X8 - GRINDHAUS
A distortion unit designed specifically for vintage Hammonds connected to vintage Leslie 122s.
Dual distortion .... tube-smoothe drive and overdriven solid state raunch!
There are a lot of us vintage Hammond owners out there. Many of us really enjoy the sound of an overdriven organ. Whether it be the tube driven angry organ tones of Keith Emerson or Steve Walsh, or the completely pissed-off over the top distortion tones of the likes of Jon Lord (RIP Jon, we'll miss you sir.) Those sounds are something many of us love to emmerse ourselves within.
Some of the issues surrounding Hammond distortion:
Willful Damage: One of the problems with obtaining that soundset is that we are forced to push our Leslie amplifiers into high levels of overdrive to get there. We're sortof willfully punishing the amplifier, crossover network, and speaker drivers to obtain a distorted sound. When we push our Leslies that hard we're increasing the wear and tear on them. This makes some players uncomfortable with the prospect of doing such distorted molestations to their vintage equipment. Some folks are less than willing to do so simply due to the decreasing number of replacement parts and the corresponding increasing cost of those parts. They want "that sound" but they don't want to beat the hell out of their gear to get it. Totally understandable.
LOUDNESS - Very Mondo Huge Giant Loudness: Another issue with overdriving a Leslie into distortion is how LOUD it becomes when pushing it into distortion. The increased sound pressure levels (aka "SPL") can make a live mix difficult (and annoy the drummer) and/or can irritate or neighbors if we're enjoying a bit of distortion whilst we rip out our own versions of "Burn" (Deep Purple MK2) or "Easy Livin'" (Uriah Heep). So while it may be an everlovin' BLAST to jam to "Footstompin' Music" with the Leslie cranked up until it's distorting, the sheer volume may irritate neighbors or bandmates or the FOH sound guy.
Modifying the Equipment: There are many many distortion methods used and offered out there in the world. Most of which require minor to severe modifications to our precious vintage Hammonds and/or Leslie amplified rotary speaker systems. This isn't a problem for some players, to others it is a very unpleasent aspect. Some people don't want to modify their vintage Hammonds and Leslies to obtain those classic distorted sounds. With the rising cost of parts and the required labor involved the prospect can become one that scares a lot of folks away from the notion altogether, especially if it requires repairs later due to the higher output levels.
The Grindhaus, a solution:
The Grindnhaus is a combination of ideas that solves these problems for owners of vintage Hammonds that are connected to a Leslie 122. The Leslie 122 has a special requirement in that it demands a BALANCED LINE INPUT. So what I've done is designed a special rendition of my X8 distortion unit that couples with various microphone preamps to solve the complex problems that face owners of vintage Hammonds that are connected to Leslie 122 speakers.
The Grindhaus is inserted between your Hammond and your Leslie 122 by using the standard connection cables that are already on your Hammond/Leslie. The Grindhaus plugs into your Hammond where your Leslie normally plugs into, and your Leslie plugs into the Grindhaus. Easy Peasy. Standard Hammond connectors are used in the Grindhaus so no special cords or adaptors are needed. The Hammond's signal flows into and through the X8 module, then it goes into the mic preamp where it's converted to a balanced line siganl and the gain is prepared for the Leslie, then it flows back into the X8 module where it is routed through the X8's bypass switching array then out to your Leslie through standard Hammond connector located on the X8 module. The X8 module and the Mic Preamp are interconnected by special custom connection patch cords that I hand make which enable the use of nearly ANY mic preamp should you elect to use something other than what I've provided for you in the means of mic preamps. The Grindhaus is uber-stout, and fully road worthy. Especially since it is designed and equipped to use off the shelf mic preamps, as well as easily repaired patch cables that use easily obtained connectors (Stereo XLR xconnectors, 1/4 inch Tip-Ring-Sleeve connectors, 1/4 inch Tip-Sleeve connectors, and two very standard Hammond connectors, one female and one male). There's no "unobtainium" in the Grindhaus, that alone makes the Grindhaus flexible and very roadworthy.
There are some Hammond/Leslie 122 combinations that use certain speed control methods that complicate the installation of the GRINDHAUS system. Some may require some simple changes made to a few connections inside the organ (such as those organs equipped with the Leslie 6H interface to adapt organs with 5-pin or 6-pin connectors to Leslie 122s). The best thing to do is to contact me and we'll discuss your system to see if what I make will work on your rig. There are Leslie speed control systems that can run afoul with what the GRINDHAUS is set up to do, so the best thing is to get in touch with me and we'll discuss your specific situation. Depending on your gear there may be alternative methods of connecting the GRINDHAUS to your Hammond. Most Hammond/122 combinations work just fine with no hassles when including the GRINDHAUS distortion system.
