Viscount International: the Art of Sound!


Our effort is directed towards optimization and innovation for every function of our products. Shrewd and ingenious solutions are put to use everyday - even though only a few are clear to your senses. That’s because the electronic components – what makes the “heart” of our instruments – is hidden inside beautifully-designed wood or metal cabinets. Nonetheless, these smart techniques combine to enhance the products and their sound - which is ultimately what we’re all seeking.

We will present here our most important innovations and technologies, to let you understand why a Viscount instrument means uncompromised value.

Physis technology
Physis technology, is our latest attempt to revolution the classic organ market, showing it’s time to change the old PCM sound generation paradigm. A sampled note will always sound unnatural, no matter how many tricks you use to resemble a real pipe organ. Physis technology, calculates instead, in real-time the physics of a flue, reed or bourdon pipe. The result is a living organ, changing in real time, resembling the organ you prefer, or creating a new sound. Let's explain this with a few examples. What if a GPS navigator had to know every possible route instead of calculating it for you in real-time? What if we had to film the Titanic sinking instead of calculating and rendering the scene with computer-graphics? What if we had no physical models to forecast the weather? Physis technology is the answer to all these questions. Physis technology is our implementation of physical modeling applied to organ pipes, something no one has ever tried before. It is the culmination of years of technological evolution. 

Tech talk: an organ pipe can be seen as a mechanical multi-modal waveguide resonator. The input air flow stimulates the pipe, which after a variable attack time starts oscillating. The upper termination determines the harmonic components to be filtered, hence acts as a filter, while the lower termination is subject to regressive waves, which are added to the stimulus with a non linear law. This whole mechanism is in feedback. This provides a high dependence on small random changes, generating remarkable modifications in the sound from time to time, as in every real pipe organ. The algorithms take into account every physical and mechanical parameter of the air and the pipe, including shape, material, terminations shape and dimensions, incoming air pressure, etc. This leads to many benefits, including a more realistic "ensemble" effect, because all the pipes are playing and resonating together, subject to the same airflow, variable attack and decay times, realistic harmonic recreation (no artifacts from pitch-shifting samples), no split points. Remarkably, the air pressure changes in dependence to the amount of active stops, like in real pipe organs. Another important benefit is the fast and complex attack after ribattuto: if we press a key twice in a short time, the pipe starts resonating with a certain attack time after the first key has been struck, then if we do not leave enough time for a complete decay, the second time we strike the key, the attack time and resulting sound will be different and richer from the first time. A sampled sound would just repeat unchanged.

Digital Signal Processing: Physis organs hide, inside elegant woodwork furniture, up to eight powerful DSPs, to generate sound. The DSPs in use belong to the SHARC family, and have working frequency of hundreds of MHz, and performances close to, and higher than common PC CPUs (up to GFLOPS, i.e. Billions of Floating Point Operations per Second). They are used to calculate in real-time the aerodynamics of flute, reed, bourdon pipes, metal, following complex mathematical models. Reverberation is another important step in the processing chain, requiring the knowledge of the position and spatial parameters of the pipes, ambience dimensions, and windchester layout, which can be adjusted stop by stop. The soundis finally routed in the proper way throughout up to 20 external out connections. 

The counterpart to these high-end DSPs are microprocessors and controllers, which are in charge of all the management functions: ARM processors can support many I/O devices, including screens, USB sticks and USB devices. But this cannot work without a good Operating System. Linux is the choice... 

Linux powered: Linux is a stable and dynamic open source Operating System, created nearly 20 years ago. Entering the open source world was a challenge for us, but with many advantages, not least, the chance to enter a community of developers who make their knowledge and work available publicly to the whole world. Linux O.S. is widely used in the research world and it is available in various configurations, each one suited for specific tasks. Its kernel has been optimized for real-time applications, hence it suits best audio applications such as sound generation. What would make it then, but a real-time O.S., to help us play tens of ranks and pipes altogether at the same time? Linux O.S. allows also for a complete set of connections, such as radio controls and USB drives and devices, and it makes possible to manage files, to lock the organ with a password, to run a MIDI sequencer, etc. The only thing about Linux that scares computer users is its high complexity... You won't need to worry, Linux is now safe under a heavy wood cabinet, and it won't harm anyone!

Verse D:SP 
The use of a speaker ought to be simple enough for every user to plug it in and start a performance or a speech without any further problem. This is easy with VERSE and VOICE SYSTEMS speakers. VOICE SYSTEMS speakers are essential but functional, while VERSE speakers are powered by complex DSP systems which are anyway totally transparent to the user: as an example, one just has to activate the Anti-feedback function built in a D:SIDER and Larsen effects will not be a concern anymore. In the case all that is too easy for you, or you are going to set up a complex amplification system, a dedicated software, codename D:SP, is available to control all the speakers at the same time. Just run the software, no need for installation, and every parameter will be at hand. The software is lightweight and the PC will still be available for any other application, such as recording the performance, since the engine is the DSP "hidden" in each one of the speakers. Let's see it in further detail. VERSE speakers house powerful DSPs, to perform all the processing on the input signal. Almost all the operations on the signal are done in digital after a precise, A/D (Analog to Digital) signal conversion. The DSPs are used to implement digital filters and equalizers, very narrow, adaptive notch filters (up to 48dB/dec) which are used e.g. for the Anti-feedback removal function, multiband compressors and the likes. DSPs are, obviously, supported by microcontrollers, which are in charge of all the management functions, including thermal and load control, which are determinant for a speaker to last as long as possible. 

Digital amplifiers:
Our VERSE speaker line makes use of a modern digital amplification technique. Old circuitry used cascaded bipolar transistors to gradually increase the current as in a tug-of-war game. This technique was expensive, inefficient, required heavy heat-sinks, and hardly had a linear frequency response. New digital techniques make use of a PWM modulation, to drive the signal, which has an efficiency factor of up to 95%, has a linear response and is lightweight, with nearly no heat production. Digital amplifiers are suited to nearly any use: from compact lightweight speakers for amplification on-the-go to voice monitors for a cocktail party, from subwoofers and high-end speakers for a concert hall to line-array speakers for an entire stadium!