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Audio System -- point me in the right direction?

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BarryG

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Audio System -- point me in the right direction?

PostFri Nov 23, 2007 10:21 am

I'm a little overwhelmed trying to figure out how to proceed with upgrading my organ's audio system. I would greatly appreciate some guidance by those who've been through it and who really understand the alternatives. I don't need a cookbook or really detailed explanations, though would certainly use them, but being pointed in the right directions will likely save me making potentially expensive mistakes. I've listed a few specific questions at the end of this too-lengthy and open-ended post.

I have a 3-manual plus pedalboard setup, V3 Advanced, running the Milan Skinner sample with all ranks and features enable except using 16-bit compression. The organ is in a 15x18 foot living room with 8-foot ceiling, facing one of the 15-foot walls. I'm planning to install a new home theater system with the TV in the center of one of the 18-foot walls. I plan to design and build the cabinetry that can hold speakers and other audio/video components on either/both sides of the organ console, and for the HDTV, so now is the time to be certain I allow sufficient space and flexibility for the various components. My current organ audio system is two powered monitors, Event 20/20 bas V2s driven by a MOTU Ultralite audio interface.

Here a some questions:

1. I know Hauptwerk has a lot of features and flexibility for controlling audio. Given my physical space, what is a reasonable number of channels and speakers to consider to balance the benefit with the cost. What is the best direction to head for use of such channels/speakers, ie, certain ranks or groups of ranks to certain channels/speakers? or split in certain ways?

2. Should I consider using the home theater audio system in whole or in part for my organ audio, or should I use a completely separate system? If yes on the home theater, what specific features on the A/V receiver and speakers should I consider or avoid? (From a previous post I've already gathered the opinion that a Bose home theater system will likely not be a good solution for the organ, for example.) If no on the home theater, what direction for organ audio amplifier and/or other components should I take?

3. I know that a subwoofer is highly desirable for both organ and home theater systems. What is the "best" place to locate them? The "easiest" place would be as part of the cabinetry on either side of the organ console.

If I simply seem not to understand the issues, perhaps pointing me instead to some good references would be a better approach. I'll appreciate any guidance I can get.

For budget, I'm willing to spends "thousands" of $US, but don't want to buy features and capability that the room can't really take advantage of.

Thanks in advance.

Barry Gerken
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Jim Reid

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PostFri Nov 23, 2007 12:56 pm

Barry,

What sort of organs will play most frequently: theatre or "classic". If
"classic" do you have or will you buy more "wet", that is with room
ambiance also recorded with the pipes, or "dry" sets? If you are as I
am, you will probably end up with a mixture of organs, both classic and
theatre, and both wet and dry.

Speaker array issues, I believe, could be different depending upon how
you answer.

I began with stereo headphones; then connected a bunch of old Allen
organ speakers into my Hauptwerk set-up. Now I am using a large
array of speaker cabinets which I presently have organized into 16
mono audio channels in three groups of speakers: one group consists
of seven cabinets, each with one or two 15" woofers; in a given sample
set, all ranks which extend below 8' C (65 Hz or so) are sent to this
set of seven speakers which are placed along the length of about 16' or
so of a wall about 23' long.

The other group of seven cabinets is mixed in with the above, but are
mostly smaller speakers, that is a single 8" drive with a small dome
tweeter in each (these are Behringer Truth units with built-in amplifiers).
This set of seven also includes a couple of larger Klipsch speakers which
I bought way back in 1973. The third speaker "group" is actualy a single
speaker - the smaller "Belle Klipsch" to which the percussion stops,
English Horn, and piano of the theatre organ sample sets are fed also
along with a few of the thin reed ranks of the TPO samples which are
less often used.

My goal in all of this array was to synthesize the spread of an actual
pipe array, separate the powerful low frequency pipes and the tenor,
treble pipes (hoping to reduce intermoculation of the tenor and up tones
because they were being radiated from larger cones which were
simultaneously also radiating, with large cone movements, the lower
pitch pipe tones of the organ.

I use the "cyclic within ranks, octaves and ranks cycled" note dispersion
algorithm of Martin's multiple-audio array options. This results in the
notes of the keyboard NOT sounding through the same speaker: for the
first seven notes of an octave in my first group, the first seven notes of
beginining anywhere on the keyboard and going up 7 keys, none of
those notes will sound via the same amplifier/speaker channel, and are
spread across some 18' or so feet of my speaker array! The six channel
group of speakers are stacked atop the larger array cabinets and spread
a similar distance along that wall space. This creates, at least to my
ears a very clean impression of pipes in an array facade, no distortion
of the tones, and no need for the use of stereo sampled pipes. Yes
I do also play organs where stereo recording has been used via
microphones out in the room, for example, the large Skinner. However,
it also sounds wonderful loading the samples in mono and playing
through this same array, again with the ranks separated into the three
gourps depending upon their containing pipes which sound below 60 Hz.
Mixtures are routed for the Skinner and others to the single Belle Klipisch
which uese horn loaded "squaker" and tweeter drivers.

