After using Hauptwerk v4 for a few days now, I can report that my first impressions are overwhelmingly favourable, but I've barely scratched the surface yet as the changes are quite radical and far-reaching, and it will take some time to get to grips with all of them. I was pleased to see the free St Anne's organ getting a revamp. After being re-recorded, the tone is noticeably brighter and cleaner, and the pedal department seemed to me to be particularly improved. There is nothing "second-rate" about this quintessentially English organ now, and I've greatly enjoyed rediscovering it. This could even be bad news for third party suppliers of sample sets, as I imagine new Hauptwerk users may now be content with their free organ for longer, before they get the itch to try something a little different.
Another very significant improvement is the "MIDI learn" facilty which makes configuring MIDI console equipment considerably simpler. Basically, you right-click on the virtual organ control, then you operate the physical control, and the software "learns" that the two are to be associated. Most of the time, it's no longer necessary for the end user to even think about channel numbers, or be aware of which MIDI message is being sent. Very useful for setting up the pistons of our two and three-manual stacks, but the same technique also works for swell pedals and even for the keyboards themselves, and (slightly less directly) for assigning Hauptwerk menu commands to physical controls. It was here that I suffered my first (very slight) disappointment. Under version 3, I had two thumb pistons and one toe piston set up to advance the registration sequencer (as it used to be called), but version 4 only seems to allow two controls maximum per command. A shame. but it's not the end of the world, obviously!
It is in the area of registration that the most sweeping changes seem to have been made. Not only do things look different , even the vocabulary has changed. The word "sequencer" has vanished from view, and now we have new words like "stepper", "trigger", "scope" and "cue" to contend with. I really need to go away and read the instructions (always a good thing to do as a last resort!) before passing comment, but my first impression was that the new arrangement rather played down the concept of sequencing, presenting things more as a vast array of general combinations, and the command I would expect to use far more than any other: go to next frame (or trigger general +1 in version4speak) does not appear as one of the large piston toolbar at the bottom of the screen, nor on the top level of the "registration" menu. What I can say in its favour is that the combination sequences I'd saved in version 3 were successfully brought across (realigned in increments of 100 instead of the old system of 64's) and even without reading the instructions, I had no problem accessing them and using them with my pistons.
There are other new features which I haven't even tried yet, such as the ability to record and play MIDI files. I'm looking forward to exploring these, but they will have to wait for another day.