MYTH: B-3 SOUNDS BETTER THAN THE C-3 AND A-100 SERIES
All three of these organs are built with the same "tone wheel" components. The term "Hammond B-3" is the "legacy" name that most people use to refer to the sound of these instruments.
Similar to guitars, no two Hammond organs sound the same.
During the early 1960's, slightly different parts (capacitors, etc) were used to manufacture the tone generators and amplifiers due to what was available, obsolete, or considered "superior". Considering the original design for the Hammond Organ dates back to the 1930's, it should be expected that technological advancements will provide superior parts that are safer and more reliable. Many people have a preference for newer or older parts because they believe a brighter or more mellow tone will be produced.
The difference in tone is arguable, and marginal at best. The "magical" sound of the Hammond organ is a result of the following process (similar to an electric guitar):
(1) TONE GENERATOR --> (2) PRE-AMP --> (3) OUTPUT-AMP --> (4) SPEAKER
The signal from the tone generator is altered as it passes through the electronics inside of the amplifiers. The characteristic (or quality) of this tone was then projected with specific speakers (and cabinets) that were also responsible for the "style" of the Hammond sound.
It is more likely that any changes or modifications to the output-amp or speaker/cabinet will change "The Hammond Sound". These changes are often discovered after a repair or modification has been made. A new solid-state amplifier that powers a new polypropylene speaker will more accurately reproduce the tone generated from the Hammond's preamp. This sound will be brighter, and less pleasant to listen to.
With that considered, many purists will study the new Suzuki-Hammond products and will compare them to the vintage Hammond B-3 "sound". A popular and affordable product is Hammond's XK-1.
I have found that the "new" Hammond products sound authentic when played through a vintage Leslie cabinet, or through the "line in/phono" jack located inside of the Hammond organ. I have also found that sending a "vintage" Hammond's signal through modern speakers or keyboard amps sound harsh and offensive.
Most people that are critics of the new Hammond products are probably playing them through speakers and amps that do not "shape and mold" the signal in a style similar to the process mentioned earlier in this blog. I will, however, agree that the "action" or response of the new keyboards feel heavier and more rigid.
The HAMMOND XK-1 is a synthesizer that replicates the Hammond sound. The technology used to manufacture the XK-1 is very similar to the technology used to manufacture the "NEW B-3". What are the differences? The purist will not feel comfortable playing a synthesizer on a keyboard-stand. The purist has reflexes trained to locate the original buttons, knobs, and controls which are used to form their technique.
The purist, however - may not have a van to move a B-3 (new or old). The XK-1 will fit in the backseat of a car, and has a weight no more than 45 pounds. The XK-1 is approximately $1,500 while a "NEW B-3" is $25,000. A vintage A-100 with a Leslie speaker should cost no more than $5,000 and will require maintenance and repair.
Personally, my XK-1 sits in the corner until it is needed for travel. I forfeit the sound produced by a Leslie speaker cabinet for the convenience of portability. The best feature of the XK-1 is it's ability to be carried down a flight of stairs by one person!
If you're a person that is trying to understand the "magic" of the vintage Hammond sound, I hope that your next step will be to learn about "valve" (or vacuum) tube amplifiers and how they replicate sound when used with specific speaker arrangements. Most of the information pertaining to guitar amplifiers is also general to Hammond organs.