Stage Two: the search for Spock, er, hardware!

Posted 27 January 2011 by

Thanks to my lovely wife, Marcia, I received the Hauptwerk Virtual Organ software for Christmas. For several weeks now, I’ve been building a budget and researching hardware requirements and options. Of course, the software is the least expensive part of the package and the easiest to decide upon.

I’ve discovered that the computer required to run the software must be hefty and cutting-edge. I’ve gone with a Quad-core Intel machine with 16 gig memory. One must have the processing power and the potential to access mountains of program information (patches)  instantaneously. Here’s why.

The pipe organ, which Hauptware attempts to simulate, has thousands of individual pipes which speak simultaneously and in rapid succession. There are 66 notes on a keyboard, each  playing many pipes, depending on the sound you choose at the moment. Hauptware patches have three phases for each and every note–the initial speech of every pipe, the sustained sound of the pipe, and the release of the pipe in an acoustical environment. Sometimes, the acoustics of a large church building rings for 3 or 4 seconds. So, lets do the math:

Playing a single note on a single pipe, no problem. But, one only rarely plays a single note or a single pipe. More typically, organists play 4 or 5 notes, each of which sounds 4 to 40 pipes together. Because the reverberation time extends the sound after the note has been released, the number of “patches” that end up sounding simultaneously can be startling. For music that moves quite fast, 200 to 300 “voices” (polyphony) will need to be processed by the computer. And for some advanced music on larger organs, it can be even more.

That explains the need for speedy computer processing with loads of memory.

My solution? I established the specifications required for my set-up and went off to the Micro Center in Overland Park (Kansas). A knowledgeable sales person and I walked the store with a grocery cart, picking off the shelf the components required, and built a custom machine. The cost was not as much as buying the same machine from Dell, and it was a totally “clean” install on the harddrive. NO CRAPWARE!! We’re off to a good start. More on the rest of the hardware requirements and solutions coming…

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