During the 1960s the Hammond organ was the ultimate instrument for group organists. Its tone and drawbar facilities make it the obvious choice for professional musicians in both rock and jazz.
Artists like Jimmy Smith, Georgie Fame, Graham Bond and John Mayall all extemporised on Hammond and for that reason the brand was the market leader. There was one problem — the size of the organs.
Many ingenious answers to the problem were suggested but the one that the U.K. accepted was the "split". Hammond offered to saw their famous M range of organs in half and most travelling musicians accepted the compromise and staggered around carrying dismembered organs.
Towards the end of the decade other electronic organ manufacturers — freed from size and weight limitations by the advent of the transistor — introduced sophisticated portable organs that slowly lured players away from the bulky Hammonds. This progression was accentuated by Hammonds themselves, who produced a range of console organ aimed more and more at the domestic "home player" market.
For that reason behind this outlook one has to look to the American market. For years it has been dominated by the home organist and Hammond's factories around Illinois were kept fully occupied turning out domestic models. For that reason the professional gigging player was forced to either buy second-hand M Hammonds or other makes.
Now Hammond has announced the introduction of two portable electronic organs. These are made by Hammond's Japanese operation, Nihon-Hammond, and the introduction of LSI's (large scale integrated circuits) has given the company the potential of packaging the full drawbar Hammond sound into comparatively small organs.
The X-5 is the larger of the two organs announced and retails at just under £1,000. This may sound expensive by the old £600 standards of the Ms ten years ago, but a similar valve based organ would certainly cost a couple of thousand now. It's a two manual instrument (both 44 note keyboards) with nine pitches on the top keyboard and seven on the lower.
Jimmy Smith made a real feature out of using key click as part of his Hammond sound. Transistor circuits smoothed out this "defect" and for that reason many players missed the bite that belongs with the Hammond sound. The X-5 has a built-in brilliance control which at its highest point can produce the very distinctive click on the attack and at its lowest rounds out tone starting sounds all together.
A 35 watt solid-state amp is built into the organ but no speakers are provided and not unnaturally, Hammond suggest that the organ is at its best when mated to a 760 or 825 Leslie rotary tone cabinet. Obviously the organ can be hooked up either to an ordinary speaker cabinet or to a slave amp.
In addition to the drawbars for the upper and lower manuals there is also a 16/8' drawbar for the bass pedal which are supplied as standard. Other tone variations can be obtained by 3 pre-sets for the upper keyboard and one for the lower. Features such as reverb, vibrato, and Leslie speed are also built in.
The organ plays as delightfully as any Hammond. It's a pleasure to play the drawbar system and although a player takes a little while to master the drawbar system, the result is well worthwhile. Despite the trend for offering every sound on a pre-set, most professionals will prefer drawbars because of the flexibility and Hammond have obviously realised this point.
A most attractive and practical feature of the organ is the heavy chrome handle which runs the length of the organ below the keyboards. This makes carrying the unit reasonably easy and in no way interferes with the playing position.
Composed of three basic units, the organs assemble and pack down very quickly. The keyboard unit measures 44½" x 26" x 9½" and weighs 101 lbs. The pedal unit is 44" x 21" x 5¼", and weighs 41 lbs. The leg's weight is 30 lbs.
The sound of this organ is very much Hammond. It's slightly cleaner than the organs of old, even with the brilliance control full up, but that is probably due to the transistor amplification. Perhaps amplifying via a valve amp would return the dirt that adds full colouration to the sound.
Retail Price £921.00
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