Listening the sounds of the samples

At the place where the organist sits at the console, two microphones record the sounds in stereo. In the Hauptwerk organ, the loudspeakers must reproduce the sounds in the same place. So at a short distance on either side of the organist at the level of his ears. Good quality active speakers give an excellent performance.

Since the sounds are less loud than in the church and lowering the volume has a stronger effect for high tones than for low tones, the sounds must be voiced. The loudspeakers are part of the intonation and this also creates the unique possibility to correct deviations in the loudspeakers. That is why expensive loudspeakers with high hi-fi specifications do not give a better reproduction than loudspeakers of good quality in the price range of the middle segment.

The combination of samples and speakers then form an unbreakable unit. With well-adjusted samples, the sounds accurately match the sounds from pipes.

Never listen with Headphones

Although listening to a Hauptwerk organ with headphones may give a good representation of the sounds, there is a great chance of hearing damage. This has been shown in research by the Erasmus University of Rotterdam and the Catholic University of Leuven. A large volume close to the ear observed causes permanent hearing damage. A lower volume but listened over a longer time has the same effect. Therefore, listening with two speakers at ear height is the best option.

The samples contain the loud sounds of the organ in the church, so listening to it with headphones will always cause hearing damage. For an organist, his hearing is of vital importance and it is unwise to use headphones. Hearing damage can occur in the form of poorer perception of certain tonal areas, but more often Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) occurs. In all cases, hearing damage cannot be cured.

There is a second reason for not using headphones. In order to judge sounds, it must be listened to in relation to the environment. Compare it to a painter who is not satisfied with a light on his subject and a light on the canvas. The entire environment must be brightly lit to assess colors and light contrasts.
For example, the sounds of a Hauptwerk organ must be judged in the largest possible space. The measure of space is lacking with headphones. In the audio lab of Philips in Waalre I was able to undertake the necessary experiments to prove this statement.

The samples of Organ Art Media are recorded by Helmut Maier from a great distance from the pipes and assessed with headphones. He strongly recommends that you also listen to them on the Hauptwerk organ with headphones. He has stored the long echo tails in such a way that they cannot be shortened. His samples differ greatly from the original sounds and cannot be improved by voicing them. He does not want to use convolution reverberation. The conversations I had with him have not led to a better quality, so I have written off his sample sets and not transferred them to Hauptwerk 5.

The samples of Piotr Grabowski are also recorded too far from the pipes and therefore leave much to be desired for the same reason. Grabowski feels he is above any criticism and consultation with him has proved pointless. Since the sounds were recorded too far from the pipes, the characters of the registers are not stored in the samples. The organs he has chosen do not have much sound beauty to offer either.

Multi channel just for hobbyists

Organ-playing amateurs are often hobbyists who never play in church and do not know how the tones in a pipe are created. They have the strange idea that the organ sounds more beautiful when many channels are used. This was common for organs with electronic sound generation, but not for Hauptwerk. The sounds of Hauptwerk are recordings of a pipe organ that are stored in a memory.

Amateurs enthusiastically assemble a Hauptwerk organ and install a sample set with many channels. That means a room full of speakers and amplifiers that play the sounds from WET samples. The sounds are all from WET samples, so recorded far from the organ. That's how they sound too; they let you hear an organ from a great distance. An organist cannot do anything with these sounds, where all the properties of the organ sound in the church are missing. An organist must sit close to the organ, only there the sounds with their typical properties can be heard.

I regularly meet organists who turned down a Hauptwerk organ after hearing a multi-channel organ. And rightly so, a pipe organ does not sound that way and Hauptwerk is intended for playing with the sounds of the church organ in the living room. That it can sound like a pipe organ, I like to demonstrate with my Hauptwerk organ, whose sounds do not differ from the pipe organ next to it.

In the acoustics of the church, the tones reverberate off the walls, pillars and ceiling of the church and fill the space with a total sound where no direction or distance can be perceived. It is present all around.
Surround is another effect, the sounds are recorded far from the organ - the source of the sounds - and that's how they are reproduced. The reverberation effects come to the listener from afar.
The convolution reverb of Hauptwerk 5 reproduces it as in the church, the sounds are in the immediate vicinity and the reverberation is removed from the source.

The convolution reverb is an all-round acoustics. What was expected of surround has now been realized by convolution reverberation.

Hauptwerk 5

The sounds of a Hauptwerk organ are sounds of a pipe organ. These are recorded at a short distance from the pipes and stored in memories. This creates the opportunity to play the church organ in the living room. The sound of a pipe can be compared to a recorder. A recorder is not blown softly because that gives a lifeless tone, but the flutist blows air pulses, so that the tone starts with an accent.

By pressing a key on the organ, the valve opens and sends the wind flow through the languid gap to the upper labium. The collision of the wind against the upper labium creates a violent movement in the wind flow. This is audible as an accent at the beginning of the tone which then builds up to full strength. The tone is then still pure and not obscured by reflections in the acoustics. In order to be able to store this tone in the sample, the microphones must be at a short distance, so that the dry tone is stored as a DRY sample.

The organist must be able to hear the accent of the tone and the build-up to the full tone without delay. It is part of his (her) play of articulation and phrasing, which should arise directly under his fingers. In the acoustics of the church, the tones are then reflected by objects that are increasingly distant, causing the reflections to fade and die out. The organist hears that the reverb is moving away from the source.

For the organist, a direct tone plus a receding reverberation are characteristics of the playing of a church organ and this must be transferred in that form to the Hauptwerk organ in the living room. Transferring the direct tone is done with DRY samples, which was already possible with Hauptwerk 4. But transferring the reverberation into the acoustics of the church was only realized with Hauptwerk 5.

Around the year 1000 large and especially high churches were already built, because the acoustics of that large space gave a heavenly effect to the choirs. An organ was the ideal instrument to accompany the vocals and these sounds also shone through the influence of the acoustics. Good acoustics are a necessary condition for the sound formation of the pipes. A pipe organ in the living room lacks the acoustics necessary for sound formation.

With Hauptwerk 4, the reverberation was recorded by placing microphones at a great distance from the pipes and saving the recordings as WET samples. The samples contained a mixture of pipe sounds at a great distance and a random reverberation that happened to be audible at that location. There is no resemblance whatsoever with the organ sounds, such as the organist hears at the console in the church.

When an amateur hears the sounds from the WET samples with a Hauptwerk organ, he will accept them as real organ sounds. He only knows the organ from listening to it in the church and at that place the WET samples are recorded.

Hauptwerk 5 is equipped with convolution reverberation (see convolution). It is an exact copy of the reverberation in the church. It shows how the organ sounds reverberate in the church and die out in the distance. That is the natural sound experience, because the source of the sound is close by and the reverberations move away from the organist. Every nuance of the pipe sound can be heard directly when playing on a Hauptwerk organ and that it is followed by reflections in the acoustics happens in the same way as in the church. Hauptwerk has made enormous progress with this, making the use of the dubious WET samples superfluous.