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The provision of the audio system for any digital instrument is subject to many different opinions and ideas as to how this aspect should be handled. there are many different speakers and types of speakers available from many manufacturers and is as much down to personal choice and budget as to anything else. One thing has been established is that the audio system of any digital organ is one of the most important components of a successful installation. It doesn't matter how good the rest of the organ might be, if insufficient care is taken to choose the correct amplification and speaker system then the whole installation is never going to sound at its best. Of course the sound of different speakers is somewhat subjective and what might suit one person may not suit another. However, we are not talking about "hi-fi" set ups here so this aspect is less important.

In an ideal world, every equivalent pipe of a pipeless organ would have its own dedicated speaker and amplifier but this is neither practical or necessary. However, something approaching this ideal should be strived for. The more separate amplifier and speaker systems that are used in any pipeless organ, the more convincing the sound will be (providing that the original source sounds are of good enough quality of course). Any compromises in this direction will result in a less acceptable sound and this factor alone leads to electronic sounding instruments. Another important factor to take into consideration is the use of the right type of speaker. P.A. speakers are often used in installations but we believe that this is the wrong approach since a P.A. speaker by its very nature is designed to project any sound fed into it as far as possible without the loss of any component of the sound. This may be desirable to some extent for bass speakers handling the lower octaves of 16' and 32' registers but it is totally unsuitable for anything else. We advocate the use of near or mid field studio monitors for the majority of the stops since they are generally designed to be uncoloured in their sound and do not project every aspect of their sound into the building.

If the stops are sampled correctly in the first place, they will contain many undesirable characteristics in their sound when heard up close as do real pipes of course. In a pipe organ, these characteristics (which can be quite unpleasant at close quarters), gradually reduce as the distance between listener and source increases so it therefore follows that the pipeless organ should try to duplicate the effect of distance on the source sound in like fashion. It is of course possible to spend an absolute fortune on individual speakers but this is both wasteful and unnecessary because of the sheer quantity of speakers that would need to be used in a installation based on these principles. Providing the speakers used are of good quality and design, quantity rather than quality is the governing factor.

As to whether separate amplifiers and speakers should be used as opposed to speakers with built in amplifiers (passive and active), this is a matter of logistics and choice. Personally we prefer to use active speakers since the built in amplifiers are exactly tailored to the speakers that they are driving (and it's a whole lot simpler, tidier and less expensive as well). Of course, for some speakers such as dedicated bass speakers or special / custom designs, it may not be possible to obtain active versions and separate amplifiers will still be required. Obviously standard computer sound cards are not designed to feed multiple speaker set-ups in general and even those that cater for more than one pair seldom offer more than a bare minimum of extra channels. In addition the quality of a standard computer soundcard will leave much to be desired both in terms of quality and of latency (delay) so it is essential to have some sort of dedicated multiple channel facility available generated from a decent quality soundcard.

Thanks to the studio market where the need for multiple channel systems is often essential, there are several solutions offered by professional audio companies which are fairly reasonably priced since they have been developed for a market that extends beyond the narrow field of church organs. Currently, we tend to recommend the use of MOTU units which provide absolutely excellent quality as well as the ability to run up to 96 independent channels from one computer which is more than adequate for even the largest installation.

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Last modified: 11-11-2015