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All reviews by bro. miles

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Reviewed By bro. miles [read all by] on December 31st, 2005
Version reviewed: 1.0 on Windows
Here's a VSTi that's hard to beat. It does a better job IMO than a similar commercial product that sells for over $300.

Mr. Ray is a Fender Rhodes simulator named in honor of a famous Rhodes player.

I have owned several Fender Rhodes over the years, and while I would still prefer a real Rhodes in some circumstances, anyone that doesn't have access to the real thing should try this.

For those of you who weren't around the music scene in the 70's and 80's, during the 70's if you were a keyboard player you HAD to have a Rhodes to be taken seriously. They were in high demand and expensive. Chuck Monte even made a career out of modifying them (dyno my piano).

Suddenly, Yamaha introduced the revolutionary DX7 synth, and almost overnight the value of a Rhodes went to $0. Everyone, or at least everyone I knew, dumped the 150 pound Rhodes in favor of the DX7. Well, the DX7 did have some at the time cool Rhodes patches, which actually don't sound like a Rhodes, but were usable in a similar fashion. This was so common that 'tine piano' became a boring cliche of the 80's and eventually no one serious would use that patch. But, for a few years, people were actually throwing Rhodes in the trash!

Fast forward to the retro trend of the 90's. DX7's are being forgotten since few people ever learned to use them for anything but the factory patches which grew stale from overuse. Rhodes are now more valuable than ever.

While the Rhodes has a great and very useful sound (or range of sounds) for jazz and R&B music, one of the other reasons players dropped them in the 80s was the action. Most Rhodes pianos play like pounding on a sponge. You have to hit the keys harder than on an acoustic piano. Great way to wreck your hands. The very last Rhodes pianos had better action, but 80-90% have the bad action.

For this reason alone, many players will find an emulation actually works better for them than the real thing. Obviously there are other things an emulator can do, like fit inside a computer and work with a sequencer, etc.

So, among those looking for that classic Rhodes sound in the desktop world, a certain modelled Rhodes that was suitable for LOUNGE use (and other styles) became quite popular. It's good but not cheap.

The good news for us all is the the author of this program used his ears and spent a lot of time trying to nail the emulation, and he did a darn good job. So much so that I would recommend this over the commercial item even if they were the same price.

Also worth checking out is the Wurlitzer emulation by the same author.

The only downside to this instrument is it uses a fair amount of CPU power, but no more than a lot of other synths.
Reviewed By bro. miles [read all by] on December 29th, 2005
Version reviewed: 3 on Windows
This is the best free B3 clone by far IMO. The author has put a lot of time into it and it shows. I still prefer NI B4 and prefer a real Hammond over that, but you can't beat the value. It sounds best on single note lines. As soon as you play multiple notes the realism drops a lot, due to the basic design - it's made using SynthEdit.

A real Hammond blends up to 9 tones from the tone generator on each note. But, it only has 91 total tones generated, and the tones get reused all over the keyboard. These tones are close to the natural harmonic partials and the basic concept is additive synthesis. NI was able to get fairly close to a real B3 because their program was written from the ground up, and uses a similar method.

Organized Trio was built using SynthEdit, so the author was more limited in what he could do. This is why it's not so good when you play chords and smears. The tones are not reused across the keyboard by multiple notes, so there is too much of some tones compared to a real B3 when you play chords.

The Leslie effect in the latest version is pretty good for a simulator, on par with other simulators.

OT3 is more flexible in controller assignments than the NI B4, although NI B4II fixes that. You don't need MIDIOX to use Organized Trio as you probably will with NI B4. My keyboard puts expression on MIDI CC 7 or 4 while NI B4 requires it on CC 11. No problems with OT3 there. The interface is great. All the features are where I want them, and all the tweaks I want are available. No annoying animated keyboard. I can look at my fingers for that and I don't need eye candy, I need ear candy.

If you want to get Hammond-like tones for free, this is the one to get. None of the other free ones sound nearly as close to me, and I own a real B3 and Leslie for comparison so I know what it should sound and play like.

The author also has some very good Electric Pianos and a large collection of soundfonts on his website. Very cool!
Reviewed By bro. miles [read all by] on December 23rd, 2005
Version reviewed: 2 on Windows
My comments on the new B4II. Comparing it to the original B4, the most significant change is a much improved tube overdrive. A tonewheel leakage effect has been added, too, and the Leslie effect now offers a dual Leslie simulation and rotors stopped (brake). The Leslie sim is still not perfect but it's definitely better. It has a fuller low end which is closer to the real thing, and a couple of Leslie cabinet variations. Personally I have not use for guitar cab simulations on a B3 clone, nor do I need Harmonium samples, but they are there too.

The original B4 has a great Hammond model including a very good scanner chorus/vibrato. That part seems to sound exactly the same, just with a new look and a few more 'features'. You can tweak the look to be closer to a real B3. I don't care. It's the sound that matters to me.

I own a real Hammond B3 and Leslie too. Comparing the B4II to the B3 and Leslie, the Hammond part can sound very close to my B3, as good as any Hammond Clone keyboard. The Leslie sim is good, and better now with vII, but there is more room for improvement here. Nonetheless, the improved overdrive and Leslie effects were what got me to purchase the upgrade.

BTW I found the upgrade for $75 from a legit dealer on eBay.