Anyway, those are speakers I have had for decades, Allen and Klipsch,
and I find this particular arrangement to be a very pleasing one, for me,
of those I have tried before. Who knows when/if I will decide to try
something else. Perhaps it is risky to "build-in" something permanent
until you have set it up, and lived with the speaker system for a time.

Just some thoughts, and a couple of questions should you choose to
respond to this rambling stream of words!

Best,
Jim Reid
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toplayer2

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PostFri Nov 23, 2007 3:35 pm

Barry,

There is no reason why you should not try your home theatre gear for at least part of the audio. Not many of us are well healed enough to buy everything that we would like to have all at once. The Events could be used for some ranks and the Bose for others. When adding on, powered monitors such as your Event, or Mackie, M-Audio, KKR, or Behringer often offer great value for money.

To my ear, the most important thing is to avoid "signal mixing" which is most noticeable when ranks with similar overtone structures are played through the same audio channel. Best to separate for example a VDO and its Celeste, or a Post Horn and a Trumpet.

Just experiment. As Count Bassie once said "If it sounds good, then it IS good!".

Joe H
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GDay

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PostSat Nov 24, 2007 2:07 pm

Hello Jim, Barry, and likely, Leo!

A question to add to Barry's list;

How did you (or do you), when using a multiple amplifier / speaker system, adjust the various volume controls when switching between sets?

G'Day
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CHRIS 037

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Ah, Yes, the voicing!

PostSat Nov 24, 2007 3:49 pm

Hi G'Day,

Here's my approach to voicing with multiple speakers:

I first get all the speakers and amps set to pretty close to the same volume levels and mid/high settings. For example on all the KRK 5" and M-Audio 5" powered speakers, I have the volume levels at "0" dB boost or cut; that's essentially at the middle or 12:00 O'Clock position. The stereo HiFi amps and passive speakers are likewise set to be close in output volume.

Each HW organ has its own Organ Settings that are saved when the organ is Unloaded. These settings include all the midi and voicing that HW3 (or HW2) can do. So each organ returns to whatever voicing you have created for it.

So then I load an organ with the load & prepare option so I can direct which ranks go to which speakers.

Then the voicing begins: Since I find all my speakers tend to be too treble heavy, I start by playing a few chords for a rank (I generally start with the 8' Diapason) and I voice the high frequency so that the pipes sound natural to me. This first rank is the one I compare all others to, so I adjust the overall volume of this rank with the Overall Organ Amplitude. Then comes the individual pipe volume adjustments. With HW3 this doesn't actually take all that long. I begin with the middle C octave and go pipe by pipe up the scale adjusting a bit up or down (or not at all) based on how it sounds to me sitting at the keyboard. I'll play a note two or three times and then run the scale of a few notes around the pipe to make sure it's in balance. Sometimes a pipe also needs a touch of high change too, but that's not very often. For example I've found the Vox Humana's on both TO's have a few pipes that are off-balance in some mid-range frequency (possibly the speaker's fault) so I adjust that so it sounds better in chords. I try to make sure I don't adjust all individuality out of the pipes, since that would lead to a pretty dull sound, I think. Then I go on to the rest of the higher octaves, one by one, and then to the lower ones, which often include pedal pitches.

Then I go to the next rank, for me that's usually the 8' Flute. (Or other Diapasons on a classical organ). I set all other ranks' amplitudes and high frequency by using HW3's Master sliders for the rank being voiced. I have the Diapason (or some other already voiced rank) on one manual, and the rank being voiced on another manual so I can compare the relative amplitudes easily.

I estimate this process takes about 10 minutes per rank to get a close-to-done voicing. At this point I usually can't resist just playing the organ for a few hours since it sounds so good by then! As I play, if some pipe stands out as too loud or soft, I voice it then and there.

A final voicing can take a few weeks as note and combinations of ranks come up with further need for adjustment. By then the sound is very fine indeed.

Actually, Garth, I guess I went into more detail than you really asked for, sorry. The actual answer to your question is in the third paragraph: each organ's settings are saved separately.

