[sdiy] Note volume compression in the Hammond organ

Michael E Caloroso mec.forumreader at gmail.com
Fri Jul 3 00:15:00 CEST 2020

"Voice robbing" is a convenient imperfection in Hammond organs.  It is
caused by the loading of the pickups in each tonewheel.  There are
zero buffers for the tonewheels.  As multiple keys using the same
tonewheel are pressed, the pickup is loaded heavier thus its output
level drops.

The level drop is subtle enough that the ear doesn't detect it.  The
net effect is as bigger chords are played relative to single notes,
the RMS level remains consistent.

The same effect exists in pipe organs that are wind driven.  As more
pipes are activated, the wind pressure drops.  Yet it is not a fault.

That's a not-very-well-known behavior that few clonewheel organs duplicate.


On 7/2/20, Richie Burnett <rburnett at richieburnett.co.uk> wrote:
> Maybe it has something to do with how all of those tones get mixed together.
> These days we'd probably do it by summing all of the signals into a "virtual
> earth" mixing node, so that each signal source doesn't "load" down or
> otherwise interfere with the others. Maybe they cut corners in the original
> Hammond design and it leads to the behaviour you mentioned?
> Sorry for the speculative answer, will be interested to see what is said by
> those in the know about these beasts.
> -Richie,
> Sent from my Xperia SP on O2
> ---- Tom Wiltshire wrote ----
>>Hi All,
>>I’ve got a question about the Hammond organ (B3/C3, but others too) and I’m
>> struggling to find an answer, so I thought I’d ask here to see if anyone
>> knows.
>>I’ve heard it said that the way the harmonic volumes add up in the Hammond
>> organ is not linear, and that there is effectively some compression of the
>> sound as more notes are added. I’ve never been clear how exactly this
>> works, and if this is true or simply a way of expressing the fact that
>> doubling the power of a waveform doesn’t double its amplitude. So does the
>> Hammond harmonic addition add power or amplitude?
>>This is important since all the tones in the organ come from the same 91
>> pitches of the tone wheel generator. This means that a given ‘C’ note will
>> appear as the fundamental (8’ pitch) or one note, the second harmonic (4’
>> pitch) of the note an octave lower, and the sub harmonic (16’ pitch) of
>> the note an octave higher, plus being re-used as the 3rd, 5th, etc of
>> other notes. If you hold down a bunch of notes, you could easily get 4 or
>> 5 copies of the same tone being fed to the output. How do they add up?
>>I’ve tried to find some reference that deals with this, but the only really
>> complete document is Hammond’s original patent from 1934. I’ve tried
>> digging through that too, but it’s 37 page long and written like a patent,
>> not an explanation (obviously).
>>If anyone knows, or knows where I should look to find out without having to
>> read 37 pages of Patentese, I’d be grateful!
>>Synth-diy mailing list
>>Synth-diy at synth-diy.org
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