Every digital organ that I have listened to over headphones (of any brand/quality) has sounded drastically different through headphones than through speakers into the room.  This has been my experience with Viscount, Allen, Rodgers, and Walker.  The difference is always significant and surprising.  Organ pipes were never meant to be inserted into the ear and then played, but that’s what we are essentially doing when we put on headphones.  Pipes radiate their sound into large, open spaces–not into closed, minuscule ear canals where the sound never has a chance to develop, blend, and get filtered by the environment as it would in a real room.

The best work-around for using headphones is to artificially recreate a room, i.e. reverb.  But just adding reverb to the raw sound I do not find sufficient enough because you still are listening to the raw sound, only with some “echo” mixed in.  In ambience/reverb processing, the raw sound is called “dry” because it never got touched by processing.  “Wet” sound is what was produced by the ambience/reverb mechanism.  I find that a majority blend of wet over dry is more acceptable to my ears. Inquire with the manufacturer of your organ to see if adjustable wet/dry is an option.

For the newer Viscount Organs with Physis Technology (UNICO, SONUS, AMERICAN OVERTURE), we have the option to modify both the dry and wet levels together in three ratios of low, medium, or high.  In the main screen, select Setup, then scroll down to Reverberation.  Changing the Wet/Dry line from the default “off” will reduce the dry level as

compared to the wet level as the Reverb volume level is adjusted.  As the reverb volume level is advanced, the wet increases, and the dry decreases.  The Low, Med, Hi settings determine the maximum ratio between wet and dry.

Viscount Reverb Adjustment

Depending on the listeners acoustical tastes, and a compromise between sterile and overdone, I would start with Wet/dry set to medium or high, select a reverb type that represents a smaller room, and adjust the reverb level.  Go back and forth until you find something acceptable to your ear.

Now, when the headphones are removed, and the organ goes back to playing in speakers, it won’t sound like it did through headphones.  But, what sounds good with external speakers rarely sounds good in headphones and vice-versa. And it’s absolutely critical is that the headphones are NOT noise canceling!

Robert Darnall, Technical and Tonal Director
Viscount North America
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