Here’s someone who really, really loves Native Instruments’ B4 (II) software rendition of the Hammond B3 organ. The work of Markus Berger, this dead-ringer for a real B3 is actually a carefully crafted replica with elaborate MIDI control inside. The body is built by hand from cherry wood. Electronics were prototyped with the open source Arduino platform and implemented with electronics from Doepfer, then finished with manuals (that’s “keys” for you non-organists) from Fatar (as seen in Nord’s organs). Authentic-style drawbars finish the project. Correction: I got my wires crossed and originally claimed this had Fatar drawbars, but it’s Fatar manuals. Thanks to comments for spotting that.

The integration of the hardware design with the B4 is extraordinary: the creator notes that every single function is perfectly replicated, so you never have to touch a mouse or look at a screen. Of course, you can then make meticulous models tweaked on the B4 software that wouldn’t have been possible on the original hardware – and this hardware, while substantial, should be dramatically lighter.

More on those custom electronics:

The main controller electronics were actually custom developed and prototyped with Arduino. They were complemented by electronics from Doepfer for the two manuals.

Most of the electronics had to be custom developed as there was and still is nothing available to cover all the functionality of a classic Hammond B3 with the full drawbars set, preset keys and all the switches.

And yes, the bottom line is that this puts every controller for everything I’ve ever seen to shame. Thanks to Germany-based Twitter reader tillephone for sending this my way.

B4 Controller Project Page

I hesitate to even suggest this, but – is a Leslie cabinet next?


More photos after the jump:

  • Woieyr

    I hope it weights a lot less than a real Hammond.

  • Kevin Connor

    This reminds me, has anyone seen/built a similar 'front-end' for a Roland TR-x0x box, maybe Arduino based, for control of a softsynth like a D16 Drumazon, for example? I sold my 909 years ago (Pete Vamos, are you listening?), and although there are loads of nice sounding 909 soft-kits out there, what I really miss is the ease of programming from the buttons and knobs. I've tried a Machinedrum (fantastic box, sounds not my cup of tea) and have an MC-505 somewhere in the batcave (pattern editing is different than 909), but what I really want is a cheap, 3/4 size (that sucker is BIG in real-life) TR-909 controller panel, for controlling a softsynth emulation. Yes, this is a plea from an pushing-forty mouse-hater who is pathetically trying to reproduce a golden past by replicating old tools that don't work as well as the state-of-the-art. I know this. Stop laughing and pointing.

  • James

    While this is beautiful, I still don't see the desire to do this. A Real Hammond is still better. NI's B4 software is great for someone who doesn't have a B3 or doesn't have the need to gig with the real deal, but the creator probably spent as much as a B3 in good condition. These things are everywhere and built like tanks.

  • @James: I don't think the word "need" really fits with this project, generally!

  • Absolute truth: most people listen with their eyes.

    10 points for that.

    Would a festival provide me with this "organ" I think I wouldn't be too happy.

    Had he built a custom Leslie speaker too, than it is going one step near the real thing, but hey… I stopped investing in organ-clones and bought the real thing, no more review reading, no more cash going to music-shops.

    Crew and sound engineers are very happy to lend a hand.

    The creator of this thing got one thing absolutely right: SIZE MATHERS!

  • I use a Nord Electro live, and I've always wanted an empty B or C housing to hide it in. I give this an A+ for effort. I would now like a full-size controller for Reason with a 1:1 knob / controller ratio…

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  • Paul Norheim

    I`m waiting patiently for a full size replica/MIDI-controller for the Arturia Moog Modular V, of course with the spaghetti of real patch chords, as well as knobs…

    Seriously, there will be a lot of tactile controllers in the future – both replicas of vintage instruments and new inventions based on the possibilities of software. I salute the B3 controller as a faithful implementation of the replica option. But there are other options waiting as well…

  • Damon

    Amazing…! Of course the obvious thought is if he could build that he could build the real deal. But clearly he knew this, and decided it was more interesting or fun to be fun and interesting. Sometimes the I did it cause I could premise reaps non volatile results.

  • Dude that is awesome! I've never seen anything like that, now that is a serious controller man! I love to see hardware front ends for software instruments…I think we'll start seeing more and more.

    With Native instruments Maschine, auturia's origin, etc…I think it will only continue to grow.

    nice share!

  • historic hammondsfre

    all veri nice , but it will never sound like my BC from 1938 , nor will it ever survive another 70 years like my Bc has already done and this is going for his next 100'th years birthday soon to come … look at this clone rubbish then in not even 20 years will it still be alive … :o) greetz from a cl

  • It delivers all the drawbacks of a real Hammond, and none of the benefits! 😉

    Seriously though, it is pretty cool, but only in a "we did it because it was there" sort of way.

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  • WOW!! NI should make more REAL dedicated controllers – it would end software piracy and open the door for real musicians

  • I suppose it could open the door for *real* piracy… like, organ piracy.

    Arrrr, give me yer Hammonds!

  • Woieyr

    Where do you add the oil ?

  • Axel

    Excuse me, "Fatar drawbars (as seen in Nord’s organs)"? Nord organs don't have real drawbars, that's why most traditional organists shun the brand. Anyway: I love my C1, it sounds amazing, it is light, and no tree had to die for it 😉

  • Brian

    wow! that is gorgeous!

  • Axel

    PS. The drawbars are from Doepfer, the manuals from Fatar.

  • Thanks, Axel – I got confused there.

    Doepfer = electronics (Arduino was only used in prototyping)

    Fatar = manuals

    manuals are similar to the Nord

    drawbars are an original touch

    Corrected the story, too.

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  • As a performing musician, it would be great to have a light-weight, portable B3 dual manual controller with drawbars and controls to run either NI's B4 or an organ module like Roland's VK8m (which I use both)

    Right now, I drag around an 88 key Roland XV88 and a Yamaha KX61 key controller to have both manuals, (the 88 key also does all my Piano, EP, Synth stuff).

    Why can't they make a controller similar in size to the Nord Dual manual organ, but with all the controls from a real B3 for the gigging musician who does not want to tote around the real deal for every gig!

    Beautiful controller though. Would love to have something like this at home when laying down MIDI organ tracks with B4II.