Basic info

The virtual models of church pipe organs which are manufactured by Sonus Paradisi are very special audio software. It is a set of wave files and metadata, containing the sound recording of a given musical instrument. In the case of the church pipe organ, each of the the wave files (a sample) represents the sound of a single pipe of a single key of a single stop. Such audio files are organized into groups according to the hierarchy of the organ stops and divisions, each subdirectory corresponding to an individual rank of the original organ. These structured sample sets can be used to feed a software sampler. Conecting a MIDI keyboard to the sampler results in the posibility of a musical performance in real time using the virtual model of the musical instrument recorded.

The metadata (ODF) provided with a Sonus Paradisi sample set is for the Hauptwerk software only. See for details. However, you can use the wave files with any other software sampler if desired. In that case, you are responsible for creating your own metadata. In some cases (Freiberg, Zwolle, some of the demo sample sets) you do not get the wave files directly, but you get encrypted files instead. Such sample sets can be used in Hauptwerk software only. They cannot be used in any other software. Nevertheless, Hauptwerk in its version 2 (and above) had many advantages over the other software samplers. Here, you find the list of the most important ones only:

Increased sound realism due to:

  • release sample scaling, the release tail of the sample is scaled in volume to fit the attack sample, so the performance of staccato or short notes is natural, without the need to supply multiple release samples (extra for short notes, extra for long notes).

  • release sample phasing, the release tail of the sample is aligned to the attack to fit the phase, so that the transition between the attack and the release is smooth and realistic,

  • multiple loop support, many loops in one sample are supported which are playing back in a complex scheme, so that a human ear does not recognize where the loop points are,

  • multiple sample support, more than one sample can be attached to a single key of a single rank. Each time the key is pressed a randomly chosen sample is played back so that the sound of the organ is more alive.

  • multiple release samples support many sample sets offer more releases for a single attack sample. Depending on how long you press the key, the corresponding release sample is played back, so that short notes receive different release than longer or very long notes. The reverberation response of the virtual organ is therefore more accurate.

  • wind modelling, pipes respond to the variations in the wind pressure of the windchest, so that they speak as in the real world (slight detuning occurs under heavy wind load, wind fluctuations in pipe are well rendered, etc.).

  • attack control, with a MIDI velocity sensitive keyboard you can control the initial 'chiff' of the pipe, the pipe speaks differently each time the key is pressed - like in the real world.

  • tremulant samples, complex volume, pitch and harmonic filtering is applied to tremulant modell so that tremulants are very realistic. In the most recent sample sets we process the left and the right channel separately, thus allowing for the tremulant model to be more convincing. Many samples are recorded directly with the tremulant engaged, so that the real tremmed sample is played back by the Hauptwerk when the tremulant is engaged on the model.

  • swell box filters, complex volume and harmonic filters are applied to each pipe when the swell box is opening and closing so that the result is very realistic,

  • harmonic filters for the control of pipe speaking (initial 'chiff', wind fluctuation, swell box crescendo ...)

Better user control of the sample set:

  • voicing (intonation): available in two forms. Either native per-pipe voicing, or my own voicing screens on a per-stop basis. You can revoice easily entire stop to reinforce its harmonics or to suppress them. In this way you can revoice a Principal to Gamba of to a Flute by simple dragging its slider. Even if the native voicing screen is disabled in the Basic Edition of Hauptwerk, you can still use my own voicing screen to voice your sample set!

  • beating controll: you can adjust the amount of beaing in the celeste stops using my own voicing page.

  • keys, pedals and other user controls on the screens are clickable and ready for use with touch screens.

  • All the controls may be controlled by a MIDI signals.

  • Temperament (Equal, Meantone, Werckmeister ... and many others) may be chosen on-the-fly.

  • Retuning of the whole organ is available, either by semitones or by cents.

  • With the use of the Custom Organ Module, the user can build his own organs from the sample material he has.

