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My Hammond XK-1 review


MightyTonewheel

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My new Hammond XK-1 finally arrived on Friday and I had lots of chances over the weekend to put it through its paces, including a Saturday night gig. Here are my observations. Apologies for the length and if this covers old territory.

 

Ergonomics: One of the first things I noticed pulling it out of the box was the deep red wood finish and the off-white waterfall keys -- both nice touches. While there's nothing particularly innovative or clever about the ergonomic design of this keyboard, the layout is user-friendly and not difficult to get used to. The drawbars are vibrato-chorus settings are located at the far left of the keys, and the overdrive, tone, and percussion settings and center-left in front of the keyboard. There are very few aspects of the sound on the XK-1 that are not adjustable: Leslie speeds, micing angle, keyclick volume/envelope, expression pedal -- pretty much everything is customizable. Yay! Selecting patches and making routine adjustments is easy, but I found the tiny LCD made editing patches a little awkward at times.

 

Keyboard feel: The waterfall keys are feel very close to what you'd find on a newer Hammond B-3. They're a tad less springy than a CX-3 and Nord Electro 2 -- very good but still a little springy for my tastes. I stumbled a little while performing fast and difficult runs, but everything else was easy. My expectation is that the action will loosen up a little bit over time, but I was pretty comfortable with the feel right out of the box.

 

Sound: In three words, very very good. Almost every drawbar setting I could think of produced an authentic and credible sound. They keyclick seemed a little too clean and loud for me, but some minor volume and envelope adjustments made it much more palatable. The chorus/vibrato and percussion were also excellent. The Leslie simulator is an award-winner: you can choose between a small handful of cabinet types, and the 147 preset to my ears was top-notch. I found playing it to be a very inspiring and authentic experience.

 

Sound caveats: as great as this thing sounds, I found almost everything sounded worse the further I moved up the keyboard. The Leslie sim lost a good deal of its authenticity in the upper ranges, producing a more chippery, synthy sound regardless of the drawbar setting. I first heard this when testing with my high-end Sennheiser headphones, but it seemed less pronounced when I gigged on Saturday night. The XK-1 is also considerably brighter than both the Electro 2 and any Hammond organ I've ever played. Fiddling with the EQ settings improved the sound a little, although it did wind up making everything sound a little duller rather than more authentic, per se.

 

Another difficulty: combining overdrive with percussion seemed to cause problems. The overdrive at about 40% sounded pretty good: kinda warm and a bit gritty. But when I turned the percussion on at this level, the overall volume level would drop, the overdrive would over-distort the percussion and leave the rest of the sound apparently untouched. Playing live, this seemed to produce a digitally-distorted percussive bark rather than the warm-grit percussion I was looking for. Almost every time I turned the percussion on, I wound up turning it, or the overdrive, off again moments later. Just was wasn't working.

 

The "extra sounds" (a few EPs, clav, synths) might be useful in a rehearsal setting, but wouldn't cut the mustard live, and would probably prove embarrassing on a recording. In the minor annoyance category: holding a note and turning on the vibrato causes a brief but noticable interruption in the sound. This isn't by any means a deal-breaker for me, but still bothersome.

 

Of these three caveats, the first and second may not ultimately pose a problem. The percussion level is editable (if I recall correctly), and I intend to add a tube preamp as well as a soon-to-be-delivered Motion Sound PRO-3TM (thanks for the tip, misterdregs!) So hopefully this will address these issues to some extent.

 

Brief comparion vs. Electro 2: I chose the Hammond for the real drawbars, editing flexibility, more preset storage. Beyond that, I have to commend Stephen Fortner's excellent review of the XK-1, especially his careful comparison with the Electro 2. The Hammond's sound is brighter, more defined, less polished -- it would be difficult to declare a winner between the two, based on the Hammond sound alone. The Nord's extra sounds are infinitely more superior than the Hammond's.

 

...and vs. Korg CX-3: CX-3 owners should really pat themselves on the back. That puppy still holds its own five years after its release. The XK-1's chorus/vibrato, overdrive, and Leslie sim seem very slightly more authentic to me, and the CX-3 sometimes seems overly bass-y in the lower portion of the keyboard. But these are minor distinctions -- I really like the XK-1 but I'd be happy with a CX-3 as well.

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The default is that the note volume drops 3db when percussion is turned on. You can change this so the note volume stays the same. Check pg. 65 #9. You can also have the percussion volume decrease slightly as you go up the keyboard - pg. 65 #7.

 

The expression settings on pg. 59 (#'s 11 - 13) have an effect on the overall tone. You might tweak those to see if that changes the high frequencies.

 

You might try setting the overdrive expression parameter (pg. 69 #2) to EX-OD. This has the expression pedal (or the volume of the signal going in to the overdrive circuit) determine the amount of distortion - up to the level set by the knob.

 

Good Luck

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Thanks for the tips, JMcS. Very helpful.

 

Eric, I'll have to verify, but I suspect the chorus/vibrato setting applies to all manuals for each patch. Either it's on or it's off for all manuals. The buttons are called "Drawbar Select" buttons (Upper, Lower, Bass) -- ergo, you press a button and then change the drawbar settings. Pressing a button changes nothing else and allows you to change nothing else that doesn't affect the other manuals. This is, of course, not like a real B-3, but it doesn't bother me since I always either have the vibrato/chorus on or off for both manuals.

 

A footnote: percussion doesn't sound on the lower manual at all -- like a real B-3.

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Great review. Especially appreciated the comparison with the CX-3, since people haven't talked about that before. Impressed to hear that the XK-1's leslie is possibly better than the CX-3's... that used to be the gotcha with the XK-3. If Hammond has nailed the leslie sim (or at least, beaten the other clones at it), then the new boards would really be unbeatable.
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I finished playing a gig two weeks ago and a fellow came up to me afterwards and wanted to know where I was getting the "B3 sounds" from. I gave him a tour of the Electro and told him if he wanted a clone that I would also recommend the Hammond X (1 or 3) and he should check out both. I also like the look and feel of the keys on the Hammonds and the real draw bars. I also love my Electro 2. And have recieved compliments about the organ on two consecutive gigs( just started using it). which tells me the audience is hearing what they think is a B3. And that is what really matters. The guys in the band are also smitten by some of the new things they hear.

 

I'm just learning my way around the organ on haow to use all the effects and techmiques and manuals. What a great instrument.

 

I am still considering owning both in the future.

Nice review MightyTW .

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Yep, the CX-3 still holds up. Problem? It is now too expensive compared to the Hammond XK-1. Time for Korg to lower the price.

 

Mike T.

Yamaha Motif ES8, Alesis Ion, Prophet 5 Rev 3.2, 1979 Rhodes Mark 1 Suitcase 73 Piano, Arp Odyssey Md III, Roland R-70 Drum Machine, Digitech Vocalist Live Pro. Roland Boss Chorus Ensemble CE-1.

 

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Impressed to hear that the XK-1's leslie is possibly better than the CX-3's... that used to be the gotcha with the XK-3. If Hammond has nailed the leslie sim (or at least, beaten the other clones at it), then the new boards would really be unbeatable.
I personally think Leslie sims are the most difficult and confouding aspects of clonewheel development, which I suppose explains why so many decent clones have been ruined by shoddy sims. I've spoiled myself playing hundreds of hours in front of a C3/147, all the while nursing my prejudice against sims. Having said that, I really can't overstate how good the XK-1's Leslie sim is. Hammond really nailed it. Last night, listening to the rotor drop from fast to slow then stop, I almost gasped. It was so...musical.

 

Yep, the CX-3 still holds up. Problem? It is now too expensive compared to the Hammond XK-1. Time for Korg to lower the price.
The CX-3 is only about $300 more on Sweetwater. For that, you get an additional set of drawbars, a more authentic layout, a terrific expression pedal, and the Korg brand (whatever that's worth). I would never recommend against the NE2 or CX-3. It's really a matter of personal taste and features, etc., when it comes to these keyboards.

