Hammond XK5 review

Hammond’s expertise with digital organs continues to surprise and delight. This is a company that wants every musician to be able to get their hands on an authentic B3-sounding model of a keyboard. The Hammond SK1, for example, acts as a starting point, giving the beginner player the true, authentic B3 sound they can come to expect from Hammond without the high cost. Because of its affordability, however, it only offers a fraction of the features that are offered with the new Hammond XK5.

The Hammond XK5 is Hammond’s flagship model, designed to be a true, modern B3 organ. Every organ model Hammond has released has had a common purpose—provide the user with authentic B3 sounds for a fraction of the size and cost. The XK5 takes this mission a step further, as this keyboard is meant to be the modern substitute for the classic B3, not just a cheaper imitation. What Hammond has produced is impressive and practical, for very few modern musicians will ever own a vintage B3 on their own.

The Hammond XK5 provides the player with a true, B3 organ. In in this review, we’re going to examine what makes these keyboard so special, while also seeing how well it stacks up to a few competitors in its price range. 

And, in order to do that, we have compiled an interactive guide that allows you to see how well the Hammond XK5 fares against other keyboards based on variables like price and noteworthy features.

Roland RD-88
Nord Stage 3
Casio PX5S
Nord Piano 5
Yamaha YC88
Nord Grand
Casio PX 560Casio PX-560

The Aesthetic

Hammond follows the aesthetic trend of their previous models, such as the XK3, with the XK5. Hammond knows what their image is and how the visual design of their keyboards should help reinforce it. The words that come to mind when trying to sum up Hammond’s brand is “modern class.”

The Hammond keyboards contain wood paneling on the backside and a slick, black casing around the keys and drawbars. This look really works, and it helps keep the keyboard appropriate for any venue, whether that be on an outdoor stage or within the church walls. I believe it’s appropriate that such a versatile organ, one that can reproduce any organ sound you can think, boasts a versatile aesthetic, one that fits in any performance context. 

Sitting behind this keyboard feels comfortable. Modern keyboards can often feel daunting with their intricate systems of buttons, knobs, wheels, and other bells and whistles. The Hammond XK5 feels appropriately complex, and everything you need to control is logically laid out in front of you. It begs you to reach out and start experimenting, and you won’t need to read an encyclopedia of instructions to start building your organ sounds—it’s easy to get started. The modern class aesthetic encourages playing rather than reading.

Below, please take a moment to view some of the best-selling keyboards currently on the market and being sold on Amazon.

1) Yamaha P-515
2) Casio PX-S3100
3) Casio PX-870
4) Roland FP-E50
5) Roland FP-30X

The Feel

The playing technique for a Hammond organ is different than other keyboard instruments such as pianos and synthesizers. Hammer action digital pianos attempt to recreate the physical mechanics of acoustic pianos, imitating the hammers through precise mechanical constructions within the keybed.

Organs make no attempt to replicate that system because acoustic organs operate completely differently. The different physical systems that govern an instruments sound ultimately determine different styles of playing.

One of the most important design features of all Hammond keyboards is the waterfall key design. This design encourages quick glissandos, or palm slides, that have become one of the most characteristic sounds of organ-playing. The Hammond XK5 is no different, and the keys feel incredibly comfortable. The XK5 contains a new contact system meant to replicate the feel of the original B3 organ itself.

The keys bounce back very quickly after being pressed, allowing for the wonderfully rhythmic, dirty organ licks that sound best on a B3. They keys feel alive when you play them, always bouncing back for another turn, and after jamming for a while, it’s as if you’re performing a choreographed dance with the keys.

Above the keyboard, you have the other crucial half of the organ—the drawbars and sound editing options. There are four sets of drawbars, and they all feel comfortable to experiment with. Every button and knob feels sturdy and carefully crafted. All in all, this is a comfortable organ to play, and Hammond has made it very easy for anybody to get accustomed to classic B3 sounds right out of the box.

