The depress­ing his­tory of the organ has been a steady but relentless reduction in qual­ity, orig­i­nat­ing with gar­gan­tuan pipe organs, which believe it or not can be traced back to Ancient Greece and require an appre­cia­ble por­tion of a cathe­dral to house, and cul­mi­nat­ing in mod­ern soft­ware sim­u­la­tions that do lit­tle to keep the legacy alive… Or so we thought. Ham­mond, a name syn­ony­mous with elec­tric organs, have remerged to tackle this down­hill trend head-on with the release of the XK-3C, and even a brief overview of the mul­ti­tude of fea­tures is enough to ren­der the most stub­bornly nos­tal­gic of organ­ists ever so slightly rigid. Now although the orig­i­nal Ham­mond organs were man­u­fac­tured as cheap sub­sti­tutes for pipe organs, it wasn’t long before their sig­na­ture tim­bre became revered among jazz musi­cians far and wide, and today, own­ers of record­ing stu­dios would hap­pily offer up a first born child in exchange for an orig­i­nal Ham­mond B-3, and it’s clas­sic mod­els such as this that Ham­mond Suzuki is try­ing to emu­late with the new XK-3C. This is a com­pas­sion­ate emu­la­tion in the style of the orig­i­nal B-3, but with far more fea­tures, porta­bil­ity, and sex appeal. But it is spe­cial­ized – if you’re look­ing for a key­board that’s more of an all-rounder, may I sug­gest we part com­pany here.


Tra­di­tional elec­tric organs pro­duced audio by uti­liz­ing a spin­ning mag­ne­tized cog in front of a pickup which forms a sine wave like tone, not sur­pris­ingly, this mech­a­nism is known as a tone wheel, and the Ham­mond XK-3C lov­ingly sim­u­lates this with 96 indi­vid­ual dig­i­tal oscil­la­tors, pro­vid­ing true poly­phonic sound, and breath­tak­ing authen­tic­ity. Har­monic over­tones are con­trolled with an authen­ti­cally styled full set of draw­bars for both upper, lower, and ped­als, and make exper­i­ment­ing with your tone addic­tively sim­ple. So with the pur­chase of another midi key­board and ped­al­board, you’ll have the ulti­mate B-3 setup with com­plete tonal con­trol. All the usual sus­pects are present in the form of para­me­ters, includ­ing the tra­di­tional rotary Vibrato and Cho­rus con­trol, Equal­izer, Tone, Leslie, and Key­board Split func­tions but there are many mod­ern addi­tions to this clas­sic setup. First of all, the pre­am­pli­fier is tube dri­ven, with two selec­table tubes, and a con­trol to drive the tube from vin­tage warmth through to rock­a­billy fuzz.


In the dig­i­tal realm, there is a bank of user Assign­a­ble Con­trols to make live use a breeze, a Pitch Bend and Mod wheel, Reverb, Amp and Cab­i­net sim­u­la­tions which sound stun­ning and include optional micro­phone angle and dis­tance for added tonal con­trol. The Leslie sim­u­la­tion is amaz­ing, and pro­vides the orig­i­nal con­trols for Brake, On, and Fast, which react with an eerie authen­tic­ity, but are made so much more ver­sa­tile with the dig­i­tal inter­face pro­vid­ing exact con­trols for speed. And get this, the XK-3C has a tra­di­tional 11-pin out­put for a direct con­nec­tion to a gen­uine Leslie speaker cabinet.


Any­one who has dealt with an actual B-3 will know that main­tain­ing the instru­ment is a career in itself, they are ancient and com­plex machines. This mod­ern equiv­a­lent how­ever is built to last, and with­out the mechan­i­cal com­po­nents, will prove far more reli­able than the orig­i­nal. It is a plea­sure to play, and the sound qual­ity is far beyond any­thing I have ever heard, and amaz­ingly pos­sesses a tim­bre sur­pass­ing all orig­i­nal B-3’s that I have ever had the plea­sure of per­form­ing on. The fact is, the orig­i­nals are never main­tained as well as they need to be. So yes, this is an expen­sive unit, but the XK-3C is quite lit­er­ally as good as it gets.


By Terry Hart

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