Realities of Gear and Software

Posted 29 March 2011 by

As I enthusiastically stated last post, there are many and exciting good things to say about the Hauptwerk organ, the gear I accumulated, and the “St. Anne” organ. Here are some of the realities or perhaps limitations that took me a bit by surprise. They surprised me only because I had expectations that weren’t realized. These weren’t claims that had gone unfulfilled. I had anticipated certain features and values that are not present in my set-up nor in the particular organ I am currently using.

One expectation I had was the possibility of utilizing my home stereo’s surround sound circuitry and speakers. This doesn’t work, because I did not understand how a studio quality audio box and Midi worked. The Hauptwerk software allows the full utilization of the audio box with its 8 outputs for sound. However, there is no surround sound encoder that sends the proper information to my home stereo system. That would require an additional box specifically for that purpose. I have no specific knowledge how or if that would work.

However, one could purchase a second receiver to handle two additional outputs from the audio box, giving one the flexibility to simulate surround sound. That I haven’t done. The software allows us to configure each audio channel to handle specific aspects of the organ’s output. So, one could set up the additional two speakers to handle only the patches that sounds the release of the pipe and the room’s accoustical properties. Sending that sound to speakers in the back of the room would give a pretty close aproximation of surround sound. That is only one example of the possibilities. For me and for now, I’ll settle for simple two-channel stereo. It sounds terrific. I was just lustful for something more.

Another limitation I learned is that the software that is specific to a particular organ has very finite possibilities. The “St Anne” organ is only a two manual instrument, leaving my third manual currently useless. There is no way that I can see to turn the third manual into a coupled manuel, for example. The pistons on the third manual will not work. And, the organ software defines the limits of the mechanical performance aids that can be utilized. There are only two “general” pistons and unless I just haven’t discovered the way, they cannot be connected to a thumb button. Only the touch screen. There are only five divisional pistons available. Even though my keyboards have 30 buttons on each manual, they cannot be utilized. Again, unless I just haven’t discovered  a way, the pedal divisional buttons are available only on the touch screen and cannot be connected to a thumb button. (note: be sure to read my later blogs. Some of these issues are solved with the Hauptwerk upgrade to V.4) Thankfully, the controls that are available have complete flexibility over what stops and couplers they engage, like a more modern console. The “St. Anne” is an old, old instrument (150 years?). And its lack of modernity came right along with its digitized version. That surprised me, again because I had different expectations. Unrealistically so, it seems.

The two touch screens work just fine. A limitation is the fact that only one stop or coupler can be activated or deactivated per touch. They will not work like a physical stop, which allows a player to move two or three simultaneously. The latency factor is very good with my set-up. The response is very fast, so one can touch separately the same two or three stops in sequence in a very short time span. It’s different than a “real” organ in that respect. The Hauptwerk software and the hardware I purchased will allow for physical stops and couplers, but the cost vastly increases one’s investment. For me and for now, the touch screens are a much more affordable alternative.

So, while I am thrilled with what I have, I’ll have to purchase a different virtual organ to realize the potential of the gear I possess. One thing I will continue to miss with my gear is the absence of toe studs. With the particular brand gear I purchased, there is no current option to add them. And, the budget probably won’t allow buying any more gear. Just one of those things.

So, this is the current status of things. I am thrilled with what I ended up with. I’m Looking forward to purchasing a three-manual virtual  instrument to make use of the equipement I have. I anticipate lots of hours of pleasurable practicing and playing.

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