A review of the Orla RS1000e by Michael Wooldridge
The new RS1000e has two 61-note manuals, and it is worth noting that Orla have spent out on these to give us a top quality keyboard, with properly filled in keys that feel nice to play. It has a 20-note pedalboard, which is, I think, the most useful size. Having said it has pedals, it is worthy of note that it does have typical keyboard backings, so you can turn the pedals off and use it as a luxury keyboard with fingered chord option instead if that’s how you like to play, and, rather nicely, it will stay in that mode until you change it, so you have to do no more when moving between presets. The Organ also has a second expression pedal. This is something I think we’ve only previously seen on some Yamaha Electones, from the HS8 and HX instruments through the EL90 and EL900 to the Stagea. The left of the two pedals can be set to work pitch bend, the same as the pitch bend wheel on a keyboard, and allows us the ability to slide into notes or shift their pitch just by using our right foot. I say, ‘just,’ but in reality it is an art that needs rehearsing to get right and I think most people who have had this facility have not used it, though I think it is great and I really love it for things like Pan Pipes. Another option is to slow down the rhythm with it. There are six speakers, including two presence speakers, one at each end of the console, delivering 180w of sound. You can EQ these to suit your room and your taste.
Since Ringway launched in the UK, I’ve met quite a few people who have moved from a keyboard to a Ringway organ to get back to the simplicity of playing organ style with nice sounds, the joy of just making music without having to fiddle around too much. To help with that, when you turn it on, it always has a nice, easy on the ear, electronic organ setting ready for you to play.
One thing I must quickly mention about this, which applies to this instrument and to some others from other makers as well, is that the fact it has this handy default setting every time you turns on also means that the sound you had used last when you turned it off will no longer be there. This is totally fine by me but it does mean that if you finish playing with some new sound you’ve just made and you really like it, you must remember to save it before you turn the organ off, as it won’t be there when you turn it back on again!
To make it really, really easy, there are loads of presets ready to use. These come in eight sets, each of sixteen presets. You can of course make as many more sets as you like. The eight sets are basically in two groups, as you have four sets instantly available in big Bank buttons clearly marked A, B, C and D and then another set to fill those same buttons. Having selected one of the letters, this sets the sixteen presets of that group in the registration memory buttons, which are where they should be, between the keyboards. Every preset is set to use the keyboard split facility, giving the right hand end of the lower manual a complimentary voice for parts of the melody or adding little enhancements as you play.
To make it easy to find exactly the preset you want, it comes with a really straightforward chart, so it is easy to hop between the presets at will and you can lock the backing rhythm style so you can move between them all. The chart is perfect really, as it tells you the sound, perhaps Cavatina Guitar or Celtic Orchestra, or Dorsey Band, and it also tells you which rhythm style is in it and the tempo it is set to. This really means you can sit straight down to play with no forethought about sounds and instantly find the right thing. Don’t forget to move down to the split lower keyboard for the suitable sound variation as well.
I mentioned the presets are all in banks. Each bank has a loose title as well, so that can point you in the right direction a bit more even without the chart. Starting with the first set, Factory Presets 1, Bank A gives Electric and Theatre Organ sounds, including typical home organs with the descriptions in footages, like preset 3 is Sweet Organ 16, 8, 4, 2, or names to let you know what it will be like, including American Heritage or Jazz Bossa Organ, and then the seven Theatre Organs here are things like Tibia & Vox, Full Theatre and Mellow Tibia. It is no surprise with the input from Orla that the organ sounds are very nice.
