The SK range of keyboards from Hammond has been proving its worth for a number of years now, offering unprecedented portability with true Hammond sound. Having seen and played the earlier models in the range already, I was rather excited to be offered a personal introduction to the SKX this month thanks to the team at Bernies Musicland. This new keyboard is going to change the way many musicians view a Dual Manual keyboard and certainly removes the myth that a Hammond has to be big, heavy and awkward. Available with a range of stand options to make it a cumbersome beast, the SKX is designed to be taken in a compact form and used on a regular keyboard stand. With a cleverly recessed rear handle that allows for easy lifting and ‘under the arm’ carrying, there has never been a more transportable dual Hammond keyboard. Lightweight, compact and easy to move, it still offers loads of features and arrives complete with manual drawbars.
For those of you who are familiar with the SK range of portable Hammonds, the SKX will feel right at home. Most of the controls you’d know from previous models are there, but with some essential upgrades to improve workflow and sound. For those of you who go for the authentic speaker and keyboard combination, you’ll be pleased to know that the Leslie speaker connection on the rear has seen an upgrade to a sturdier coupling point. Leslie control is available on the top panel, but can also be controlled with an optional mechanical switch that mounts to the bottom left of the casing. This then overrides the button controls and engages their LEDs as appropriate.
On the top panel, it’s a fairly familiar offering, with some notable improvements. Firstly, on the top right of the panel you’ll find the Extra Voices section. Here, you can assign the chosen extra voices to either the upper or lower keyboard and mix the balance between the main sound and extra voice. The Vibrato section, found across to the left, has had an overhaul too, with a far more subtle vibrato effect found in this model, making it infinitely more usable than the previous model’s effect.
The small LCD screen doesn’t offer fancy graphics or coloured imagery, but it does display essential information to help you navigate through menus and see what’s going on with presets. Drawbar positions are shown on the screen when a new preset is engaged to enable you to see how it differs from the physical drawbar position as it was left previously. Moving the physical drawbar snaps the effect into place and overrides the preset position, with the visual moving to show this change. This is very handy as it allows you to then replicate the physical drawbar position on a preset as a starting point to work from. The SKX is a keyboard that encourages tonal exploration and between the great range of sounds in there and the added effects on offer, you can certainly cover all bases.
You don’t need a Leslie speaker to get that great vibrato sound either. Running from the line outputs direct into a PA system or recording setup delivers an amazing sound that really cuts through the mix. You only need to listen to one of these with headphones alone to understand how powerful the sound is. Of course, if you couple it with a genuine Leslie speaker system, you are really in for a treat.