  • Subset loading. If you do not want to use the full sample set for some reason, there are ways how to load only a subset:

    • by muting selected ranks. Load the sample set via Design Tools, select "Load organ with design options" and on the "Load organ design Options" card which will appear make sure that the option "Show rank audio output screen" is enabled. Then a dialog will appear where you can select which ranks will load and which will not.

    • By creating a user organ using the Custom Organ Design Module in Hauptwerk. Please, refer to the Hautpwerk manual to learn how to use the CODM.

Some of these features are now available in other software samplers, such as GrandOrgue.

Special features of the Sonus Paradisi sample sets

Surround audio format

Many Sonus Paradisi sample sets are available in 4 channel surround format. There are 2 front channels and also 2 rear channels, giving very convincing illusion of being in the church while playing the virtual organ model. The best Sonus Paradisi sample sets offer 6 channel surround format. The additional 2 channels offer close-up recording of the organ pipes. These are mixed into the front channels via the dedicated Sonus Paradisi software mixer (accessible through the sample set GUI inside Hauptwerk software), thus offering the possibility to virtually move towards or away from the organ as desired by the user.


The Hauptwerk voicing capabilities are limited to the Advanced edition. In the Basic edition, the voicing capabilities are disabled. However, Sonus Paradisi sample sets are equipped with proprietary Voicing pages which work even in the Basic edition of Hauptwerk.
The Tone slider is designed as a MIDI controller with 73 steps (36 up, 36 down, middle 0).
If you feel that a particular stop has another timbre that you would like, feel free to adjust its voicing on per rank basis to achieve the desired timbre. This function is very powerful so that you can change the "style" of the organ completely. However, adjusting the color of the tone too much will drastically change the original timbre of the organ, so it is recommended to keep the changes as small as possible.

On the other hand, it is possible that you want to change only the volume of a particular stop but not its color (timbre). You can do it using my voicing sliders, but in this case you will have to disable the harmonic-shaping filters in the General settings of Hauptwerk. How this works? My voicing slider works by adjusting the volume and the brilliance of the tone simultaneously. You can disable brilliance adjustment by disabling the Harmonic-shaping filters in Hauptwerk. To do this, you have to go to the General settings, Audio Engine tab and find corresponding check-box. So, the voicing slider will keep adjusting the volume but not the brilliance of the stop.

Multiple sampling

Sonus Paradisi project often records single pipe of the organ more than once. So, there are multiple samples of the same pipe. In this way the sound of the sample set is more rich and variable, since each time you press the same key, the pipe may sound a bit different - the initial "chiff" can vary, the fluctuation of the pipe sound may vary and so on. Usually, only the most demanding stops are equipped with this feature, but there are sample sets which provide at least 2 alternative samples for many tones of the organ.

Open wave format samples

Most sample sets of Sonus Paradisi are distributed in "open" wave format (*.wav files). Hence, in most cases you have full access to the source files. This is good if you intend to use the sample set outside Hauptwerk with other software synthesisers. In fact, we have Kontakt, Halion, Giga users as well as some MyOrgan or GrandOrgue users. Please note, that we usually do not provide proprietary ODFs for the software synthesisers other than Hauptwerk!

If the sample set is encrypted, it is always stated clearly in the sample set description, to prevent any confustion. Encrypted sample sets can be used in Hauptwerk software only!


The extraneous noise and hiss is the biggest problem when recording an organ. Our primary target when creating the sample set is to preserve the original sound as much as possible while removing the disturbing extrinsic noise as much as completely. We developed over the years a dedicated technique (a multi-step procedure) of denoising the samples which we call virtually "noiseless" so that our sample sets have pristine and at the same time very clean sound. This essentially mean, that you will not be disturbed excessively by hiss when playing the sample set and at the same time you will not get the impression that the sound of the virtual organ is dull or destroyed by over-denoising.


Since there is no perfectly tuned organ in the world, the Sonus Paradisi sample sets are equipped with a sophisticated automatic detuning function. This results in a "chorus" effect which gives real feel to the organ. If you feel that the virtual organ is too much out of tune to your taste, lower the random detuning value in the General options of Hauptwerk.