Here's a quick rundown of the X8 Grindhaus:
- 100% Plug-n-Play.
- Absolutely NO MODIFICATIONS required to your vintage Hammond or vintatge Leslie 122. None, Zero, Zip, Nada. (There are two exceptions, when you contact me to begin the ordering process I can determine if your rig is one of the two exceptions. As mentioned above the 5-pin and 6-pin equipped Hammonds w/Leslies complicate installations a little bit. Contact me and I'll let you know how we can work around these complications. They are simple changes that are 100% reversable).
- No increased wear and tear on your Hammond or Leslie. The signal levels can be set anywhere from far lower than what your stock Hammond puts out to your Leslie, all the way to overdrving your Leslie. This means that you can have those distortion sounds without putting ANY stress on your prized Leslie or it's components. No stress on the speakers or rotary drivers, no stress on the amplifier, no stress on the crossover network inside the Leslie. Just wonderful distorted organ tones!
- Low-volume level distortion compliant. You can have the heaviest of distortion sounds at bedroom levels (if that's your wish).
- Super-wide spectrum of distortion tones, everything from just a whisper of it, to insane Heavy Metal Thundah!
- Built-in Attenua signal attenuator. This rig can be used with other guitar-level FX units.
- Completely flexible design formats. Can be designed to sit on top of your organ and engaged with a toggle switch or down near your feet and engaged with a footswitch, or any other configurations that suit your needs. Write to me with what you have in mind and I can configure a system to suit your individual needs.
- Respect of your gear's integrity is an utmost priority. For instance the one pictured here on this page is mounted on a piece of Red Oak, that has very high quality screw-mounted non-marking neoprene feet to insure that the base doesn't create any artifacts or leave any marks or scratches on your vintage gear.
- The X8 Grindhaus comes complete with two AC-adaptor power supplies. One for the X8 itself, and one for the Mic Preamp. This modular approach to power distribution makes it very easy on you, the user. If one of the power supplies fails (as they sometimes do) a replacement is easily obtained. And keeping the power supplies as external modules (rather than building them inside of the X8) reduces noise and hum issues by leagues. This aspect alone keeps the X8 Grindaus modular overdrive unit as quiet and noiseless as possible.
- Full-on 100% Hardware Bypassable (sometimes called "True Bypass"). When the Grindhaus is bypassed, it's totally out of the signal chain, completely. Every aspect of it, every single circuit path is totally bypassed and the organ's signal is sent directly to the Leslie just as if the Grindhaus were never installed. Either flip the BYPASS toggle (the LED will go dark) or step on the footswitch (if so equipped) and a hard bypass is established.
The Mic Preamp:
- Easily replaceable Mic Preamps. In the event you decide you want to use a different mic preamp (for whatever reasons) it is super simple to interconnect a different one than the one installed on the Grindhaus.
- Typically I prefer to use a tube-driven ART Mic Preamp for even more genuine warmth. These ART mic pres are just wonderful for use with Hammonds and they are the standard preamp included with the Grindhaus (although you may specify any mic preamp you wish). I like using these because of the very effective hard-limiter they have in them (which protects your vintage Leslie from signal spikes) and the fact that they have a nice backlit VU meter so you have a visual report of how strong the signal is that is provided to your vintage Leslie. The backlit VU meter also assists you when setting up the Grindhaus for different distortion sounds. That way no matter what changes you make you always know where to set the output to obtain the same volume level by using the VU meter. The Mic Preamp is necessary to convert the unbalanced signal produced by the X8 distortion unit to a balanced signal, as well as aid the needed 40db+ of gain required to properly drive your Leslie. These ART mic preamps carry a THREE YEAR manufacturers warranty, ART is also a USA based company. These ART mic preamps are typically very inexpensive as well. I do not mark up my cost of the preamp a single solitary US red cent. You pay me what I paid for the preamp (no matter which preamp you may elect you have me use when I construct your Grindhaus).
- The ART Mic Preamp reconstructs percussive envelopes. When you add distortion to your Hammond's sound, most of the time any percussion you've dialed-up becomes nearly invisible. Most of the time this is due to the natural dynamic compression that distortion creates. It basically compresses the percussion right out of sonic existance. One of the wonderful things about the X8/ART ensemble is that they work together to retain the percussive dynamic envelope. The hard limiter in the ART has a slight delay to the attack time, which means that the limiter is told to wait a few milliseconds before it starts limiting the signal level. This permits the sound to be slightly louder for a few milliseconds and then it limits that signal which brings the loudness down to the limited level. This all occurs in fractions of a second. The X8 Grindhaus is specifically designed to exploit the ART limiter's attack time and provide the facilities needed to retain a percussive sound, even though you may have the X8 set up to provide very VERY high amounts of distortion. No other overdrive unit for organs has this ability. It creates a lot more edge and bite that is most times lost with heavy distortion. Score Farndurk!
