VR Rivals

VR vs Hammond SK vs Nord Electro vs ….

or: the eternal question: which one is ‘better’?
Most replies will be ‘Nord’ as this has become a kind of ‘red sect’ …
From a neutral point of view all stage-organs (or  ‘clonewheels’) have their strong points and weak points.

The following list is an overview of single-manual combo stage organs

It does not include pure Hammond clones like Hammond XK, Viscount, etc. nor ‘Workstations with ‘tonewheel’ (e.g. Roland RD2000, Casio XW-P1…)
  • Dexibell Combo J7
    Why does Dexibell receive more attention from the v-combo webseite than the other ‘rivals’? Well, Dexibell is a young company founded in 2014 by the licensed Roland staff when Roland Europe R&D and production centre in Italy was closed down. Which means that Dexibell keys are quality instruments built by Roland people and assembled in a former Roland production plant.
    The J7 stage organ can be considered as a ‘superior quality VR730’ – positioned somewhere between Nord Electro and Nord Stage.
    The J7 shares the same Sound-System (“Vivo OS”) as the Dexibell Digital Pianos which probably gives it the best acoustic pianos of all actual combo organs.
    The J7 has some unique features like the motorized drawbars which follow selected organ presets an manual-toggle, the ‘permanent Leslie rotational noise’, the ‘organ morphing’ etc.

    • 73 key Fatar TP/8o Waterfall keybed (like VR730), split + layer mode
    • weight 10kg, metal housing, wooden side panels
    • decent tonewheel organ (not on the level of Hammond/Nord/Crumar – but in many aspects very comparable to Yamaha YC). Excellent Vox, Farfisa, Pipe
    • excellent acoustic and electric pianos
    • 100 bread&butter sounds + ca 100 more sounds from Dexibell website
    • loadable sounds in SF2-‘sound font’ format (unlimited number of free and pro SF2 sounds on the web)
    • 3 layers/split
    • motorised drawbars and ‘foot switch smooth transition’ (“morph”) between organ presets
    • permanent Leslie mechanical background noise (belts, bearings, wind…)
    • 3 jacks for pedals (e.g. expression, piano damper, rotary switch)
    • midi via usb, audio via usb, mp3/wav player, audio (wav) recorder, audio-in via Bluetooth
    • EQ, organ parameters, Leslie parameters, piano resonance+damper noise, filter + envelope (AHDSR), fully customisable MFX, freaky ‘sound modulators’ like ‘blow-noise’ for sax/flute/etc, noise of trumpet valves, etc
    • J7 profits from the regular upgrades of the ‘all products’ VIVO operating system (e.g. big improvement of Leslie sim, piano sound, constant bugfixing, improvments, new features
  • Yamaha YC
    Very well built, good waterfall keys (Yamaha built), exellent APs. At YC release, Organ/Leslie sound was not the best (sterile sound with ‘helicopter’ Leslie) – but the 2022 firmware upgrade lifted it up into the ‘premier organ clone league’.
  • Hammond SK-1
    It’s the ‘tonewheel-queen’ of the Combos: no one has more possibilities to customise the organ sound (up to individually tuning EACH virtual tonewheel) and the ‘real drawbars’ make an enormous difference in ‘organ feel’. It falls behind with ‘additional’ sounds and split/layering. Keybed is a Fatar TP/8O waterfall (same model as VR730 and both feel very similar) with nice ‘vintage beige coloured keys’. Dedicated organ output for original Leslie connector. All controls are solid, casing is metal and and the 2nd-lightest after VR09 (7 kg)
  • Hammond SK-Pro
    It’s even more the ‘tonewheel-queen’, replacing the VASE organ engine of SK1/2/X with the new MTW engine of Hammond XK5. Virtual ‘key multi contact simulation’, individually tuning of EACH virtual tonewheel and tons of Leslie-parameters. 4 Zones. 4 ‘principal’ sound categories where 2 can be composed of up to 4 layers (possible to create an 8-layer sound). Monophonic VA synth with real time controls + PCM polyphonic synth. Acoustic pianos improved over SK-1/2 but don’t reach the level of Dexibell or Nord. Keybed is a Fatar TP/8O waterfall. Dedicated organ outputs for original Leslie connector AND TRS-plug
  • Nord Electro
    In 2016 Nord shocked the world by introducing (limited) key split to 5D (hahaha). Now, with 6D it’s still not possible to split two synth or piano (AP-EP) sounds…  Nord Electro uses the Fatar TP/8O keybed but in a strange specification with wobbly keys. Tonewheel sound is powerful (very good for rock bands but less suited for sublime Jazz), acoustic pianos are very good, electric pianos a bit synthetic and pale. Hundreds of other sounds can be loaded from Nords sound libraries, e.g. new (improved) acoustic pianos. R/L-Line-out can be split into organ-out (for routing to Leslie sims like Ventilator or real Leslie) and (mono) ‘sound-out’ for all other sounds. Electro still is very limited in splitting and layering
  • Nord Stage Compact
    The ‘Waterfall-version’ of Nord Stage has all the gizmos ‘missing’ on the Electro like mod-wheels and stereo-out for non-organ sounds (when rerouting the organ). It integrates a full featured synthesizer with real-time controls and 4 zones split/layering. On the con side: very expensive… and suprisingly limited for layering !
  • Vox Continental
    Is the fashion model: very stylish with its draw-touchsliders, falls behind with Hammond sound but has an integrated tube preamp to warm up your sounds
  • Crumar Mojo 61
    Maybe Mojo is a close second behind SK/SK-Pro with regard to the most authentic and beautiful Hammond sound of all combos – if it can be called a combo with only 5 additional AP/EP sounds

Feature comparison

The following comparison tries to be as much as ‘objectiv’ as possible, e.g. considering
– ‘B3 authenticity’ for organ sound
– sample quality and ‘piano effects’ (like string resonance) for acoustic pianos
– authentic sound and ‘bite’ for electric pianos
– ‘natural/realistic’ vs. ‘artificial/digital’ sound character, etc.

Note: the ‘ranking’ goes from left to right and within a ‘box’ from top to down

feature excellent mediocre bad
Organ Hammond SK-Pro
Mojo
Hammond SK
Nord Electro/Stage
Yamaha YC [3]
Dexibell J7
Roland VR
Vox
Roland VR [1]
Acoustic Pianos Dexibell J7
Yamaha YC
Vox
Nord Electro/Stage

Hammond SK-Pro
Hammond SK
Mojo
Roland VR
Electric Pianos Vox
Hammond SK-Pro
Hammond SK
Mojo
Yamaha YC
Dexibell J7
Nord Electro/Stage
Roland VR
Bread & Butter Sounds Nord Stage
Hammond SK-Pro
Yamaha YC
Roland VR
Dexibell J7
Nord Electro
Hammond SK Mojo
Synth Features
(realtime controls, envelopes, filters …)
Nord Stage
Hammond SK-Pro
Yamaha YC
Roland VR
Dexibell J7
Nord Electro
Hammond SK
Mojo
Split/Layer Hammond SK-Pro
Roland VR [2]
Nord Stage
Dexibell J7
Yamaha YC
Vox
Hammond SK
Nord Electro 5/6
Mojo
Nord Electro 1-4
Dedicated
organ line-out
Hammond SK-Pro
Hammond SK
Nord Stage
Nord Electro Vox
Mojo
Yamaha YC
Dexibell J7
Roland VR

[1] under aspect of organ note retrigger bug
[2] under aspect of ‘hidden features’ for zones and layers
[3] under aspect of fixed organ/Leslie sound with firmware upgrade 2022