Review: Hammond SK PRO

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Review: Hammond SK PRO

Hammond SK Pro
Words by by John Tucker

Hammond SK PRO | Bernie’s Music Land | RRP: Starting From $3895

First manufactured in 1935 by Laurens Hammond and John M. Hanert, the Hammond Organ is one of most iconic instruments of the twentieth century. The first generation of Hammond organs used a metal tone wheel and an electromagnetic cabinet to create their iconic sound, commonly amplified by a Leslie Speaker, inspiring a generation of Rock, R&B, Reggae and Jazz musicians.

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Now fully digital, the Hammond SK PRO, now made by Hammond-Suzuki, has been built to create that great historic Hammond sound, and is armed with a slew of impressive features that makes it a very heavy hitter in its category of organ cum stage piano.

The Hammond SK Pro features a highly sophisticated organ engine taken from the top-of-the-line flagship XK-5 organ and emulates the sound and feel of a traditional Hammond organ to a very impressive degree of authenticity.

The SK Pro’s organ engine is capable of producing a wide range of organ sounds, including tone wheel, transistor, and pipe organ, allowing musicians to accurately tailor the tone of the SK Pro. This high degree of customisation is extended to the drawbars, percussion, vibrato, and other parameters, enabling one to create a sound that is uniquely their own. This level of control is not possible on an analogue Hammond organ, which has fixed drawbar settings.

The main characteristic of the Hammond SK Pro that immediately stood out when I took it for a road test, was how incredible the keys felt. Featuring a 73-key waterfall keyboard which is designed to emulate the feel of a traditional Hammond organ, it is an absolute dream to play. The keys are fully weighted and offer a very tactile response, and the level of control over the dynamics from the velocity sensitivity felt natural and comfortable. 

Touching on the guts of the Hammond SK Pro, it revolves around four sound engines (Organ, Piano & Ensemble, and Mono Synth) which can be used in any combination or separately.

The Drawbars feel wonderful, which is no surprise, as they are derived from the flagship model, the Hammond XK-5.

The Piano section contains a reasonably wide variety of grand and Electric Piano sounds, that are hi resolution, and the majority sound very nice.

The ensemble section contains the essentials, Brass, Reed, String, Choir and Percussion Instruments, which sound great for the most part, but are never going to be the star of the show when compared to the quality of the organ engine.

The same can be said for the Mono Synth section, which is modelled on a classic Minimoog synth. While it is a nice addition that catapults the SK Pro into the modern day, it is not intended to be the focus of the instrument.

The Hammond has a Digital Leslie effect, that emulates the distinctive sound of the rotating speaker system so commonly associated with Hammond organs. A Leslie speaker contains a rotating speaker horn for a moving tremolo style effect, giving Hammond organs their unique sound emulated by so many. The Hammond SK Pro uses a clever DSP algorithm including the doppler effect and the characteristic subtle variations of tone and volume. 

If you would rather use a real Leslie speaker, the Hammond SK Pro has that capacity as well, coming with an 11-Pin Leslie Jack, alongside the usual outputs such as MIDI over USB (in and out), stereo Line Out, headphones and a couple of special outputs such as the Rotary Out and the Organ Pedal Out.

The SK Pro fits a rather interesting bill, as it has a strong affinity for fulfilling a stage piano role. The competency of the sound engines, and the ability to save presets, and favourites, along with the ability to layer and split the sounds, means that it is comparable to other stage pianos in its performance, despite being more Organ-centric. 

The second consideration that aligns the SK Pro with a stage environment is how slim it is. Weighing in at less than 20kg, it is significantly lighter than a traditional Hammond, and astronomically more mobile, fitting within most aftermarket keyboard gig bags. 

The other location that the Hammond SK Pro thrives in is the home. As most avid Hammond players know, they age, and while it is a beautiful part of their life cycle, it can be tiresome when every part needs replacing and the quirks of the ageing circuitry start shining through, making it quite costly to keep a vintage Hammond in prime operating order. This issue is solved by the SK Pro as the hardware and software is consistent and reliable, with the Hammond containing the ability to decide how ‘vintage’ the organ engine sounds. This means that the days of frequent maintenance and constant tuning are gone, making it a much more practical option for musicians who need a reliable and consistent sound for their practice and performances.

Though grasping the features and capabilities of the SK Pro is significantly more involved than some of the more purpose built stage pianos, you can be assured that taking some time with the manual helps alleviate this issue significantly, and all in all will be well worth it.

Overall, the Hammond SK Pro is an incredible organ, and the amount of hardware that is taken from the flagship Hammond XK-5 means that it sounds brilliant and feels even better. It is well suited to both the stage and the home environments and is a wonderful step in the right direction for digital emulation of vintage analogue hardware.

For more information, head to Hammond. For local enquiries, visit Bernies Music Land.