- Fully adjustable signal limiter to protect your precious vintage Leslie even further.
The X8 Distortion Module:
- SIGNAL FLOW: As you look at pictures of the Grindhaus, the signal flow is generally RIGHT TO LEFT. All of the controls are laid out in compliance with that idea. So your Hammond's signal hits the "G1" knob first, goes through all of the controls from right to left al the way to the "V" (volume) control, then it's released to the mic preamp where you set the signal level that is sent to your Leslie.
- GAIN STRUCTURE: Input gain control, labeled "G1". This control provides control over how much heat the Hammond puts into the distortion circuitry as well as the FX loop (if so equipped). This control is very useful with the secondary gain control (labeled "G2"). Using both G1 and G2 together allows you to contour the distortion sounds with a lot of control. Combine those two gain controls with the MODE switch (labeled "M") and you have as much control over the gain structure as possible. This system allows you to set up distortion sounds that can be responsive to swell pedal settings, and drawbar settings as well. Or you can dial-in distortion sounds that completely overwhelm those functions and just provide all-out DRIVE! It's totally up to you.
- TONE SHAPING: Three individual tone shaping controls that provide different types of distortion sounds labeled "T1" - "T2" - "T3" all provide different tone shaping abilities. T1 is a pre-gain tone control, it shapes the tone of your organ's sound before it hits the second gain stage ("G2"). T2 is a hybrid filter much like the hybrid filters used in several classic Oberheim synthesizers. It provides a combined configuration of both Low Pass and High Pass filters, all in one control knob. And T3 is a post-gain tone control that helps tame those upper harmonics that distortion creates.
- LEVEL CONTROL: After you've set up the distortion sound you want, and have shaped the tone as you please, the signal hits the Volume control (labeled "V"). After the V knob it leaves the X8 and the signal goes to the connected Mic Preamp where you use it's features to limit and control the signal level that is sent to your Leslie 122. The signal is converted to a balanced line in the mic preamp as well (which is quite necessary for use with Leslie 122 equipped Hammonds).
- OD-Only Bypass: An option for this system is a Distortion Circuit Only Bypass switch. What this does is it bypasses just the distortion circuit. This allows you to insert other guitar-type FX into the attenutated loop without the X8 engaged. It turns the Grindhaus into an FX loop that can accommodate any guitar level or line level FX units. The neat thing about that is that the Hard Bypass switch will "true bypass" the entire FX loop as well as the X8 and the mic preamp. Cool, right?
These are pictures of but one configuration of the X8 Grindhaus System. This one was custom designed for a customer to suit his needs and requirements. I custom design each X8 Grindhaus to suit your own needs, whatever they may be.
As you can see here, I can use any of several types of small tube-driven mic preamps. This is a Presonus that provides more output gain than the ART that I normally use. So if you're looking to kick your Leslie 122 in the ass a bit harder and get more volume from it, this Presonus mic preamp than may be used. However, the ART provides enough gain to drive the Leslie 122 to it's normal output volume without overdriving it. And it's VERY cost effective as well, and I really like the hard limiter that the ART has built into it's feature set.
In this particular case, the Grindhaus system was mounted on a piece of Red Oak that I applied four hand polished coats of Tung Oil too. It was fitted with high quality neoprene non-marking feet that are fixed to the oak base with stainless steel screws (not double-sided adhesive tape).
Here's the two power supplies needed to power the entire Grindhaus system. I've gone to using Dunlop power supplies for the X8 portion of the Grindhaus instead of the older Boss-type unit. The Dunlop is smaller and more reliable, and can be replaced (if needed) for around $10 bucks! The Mic Preamp uses whatever power supply was provided with it from the manufacturer. The X8 and the mic preamp cannot share one power supply as most mic preams run on voltages that are far different from the X8's requirements. Some mic preamps run on AC voltage, others run on DC but have different polarities or much higher voltages than the X8 can be run on. It just makes far better sense to operate the two units on their own discrete power supplies. I can provide you with a high quality AC power strip (Belkin makes some really excellent all-metal power strips that are small and discrete) or I might even be pursuaded to construct a small wooden box to house the AC outlets. Money makes most thing happen rather easily. Another option is to have the stock Hammond power strip (the brown metal box on your Hammond where you plug in your main power cord as well as connect the Leslie 122 to) modified to include two AC outlets where you can plug in the two power supplies for the Grindhaus. This is a common modification that several Hammond parts suppliers and repair facilities offer. Or you can do what I've done in this picture and use any old AC power strip you have on hand.