 

Something I forgot to mention in my initial review: the XK-1's manual. It's not too bad -- sensibly laid out and all the topics are covered, etc. Cute little drawings of hands pressing buttons and all that. But it's so awkwardly translated (from Japanese, I'm guessing) that it's actually funny and a bit entertaining. Quoting from the section on key click: The "Key Click" is the noise heard every time the key is touched or released on the B-3/C-3, as the voice is generated by mechanically switching ON and OFF on these models. The function on this model simulates the good old noise.

 

Tee hee.

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Mighty Tonewheel:

 

The reason I bring up the price difference between the XK-1 and the CX-3 is that Hammond has lowered the selling price of an up-to-date-clonewheel. Sure, the second set of drawbars are pretty convenient. That's one less button to press when you want to make changes on the fly. But hey, my wallet often dictates. I think that for $1495, Hammond has come up with a great new clonewheel.

 

Cheers,

 

Mike T.

Yamaha Motif ES8, Alesis Ion, Prophet 5 Rev 3.2, 1979 Rhodes Mark 1 Suitcase 73 Piano, Arp Odyssey Md III, Roland R-70 Drum Machine, Digitech Vocalist Live Pro. Roland Boss Chorus Ensemble CE-1.

 

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The reason I bring up the price difference between the XK-1 and the CX-3 is that Hammond has lowered the selling price of an up-to-date-clonewheel.
Agreed. The price of the XK-1 initially surprised me and certainly figured in my decision. (The price difference between the XK-1 and the NE2 is quite alot more pronounced in Canada, for some reason.) Of all the clones that will take a hit thanks to the XK-1, I would think the Voce V5+ would top the list. It's almost $1000 new, and there's no Leslie sim, no extra voices, and...um...oh yeah, no keyboard. I'm not knocking it, I own a V5 and love it, but I couldn't see myself buying one new over an XK-1.

 

Chris

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Chris:

 

I think once the Xk-1 is out awhile, the price may come down a little from 1495.00 too. I talked to a few Hammond dealers about the XK3 and they were willing to sell it for less than 2195.00. It has a few more $$ to work with than the XK1, so I doubt that there will ever be any large discounts on it, but even if you can get free freight, that helps.

 

We get spoiled more and more as time marches on. 1495.00 for a service clonewheel that sounds like the XK1 would have been a dream machine 10 years ago.

 

Mike T.

Yamaha Motif ES8, Alesis Ion, Prophet 5 Rev 3.2, 1979 Rhodes Mark 1 Suitcase 73 Piano, Arp Odyssey Md III, Roland R-70 Drum Machine, Digitech Vocalist Live Pro. Roland Boss Chorus Ensemble CE-1.

 

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Hi all! :cool:

 

This is a good thread already, so let's collect more experiences here!

 

My brand new XK-1 arrived a couple days ago and I'm learning how to control it.

 

At this time I have a problem: xk-1 has a transpose function, but it seems not to get sent to MIDI OUT. So when you layer sounds of xk-1 with other sounds while the keyboard is transposed, the layers are in different keys. :(

 

That being default seems silly in itself. But there must be a way to change this? I have tried choosing "The External Zone" mode etc, but no luck.

 

From the XK-1 manual (= xk-3) :

 

You can transpose the entire keyboard by the semi-tone. The setting range is -6 to +6.

Transpose effects:

- between the manual keyboard and the built-in sound engine, and

- between MIDI IN and the built-in sound engine.

- The Master Course Tune of RPN is sent to the External Zone.

- If you connect the MIDI Pedalboard XPK-100, the parameter will be changed by

the transpose operation, too.

- -

 

If I understand right, then "The Master Course tune of RPN" = master coarse tune = global transpose. And so it should be sent to MIDI OUT.

 

Any wisdom on this?

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I think you just need to transpose the instrument you are controlling up or down to match the XK-1.

 

You kind of have to look at it as the keyboard for the XK-1 is a "controller" for the "Tone Generator" module built in to the unit. When you transpose the XK-1, you are not really changing what the keyboard sends, you are changing how the tone generation part of it uses the information.

 

Good Luck.

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