Beating ranks

If there is a beating rank present called also a "celest" rank, you will find a "detune" slider on the Sonus Paradisi voicing tab corresponding to that stop. Sometimes, also other stops have this slider to allow for deliberate mistuning of that particular stop. You can achieve further "chorus" effect, or Italian "Voce umana" effect in this way. The second Flautat of the St. Agusti sample set of Palma is a typical example where you can meet this feature. Also, this slider can be used to lessen or to extinguish any beating of the originally beating stop.
In the Sonus Paradisi design, the detune slider has 72 steps (36 up, 36 down, middle 0), each corresponding to 0.2 cents. So, the pitch of each pipe (the cause of the beating) in the rank can be adjusted approximatelly in the range of -7 to +7 cents. However, the middle 0 value does not mean no beating, but it means the default beating which is set to correspond to the beating of the stop original instrument. In this case, the beat cancellation (no beating level) can still be fine tuned by ear by dragging the detune slider up or down. In addition to mouse dragging, the slider may be controlled also by hardware MIDI continuous controllers.

Proprietary tuning charts

Practically, every historical organ has its proprietary tuning. Not only the temperament changes (various kinds of modified meantone tunings for the oldest organs, various kinds of tempered or well-temepered temperaments for more recent ones) but also the absolute height of the base pitch changes. Tthe organs are likely to be tuned higher than "normal" pitch or considerably lower than the current "concert" pitch set to a = 440 Hz. Most Sonus Paradisi virtual organs have proprietary tuning charts which are installed together with the sample set. You will find new entries among the Temperaments in your Hauptwerk Temperament menu. Although you can combine any temperament with any sample set, it is recommended to use the proprietary tuning charts with the corresponding sample sets, i.e. St. Maximin tuning chart with the St. Maximin sample set, Santanyi tuning chart with the Santanyi sample set and so on.

Velocity sensitivity

Some musical instruments are capable of the key velocity sensitivity. An example of such an instrument is a piano. The stronger or (to speak in MIDI terms) the quicker you press the key, the louder the instrument sounds. This is not the case of organs, since the strength of the pressing the key has no effect on the loudness of the resulting tone. However, in the case of the organs with the traditional wooden tracker, the velocity with which the key is pressed makes a difference. The pallet under the pipe is opened either quickly - abruptly - which makes the pipe to speak very promptly, usually resulting in an expressive "chiff" which is very prominent and admired especially on the historical organs. On the other hand, if you press the key gently (slowly), the pallet opens slowly as well, which results in less "chiffy" tone. Also, the pitch of the pipe starts too low if the key is pressed extremely gently, because initially the pallet opens only partially, letting small amount of air to flow into the pipe, giving lower tone for the first milliseconds. This natural phenomena can be reproduced faithfully in Hauptwerk using MIDI velocity sensitivity feature of your keyboard. While the first effect (less chiffy tone) of slow pallet opening is nice since the pipe speaks differently each time you press the key with a different velocity, the second described effect is generally unwanted, since the sound is "pitch bend" like, "hammondish", not very nice and is to be avoided. Therefore, the Sonus Paradisi sample sets are designed so, that only the first described effect is supported. The slower you press the key, the less chiff you will get. The second effect, although natural, has been deliberatelly suppressed not to disturb the performance. However, if your physical keyboard is not equipped with velocity sensitivity, be sure to SWITCH THE VELOCITY SENSITIVITY OFF in Hauptwerk Organ settings!!!


The demands on the PC used to run Hauptwerk is described in the description of individual sample sets. Please, see the dedicated web pages for that. Also, follow the instructions given by the author of Hauptwerk. In addition, if you want to perform live, you will need a MIDI capable keyboard and perhaps even PedalBoard. The MIDI OUT of these keyboards has to be directed to the computer MIDI IN (game) port with a special cable. Then you can perform music live. By redirecting the midi note on/off messages of a certain channel to Hauptwerk you may even remotely controll the drawstops and other mechanisms of Hauptwerk.