There was a good deal of hum and buzz on the wires when AcousticSampleS initially released their hybrid virtual Hammond organ library, “B-5”. It was based entirely on digital samples, but with the addition of modeling technology. I must admit, it was pretty good. However, there was some room for improvement. It boasted big, fat, warm low end, but just couldn’t seem to reproduce the searing upper presence that tonewheel organs are capable of projecting. The Leslie emulation was good, but it lacked realism and there were some quirks that never really got ironed out properly.
B-5 V2 normally lists for €99, but AcousticSampleS generously provide it au gratis as a FREE upgrade for those whom had already purchased the original version.
* At the time of this publication, B-5 V2 is available for a short time at only €69!
Here are a few things I’d like to bring to your attention first:
Resource Demands: The bad news first. Due to the meticulous modeling technology that’s been implemented for both the instrument itself, and its stellar Leslie emulation, a moderately powered system is recommended in order to experience the wealth of Hammond goodness contained within B-5’s UVI format.
The good news: AcousticSampleS Founder and lead developer, Arnaud Sicard, has been striving diligently to lower resources demand while retaining superior sound and performance quality. We’ve remained in contact throughout my bench-test/review of this fan-tab-u-lous virtual instrument. Thus, he’s kindly provided me with progressive, unpublished betas. I can assure you that previously experienced (heavy) resource demands have been lessened by a substantial degree – perhaps as much as 35 - 40 percent!
Where Once There was One, There Now Are Four:
The varying organ models faithfully reproduce the tones of their hardware fellows, and to the discriminating Hammond aficionado’s ears, sound very distinct from one another.
Phase Aligned Samples and Hybrid Modeling:
For the better part of 10 years, it's been generally agreed that GSI’s VB3 wore the tonewheel emulation crown as a synthesized, modeled, virtual Hammond organ. For good reason; it was (and remains) an exceptional tome of programming code. VB3 was far ahead of its digital peers in terms of authenticity, Leslie emulation, and functionality.
Native Instruments “B4 II” also held a significant market share, but was superseded by NI’s “Vintage Organs” - a suite of sampled organs that included transistor compacts as well as tonewheels. I’ve always liked “Vintage Organs”, but there were a few niggles about it, such as minor tuning issues, phase misalignment on some notes, and its lackluster, passable rotary speaker emulation, that prevented it from becoming a top-tier choice.
For those enlisting the affability of Logic Pro X on MAC systems, there is a very respectable virtual Hammond at their avail.
AIR’s “DB-33” was released from Pro Tools confinement in 2014/15, but it’s rather on the ‘meh’ side of things and really not great as a standalone solution. It fares better when combined with a 3rd party rotary cabinet plug-in such as Melda’s “mVintageRotary” or PSP’s “L’otary 2”. DB-33 is probably ok for more heavily distorted Hammond-ish sounds.
Of course, all aforementioned assessments are only the meanderings of this reviewer, but I suspect that most Hammond players, looking for a convincing alternative in-the-box, would agree with my findings.
And now we come to it – how does AcousticSampleS’ B-5 V2 bear up under such scrutiny? Personally, I think it is well deserving of being coronated with the virtual Hammond crown. AcousticSampleS were definitely on the right track with their original release of B-5, but as mentioned earlier, there were a few disappointing characteristics about it. Those few quirks have been completely abated, and instead, we now have a princely capitulation of virtual tonewheel majesty.
Of particular interest, is the fact that exceptional scripting is actualized in "B-5 V2", eliminating phase alignment issues -- causing it to pull well ahead of other contenders running in the sample-based pack. Thanks to AcousticSampleS’ hybrid modeling technology, over-the-top sonic realism and hands on performance credibility are here in spades! Get this – you can even adjust drawbars in *real-time free of glitches, pauses or interruptions. Unlike Kontakt-driven designs, this is a major step towards operational verity. All switches, knobs, drawbars and buttons devotedly mimic the original hardware.
This one’s about as easy as it gets. Create an account on the AcousticSampleS web site.
*Don’t worry, it’s a basic setup that doesn’t require the whereabouts of your firstborn and your Social Insurance Number. *Grin.
Upon successful (online) payment, your user account will then list your purchased product(s) with coordinating download links. Whenever newer product revisions are available, the download links are automatically updated. You download and install UVI’s free “Workstation” sample player from UVI.net or from the AcousticSampleS web site. Once installed, you simply extract the ufs file contained in the zip file(s) you’ve downloaded from AcousticSampleS, into the appropriate ** location on your system.
** There are configuration options within UVI Workstation for setting up library locations and etcetera.
All pertinent and expected Hammond appointments are well represented so we’ll not discuss those. Notwithstanding, here are some nifty additional features that I’d like to briefly highlight for you.
- The speaker preferences page. Here we can choose from an ample selection of carefully emulated Leslie speaker cabinets – including the perennial favorites: 122a, 122b, 147, and 3300. Room size, mic distance and microphone placement are flexibly configurable by a full 360 degrees. Basic Bass, Mid and Treble EQ knobs are conveniently available as well as a master volume control.
** Horn and Drum mic placement can be configured individually, permitting a tremendous degree of control over sound design and ambient perspective.
- A full range of cabinet impulse responses are also in the toolbox.
- Midi Learn and Host Automation: Right click on any knob, slider or button and you can choose to assign a CC value or midi learn to match your particular keyboard controller; alternatively, you can select a ‘Host Assignment’ to facilitate easy DAW automation. There is a detailed, thorough range of options available on the “Midi Preferences” page as well.
- Advanced Preferences Page: Here you will find advanced tweaking options for the following: drawbar strength, octave transposition settings, percussion strength, decay rates, pedal bass settings, pedal bass assignments (lower and/or upper manuals), and drawbar choice(s) for percussion harmonics (both 2nd and 3rd order harmonics).
5 out of 5 Stars!
- At the time of this publication, I estimate B-5 V2 to be the finest
virtual Hammond available in plug-in format.
- Intuitive, well laid-out GUI mirroring all Hammond organ
- Convincing, High quality tube-like distortion.
- Good quality reverb
- 200 built-in presets covering multiple musical genres and/or
- Two sets of configuration per patch, for each manual.
(Assignable by ‘Set’ buttons)
- Super simple to configure.
- Works as expected, NO finicky surprises.
- A little bit heavy on CPU, but now much less so than earlier revisions.
Any moderately powered machine will handle this VSTi easily, but
such high quality does come at a certain amount of CPU expense.
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Brother Charles is a freelance writer, Gospel music artist and minister. Charles had been a professional touring musician during the nineties; working primarily as a lead guitarist in the Canadian country music industry. Brother Charles is also involved with music production and quality home recording.
Intellectual Copyright - 2017 - All rights Reserved. This review may not be copied or reproduced in whole, nor in part, without express written permission from the author.