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Tradition is strong only as long as it continues to develop.

Investing in research is foreign to most organbuilders. It is commonly assumed that, for a traditional instrument such as the pipe organ, everything has already been invented. Research is therefore perceived by most as something that simply does not apply to organbuilding. At Fratelli Ruffatti we instead believe that tradition is strong only as long as it continues to develop. In planning our instruments, new approaches are continuously studied and developed, with the purpose of making each Ruffatti organ a unique and fascinating creation.

Our commitment to research goes back for decades. For example, Fratelli Ruffatti was the first in the world to develop in-house and produce, in 1968, a new five manual solid state console for the famous Aeolian Skinner organ at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, at a time when no one imagined that electronic components would ever find their way into pipe organs. Since then, a number of significant advancements have contributed to improve, one by one, all technical and tonal aspects of our instruments.

Over the years we have taken active part in several “European CRAFT” projects (Co-operative Research Action For Technology) with the participation of a number of notable institutions: the Fraunhofer Institut fuer Bauphysik (IBP) in Stuttgart, Germany, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Prague, the University of Budapest, the Steinbeis Transfer Center Applied Acoustics, Stuttgart and others. The Fraunhofer Institut of Stuttgart in particular has been the constant guide and the main force behind fundamental and applied research.

Fratelli Ruffatti has been a partner of these programs, as part of the CRAFT projects within the framework of the Brite-Euram III program:

  1. “Development and Modernization of the Wind Supply Systems of Pipe Organs“ (BRST-CT98-5247)
  2. “Advanced Computer Designed Open Wind Systems for Pipe Organs” (G1ST-CT2001-50139)
  3. “Development of an innovative organ pipe design method” (G1ST-CT-2002-50267)
  4. “Innovative Design Method for Matching the Pipe Organ to the Acoustics of the Room” (COOP-CT-2005-017712)
  5. “Innovative Methods and Tools for the Sound Design of Organ Pipes” (FP7-SME-2007-1, Research for SMEs – 222104) (current project

An entire decade of study and experimentation, and the process is still under way! A number of astonishing results have been achieved, all implemented to make the Ruffatti organ a more advanced, better planned, more efficient and better sounding instrument. Yes, better sounding as well, since the aim of the current research is to find better ways to reduce or eliminate problems that exist both in the field of “scaling”, or pipe dimensioning, and in “voicing”, meaning the process by which the pipes are given their proper sound character. Obtaining scientific, indisputable knowledge will enable us to put into effect the practical solutions to better reach our tonal ideals.

The results which have been obtained over the years range from more efficient and silent wind systems, to efficient ways to evaluate room acoustics and to better adapt pipe organs to different acoustical environments. Recently, a revolutionary wind system has been invented, a monumental advancement over the traditional winding methods, which allows the organbuilder to simply avoid the use of reservoirs, schwimmers or related equipment, while at the same time obtaining unprecedented stability and efficiency in the wind supply of pipe organs.

In addition to all the above, Fratelli Ruffatti has conducted private research in the field of metallurgy and sound insulation. Better and more secure pipe construction, and a wider dynamic range of our expression enclosures are the most significant results.

Tonal research The purpose of the research is to provide scientific, undisputable knowledge, that can be used in the practice by each organbuilder to better reach his individual tonal ideals. Our goal is to find ways to improve “scaling”, or pipe dimensioning, and “voicing”, the process by which the pipes are given their sound character. Top researchers and equipment are available for the task.

Sophisticated equipment is used for sound analysis.
The impressive anechoic room of the Fraunhofer Institut in Stuttgart, a huge cube of almost 2,000 cubic meters in volume. The test equipment is suspended at mid-height, 20 feet off the floor.

A research program is under way to analyze the advantages of different voicing methods, and to better design the pipes so that “transitions” between stopped and open pipes, or wooden and metal pipes within the same rank cannot be detected. Research on winding Important improvements in the field of wind stability and wind silencing have been achieved in recent years. Rock solid wind in an instrument does not happen by chance. Windlines must be designed to reduce unnecessary air turbulence, which creates wind pressure losses and noise. The residual annoying low frequency noise coming from long windlines is greatly reduced by Fratelli Ruffatti through the introduction of innovative wind diffusors and silencers within the winding system.

Left: An example of a wooden windline designed to reduce sharp turns and corners that create wind turbulence.Right: Wind regulators called “schwimmers” are made with an improved spring design that creates unsurpassed wind stability under the most demanding conditions.


Small wind instability is further remedied by applying innovative filter mechanisms, a direct result of the research programs.
A mechanical model at the Fraunhofer Institute used to study the wind column characteristics and the “mouth noise”, or the basic sound of the pipe before it is amplified by the resonator. The languid height, opening of the lower lip, and the position of the upper lip can all be minutely adjusted.