michel devos

Hammond launches the new SK1 and SK2 in Frankfurt

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I was last week at the Musik Messe in Frankfurt for the launch of the new SK serie from Hammond, specifically designed for the use in concert, tours or gigs.

The new models SK1 and SK2 are both very light and portable (respectively 7 and 16 kg). They feature an astonishing B3 sound (same sound generator as the XK3, new B3) together with an extremely versatile synthetizer. The grand piano and Rhode emulations are really beyond description and must be heard to be believed!

The Leslie simulation is also of top quality. And an USB port will allow downloading from any data base one wishes, making it possible to personalize the instrument way beyond everything that was available up to now.

The demos were performed through a plain speaker system with very good results, but no doubt the couple SK + Leslie 3300 will get the gold medal.

I wrote a review for a french website, while the guy playing the demos in the Hammond booth will post his own report very soon now : I shall definitely post the links here for those interested. Hammond has definitely produced a winner here...!

Edited by michel devos

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Yeah, I really want to get my hands on an SK1. It's basically the perfect instrument for what I'm doing right now (ie, traveling the world and not kickin' bass).

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I am sure you gonna love it, Jim, just as did Jon Lord who was present at the launch. I'll see if I can put some pictures here.

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For anyone else who needed to do this...

(respectively 7 and 16 kg)

16 lbs and 35 lbs respectively.

16 lbs is not much!

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For anyone else who needed to do this...

(respectively 7 and 16 kg)

16 lbs and 35 lbs respectively.

16 lbs is not much!

Quite right...it can be easily taken under one arm. It seems my pictures cannot be uploaded : anyone knows what error 406 is..?post-130-0-60825900-1302532253_thumb.jpg

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16 lbs is not much!

The same as a bowling ball.

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Looks like I may get to try one when Janiva plays Chicago next week. Hammond Artist Rep Scott May says he'll bring one for me to play with. :) I'm excited!

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What makes me enthusiast about the new SK2 is linked to a very strong personal souvenir. In 1965, I heard Jimmy McGriff perform a version of Round'midnight using simultaneously the C3 and a Bechstein Grand. The combination of the smooth, deep rumbling bass and chords played by the left hand and foot on the C3 and the sharp, sparkling clear notes of the grand piano at the right hand made a fantastic sonic impression I never forgot...I tried several times to convince other players to use that combination, but that appeared unpractical due to the huge weight and dimensions of a concert grand (and also the costs).

With the new SK2, this should become a breeze, B3 one keyboard, concert grand second keyboard! Up to now, I knew only of Korla Pandit who played that combination : he was rather not my cup of tea, but Jimmy McGriff was and I hope there will now be some challenge to this beautiful rendition of Round'midnight.

I happened to have this concert recorded and I'd be pleased to share some samples with those interested. PM me or check this Rapid Share file : https://rapidshare.com/files/459545272/SampleMG.wav

Edited by michel devos

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Here's my review that I posted on the Keyboard Magazine forums. I got to play with the Sk1 for about an hour Saturday afternoon.

Ok friends, I'm just back from the gig at Fitzgerald's. Scott could not make it out for the gig but he very kindly stopped by the hotel beforehand to give me a personal guided tour of the SK1 and let me play around with it. He did take some video which he said will make it's way onto the Hammond website soon.

The short and sweet? Hammond has a winner. In my opinion, it makes the Nord obsolete. Real drawbars (though they are not exactly like the XK series drawbars... more on that later), absolutely fantastic organ engine, great Leslie sim, and the other sounds are very good. Plus it is multi-timbral, meaning you can play the organ and the external sounds at the same time.

Ok, now for the long review:

First and foremost, it is very compact. And the gig bag (not sure if that's included or an add-on; probably the latter) is really slick. It's a lot like the Nord gig bag and can be used as a backpack. As we all know, it's about 15 lbs. Very lightweight, yet all the controls are very sturdy. And the OS is much like the rest of Hammond's line. The layout is straight forward. It didn't take me hardly any time at all to find my way around. Lots of dedicated buttons for important functions and like the XK3/c if you hold a button down for a few seconds, the LCD automatically switches to that button's related sub-menu for further tweaking.

The keyboard itself feels great. Not the same as the XK3/c. More like the XK1, but not exactly the same as that either. It's a Fatar action. I liked it. Very responsive. The extra sounds played well on it, too. It's very nice for electric piano.

The organ engine is, according to Scott May, the same as the XK3c with a few important tweaks. The Leslie sim is improved and the chorus/vibrato is from the New B3 MkII. Both sounded very good. The C/V was definitely a step forward in authenticity compared to my XK3. I didn't have a real B3 to compare it to, but to my ears it sounds really good. The percussion sounds much better, too. It's got that nice woody thwack. There are lots of tweakable parameters and tonewheel sets to choose from. I didn't spend much time messing with all that since it sounded so good as is. I did play with the Leslie settings a bit since the stock settings are better for stereo and I had the SK1 connected to my Leslie 2101 bottom cabinet (a killer keyboard amp, btw). You can choose different Leslie models including 122, 147, 31H, & 760. Each sounded different. The 31H model was great. The ramp down of the low rotor was really well done. Single speed Leslies ramp up and down much differently than two-speed Leslies and Hammond really paid attention to that detail.

The onboard reverb has it's own dedicated knob and sounded great. Easily tweakable and switchable on or off. The other effects were great, too (including the Crybaby wah-wah sim... more on that in a minute).

