Thanks to 'Keyboard' Magazine for the following report
If the new Portable B-3 (the B-3P) doesn’t turn
your head, you
have no neck. It’s a visual work of art, which may account for why
it’s in more in demand than the full-cabinet new B-3 and C-3 that
predated it by a year. All three models are internally identical. Setup is
very quick and simple for something this size. In 15 minutes, Carl Lumma
and I had the organ out of the shipping crate and secured on the included
brushed-aluminum folding stand. The bass pedals simply sit on the floor
underneath. Everything fits together so well and is so stable that
aggressive players can dig in like it’s 400 pounds of wood.
Hammond-Suzuki has previously offered large console organs like the XB-3, but don’t be confused: With its all-new “virtual tone wheel” sound engine and traditionalist approach, the new B-3 is in a different league. There’s no Leslie simulation, but it’s only fair to remember that there isn’t on the vintage B-3 either. The New B is targeted at churches, larger clubs, serious Hammond enthusiasts, and touring pros, all customers who’d insist on one or more real Leslies anyway.
This means key click is real, not simulated, and as on the original, not adjustable. No worries. Its level through all the Leslies sounded just right.
It also makes sense of something that might otherwise seem inexcusable: There’s no MIDI input, because there’s no way to make the contacts respond to it. Could one address the sound engine directly, at the cost of sacrificing all the tasty randomness? Probably, but it’s safe to assume those who need to sequence an organ are more likely XK-3 buyers. There is MIDI out, the keys transmit velocity externally, and control templates live in the edit menus. This is great for the church musician — or anyone else — who’s called upon to play other sounds, but needs to sit squarely at the organ. To this end, the toekick doubles as a MIDI sustain pedal, too.
Our panel of persnickety purists loved the B-3P. Bosco praised its high end, explaining, “A real B-3 has a certain honk and scream the higher you go, and a lot of digital organs are too polite about it. This one gets it right.” Eppley echoed, “It really seems to nail the scream factor, that howl that approaches as the rotor comes around. It has the exactly right attitude.” Through every rotary speaker in the room, I found that like the XK-3, its voice remained lush and clear, with none of the harmonic beating that plagued older models. I’ll let Roger Smith summarize: “This is it, man. If you told me it had real tone wheels inside, I’d believe you.”
It does allow less sound editing than the XK-3. Relatively sparse menus focus on parameters familiar to organists rather than keyboard players. Individually tweakable tone wheels are absent, though you can still select overall sets. Pedal muting and sustain are still variable; so are vibrato rate and the percussion levels and decays. You can program presets, but Hammond’s old-school rocker tabs means that nothing these controls do can be stored. This is justified, as you wouldn’t want a preset to come up in a different state than what looking at the organ would indicate.
One school of thought says a company’s $15K flagship had better do everything their $2,500 keyboard does. Another points out that vintage B-3s are more sought-after than ever, in spite of lacking Leslie simulations, MIDI inputs, and programmability. So why not just get a restored B and Leslie from a reputable tech? Well, cartage and maintenance have always been the twin horns of the beast we otherwise love, and the B-3P blunts ’em like never before, but leaves the beast’s growl clear and sharp. If you have the price of admission, the new B-3 is a remarkable accomplishment. Short of building new tone wheel generators, it’s impossible get closer to real. Hot damn, Hammond. You went and brought back the B.