The Farndurk X8 Grindhaus is a custom overdrive system that is configured how ever you require.
Some of the floating options are:
- Mounting position: It can be mounted where ever you wish. One of the better methods is to put the control unit (the box with all of the knobs on it) up on top of the organ where you have immediate access to those controls. Then a I/O chassis is built and placed down below. The Mic Preamp can be placed below, or it can be mounted on a wooden base with the control unit and put on top of the organ (or elsewhere). This configuration provides room for FX-loops, several footswitches (for instance one for master bypass of the whole works, one for just the FX Loop, and one for just the X8 distortion unit), and all of the I/O jacks needed to patch this stuff together. This is my personally favorite configuration. I call it the "2-Piece Configuration". Write me with your ideas, we'll talk.
- Bypass/Engage switching: I can make it so the Grindhaus uses footswitches to engage it and it's functions, or toggle switches, or combinations of the two, your choice.
- Distortion Bypass: A separate true bypass for just the distortion circuit only.
- Switchable FX loop: A true bypass switch to engage or bypass an FX loop where you might have other guitar level or line level FX.
- FX Loop Bypass only: This switch does the same thing as the Distortion Bypass. It leaves the Grindhaus engaged but bypasses/engages the FX Loop all on it's own without disturbing the Distortion circuit.
- Remote Modularity: The X8 Distortion and Attenua circuit can be mounted separately from the mic preamp if desired. For instance the X8 may be desktop mounted on top of your organ, while the mic preamp can be mounted on the footbox of your organ. Or any other configuration you might need.
- Other? If you have other needs or ideas, run them past me. The worst that can happen is I'll tell you "no" with an explanation of "why".
- Different Base-woods: If the Grindhaus I'm designing for you requires a wooden base, I can make the base out of nearly any wood species you wish. It can be made from Cherry or Mahogany if you want it to match your organ. The one pictured on this page was made of Red Oak and finished with four coats of hand polished Tung Oil to protect it.
The Farndurk X8 Grindhaus. For owners of vintage Hammonds and vintage Leslie 122 rotary cabinets.
There is absolutely NOTHING else like it available anywhere!
USA Based Companies:
The ART mic preamp is made by Applied Research and Technology (model number TUBEMPST), which is a US-based company located in Rochester, New York. www.artproaudio.com
The power supply I provide with the X8 module is made by Dunlop (model number ECB003US) which is another US-based firm located in Benicia, California. www.jimdunlop.com
And of course Farndurk Custom Modular is a USA based company located out here in the deep Sonoran Desert of Arizona.
The X8 Grindhaus carries my normal LIFETIME WARRANTY with the obvious exception being the mic preamp. The mic preamp carries whatever warranty it's manufacturer offers. In the case of the ART mic pre that I normally use ART's warranty is THREE YEARS parts and labor. So in that case, I offer my lifetime warranty on everything except the mic preamp and it's power supply, and the X8's power supply. I typically use a Dunlop power supply for the X8.
GENUINE PRICING - A few words about "parts markup":
On the Grindhaus I need to buy numerous items to facilitate it's completion, such as a mic preamp, Hammond connectors and multi-conductor cabling, fine cabinet-grade wood, and a few other trinkets. I charge you exactly what I am charged for those items and materials. I do not add anything to their cost, or mark-up the prices, or make any profit on any of those things. Not a penny. I'm not in the business of reselling parts and equipment, I'm in the business of building hand-made high quality audio gear which is exactly what I charge you for. As unique as the Grindhaus already is, I add to that uniqueness by providing you with an itemized invoice that shows what your money went to. It shows you what I charged you for the mic preamp, the power supply, the wood used (if any), as well as any of the specialized Hammond connectors and multi-conductor cabling. I even provide the cost of the extra hardware. So you know that when you buy a Grindhaus from me you're not paying for profits I marked on top of those items, you're paying me for what I do for you. I call this protocol "Genuine Pricing".
The listed price includes the mic preamp, the finished wooden base, all of the interconnecting patch cables, the X8 attenuator and distortion module, both power supplies for the X8 module and the mic preamp. This price is a general starting point, your particular Grindhaus may be more, may be less - it all depends on how you have me design and configure it.
List price: $600.00.