Review – Organum Venezia from Best Service
The organ is often called the King of Instruments. In this review we look at a virtual organ expertly sampled from an Italian instrument that offers you a cathedral experience in your studio at a modest price.
By David Baer, Nov. 2015
In this review we will look at a software recreation of an organ built in 1999 near Venice Italy. All of us are familiar with the sound of a full-blown (no pun intended) pipe organ, but the operational workings of these instruments is a mystery to most people. I previously reviewed another sampled pipe organ offering in which I presented an introductory discussion of just that subject. For those wishing to learn more, check out this:
and read the section entitled Pipe Organ 101.
Organum Venezia is an instrument based on samples. The sample recording was done by V3sound in collaboration with Best Service, and the virtual instrument is implemented using the Best Service Engine 2 platform. It is available on PC as 32-bit and 64-bit VST 2. On the Mac, it is available as AU and 64-bit (only) VST 2. A standalone option is provided on both PC and Mac. The price is €89 EUR.
The instrument from which the samples were taken, although built relatively recently (as organs go, that is) is representative of a French romantic era organ in both construction and sound. That organ has two manual keyboards. The main keyboard is named Grand Organ (GOR for short) and the secondary keyboard is called Positive (or POS). They keyboards have 58 notes. A 30-note pedal board completes the picture.
The approach taken with Organum Venezia was not to reproduce the exact setup of the original. Instead, a decision (a rather good one in my estimation) was made to simply provide a selection of individual stops from both keyboards and the pedal board. A stop is a collection (or rank) of like pipes with a uniform sound across the range of pitches that can be enabled or disabled as a group. The user of the virtual instrument can then mix these stops in any way desired, including in ways that might not be possible on the original instrument.
Should the Organum Venezia player wish to duplicate a performance in which different sounds are produced by the two separate keyboards and/or the pedal board, multiple instances of Organum Venezia can be used to achieve that goal (although obviously we need a DAW for this as standalone mode won’t cut it).
Not all stops were individually sampled from the original instrument. Indeed, only one stop from the pedal board is on offer. But no matter – there is plenty to work with. We have twelve individual stops (plus five combination options and tutti, which we’ll get to shortly). There are three 16’ stops (one octave below concert pitch), five 8’ stops (concert pitch), one 4’ and one 2’ stop (one and two octaves above concert pitch respectively). The remaining two stops are never intended to be used alone since they have no unison or octave relationship to concert pitch. Instead, these are tuned to a non-octave harmonic and will add color and richness to one or more primary sounds.
Then we have five combination options called Combi Funds 8, Combi Flutes 4, Combi Ripieno, Combi Reeds and Old Chappel. Old Chapple is a special case in which the tuning is intentionally a little off, giving the impression of a small organ in a slightly creepy or dusty locale. The other combinations are all more conventional, and they can be used along with individual stops or other combi stops.
Combi Funds 8, for example, is made of samples of four stops playing simultaneously. Specifically, these include two stops that are the same as single stop options, GOR Montre 8 and POS flute 8, plus two more 8’ stops that are not available as single stop options. So, if you select Combi Funds 8 and also select the single stop Montre 8, you’ll be getting that the Motre 8 sound twice. In other words, there’s no automatic disabling of single stops included in a combi. This may actually be what you want – if it sounds good it is good. But the reality of duplicating the behavior of the original instrument is not enforced in this case.
Tutti is the all-guns-blazing stop, the organ in its most majestic aspect. Selecting Tutti actually does disable everything else. If you have a set of stops (individual and/or combi) selected and you click on Tutti, the other selections are deselected. If you click on Tutti again to turn it off, the previously selected stops are restored.
The only “effect” included is a reverb based on the very capable Engine 2 convolution effect. There are no further options to select from. You get a basic big cathedral type space with a marvelous long reverb tail. You have only control over the mix level. The default setting is rather high, but it does sound glorious.
Best Service currently has no sound demos available, which I find curious. This is an extremely fine sounding instrument. While on that subject, I will also mention that although I didn’t test every single sound, I did a number of random spot checks of long playing single notes and found the looping to be totally glitch free.
In any case, since there are no vendor supplied demos, I’ll include some here. First we’ll look at the individual stops. These sound files are not intended to be entertaining – their purpose is simply to let you hear what each stop sounds like. The amount of Organum Venezia reverb was purposely reduced considerably and the records are mono.
We’ll start with the GOR Montre 8 and then add the GOR Plein inharmonic stop to that.
Next we have the POS Flute 8 follow by the POS Flute 8 and the POS Nazard inharmonic stop.
And then here are the remaining eight individual stops.
For the combi stops, I thought an actual piece of music recorded as stereo would be more appropriate, and I used the same one for all five examples. The Organum Venezia reverb level was left at its default. Since the Combi Flutes 4 contributing stops are all an octave up, I paired that selection with Combi Funds 8 (which is also presented on its own).
And finally we have the magnificence of the Tutti (and don’t call it “tootie”! ) in a rendition of part of a Bach fugue. I used automation to cut back the amount of reverb a bit until the very end where I returned it to the Organum Venezia default level.
So, is Organum Venezia for you? Well, I’m an enthusiastic fan of pipe organ music and I find Organum Venezia to be (quite literally) a blast. To my ears, the sampling was extremely well-executed, and the results are a remarkably lifelike organ sound. At roughly a hundred dollars (USD), it’s not exactly cheap, but I think it’s a good value nevertheless given the quality. I don’t really follow Best Service all that closely, so I cannot recommend how good a strategy waiting for a sale might be. You might end up waiting quite a long time … I can’t say one way or the other.
No matter to what purpose you wish to put pipe organ sounds, be it a sound track, or incorporation into a progressive rock work, or maybe just bringing a low-budget but realistic organ sound to a place of worship, this package gets the job done in fine fashion. Highly recommended.
For more information and to purchase, to here: