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Hammond SK2 - My Impressions


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Forgive me if any of this has been covered before... my SK2 arrived two days ago and I spent an exhausting day with it today. Now I'm ready to share what I've learned and heard.

 

First, the SK2 made my wife cry today. She had a B3 & Leslie in her home briefly when she graduated college - she was raised on accordian but always wanted B3, and she was determined to learn how to play one. Fate stepped in and she was proposed to, and she had to return her B3 because it was to big for her future home. This was a factor in her deciding to marry this keyboard player later down the road. We've had several single manual organs while we've been together: two Korg CX-3's and the Hammond XK3c but they weren't dual manual and adding the lower manual to the XK3x just never came to pass. I decided to sell the XK3c recently and get the SK2 (I should also mention that I traveled with a chopped B3 for many years in my youth). The SK2 fills a space in our hearts that's been missing for too long.

 

I have installed v1.2 OS, 4th release. I also have the EXP-50 expression pedal. I have encountered no problems whatsoever.

 

The SK2 is a screamer - I loaded up MP3 backing tracks into the flash drive and turned my Motion Sound KP-500sn wide open and blew my eyebrows off. Good thing I live on a dead end street - fun on a bun! But my first dose of reality hit: while I love the SK2, right away I can tell you that tube overdrive simulations are no match for the real thing and the SK2 is lacking the "balls" of the XK3c. For that matter, the SK2 doesn't have the balls of my Korg SV-1 for the very same reason (and BTW class, that's why the Nord Electros 1/2/3 don't don't have the balls of the Korg SV-1. There, I've said it!). Is this a show-stopper? No. In fact, a tube preamp pedal might give me the warm full sound I crave later on, but I'm perfectly happy with the SK2 as is. I can live with not-quite-perfect overdrive. The single set of drawbars was no problem, and the controls are laid out logically. I love the Leslie effect and have no plans to get a Ventilator. In the organ department, the SK2 won me over.

 

BTW, since I brought the Korg SV-1 into the discussion let me say that there is no comparison between the SV-1's pianos, acoustic or electric, and the SK2's "extra voices"...the SV-1 wins. Again, it's not the end of the world because like many keyboardists, I own more than one keyboard and the SV-1 73 and the SK2 are the ideal classic piano and organ combo.

 

The acoustic piano on the SK2 is better than anticipated and more than good enough for almost anything. It's just not as good as most other dedicated DP's, but it'll cut through the mix, no sweat. The Rhodes emulation is another story - much better than I hoped, especially when I was able to create my own patches. And this is where you won't get the whole story by listening to the SK1/2 for ten minutes at NAMM or in the store - once you seriously tweak the effects and EQ you can get better sounds than the factory presets. I would hate the SK2's Wurlitzer emulation if I couldn't have tweaked it into something that I find palatable. I got the exact Clavinet sound I wanted with little effort. The brass sound presets are nasally and thin (suffering from no multisampling) but add a dash of EQ and effects and voila, they are gig-worthy.

 

What disappointed me? Well, I didn't quite understand in advance that the extra voices could not be split between the two keyboards - so you can't have piano on the lower manual and brass on the upper for instance. One manual will always have organ. And the strings suck out loud... I generally don't like the strings on most keyboards anyway but for gosh sakes this so-called Solina sample is to puke for. I used to own an ARP String Ensemble and it didn't sound this bad. I hope that'll be corrected with some better strings later. For that matter, I could see where Hammond/Suzuki could provide us with a software voice editor later so we could load our own samples.

 

The SK2 is a compact and handsome instrument. At 35 lbs I have no trouble carrying it. I couldn't imagine a traveling gospel group not having one. There's a hidden handle slot on the back I didn't expect which makes it easier to handle. Playing around with my stands I was able to mount the SK2 above a digital piano giving me three keyboards to work with - great for pop bands. But I found the best match by setting the SK2 by itself on an Ultimate Monolith M-91 stand, which gives me plenty of room for a future set of MIDI bass pedals that my wife is already in lust for. It will serve as a solo instrument for some tasty jazz organ stuff and go beside my SV-1 for vintage sit-ins. I think it's a sweet keyboard and a definite keeper.

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Great review! Thanks for taking the time.

 

I like the idea of having a light, two-manual board with the extra sounds. My question for you is, how is the finger-to-ear experience playing the piano sounds with this action? Would it be tolerable enough that you wouldn't necessarily need to schlep a weighted action to the gig? Most of the live stuff I play is organ-centric with a handful of tunes that could use some AP/EP/Clav. I wouldn't be relying on them. Will the SK2 fit the bill?

 

9 Moog things, 3 Roland things, 2 Hammond things and a computer with stuff on it

 

 

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The Ventilator will give you the overdrive you're looking for. Yes, the Leslie sim in the SK series is very good, but how are you going to add an overdrive before the Leslie sim in the SK2? Answer: You can't because it doesn't have an FX loop like the XK3©. So you might as well get the Vent and be done with it. You will not be disappointed.
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Everyone wants to be a reviewer for Keyboard. ;)

 

Thanks for the honest and detailed review.

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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Great review! Thanks for taking the time.

 

I like the idea of having a light, two-manual board with the extra sounds. My question for you is, how is the finger-to-ear experience playing the piano sounds with this action? Would it be tolerable enough that you wouldn't necessarily need to schlep a weighted action to the gig? Most of the live stuff I play is organ-centric with a handful of tunes that could use some AP/EP/Clav. I wouldn't be relying on them. Will the SK2 fit the bill?

 

Yes. The SK series is designed with that in mind actually - organ-centric with secondary sounds that can carry a gig. I play piano a lot and I think the piano sound and experience with the SK2 is acceptable, and by acceptable I mean satisfying and the audience won't know that you are playing piano/EP/Clav on an organ. You can do a gig with the SK and nothing else, no doubt about it.

 

B-3er: I have read a lot about the Ventilator and I have decided not to get one. I realized I might miss the tube preamp when I went from the XK3c to the SK2, but as I said I think I will suffice with the SK2 as is. I agree with Stephen Fortner's review when he said the Leslie simulation in the SK is the best that H/S has ever come up with - it's good enough for me. And I have my Korg SV-1 for those times when I think the fuller real-tube keyboard will be needed.

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[i agree with Stephen Fortner's review when he said the Leslie simulation in the SK is the best that H/S has ever come up with - it's good enough for me. And I have my Korg SV-1 for those times when I think the fuller real-tube keyboard will be needed.

 

I don't understand what you mean with that statement above.

 

What does the tube pre-amp stage in the SV1 have to do with anything in the SK2 (with or without a Vent)?

 

Are you suggesting that the Hammond patch in the SV-1 what you would go to if you need a "full real-tube keyboard" or are you talking about the "other voices?"

 

The Vent will give your SK2 the overdrive you seek. I'm not sure what the SV1 tube stage will give you, that would be close to the Vent's overdrive for the organ stage.

Yamaha C7 Grand, My Hammonds: '57 B3, '54 C2, '42 BC, '40 D, '05 XK3 Pro System, Kawai MP9000, Fender Rhodes Mk I 73, Yamaha CP33, Motif ES6, Nord Electro 2, Minimoog Voyager & Model D, Korg MS10
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Great review! Thanks for taking the time.

 

I like the idea of having a light, two-manual board with the extra sounds. My question for you is, how is the finger-to-ear experience playing the piano sounds with this action? Would it be tolerable enough that you wouldn't necessarily need to schlep a weighted action to the gig? Most of the live stuff I play is organ-centric with a handful of tunes that could use some AP/EP/Clav. I wouldn't be relying on them. Will the SK2 fit the bill?

 

I just got an SK1 last week and I really prefer triggering the extra voice sounds from my Alesis QS8 (weighted controller), especially the acoustic pianos. I just played my bandleader's XK3 last night and I think they made the action of the SK line slightly stiffer probably to accommodate playing both organ and piano on the same keyboard. I just think having a weighted action makes a huge difference, IMO. I agree the acoustic piano is very usable, I think I like it better than what's in my PC2R module. The Solina strings do sound pretty horrible on their own but don't sound bad on a couple of presets where they are layered. For soloed strings this keyboard falls short for now, hopefully they come out with some nicer strings in future library updates.

'57 Hammond B-3, '60 Hammond A100, Leslie 251, Leslie 330, Leslie 770, Leslie 145, Hammond PR-40

Trek II UC-1A

Alesis QSR

 

 

 

 

 

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All these complaints about the strings... are the downloadable "Chamber Strings" not good either?

 

http://hammondorganco.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=226%3Ask-voice-library-update&catid=38%3Aiframes&Itemid=156

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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[i agree with Stephen Fortner's review when he said the Leslie simulation in the SK is the best that H/S has ever come up with - it's good enough for me. And I have my Korg SV-1 for those times when I think the fuller real-tube keyboard will be needed.

 

I don't understand what you mean with that statement above.

 

What does the tube pre-amp stage in the SV1 have to do with anything in the SK2 (with or without a Vent)?

 

Are you suggesting that the Hammond patch in the SV-1 what you would go to if you need a "full real-tube keyboard" or are you talking about the "other voices?"

 

The Vent will give your SK2 the overdrive you seek. I'm not sure what the SV1 tube stage will give you, that would be close to the Vent's overdrive for the organ stage.

 

Sorry, a little clarification... I was referring to using the SV1 for the Rhodes and especially the Wurli piano sound over using the extra voices in the SK in situations where the piano sounds stand alone and I have both keyboards at hand. I also think the transistor organ samples are better in the SV-1 than the SK1/2 and they also benefit from the SV-1's tube preamp.

 

I worked more with the different Leslie cabinets in the SK2 today and I enjoyed the variety and control. So I just don't feel the need to invest in a Vent currently, especially since it has only a mono input. When the time comes I could run full stereo from my SK2 into a stereo tube preamp pedal and get a sufficient boost to the fullness of the SK1 at less cost than a Vent. Different strokes...

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I just don't feel the need to invest in a Vent currently, especially since it has only a mono input. When the time comes I could run full stereo from my SK2 into a stereo tube preamp pedal and get a sufficient boost to the fullness of the SK1 at less cost than a Vent.

Organs are mono instruments. The stereo effect is introduced by the Leslie. If you were going to run the SK1 into the Vent, you would not want to cascade two leslie effects, you would want to turn off the SK1 Leslie effect in order to use the Vent Leslie effect. As soon as you turn off the SK1's leslie effect, it's mono. So a stereo input on the Vent would be of no use.

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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There is a stereo mod for the Vent to allow you to send stereo L/R in as well as out. Contact Bruce at Ashby for more info.

 

SK2 is a great board. Markyboard and I tried it at NAMM. The only thing we were craving was a second set of drawbars.

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There is a stereo mod for the Vent to allow you to send stereo L/R in as well as out.

Thanks for reminding me about that "bypass mode" modification. When the Vent is engaged, it is still only processing a mono signal, but yes, that mod is useful to simplify things when you're using the same board to switch between mono organ sounds and stereo other sounds.

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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All these complaints about the strings... are the downloadable "Chamber Strings" not good either?

 

"Good" is hard to say. The Chamber Strings are far better in terms of sample and tonal quality over the "Solina" strings that come with the SK, but they are still missing the mark. The Chamber Strings have a brassy string quartet sound that might be good for classical music but I'm looking for a more mellow (and relatively commonplace) string ensemble sound that would be good for stand-alone chording or layering over left hand organ chords - that is not in this library, unless you count the thin "Tape String" sound that I don't think is very useful. But it is a step in the right direction... I hope more steps are yet to come.

 

 

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I just don't feel the need to invest in a Vent currently, especially since it has only a mono input. When the time comes I could run full stereo from my SK2 into a stereo tube preamp pedal and get a sufficient boost to the fullness of the SK1 at less cost than a Vent.

Organs are mono instruments. The stereo effect is introduced by the Leslie. If you were going to run the SK1 into the Vent, you would not want to cascade two leslie effects, you would want to turn off the SK1 Leslie effect in order to use the Vent Leslie effect. As soon as you turn off the SK1's leslie effect, it's mono. So a stereo input on the Vent would be of no use.

 

What about the other sounds in the SK? Again, I'd like a tube preamp for more than just the organ which is why I'm leaning more towards a stereo tube preamp.

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What about the other sounds in the SK? Again, I'd like a tube preamp for more than just the organ which is why I'm leaning more towards a stereo tube preamp.

That's a good question, I don't know how many of the SK sounds are fundamentally stereo (on many boards, few sounds other than piano are stereo), but the effects presumably are stereo, and you might not want to lose those effects. (i.e. electric pianos are typically mono sources, but often run through things like stereo chorus effects.)

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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All these complaints about the strings... are the downloadable "Chamber Strings" not good either?

 

http://hammondorganco.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=226%3Ask-voice-library-update&catid=38%3Aiframes&Itemid=156

 

Nope, too harsh-sounding. The pizzicato preset sounds really good, but I don't have any use for that.

'57 Hammond B-3, '60 Hammond A100, Leslie 251, Leslie 330, Leslie 770, Leslie 145, Hammond PR-40

Trek II UC-1A

Alesis QSR

 

 

 

 

 

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What I really don't get is the direction thus far of Hammond's library for the SK series. Reed organ, tubular bells, handbell...recorder? WTF?

 

Nord already has a major headstart on you - why would you start with rubbish like this?

Studio: Yamaha P515 | Yamaha Tyros 5 | Yamaha HX1 | Moog Sub 37

Road: Yamaha YC88 | Nord Electro 5D

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What I really don't get is the direction thus far of Hammond's library for the SK series. Reed organ, tubular bells, handbell...recorder?

 

These instruments along with chamber strings are likely designed for use with religious services, and a good number of the presets on the SK are clearly aimed in that direction (with names like "Testify!") . Contemporary worship is a thriving market for music gear so it's no surprise that H/S would want to address those needs. For small churches and traveling gospel groups the SK2 would be the perfect keyboard.

 

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What I really don't get is the direction thus far of Hammond's library for the SK series. Reed organ, tubular bells, handbell...recorder? WTF?

 

Nord already has a major headstart on you - why would you start with rubbish like this?

I also wonder if these are programs that are manipulating waveforms that are already resident in the unit, or if they are actually loading in completely new waveforms.

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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What I really don't get is the direction thus far of Hammond's library for the SK series. Reed organ, tubular bells, handbell...recorder?

 

These instruments along with chamber strings are likely designed for use with religious services, and a good number of the presets on the SK are clearly aimed in that direction (with names like "Testify!") . Contemporary worship is a thriving market for music gear so it's no surprise that H/S would want to address those needs. For small churches and traveling gospel groups the SK2 would be the perfect keyboard.

 

Thanks for the review.

"Danny, ci manchi a tutti. La E-Street Band non e' la stessa senza di te. Riposa in pace, fratello"

 

 

noblevibes.com

 

 

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I have playing the sk2 for about 2 mounths now. The love I feel for this wonderful instrument only get bigger and stronger.

 

I bought a used ventilator because of the overdrive. And now there is no returning back. I really recommend you to try with a vent.

 

The fact that is only have one set of drawbars... well, first I was a little bit worried. But it works fine. After all I found myself playing 88800000 at the lower manual 99% of the time...

 

I only use sk2 for organ!

 

I never use the presets. I go manual mode all the time (more fun).

 

My default mode in manual is:

 

Higher: 888800008 c3 3rd perc fast soft

Lower: 888000000 no chorus

 

and also

 

Higher: 888800008 c1 2nd soft (more overdrive here)

Lower: 888000000 no chorus

 

I dont like c2 (dont know why....)

 

And I use exp 50 !

NS2 88, Yamaha Cp300, Moog Little Phatty, Hammond Sk2, Roland Fantom X6, Ventilator, Nord C2D, Leslie 3300, Leslie 122

 

 

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Cynical me. I've been wondering all along if the extra sounds are from Suzuki's library. Would save them a lot of R&D to just marry them up with the XK's organ, slap it in a new box, and voila.

 

I haven't seen Scott May around lately, (other than his YouTube SK demo :freak: ) so perhaps someone can set me straight on this point.

 

 

 

 

____________________________________
Rod

victoria bc

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These instruments along with chamber strings are likely designed for use with religious services, and a good number of the presets on the SK are clearly aimed in that direction (with names like "Testify!"

Probably not what they had in mind then:

[video:youtube]

 

:D

 

Out of curiosity though - what does the "Testify!" (with an explanation point for emphasis) preset sound like? Thunder and lightning?

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Final thoughts...

 

I want to plug my dealer - B3 Guys of Nashville. if you want to buy a Hammond from a knowledgeable and established non-big-box dealer, these are the guys.

 

In response to Octopus who "only uses the SK2 for organ!", I have a close friend who feels the same way. But after playing it daily for a while I am in love with the extra voices being assigned to the lower manual while soloing on organ on the top. By setting the damper pedal to sustain only the lower manual EV's I feel very comfortable doing left hand AP/EP work to my right hand organ work. It's already becoming second nature to me. It's also what makes the SK unique and different from competitors like the Nord C2/C2D.

 

I am looking into getting the CU-1 half-moon switch for controlling the Leslie effect on the SK2. It's too inconvenient to reach up to the speed switch on the top panel while playing, and I don't want to add yet another switch pedal to the damper and volume pedals below the organ, especially if I add bass pedals later.

 

Thanks for all the great comments...

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The Ventilator will give you the overdrive you're looking for. Yes, the Leslie sim in the SK series is very good, but how are you going to add an overdrive before the Leslie sim in the SK2? Answer: You can't because it doesn't have an FX loop like the XK3©. So you might as well get the Vent and be done with it. You will not be disappointed.

 

you're VERY right Jim!

 

did you see my "experiments"?

 

 

Ambient recording with ZOOM H2.

In this way tou can easily compare the sound with my other similar recordings.

see the video description

 

ciao!

 

Marco

 

 

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Very good demo... Thanks for putting that together...

 

The key click sounds pretty lame in the first part, but the Ventilator tames it quite a bit. You can also really hear the difference in the overdrive and Leslie sim... The Speakeasy AMA sounds fantastic!

'55 and '59 B3's, Leslies 147, 122, 21H, Motif XS7, Mellotrons M300 and M400, Wurlitzer 200, Gibson G101, Vox Continental, Mojo
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