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Leslie 31H vs. 21H compare/contrast

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    Leslie 31H vs. 21H compare/contrast

    Hi everyone,

    I was wondering if I could get some compare/contrast between the Leslie 31H vs. 21H.

    I have a 31H with a series 3 amp I am considering getting rebuilt. I am also considering selling it and keeping on the lookout for a 21H.

    I am playing jazz, and I definitely want one of these old single-speed field-coil leslies. I have heard the 31H is the ultimate leslie experience for jazz.

    However, since they are schematically similar, I want to know if the difference between them is more than just volume?

    I am just in my basement, I don't need to blow the roof off anything, so if the 21H is just a slightly softer version of the 31H I will definitely opt for the smaller speaker.

    I guess my query could boil down to these:

    1. How close is the 21H to the "full 31H tall boy experience"?

    2. Is the difference between them enough that the hassle of the 5foot-200lb cabinet is worth it?


    Thanks!

    (this is dangerously close to a double post, I asked a similar question a couple months back, but it was buried in a long and confusingly worded post about several things. I thought a clear, direct discussion topic might be of value to others as well as myself, and I have not found this specific discussion anywhere else on this forum or the web. However, mods, I promise not to be offended if it gets taken down!)

    #2
    Not all 21H cabinets came with the 32H amp. Many of them had the 21H amp, which is less powerful. Though I have nothing against the 21H amp, the difference is noticeable, especially since the power supply not only has to power the output tubes, but the field-coil woofer.

    A 32H amp, properly rebuilt, with maybe a few minor tweaks, can put out close to 40 Watts, partly because 6L6GC tubes, not available until 1958 run in them with so much headroom. Its power supply also has more reserve power than the 21H.

    Have the crossover recapped as well, and make sure your speakers are in good condition. With the 32H amp, yours probably has the Jensen F15LL woofer. Some edge treatment can give more years of life from the paper surround, which is where they tend to fail. They are also not too hard to recone.

    If it's basically in good condition, I would keep your 31H rather than start looking for another cabinet. They all need work at this point, unless it's been fully restored.

    In terms of weight, a 21H is not light since it contains most of the same components. Are you going to need to be moving it around a lot? Either cabinet can be placed on a rolling dolly. You're not going to lift a 21H by yourself. The main issue of a 31H is how top-heavy they are. I always REMOVE the amp to move a 31H -- if we're talking about moving it to a new location, not around the room.
    I'm David. 'Dave' is someone else's name.

    Comment


    • Steven Anderson
      Steven Anderson commented
      Editing a comment
      Great advice, thanks!

      Just curios though, when you say "power" what is the difference other than volume? I tend to think of those those terms interchangeably when I see them written in this context, but maybe thats my misconception?

      If the only difference is volume capacity, a 21H might be better, as I would rather deal with a 41inch cab than a 60! But if the differences are more than volume I will keep my 31H.

      My 31H is in good shape physically, but the amp will need a complete rebuild.

      I am assuming any 21H I buy will be the same situation. I have a really good tech I work with.

    #3
    I have a B2 that I play into a 31H and a 21H. Both have the lower-powered 21H amp. (Which is fine for me for home-play only.) I prefer the 31H for two reasons:

    First, the horn is closer to the ear height of the player. Since high frequency sounds tend to be directional, the 31H sounds brighter and livelier to me when I'm at the organ. (Kind of like putting a guitar amp on a tilted stand, rather than having it point all its lovely high frequencies at your knee.) Also, the bass sounds deeper on my 31H. Since both speakers have the same Jensen field coil woofer, I assume the difference is in the size of the cabinet. If I only had one Leslie, I'd pick the 31H.

    Of course, the correct answer is to have both.

    Click image for larger version

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    Alan
    Co-author, "Classic Keys: Keyboard Sounds That Launched Rock Music."
    See a preview: ClassicKeysBook.com
    Like us on Facebook: facebook.com/ClassicKeysBook/
    Buy it now: www.amazon.com/dp/1574417762

    Comment


    • joecool240
      joecool240 commented
      Editing a comment
      Awesome setup, spotted the TREK II reverb to, nice !

    #4
    Thanks. It's a late '54 B2 with smooth drawbars, and a Trek II percussion unit. The whole rig sounds as great as it looks.

    Alan
    Co-author, "Classic Keys: Keyboard Sounds That Launched Rock Music."
    See a preview: ClassicKeysBook.com
    Like us on Facebook: facebook.com/ClassicKeysBook/
    Buy it now: www.amazon.com/dp/1574417762

    Comment


      #5
      I tend to agree with Alan that there's something about the greater spacing between the horn and woofer in the 31H that gives it a different sound from any of the shorter cabinets.