Be well,

Leo Chris.
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GDay

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PostSat Nov 24, 2007 4:10 pm

Hi Leo,

That was not too much detail, thanks for that. Just so's I understand correctly; 1st) set all speakers/amps to 0db, which means all are at pretty much the same amplitude - that makes for a 'level' playing field, and is a first essential step for . . . 2nd) adjust amplitude/eq from the hw3 console per set as your ears dictate. Tweaking, rerouting, etc is made easy by that first crucial step. Hey, what could be simpler!

The journey continues.

G'Day
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Jim Reid

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PostSat Nov 24, 2007 4:35 pm

I will put in my $0.02 also.

To get to the actual rank perspective that each sample producer had
in mind, I believe you should first do some playing/listening to the
sample set in just plain, vanilla, two channel stereo. You need to
know the "real" variations of loudness of the ranks as set by the
author of the sample set. I have found no way to do this that is reliable
with my present multi-channel audio system, though I have tried very
hard, as Leo has described to insure that each channel is neutral in
gain and timbre to the next; that is, same loudness and timbre out
via the amplifier and speakers as the next channel. I have tried to do
this by inputing the identical audio signal into each channel. That comes
close, but I don't think it is exact. I still wind up with note to note (or,
if you prefer, pipe to pipe) differences in loudness, sometimes a lot of
difference!

With much correspondence back and forth among several of us using
the Mac computers, and 10.x.x operating systems (does not seem to
matter whether it is Tiger or Leopard) problems have been discovered
when using many audio output channels. Martin has recommended
that we return to basic stereo while he sorts out the problem with
HW V3 and the OS X's. This also gives me an opportunity to go back
and listen to/record the ranks of my several organs. Thus I will have
a close record of the "default" by rank/division settings intended by the
sample authors.

So, this morning I have gone into HW and deleted all my multiple audio
group settings and the several audio channels which had been assigned
to each group. Have returned to the basic two analog output channels
from the Mac, in stereo, and am now playing all my organs in this
two channel stereo system set up. Have exactly identical speakers
in the stereo pair; in fact, I can switch between two different speaker
amplifier systems. First using only the big Allen HC-12 speakers,
each channel having a bi-amp'd fed pair of HC-12s, one for the tenor/
treble, other for the bass using the original Allen frequency divider
network. The other alternate pair of amplifiers and speakers are a
Sony stereo amplifier feeding my pair of Klipsch corner horns units
with three drivers for the audio spectrum, each driver horn loaded. I will
have an excellent "record" of the balance and sound of each rank of
the various organ sample sets I now have.

So far, this new stereo system is playing just fine, and sounds great to
me -- wonder why I ever thought I needed 16 audio channels!! No, I
know why, I believed it would be better; when running well, it does
sound very good, largely I think because of the greater sound dispersion
and spread of tones in the cyclic within the octaves, octaves and rank
algorithm mode.

I will certainly remain with this system, as just described, until Martin has
released an update of HW V 3.x, as he says, which will take care of, at
least the multi-audio channel use with Mac operating systems and
perhaps some other little fixes; and I just might wait until he releases
the 64-bit Hauptwerk package for the Mac computer users.

Sort of a long $0.02 worth, GDay!
Jim Reid
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Grant_Youngman

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PostSat Nov 24, 2007 5:00 pm

My audio system has 8 of one powered monitor type, plus two passive speakers with a subwoofer connected through a standard audio amp (Alesis RA-100) for the 16' ranks

To get the levels from each speaker balanced initially I simply used a tone generator (a Korg Digital Tuner) into one of the inputs on the audio interface, and with the internal mixing board, sent it at the same level to each output channel in turn. Used an SPL meter to get all of them roughly the same at A440 measured at my playing position.

The subwoofer had to be done by ear to get a level that "sounded" correct on typical 16' stops compared to the on-line organ samples (not too thin, not too much boom).
Grant
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mdyde

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PostSat Nov 24, 2007 5:02 pm

With much correspondence back and forth among several of us using
the Mac computers, and 10.x.x operating systems (does not seem to
matter whether it is Tiger or Leopard) problems have been discovered
when using many audio output channels. Martin has recommended
that we return to basic stereo while he sorts out the problem with
HW V3 and the OS X's.


I just want to stress that the multi-channel audio problem Jim is having is only affecting Jim and one other person, and I've been working very hard with both to sort it out for them over the past two weeks, and hope and expect to be able to do that very soon.

There is *not* a general or widespread known problem with multi-channel audio in Hauptwerk v3.

