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A friend of mine, a professional Hammond player of some status, told me the only Hammonds worth playing have tone wheels. Never buy a transistor model he said, there are Hammond and there are Hammonds.
Well, the big ones are expensive, the small ones aren't but still weigh a ton, and they all need huge dollops of maintenance. When I have the time and money maybe I'll buy an immaculate B3 with two Leslies. But for now I just love my B200. It's got Hammond written on it, sounds like a Hammond and is attached to a whopping great Leslie. It may not growl like a Beast, but what do you expect for £100!

Well, I've sold out since all this was written a couple of years ago - call me a hypocrite, but I'm a hypocrite with a 1959 A100!

My B200. With added keys on the lower manual and switches around the Leslie buttons on the left. See inside.


My opinion. First things first. I'm no Hammond expert, I bow to the knowledge and experience of those who are, like the friend whose advice I mention above. However, I am a Hammond enthusiast and for all out there who want to know what the B200 is like from the point of view of a first time Hammond owner - read on.

Looks: If I were to be absolutely truthful I don't like the coloured buttons; they're a touch tacky '70's, I'd prefer black and white like the X5. But this is an organ built in an era not know for its classically beautiful last-forever styling, let's not pretend otherwise. When I saw it though, my only concern, once my eyes had established that it was big and ugly, was that it had drawbars, HAMMOND cast into plates screwed to each side and painted in white between the manuals. All that was left was to negotiate the transfer of ownership.

Price: If you want a classic full size Hammond -it's a seller's market. Not so down the transistor end of things. I swapped a 1970's Riha spinet and £100 cash for the Hammond, 760 Leslie, bass guitar/organ amp speaker and Hammond Autoryhthm box. I found it by putting a 'Hammond wanted' advert in a local free paper. I could have bought several tonewheel spinet's, and I can't say I wasn't tempted, for between £300 -£400, but none had Leslie cabinets. From what I understand the Leslie plays a vital part in the 'Hammond sound' and to add one to an L or M spinet would probably cost more than the organ.

I was told by two different people offering me their tonewheel spinets that they were disappointed by the sound. One was either going to sell it or add a Leslie, and the other had bought a different brand and needed the space.

Sound: Again let's not pretend the B200 is something it's not, but I think it sounds great. Turn up the reverb, upper manual to 688600000 and Whiter Shade of Pale sounds just like the real thing. Reverb off, key click up, percussion and Leslie on and 855000000 is a very passable Jimmy Smith. I know everyone says 888, but someone on the Hamtech list said try 855 to bring up the percussion, and it works. Like I say it's not a B3 so it's not going to sound like one, but it's definately a Hammond. Leslie 760

Playing: I would give almost anything to be a gifted musician. I started to teach myself the piano at 30 on the basis that I would be competent by the time I was 50. I'm now 37 and progress is painfully slow. I've got piles of teach yourself blues and Jazz piano books, but they just make me feel that I'm copying and not learning, and, they don't tell you how to play a Hammond. There don't seem to be any books out there to help with the basics. What I mean by basics is stuff like; which hand goes where - you've got two keyboards to choose from? What about your feet?

Anyway, I bought Joey DeFrancesco's book from The Organ Guy and, eventhough it leaves lots of my questions unanswered, I haven't put it down or looked at another book since it arrived from the US a week after I ordered it. I'm still not happy with the idea of playing in all keys, (I'm in a hurry - surely I can play in C forever as long as I don't want to play with anyone else) but I'm starting to get excited about my progress for the first time in a long while. Credit to Joey, but a large proportion of my renewed enthusiasm for the keyboard is down to having a Hammond to play - I get excited about it.

Keeping it working: I am the world's worst electrician, but I'm determined to learn what I have to in order to keep the B200 and Leslie serviced and maintained properly. I downloaded a manual for the 760 courtesy of Captain Foldback but haven't sourced an affordable manual for the organ yet. I also need to find out where to get service parts before I attempt anything.
It has a few foibles; there's an intermittent whistle when the reverb is up and the percussion is not working as well as it first did. There was no sound coming out of the Leslie treble horns when first got it, but this was cured by turning up the treble volume on the back at the bottom of the cabinet - though now it has a metalic hiss. Nothing I can't live with though. And I'd be more worried if it had tonewheels.
This is a close up of the mystery extra switches around the Leslie buttons on my B200 lower manual. Underneath is what appears to be an after market electronic kit. What's it all about?

In light of my selling out and buying a tonewheel Hammond, it is in the Keeping it Working section that I need to pass comment. My B200 had a few faults (outlined above) and I spent many hours searching for replacement parts and seeking out those with the knowledge I lacked to try and cure them and be a responsible owner. I even bought an expensive multimeter and books on diagnosing electronic faults.

The bottom line is sooner or later you have to face the fact that unless you have an in depth knowledge and understanding of electronics you don't have a hope in hell of diagnosing and repairing any faults on an electronic Hammond yourself.

The most valuable advice was the most practical and this is it verbatim:

"Anyway, as for your B200, I dare say it could be fixed but I don't have the time to look at it. My advice is get another one and keep yours as spares for that. The B200 is common enough and you can get them for under £200 if you search around. The X5 is a good option that you will find easily and for the same money. Otherwise find a good technician who will give you timescales on fixing the B200. Most of these repairs take a technician weeks and even months 'cos they are not economical to work on. Eight hours work for £100 is not that good these days. Then there is the issue of whether you can still get the IC that has probably packed up? " 

My advice, for what it's worth, is if you are going to buy a portable hammond like the B200, X5 etc. make sure it works properly. They're not expensive and there are lots around so don't buy anything that's faulty. And my advice for those of you, in the UK who've already got a faulty one and are browsing this site in the hope that it'll diagnose the problem for you; give, and by that I mean hand over for free, your Hammond to someone, like the nice people at Organsandpianos who have the knowledge and skills to repair and sell it on, at a very realistic price, to it's next lucky owner. That way there'll be lots of them being used and enjoyed for many years to come. 

A close relative of the B200; the X5 
Thanks for the visit. Now go and have a look at my A100