As a pianist who also has played a fair amount of organ over my career, I really looked forward to trying this puppy out after seeing some videos and hearing some demos. Back in the day, I owned and played a Hammond M-series, played through a Leslie speaker, as well as a Farfisa Combo Compact. Although I never owned a Hammond B3, I was called upon to play one many times and with the exception of the full-sized bass pedals, the transition from the M-100 to it was easy and I loved having the percussion feature for that “Jimmy Smith” sound I loved when I wanted to play jazzy blues stuff. But the beauty of the B3 was how different it sounded in Jimmy's use from other B3 players I loved, like Brian Auger, Billy Preston, Rod Argent, Rick Wakeman, and Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals.
So how come I never bought one? I'll give you approximately 300 reasons. The thing weighed over 300 pounds!
As for the Farfisa, it had a unique sound as it used tabs instead of drawbars and had a bass octave. I always preferred the sound of the © Vox Continental, which like a Hammond was drawbar based but it simply was too expensive for me.
Well what if I told you that for a list price of $1499 and a street price of $1299 you could own a 24 pound keyboard that would do a darned good job of emulating tonewheel organs, electric organs, and even diapason church organs such as © Hammond A, B, C, and G series as well as the © Vox Continental and © Farfisa Combo Compact? You can! It is the Studiologic Numa Organ 2, it uses physical modeling rather than samples and man, I wish I could go back to being 20 years old again.☺ They cannot of course use the copyrighted names but trust me, these are very faithful emulations.
What You Get
This is a 61 semi-weighted keyboard that just like an organ does not respond to velocity but uses knobs or better yet your expression pedal to control volume, like a real organ does once again. (In MIDI mode you can turn on dynamic Touch, but nobody who seriously wants to emulate an organ would do this, right?)
The action feels really appropriate for the task. Most of the “console organs” like the B3 have two 61 key manuals of course, but the Numa Organ 2 allows you to have different settings for each manual and switch from lower to upper or engage both. It also allows you to use the lower manual to emulate the bass pedals.
It has eleven pre-programmed presets for the most commonly used sounds with a twelfth key that directly accesses whatever the keyboard's drawbars and controls are set to. These are triggered from the lowest octave reversed black/white keys. Like a Hammond, it has nine drawbars. Like a B3 it has percussion. It also has a really good Leslie speaker emulation, vibrato and chorus settings, and control over the mount of key click and leakage, plus reverb and “drive” FX for capturing a Continental's reverb or getting a dirtier over-driven rock sound. It has a Split mode as well as the ability to transpose by half steps and fine tune.
It has a mono out; left/right audio outs; a stereo audio in; 2 Headphone outs; 2 USB outs for saving presets and getting updates; 2 pedals outs, one for expression and one for sustain called “hold” that controls the © Leslie rotary speaker emulation; three MIDI ports for in, out and thru, which allows you to hook up a second keyboard to have two manuals and even MIDI bass pedals; and even a connector to a real rotary speaker system, like a Leslie.
Playing the Studiologic Numa Organ 2
The more experience you have with the “real deals” the easier this will be for you. I was totally conversant with it within a half hour and played it for about two hours straight, just having a ball playing blues, jazz, rock, old Animals, Dave Clark Five and Paul Revere and The Raiders songs (yes, I know, I am old and pathetic) and even Bach.
Even when working from a preset, changing the drawbars, FX, etc. changes the sound and switching presets will still refer to some of those settings.
The pitch and modulation/rotary wheels work nicely, as does the vibrato and chorus knob. The Rotor button makes it quick and easy to turn the Leslie cabinet off to emulate organs that were not generally played through one, like the Farfisa or diapason organs.
There are a couple of things I found surprising that are negatives, although not deal-breakers. You cannot transpose the entire keyboard up an octave. The product rep I talked to correctly pointed out that the real deal adds octaves by the drawbars and this behavior is part of the Numa Organ 2's physical modeling but hey, this is MIDI and if we can transpose up by half steps, which the real deal does not do, why not an octave? You can however, transpose the lower keyboard zone up or down and octave in Split mode also, so to me, this does make a lot of sense.
More importantly, most keyboards nowadays allow you to plug in a USB flash drive to access more presets in real time and that would be very useful for an organ emulator with this kind of versatility. For live use, I could easily wish for twenty or more presets and those users who do not have much experience with changing drawbars in real time would certainly love to have that ability. You can save and load/upload presets by connecting from USB to your computer but then you are still limited to the twelve presets accessed by the black keys.
I think also an argument can be made that the M series is more loved than the C and G series, but that is nitpicking. After all Booker T. Jones played his early hits, like the massive hit “Green Onions” on the M3 but later switched to playing the B3.
In conclusion, assuming you want a dedicated keyboard with drawbars rather than using a computer with emulations in something like Logic Pro's Vintage Organ from a keyboard controller of your choosing, I think you will be hard pressed to top this keyboard as an option. I think it is as faithful a reproduction I have heard (although admittedly, I have not heard them all.)
Manufacturer's Advertised Price: $1299.99 US
Pros: Affordable, lightweight, excellent organ emulations with a lot of flexibility, and a good feeling keyboard.
Cons: No octave up/down global transposition, no USB flash drive for more presets to access in live use.