      That said, many of the famous jazz recordings at Van Gelder Studios were reportedly made with a 21H cabinet with the 32H amp. I do personally prefer the 32H amp to the 21H. In fact, the 32H amp is probably my favorite of all Leslie amps.
      I'm David. 'Dave' is someone else's name.

      Comment


        #6
        Originally posted by David Anderson View Post
        That said, many of the famous jazz recordings at Van Gelder Studios were reportedly made with a 21H cabinet with the 32H amp.
        People tend to worship Van Gelder's C-3 and 21H because those records sounded so great. But, beyond Rudy's engineering skills, the critical elements of those great-sounding recordings were Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff, Charles Earland, etc. An acquaintance who has played the rig describes it as quite ordinary sounding when lesser players sit down at it. (If only I could sound great by buying great gear! ) But you can't go wrong with either a well-maintained 21H or a 31H. True classics.

        One negative of the 31H: If you ever want to convert it to two-speed operation by using a motor controller, the lower motor and rotor tend to vibrate noisily on Chorale speed. I've asked lots of techs for a solution, but there doesn't seem to be much you can do. The "floorless" bass rotor compartment may contribute to this, and the way the cabinet resonates just seems to amplify the pulses of the motor. (David, if you've got a solution, I'd love to hear it.)

        Alan
        Last edited by Alenhoff; 04-22-2020, 04:53 PM.
        Co-author, "Classic Keys: Keyboard Sounds That Launched Rock Music."
        See a preview: ClassicKeysBook.com
        Like us on Facebook: facebook.com/ClassicKeysBook/
        Buy it now: www.amazon.com/dp/1574417762

        Comment


        • David Anderson
          David Anderson commented
          Editing a comment
          On most 31Hs at this point, all the grommets need to be replaced, but I would assume that you already know that.

        • Alenhoff
          Alenhoff commented
          Editing a comment
          I replaced the grommets a year ago with some extra thick, supple ones -- and even added another layer of rubber. It helped some, but you can still hear some rumbling. It's semi-annoying when you're not playing -- but I don't notice it at all when I play. So, it's not a big deal.

        #7
        Thanks all! I think the message I am getting is to stick with the 31H (especially since it has the 32H amp).

        So a follow up question based on that:

        My understanding is the half moon switch by default will only change the horn, and the drum is controlled by the switch on the side of the leslie itself.

        This is the "authentic" setup correct? What jazzers would have done themselves when playing the 31H?

        I know you can wire the drum into the half moon switch, but I am not planning on doing so unless there is something I am missing, or that was standard practice.

        Comment


          #8
          The 32H amp has two switched outlets and one always-on, so you can choose what you like.

          All the 31H cabinets with 31H amps (not 32H) I've dealt with that I can remember have both motors plugged into the switched outlet with a splitter plug. The side switch is usually missing.
          I'm David. 'Dave' is someone else's name.

          Comment


          • Steven Anderson
            Steven Anderson commented
            Editing a comment
            So if I wanted to have the bass always off, and just the horn controlled by the half moon, could I just unplug the bass rotor or does that impact something else?

          • David Anderson
            David Anderson commented
            Editing a comment
            Yes, just unplug it.

          #9
          I'm not sure why you'd want tremolo on the woofer constantly. I guess if you really want that authentic sound, you can try it. You could re-wire the cabinet switch to where one side is always one, and one side routes to the relay. A/B which one you prefer as-needed.
          EDIT: Come to think of it, I'm wondering if that's the setup used by Wild Bill Davis in some of his early recordings. Might explain the mixture of tremolo and stationary, though I always had assumed it was a tone cabinet in Ensemble.

          Comment


          • Steven Anderson
            Steven Anderson commented
            Editing a comment
            Your first thought was mine actually.

            My assumption was that the woofer would be always off, and the half moon would just control the horn.

            I don't have a good enough ear yet to really tell whats happening in recordings, I just know some jazz guys that will unplug the drum even on a 2 speed leslie like a 122.

          #10
          i have a 21 and a 31, the 31 is super mellow compared to the 21 which is more shrill sounding, but i have had through the years several 31 h cabinets, and there is a lot of difference in the sound of them, im told by the older people it,s the wood and i believe it , if you have a 31 that sounds great , keep it. i love mine. componants are same except the 31 h has a little dampening , but it makes little difference.

          Comment


            #11
            Having restored several, I'd say that if a 31H sounds "super mellow," there's something wrong with it.
            I'm David. 'Dave' is someone else's name.

            Comment

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