In late 2018 the Rodgers Inspire organs launched the new revolutionary DS Core technology platform. Since then, the Inspire line has expanded and the Imagine models have been added.
At Church Keyboard Center we’ve gained extensive experience with this new platform, which features the most sophisticated voicing controls we’ve seen in a digital organ. To date, we’ve delivered 13 Inspire and 3 Imagine organs, plus one large 84-stop custom organ, and additional contracts in hand for several more Inspire and Imagine church installations in the coming months.
From what we are hearing in our installations, DS Core has raised the bar to the highest level yet in a digital organ to achieve the sound of pipes.
The DS Core platform gets its name from the way the pipe sound samples are processed when the organ is being played. With each note of each stop created using a roughly 10-second sample of the real pipe, this results in an enormous amount of sound data (many gigabytes) stored in the organ and getting processed in real-time as the organ is played.
Conventional methods of handling huge amounts of sound data involve loading it all into working memory (RAM) when the organ is started. Loading many gigabytes of data takes several minutes. Users of the Hauptwerk virtual organ software are familiar with this routine. But this arrangement is neither practical nor acceptable for a premium organ like a Rodgers that must be able to perform flawlessly in all types of performance environments.
DS Core resolves the dilemma between enjoying the quality of long sound samples and the convenience of fast startup. The DS stands for Direct Streaming. The gigabytes of sound sample data are streamed “on demand” during performance, eliminating the need to load the data into RAM on startup. Consequently, DS Core organs startup in approx. eight seconds and are ready to play with all the beauty, realism, and nuance that comes from long sound samples of every pipe.
DS Core presented us with a new way of thinking about voicing and shaping the tonal character of each note. The voicing controls are sophisticated and involved a learning curve to understand how to manipulate the multiple parameters to achieve the quality of sound we knew was possible.
Nelson spent many hours over a period of months experimenting with the first Inspire models in the studio. It gradually became apparent how to achieve the result we had in mind…..and even better. We’re not exaggerating when we say that the sound we’re getting in these new organs has exceeded our expectations. Even in a studio setting, it is easy to forget that you’re playing a digital organ and simply become enthralled with the sound of pipes.
Voicing vs. PEQ vs. configuring
We make a big deal about “voicing” the organs, but there is actually more than that involved……and in the end, what does it all mean?
Setting up a new digital organ–whether in a home, studio, or church–requires a multitude of system settings to be configured that ultimately determine how good the organ sounds.
Initially, there are a number of settings to go through that configure the organ for the particular audio setup (internal speakers, various arrangements of external speakers, and combinations thereof). The core of the audio channeling is a Matrix Mixer that enables mapping the audio inputs (divisions such as Great, Swell, etc) to multiple audio outputs and controlling the balance of the outputs. The Matrix Mixer enables enormous flexibility in our speaker system designs and how we are able to channel sound for the best effect.
Parametric Equalization (PEQ)
Parametric equalization is a capability Rodgers organs have had since 2010, but the technology takes a big step up in the DS Core platform. In short, PEQ allows “correcting” for anomalies in how the organ speakers “couple” with the acoustic space.
Every room reinforces and absorbs certain frequencies due to how sound bounces around and interacts with the structure (floor, walls, and ceiling) and the materials on those surfaces (carpet, stone, wood, glass, ceiling tile, etc). The cumulative results are that some sounds get “boomy” when low frequencies are reinforced and high frequencies can be over-amplified or absorbed, resulting in an organ that sounds too bright or dull.
Using the PEQ controls we make “corrections” in the sound that the speakers project into the room that compensate for the acoustic anomalies of the room. Every room behaves differently, but in the hands of an expert technician with a good ear, PEQ quickly cleans up the sound.
This short YouTube below explains the basics of PEQ using a vocal recording that demonstrates the PEQ effects on the sound. The video explains the concept of PEQ and you can hear how it is used to improve the sound of a recording, and ultimately how the recording sounds to your ears. In an organ audio system, we are using PEQ to “correct” (improve) how the speakers interact with the room, and consequently how the organ sounds to your ears. Whether the medium is recorded or live sound, the concept and mechanics are the same.
With the audio channeling configured and speaker equalization completed, we’re ready to begin the detailed voicing process. This is where we use powerful tools built-in to the Rodgers organ operating system to adjust the tonality of each stop at the rank and note levels.
In the new Rodgers Imagine 351 organ, this amounts to a total of 208 ranks (including all the Voice Palette stops) and over 11,000 individual notes. With nine voicing parameters that can be adjusted for each note, over 100,000 individual voicing adjustments are possible. Fortunately, we also have powerful tools that facilitate, and in some cases automate, the voicing process.
Each note of each rank starts with a recording (“sample”) of a pipe. Using voicing parameters such as level (volume) and the ability to increase or decrease the level of specific harmonics in the note, we’ve got a few hundred possibilities of how an individual note (pipe) will actually sound. Ultimately, the human ear cannot differentiate that many variations–however, the overall range of tonal effect that is possible assures that a desired result is achievable.
We work through an entire rank, adjusting the tonal controls for each note until an overall character and balance is achieved that fits our vision for the organ. Then the rank is played with other stops to check for blending and overall ensemble sound. This points out certain notes that need further fine adjustments. This process continues until the overall artistic effect desired is realized. This, of course, is a matter of taste, but with so much latitude and fine-grained control, any nuance in tonal taste can be satisfied.
Organ models that have DS Core (click on model to see specs)
- Inspire 227 (2M / 27 stops)
- Inspire 233 (2M / 33 stops)
- Inspire 343 (3M / 43 stops)
- Imagine 235 (2M / 35/41 stops)
- Imagine 351 (3M / 51/59 stops)