Overall, the organ engine is top notch. I even put it through the Ventilator (Scott had never heard one). It sounded great but I was able to tweak the onboard sim to sound just as good as the Vent sans overdrive. I gotta be honest: The Vent still holds the crown in terms of the overdrive emulation.

The drawbars are very interesting. They are actually sliding potentiometers. If you look closely at the hi-res pic posted earlier in this thread, you can see the little "tracks" of the sliders, like mixer faders (or I guess the Ocean Beach unit). They do not click like regular drawbars; they are perfectly smooth. But they feel really nice. And they look like drawbars, with the numbered "bar" and everything. I think still having the bar lends stability to the whole thing, so they don't feel like mixer faders at all. They feel like drawbars (sans clicking).

Ok, onto what I'm sure everyone is wondering about; the other, non-organ sounds.

Acoustic Piano: I liked it a lot. There's a lot of different ones; several stereo pianos, stereo with pads, and yes even a true mono piano. I really liked the sound and response. I can't imagine someone not being happy with it in a band context. Is it Ivory quality? No, but it sounds very nice on it's own and I guarantee will cut through the mix on the bandstand. I would leave my Motif rack at home if I had the SK1 piano. It is light-years better than the piano in the Nord Electro2, in my opinion.

Rhodes: There are two different Rhodes, with variations of those two sample sets including dry, with panning, with phasing, and with overdrive. The overdrive is (as of yet) not tweakable on the extra voices that use it, something that Scott said he is hoping they'll change in the final version. I preferred the first sample set Rhodes. It reminded me of the VintageCase sound on my Motif ES rack. I would be perfectly happy gigging with this Rhodes sound.

Wurlitzer: Scott wanted me to be frank with him about it. He is concerned about everyone's opinion. I think the lower octave is really good. Nice and gnarly when you smack it, full and mellow when you don't. The second octave seemed to respond differently to the same velocity and was not quite as strong. The upper octaves sounded really good. The preset Wurli patch was not as good as just the raw samples I played. Not sure what is changed in the preset, but you can certainly tweak it. As JMcS guessed, playing with the velocity settings helps a lot. Currently there are four velocity settings. 1 seemed to work the best for me. As you go up (2, 3, & 4) it changes the response curve so it's easier to hit full velocity with less force. I would like to see an additional level below 1 for myself. But then again, I didn't get the chance to MIDI up my Privia to the SK1 to see how the non-organ sounds responded. Oh well.

Anyway, Scott and I discussed some ideas to make the Wurli better. It's almost there. I would not be opposed to using it on a gig, that's for sure. It is not quite up to par with the Nord, but it is close. The Wurlitzer is one thing Nord really nailed, imo. I also really like the Wurli sound in my Motif ES rack. The Hammond is close; some small tweaks (which may or may not be possible for the end-user right now) is all that's needed.

The clavinet sounds are killer. Very extensive including all possible combination of pick-ups. The auto-wah is cool; I'm not a big auto-wah fan but it sounds like it should. The Crybaby wah wah pedal feature, which turns your expression pedal into a wha pedal, is AWESOME! It sounds bad-ass. That was one of my favorite sounds. The keybed of the SK1 feels great playing clav parts, too. The clav is a winner.

There are a lot of other sounds on-board. Some are very inspiring, including a very extensive set of accordion sounds, probably the most comprehensive set I've seen in a keyboard. And they sound really really good. The pipe organ is wicked and my brain was spinning with all the possibilities of using those tones in an organ trio setting! In fact Scott had me play a bit of "All The Things You Are" with a neat pipe organ setting that sounded really cool!

The Vox and Farfisa sounds are great, too. And there's a patch called "Lucy" which sounds exactly like the intro from Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, which was a Lowrey organ. And another preset called "Telstar", which emulates the Clavioline. Fun stuff!

And then there's a really cool feature that is really hard to explain, but it reminds me of a chord organ type feature. Scott took some video of me playing around with it using a saxophone big band section type sound. Again, my wheels were spinning thinking about the possibilities of incorporating it into live performance.

There were some cheesy analog-esque lead sounds (not monophonic unfortunately) and some Solina type 70s string sounds (cool but not really my bag) as well.

Overall, I'm really impressed. This is an instrument for the gigging musician. I want one. Or two. smile.gif Or maybe an SK1 for Janiva and an SK2 for organissimo. smile.gif

The non-organ sounds are great. And with the ability to load in other sound sets in the future? Watch out.

If they can tweak the Wurli a bit before release, it will be a no-brainer. As it stands now, it's really close to being just about perfect for me.

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A really excellent, in-depth review, Jim. It is clear, rigorous, complete, it handles the practical side of a keyboardist requirements and, most of all, the quality of the many sounds available here.

I'm especially glad to read you are smashed by the organ sound itself : I only heard a couple of demo's in the Hammond booth but I was as impressed as you are : very, very close ro a B3, actually.

Thanks for this outstanding report.:D

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Thanks for the indepth review Jim. I'm kind of relieved to see it get such a great review from a seasoned player actually, because I've decided to bite the bullet and get me one. :)

The weight and the extra voices sold me on the idea almost immediately and the option of expanding the voices is an added bonus.

One question - I'm not very knowledgeable about MIDI. I have an XK-1 and I was wondering if I'd be able to set it up as a lower manual and if it would be possible to map the XK-1 drawbars to the lower manual drawbars on the SK-1. Any insights into this would be very welcome.

Thanks in advance. :)

Edited by loonymoon

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