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.

 
 Hammond B-3P
Pros: Sounds, works, and feels exactly like the real thing. Built like a tank. Gorgeous.
Cons: No MIDI input. Expensive.

Bottom Line: The high end just got a lot higher.

Roger Smith got Hammond’s idea, along with a B-3P and pair of modular Leslie 21 systems (to be reviewed soon) for the latest Tower of Power tour. “The thing about the new B-3,” he explains, “it’s meant so cats who came up back in the day can sit down and be completely at home.” The look, feel, placement, and labeling of controls make “authentic” a gross understatement. Things you wouldn’t find on an original B are hidden from view. There’s built-in reverb and overdrive, which both sound great, though the latter is not tube-based like the XK-3’s. The keyboard action is no less retro: “This is exactly how a [vintage] Hammond feels,” observed John Krogh, “It’s a little softer touch than the Diversi, but that’s not a complaint.” Don Bosco thought the feel was quite like many past specimens he’d played: “It’s a little springy, but very fast.” That feel is partly due to something Hammond did to get good sound: The new B-3 is the currently the only organ to use multiple key contacts (see “The Key Contact Controversy,” page 40) to trigger individual harmonics. At first, I thought this involved sending multiple note-ons per key to the sound engine. I was wrong. The key contacts are actually part of the New B’s analog audio path, just like Hammonds of yesteryear.

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.