The Sound

There’s a reason that Hammond continues to remain the face of digital organ production. No other brand comes as close as Hammond to reproducing the sounds of the classic B3 organ. They produce their products with care, and their attention to detail shines through when you play the Hammond XK5 organ sounds.

Although Hammond has always excelled in organ sound production with their previous models, the Hammond XK5 takes it to a whole new level, largely because this is the digital organ that is to become the “New Original” B3 organ. Those are giant shoes to fill, but the XK5 pulls out all the stops (pun intended) to take the spotlight as Hammond’s new flagship organ model. 

Hammond went above and beyond to recreate the B3 organ with the XK5, studying old blueprints and original diagrams of the classic instrument. They developed new technologies to close the “realism gap” between the original organ and the new digital model. Firstly, they developed the “Hybrid Multiple Key Contact System,” which means if you depress a key on the XK5 slowly, you will hear the different harmonics come in one at a time. This certainly adds to the realism of playing, simulating a real, mechanical organ rather than a MIDI-based, digital organ.

The experts at Hammond also investigated the tone-wheel generator of the original B3 to influence their design of the XK5. They painstakingly modeled and sampled the physical processes of the tone-wheel generator to capture the frequencies of all 91 tone wheels of the original organ.

This is just a sample of the kind of work Hammond has put into the XK5 to provide consumers with the best possible B3 organ experience via a new instrument. The focus on the mechanical details of the original organs shines through when you play the XK5, and the sound is exquisite.

Sitting behind the XK5 and jamming really feels as if you’re tapping into the past, producing the classic B3 sounds with each finger maneuver. The hard work Hammond put into rethinking the design of their digital organs pays off, and every key stroke feels authentic and full of depth. It feel intuitive to achieve the perfect balance of harmonics, vibrato, and distortion. This keyboard doesn’t disappoint, and it just might be the best-sounding digital organ I’ve ever played.

The option for a second manual increases the possibilities and potential for the XK5, allowing for split sounds across the manuals for extra timbral interest. A second manual also has MIDI capabilities, allowing for your computer’s VSTs to be playable. If you don’t want to spend that extra money for the second manual, the single keyboard also has the capability to be split in half, so you can play your walking bass in the left hand while you solo with the right.

For the complete, hold-nothing-back B3 organ experience, XPK250W Foot Pedalboard can be purchased, transforming your keyboard to full-on organ. This is the optimal setup for the XK5, and it truly feels like you’re playing a classic B3. Of course, the price will skyrocket once you add on these additions, but if a true B3 organ is what you want, this is how you’re going to get it.

Target Market

The Hammond XK5 is an impressive instrument, and it truly imitates the authenticity of the original B3 organ. This is an instrument for the player who is seeking that true B3 sound without selling a kidney to pay for a refurbished original. Previous Hammond organs, such as the SK1 and XK3, did excellent jobs at bringing the B3 sound to modern players for a reasonable price. The XK5, however, is on a different level, boasting the hard work of those that studied blueprints and diagrams of the original B3.

Because of the impressive hardware of the XK5, it’s reasonable that it boasts a steep price tag. This will be the main factor that will deter many potential consumers from the XK5. For those who don’t want to spend upwards of $4,000 on a digital organ, I would suggest looking into the Hammond SK1, or even the XK3. Although they don’t contain the innovations of the XK5, they are still great keyboards that contain that modern class and high Hammond quality. The XK5 is definitely meant for those that are ready to spend the big bucks to get a true B3 organ.

Here are some of the biggest selling points of the XK5:

  1. Multiple Key Contact System
  2. Perfected Keybed Design
  3. Innovative Sound Engine
  4. Impressive Leslie Speaker Simulator
  5. The Best B3 Sounds on the Market

In terms of the learning curve, I think even beginners will quickly get the hang of constructing organ sounds with the XK5. The logically organized drawbars, vibrato/chorus, and LCD screen make it simple for newcomers to start building sounds and experimenting.

In terms of digital organs, there is nothing on the market quite like the Hammond XK5, and its marketed title as the “New Original” B3 organ is a big statement, but it lives up to those expectations. 

RATING: 4.8/5

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