strength requires 2520W of power to operate.  The speaker sizes are:  one 18", seven 15", four 12", two 10", two 10" X 4", two 8", one 7-7/8", twenty-four 6" X 9" oval, two 6-1/2", two 5", two 4", two 3-1/3", four 2", two 1-1/2", and two 1". 

The goal of this project was the creation of a balanced and proportioned sound with improved realism, a punchy bass, and enhanced tone quality and dispersion of the instrument's voices in the most cost-effective and space-effective way possible.  By combining new and repurposed materials like this which were carefully and strategically matched to each other, repurposing amps and speakers, and using the ear to balance volume, treble/bass, equalization, and artificial reverb, this objective was realized.  One needs 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 that's more than just bigger than before.  It's made the instrument come alive.

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 biggest challenge with playing this instrument is settling upon a scheme for tuning its divisions and coupling the voices to create something of the sound the composer knew and rich-sounding ensembles that can be listened to for long periods of time.  For its size, this organ is overly supplied with upperwork (octave stops and higher, much of it assertive), undersupplied with manual Doubles (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, an essential element of the sound universe known to 19th and early 20th century French organists, especially Franck, Widor, and Vierne, a coupler which had much to do with the way they notated their compositions, is entirely lacking.  Without it, loud or climactic passages in French Romantic music are far less sonorous and sound thin when performed exactly as written.  To create something of the same random chorus effect of a pipe organ one needs to draw voices of different pitches from different divisions and play them all coupled together.  Some of the voices are quite beautiful and very useful on A Voicing, on B Voicing, or both.  Then again, some of them are so dull or shrill in tone that they have little use on A or B, 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 superoctave (4-foot) pitch or higher but only 5 stops of the all-important unison (16-foot) pitch.  The Tutti piston and 8-position Crescendo are also unprogrammable and bring on all of the big, tubby-sounding diapasons and flutes in the buildup, creating a very thick, cloudy, muddy, opaque sound that is just the opposite of the lean, transparent full organ so many organists desire for playing contrapuntal music, and Bach in particular.  All of this demands a special and conservative approach to drawing the stops with balance, above all, in mind. 



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