With this new B4 VST plug-in, Native Instruments has come up with a gem. Quite simply, it’s, the best simulation of the
classic Hammond B3 tonewheel organ and Leslie rotating speaker sound that I’ve ever heard – and I’ve tried many. VST – Virtual Studio Technology – plug-ins work with music software such as Cubase. “Virtual instruments” – software emulations of classic instruments such as the B4 – let you side-step the hassles of recording these instruments, by making them available as simple plug-ins for computer-recording systems.
Native Instruments has modelled all the tonal characteristics of the organ and the rotating speaker – complete with the faults of the original, such as key-click, which many musicians regard as a part of the sound. This modelling process is CPU-intensive, so you’ll need one of the faster models for best results. Don’t even think about using a computer with less than 250MHz clock speed – and a 500MHz machine is much more suitable.
The B4 is supplied both as a stand-alone application and as a plug-in which works with VST 2.0, ASIO, MotU MAS and Digidesign’s DirectConnect. Using DirectConnect you can feed two audio channels from the B4 directly into Pro Tools. The B4 also works with any
audio cards with Steinberg ASIO drivers – providing plenty of choice. In this case, Cubase VST is an ideal host application, and the B4 can also be used as a VST insert effect. Any audio input to the plug-in can be processed using the B4’s Scanner Vibrato, Overdrive, and Rotator effects, and mixed in with the unprocessed sound. The B4 can also be used as an AudioInput plug-in for Digital Performer.
Two views are provided in the B4 window. The main view shows the organ console with the upper and lower manuals, the bass pedals, the drawbars, the expression pedal and the performance switches. The Control View shows all the controls you need for editing in more detail. You can play the different manuals using three different keyboards set to different MIDI channels, or you can play everything from one keyboard using the keyboard splits mode. One thing that Hammond players will immediately miss is the hands-on control of the drawbars, which many musicians adjust continuously while playing. The good news is that you can hook up any box of MIDI faders, such as the Peavey PC1600x, to provide real controls for the drawbars.
The icing on the cake is the rotating speaker which speeds up and slows down smoothly when you switch between speeds – just like a real Leslie would – and the software even lets you adjust the slow and fast speeds to your liking. The amplifier controls can also produce a wide range of different sounds – from clean to overdrive – and there is even a set of controls provided to emulate the way the virtual microphones are set up around the speaker cabinet.
If you are serious about the Hammond sound – then you need the B4. The bonus is that you can even use the Leslie rotating speaker simulation as a VST insert-effect processor with VST-compatible software. So you can play your guitar through the Leslie as well.