The componentry of a modern pipe organ is not limited to electro-mechanical assemblies. Modern pipe organ consoles include advanced digital technology and many pipe organs are now augmented with digital tonal additions to lower their cost while still creating a fine musical result. As one Pipe organ builder posts on its website: “Xxxx can augment existing stoplists with digital pipework. Now that digital sampling systems have reached unprecedented levels of authenticity compared to the sound of wind-brown pipes, there is no reason for compromise in your new organ.”
While many pipe organ builders embraced digital tonal additions in their instruments, none are capable of supporting these technologies for extended periods. Unlike older pipe organs that include electro-mechanical assemblies that can often be repaired by generalist technicians, the digital circuitry in modern pipe organs require a commitment and ability from the organ builder to invest in future product support. Pipe organ builders have not made this type of commitment nor have their suppliers of the digital circuitry.
The product support challenges experienced by pipe organ customers are exemplified by a situation in Florida. Here is the history:
- The church purchased a 4-manual pipe organ with digital tonal additions from the pipe organ company Xxxx in the early 1990s.
- In 2014 the organ was damaged during an electrical storm and a significant part of the organ did not operate properly.
- The customer was informed that three of the digital tonal addition circuit boards were defective. Xxxx company contacted the supplier of these circuit boards, a company in England, who was unable to support the product and the entire digital tonal additions package had to be scrapped. (Photos below.)
- It cost more than $100,000 for replacement digital stops from yet another third-party supplier that Xxxx company recommended.
While any electronic product can suffer failure, the long-term serviceability expected of church-organs is not available from most organ builders. Customers should demand evidence of long-term support from any organ builder attempting to earn their business.