Thanks and best regards,
Martin.
Last edited by mdyde on Sat Nov 24, 2007 8:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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CHRIS 037

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Comments:

PostSat Nov 24, 2007 6:31 pm

Hi Jim,

Actually, I have to say that I don't really care too much if I get the organ sound in my room to match exactly what the sample set producer hears, or in fact, the sound of the original organ. I just think that rooms differ so much in the effect they have on the organ sound that it's pretty much impossible to duplicate the original. And while one can work to come as close as possible to the original, I find that I'm quite happy with what I come up with and I don't worry about that. I just work to get a sound that thrills me and sounds musically satisfying. That does simplify the voicing a bit!

And yes, G'Day, that's all there is to it. Maybe it's a bit like Bach saying, "All you have to do is hit the right notes at the right time." Well, it's actually a lot easer than that!

And by the way, I was just in visiting at the local Guitar Center here in Spokane today, and they are again having that neat sale on the M-Audio BX5a speakers. The price is $200.00 a pair! (Normally $300.00 a pair.) These speakers do a good job in my situation so I stretched some and got another 2 pair. That will give me an Audio Group of eight of them. I don't know how long this sale lasts, but HW folks might want to look into it.

Be well All,

Leo Chris.
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PostSat Nov 24, 2007 7:35 pm

Looks like a great deal Leo.

Probably not enough power/volume for my room though :)
Bob Collins
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CHRIS 037

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An Excel MacPro Layout

PostSat Nov 24, 2007 9:33 pm

Hi Bob,

You're quite right. Your needs there at Zion Church are for a lot more power than I need in my small organ room.

And Hello All,

I have just published a webpage copy of my Excel sheet that I used to plan my MacPro and MasterWorks speaker grouping and layout. If you would like to see how I do this for HW organs have a look:

http://www.leochristopherson.com/Four_C ... rWorks.htm

It does help a whole lot to plan this stuff out ahead of time so as to know what goes where, especially when many speakers are involved with a large organ.

Be well,

Leo Chris.
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BarryG

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PostSun Nov 25, 2007 11:08 am

Thanks to everyone for very helpful direction. A couple of things are now more clear to me: first, I need to set up "something" and experiment both to understand how all the features involved work, and most importantly to hear the difference; second, while I may be able to take advantage of some of the speakers for both my organ and home theater application, I'll need a separate multi-channel audio amplifier for the organ. Please chime in if these are not correct conclusions!

As mentioned initially, I have a 15x18 foot room with 8 foot ceilings, the organ faces one of the 15 foot walls, and I am about to design and build the cabinetry for that wall for the organ equipment. I'll be playing my Skinner sample set, and likely will soon order the new Metz and later one of the German baroque sets; unlikely to do theater organ.

Today I'll pick up 3 pairs of different sized speakers from a friend who has installed a Bose-based home theater -- the price is right (free!), plus I have 2 Event powered monitors and 2 old Klipsch Heresy's. That gives me 5 pairs of speakers to arrange and experiment with. I have only 8 audio outs on my sound card, but will certainly make-do with that until I know more what I'm doing. I can upgrade/change various components later.

A specific question: Where should I place my speakers at least as a starting point? or what should be the major considerations in doing so? All on the wall the organ faces? Larger ones lower and smaller higher? Far left and right on the wall, or more evenly distributed? Speaker pairs placed symetrically or together? Elsewhere in the room?

(I actually have a better idea of where I'm trying to head. I heard my first "real" organ concert in some years last weekend -- the Skinner in Woolsey Hall at Yale played by Jon Laukvik. While I certainly won't achieve the mastery of the organist, perhaps I can get closer to the quality of the sound of the organ!)

Barry Gerken
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PostSun Nov 25, 2007 11:42 am

Holy Cow! Woolsey Hall at Yale has always been one of my
favorite organs. Just the right size (Big!) and the right era
for my ears, around 1930, and voiced by both E. M. Skinner
and G. Donald Harrison. What a wonderful Pedal division! And
all those lovely strings, including the 20 rank string organ.

If you are only going to go to one organ recital every few
years, you could hardly pick a better venue. I haven't heard
that one for 30 years now, but the sound is still in my head.
There are also some fine recordings of appropriate music.

Cheers, Steve T.
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Jim Reid

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PostSun Nov 25, 2007 12:34 pm

Barry,

Your console faces the 15' wall. How far from the bench where you will
sit to the wall? Or is the console against that wall? Is the console
toward the middle of the room, that is well back from the 15' wall?
Is the room heavily furnished behind the console, couches, whatever
between the console and the wall where the speakers would be placed
in some sort of array?

I don't think you would care for the sound if the console were against
a wall with speakers on either side of you, also against the wall. Well,
that is just my opinion, others may differ about that.

Anyway, just a bit more description of the set up in the room of the
furniture and intended console placement could help in thinking about
speaker arrangements.
Jim Reid
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