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Native Instruments Vintage Organ

Review by: Jason Buchwald
WIHO Award - Wish I Had One!
 
             
  Features  Usability Sound Documentation & Product Support  Price  Other Comments
Contact Info  Overall Rating—Product Summary
 
             
             
   

Native Instruments Vintage Organ

   
   


We have a confession to make. While we generally really like Native Instruments’ products, we were a little skeptical about their Vintage Organ soft-synth. Although NI’s discontinued B4II soft-synth was well received, with all the competition (including hardware such as Clavia’s Nord series, Korg and Roland offerings, just to name a few) what’s the big deal?

Well, the big deal is that the software sounds great! Equally important, besides giving you expected various Hammond organ models (M3, C3, and B3), there’s a nice selection of transistor organs as well, including the Vox Continental and Farfisa Compact organs.  A good number of the presets are named after the artist or song they were inspired by, and many are dead-on ringers for the original sounds.  That, combined with various amp, speaker, and effects selections (including Leslie rotor speed), makes this package a definite winner. Ray Manzarek never had it so good!

Features

4 Stars

Vintage Organ is a sampled instrument that utilizes the Kontakt 4 Player sample playback engine. This is the same engine that powers the excellent Steinway-D [place link here]. As such, anyone familiar with Kontakt Player should be able to get around easily. And even if not familiar, it is still easy to navigate.

The left side of the window shows the names of all your instrument categories, which are Default, Jazz, Classic Rock, Transistor, Gospel and Church, Funk and Reggae, House and Disco, Theater and Entertainer, and Special. Clicking on one of these opens another list of presets to choose from, and as mentioned earlier, many of the presets are dead on recreations of the original (the transistor preset “House of the Rising Sun” was one of our favorites, particularly with the Leslie effect on).

The meat of the program lies on the right side.  Once a preset is selected, the right side is populated with the appropriate organ screen, and all draw bars and/or switches (i.e., swell or vibrato, etc) that were present on the original instrument are graphically recreated. These are all editable, and there is a MIDI learn function that makes it easy to assign the draw bars and other controls to faders and knobs on any controller.

Below this things gets even more interesting.  Divided into small gray windows across the bottom, below the switches and graphical controls, are selectors for showing a picture of the original organ (complete with ‘60s rugs — no joke!), an Amp section, and a Settings tab.

The amp section was well done. Here, you can edit the organ’s attack, velocity, and release.  Even more interesting, there is a tube amplifier section allowing you to choose vintage or modern settings, with controls for tone, drive, bass, mid, and treble settings. Perhaps the best feature is the cabinet selector, giving you a choice of open or closed Leslie, British, Tweed, Chief V-30, and a few other types. Should you choose the Leslie, there are controls for rotor speed and acceleration. Finally, there is also a control for reverb.

The Settings panel is for your controller options. Here you can assign controller presets to the B4D or Doepfer d3c controllers, as well as assign pedals and mod wheels to various function such as rotor speed, swell, etc. You can also assign the upper and lower manuals to different MIDI channels.


Usability

4 Stars

Installation was straightforward. We downloaded the Vintage Organ files (about 1.4 GB) and installed them without a problem. Since we already had Kontakt Player 4 on our computer, we did not need to reinstall it again, but it is readily available as a free download if you don’t have it already.

We tried Vintage Organ on both a 2.26 GHz dual-core Macbook Pro with 2 GB memory as well as an eight-core 2.8 GHz Mac Pro. Vintage Organ worked great on both, and it ran equally well in both standalone mode and as an RTAS plug-in for Pro-Tools. In fact, some of this review was written while waiting at an airport using the Macbook Pro and a Korg Nanokey keyboard. This setup worked just as well as the Mac Pro connected to a Korg Triton LE 88 and Avid Digidesign 003 interface.

One thing to keep in mind for standalone mode: you need to set Kontakt 4 to 32-bit mode for it to see your Digi 003 interface (as we discovered painfully during a previous product review based on the Kontakt 4 player).

Unfortunately, we didn’t have access to any dedicated drawbar or foot pedal controllers, but mapping to other controllers was sufficiently easy.

To test this, we used our Triton LE 88 keyboard. Assigning control was as simple as right-clicking on the screen parameter we wanted (in our case, a drawbar), selecting “Learn MIDI Automation,” and then adjusting the slider, knob, etc on our controller. That’s it! After assigning, we played the keyboard and in real time while playing were able to adjust the sound without a hitch. While it was odd in our example to use a Korg rotary knob to control a drawbar, it demonstrated how easy it is to assign and control your sounds in real time… and actually, the knob approach worked quite well in this application.  With the right drawbar controller, traditional organists could have a very nice setup.

We really liked the simplicity of editing sounds and navigating around. This is a well thought-out interface, and it was enjoyable just to load sounds and tweak them. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Drawbars!


Sound

4 Stars

We really liked this soft-synth.

Graphically and musically pleasing, with very straightforward editing, what’s there not to like? 

The Default selections give you vanilla setting on the five organ models, which you can then edit. For us, it was a lot of fun delving into the presets.  We particularly liked the presets “House of the Rising Sun,” “Oye Como Va,” “The End,” and “Gimmie Some Lovin.’”

The Leslie effects were convincing, and there was a real sense of movement in the sound.  While some may argue that more EQ or effects would have been nice to incorporate into the program, it would have taken away from the simplicity of its current design. Further, as reverb, drive, vibrato, and Leslie effects are already included, there’s probably not much one needs anyway, although a wah effect would have been a cool addition for use in ska/funk settings.

In what seems to be a growing trend in soft-sythns, the experimental section shows how versatile this program is. These sounds are metallic or atmospheric offshoots of the organ engine, and certainly worthy of finding their way into other musical applications.


Documentation and Product Support


3.5 Stars

An in-depth manual is available for download from the NI website, and it goes into great detail covering the product features. Additionally, NI has tutorial videos available for online viewing, too.


Price

3.5 Stars

NI’s Vintage Organ sells directly for MSRP $119, or you can find it bundled in packages such as NI Komplete (which is a killer deal at just under $500). Vintage Organ sounds great and offers a great deal of flexibility, plus it weighs a heck of a lot less than towing a trailer full of organs to your gigs.

 

Contact Information

Native Instruments
www.native-instruments.com

Overall Rating - Product Summary

   
   
Category Value Rating
Features 20% 4 stars
Usability 25% 4 stars
Sound 25% 4 stars
Documentation & Support 10% 3.5 Stars
Price 20% 3.5 Stars

OVERALL RATING = 3.9, which earns it a WIHO Award!

3.6 stars or better: Outstanding, WIHO Award
3 stars or better: Worth considering
2 stars or better: Suited to specific needs
1 star or less: Not recommended
 
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