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Dad's organs - Which Hammond for Me and help diagnosing source of Distortion on BV

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  • Dad's organs - Which Hammond for Me and help diagnosing source of Distortion on BV

    Hi All,

    My Dad passed away a little over a month ago. I have been firing up and testing out several of his Hammond organs and plan to keep ONE of them for my own home studio. One Organ in particular was his main rig for years because he could not afford a Hammond B3. It's A 1947 Hammond BV SN: 21746 has a nasty distortion sound to it. I'm not sure if this was intentional or not (It is pretty killer for a distortion sound for some heavy rock applications) but I cannot get a beautiful clean signal out of it to play jazz or hear the tones I want. It cleans up a bit when I push the lower drawbars in, however even when playing chords there will still be a very audible distortion, like heavy breakup of tubes you'd want in a guitar amp or maybe some bad electrical components, not sure. I can record a sample if it will help..

    This things has been modified and moved all over. He gigged with it for well over 3 decades and played everything from Kansas, Deep Purple, Emerson Lake and Palmer and Sugarloaf. Killed it too, Damn do I miss him! There is a Trek II Percussion unit installed, and a line out box in the back, looks custom to output the signal down to a 1/4" output. I tried this through the leslie (also modified to accept 1/4" input) and direct into a mixer and listed on headphones and the distortion is the same both ways. I notice that the drawbars cut in and out depending on their position and the Trek II is a bit scratchy. I've got some Deoxit on order to clean those up but I'm not convinced it will help the distortion problem I'm hearing.

    Can anyone help me figure out if this is intentional distortion by modifications or if there are bad caps or tubes that might be breaking up early? I'm not really an electronics/mechanical tech or have the time to be soldering and doing some heavy maintenance, at least for quite some time in my current situation, but I need to make some decision about which Hammond Organ to keep for myself that will be the best for my home recording studio (client use) and my own personal enjoyment.

    I need to figure out which Hammond I want to keep in my studio. The options are:

    A 1959 M3 - Stock, no modifications - Works great
    A 1965 E-100 - Stock been sitting in the garage for some time - Haven't even fired it up yet but I know it works as he was giving it to a dear friend who backed out due to moving it
    Or this 1947 BV, heavily modified to get the B3 sound

    Ultimately I want the best organ sound with the least amount of work in the future and to have ONE organ that I can do simple mods to (like modding the M3 for a 1/4" output - maybe fold back in the future) while getting as close to the B3 sound as possible.

    Any help or suggestions are appreciated. Thanks!!!

  • #2
    My condolences on your father's passing.

    The problem with a "heavily modified" organ and diagnosis via a forum like this one is that we can't easily know what's been done to it. Just to begin, we have to know what we're talking about.

    Pretty much any V-series preamp that hasn't been rebuilt needs to be rebuilt at this point. That means replacing out of spec resistors, bad capacitors, and worn-out tubes. It's not a job for someone who doesn't have good soldering and amp building skills because it's not that easy to work on. And that's if it has the original vibrato preamp and not something else installed as a modification.

    Based on your experience and skill level, you will probably need an experienced Hammond tech to sort out the problems. And I know the usual response: The guy who used to do that around has retired or died. Unfortunately, we can't do anything to fix that problem.
    I'm David. 'Dave' is someone else's name.

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    • #3
      I will gather some photos and sound samples this weekend and see if that helps... I'm just not sure if there's the possibility of something back there that you can easily turn up to drive the preamp tubes really hot and do what is happening here or if it's an early sign of death or just the caps needing replaced or what. I wish I had more time to devote to these organs but then I'd never work or get any actual recording work done, so I come to the experts and if I can't troubleshoot it on here, it's finding a new home..

      As to which Hammond for me, my guess is that an M3 would be the best to mod to get to sound like a B3 (adding foldback will be the worst of it I think) but I've seen some cool videos of a few E-100's that nail it as well. Since the E-100 is in the garage and has been all winter, I'm waiting to fire it up in warmer weather to see how it functions/sounds and see if it's worth bringing back into the house and moving the others out... Anyhow, Cheers.

      -Pat

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      • #4
        Originally posted by proche3 View Post
        I'm just not sure if there's the possibility of something back there that you can easily turn up to drive the preamp tubes really hot and do what is happening here or if it's an early sign of death or just the caps needing replaced or what.
        Your BV is 70 years old. People think that electronic parts last indefinitely. They don't. Tubes wear out. Resistors open up. Capacitors develop DC leakage. Would you expect a 70 year-old car to run right without some work? I'm just trying to present a reality check here. On the other hand, the Hammond tone generators and manuals are beating the odds, so it can make sense to fix the electronics.

        I've rebuilt V-series preamps to work as good as new, but it's not a one-hour job.
        I'm David. 'Dave' is someone else's name.

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        • #5
          Would you have any regrets in the future if you let your father's BV go? Would it be worth paying a tech to bring it up to spec to have it around for another 20 or 30 years?

          Or even slowly learn how to do the work yourself? It's only time and patience and a bit of money here and there. A good zen experience if you enjoy that type of hobby.

          You really can't keep two?
          When I become dictator, those who preach intolerance will not be tolerated.

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          • #6
            I think you'll regret it if you don't keep the BV. One: It was his main organ. Two: When properly working it's the best one - and the 'hippest'. As was said, pay to have the electronics overhauled. Or learn to become a tech :-)

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