One thing I must mention is that the organ doesn’t have all of the individual Flute footages available as separate stops. They are only in combinations. I have never personally found this an issue, having been used to it since the days of the Yamaha FE series organs in the 80s, as they give you all the main popular combinations there ready to use. If you should think you want more control to make your own, you can work around it here by putting on the organ sounds in different sections and then by virtue of different octaves in different sections, you can blend the volumes of the sections to give a slightly drawbar sort of effect. Moving on to Bank B, here we have a group that Paul Carman and I first devised together nearly 30 years ago, which has since appeared in just about every manufacturers’ range, a set of sounds called Famous Names, giving us the sounds of people like Acker Bilk and Stefan Grappelli at the touch of a button. Next it is Strings and Themes, so Bank C is Mantovani’s lovely silky strings, a Baroque Orchetra, a touch of Andre Rieu in the Viennese Orchstra and a Full Symphony Orchestra. Last but not least in this set comes Bank D with its Bands heading, everything from a Glenn Miller Style Mellow Dance Band through some Count Basie, James Last, Bert Kaempfert’s Bye Bye Blues, Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Sound and some Marching Bands.
Moving on to Factory Presets 2, Bank A now becomes Classical Organs and More, so there are some good Church and Chapel Organs but then also the classic Whiter Shade of Pale sound, and even some Ethel Smith! Bank B is called All Sorts, a very eclectic mix with little connection but some very enjoyable preset sounds, perhaps especially the Tapping In The Rain and a Seekers Guitar. Bank C gives us Most Requested, sounds for popular tunes we all love, including the Wind Beneath My Wings, The Lady In Red, What A Wonderful World and Isn’t She Lovely. Last but not least, bank D is now Dance Time, traditional Ballroom and Latin dance here, not pops, as it is a mix of Quicksteps, Cha Chas, Rhumbas, Jives and so on.
As you can see, these presets give you quick access to just about every style and sound family imaginable, in a really quick and easy way. They are all good as, a bit like that advert, they do exactly what they say on the tin, or in this case, on the chart!
Always remember to think of preset registrations as starting points for making your own registrations. Find one that’s near what you want and then just make little changes to it, perhaps changing the lead sound or the rhythm that’s with it. Once you’ve saved your own registrations, you can use the footswitch to move through them without having to take your hands away from the keys. Of course, it does have all of the usual footswitch features like rhythm fill ins and glide as well. When you’re moving around by hand, rather than using the factory presets, the main screen is easy to navigate, as it retains a basic layout, with the top part showing the style you have selected and how fast you have the tempo, the middle showing which sounds are in each of the eight sound sections – it has Upper 1 & 2, Lead 1 & 2 (which can be assigned to the Lower), Lower 1 & 2 and, something I love, Pedal 1 & 2 – and at the bottom of the screen, the eight voices in the sound section you are currently talking to to change your sound, so if you’ve pushed the Piano button it will offer you Grand Piano1, Grand Piano 2, Octave Grand Piano, Grand Piano and Strings, Honky-Tonk Piano, Electric Piano 1, Electric Piano 2 and Electric Piano 2, and it will tell you there are a further three pages of pianos available. Something good is that they have tried to put the most popular voices of each sound family first, so you may well never leave page 1 of any family!
You’ll see here that there is a layered voice, in the one that is Piano and Strings. These are good, as they further increase the potential of the instrument. Another I liked is Strings and French Horn together, and there is a great orchestral one which splits in a different way, as down the bottom end it gives Kettle Drums and, if you play heavily, Crash Cymbals as well. In common with many keyboards, there are pads, which on here you can load with MP3 files or wav files. You can choose if they go through the expression pedal or not. There are strong editing facilities for both the sounds, where you just very simply alter Cut Off and Brilliance to make big changes very quickly, and for the Styles, where it is child’s play to change the voicing used in the backings or to remove parts of styles to make them your own.
There are more things to tell you about, like how you save your settings internally or to USB stick, the Variations, Intros and Endings for each Style, which vary depending on the type of chord you play, and more, but we’re out of space for this time. If you have an older organ and fancy something with new features that still has a nice, friendly traditional sound, or if you want to move from a keyboard back to an organ, the Ringway RS1000e represents brilliant value for money and is very much worth a look.
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