Viscount DB3 Drawbar Organ keyboard

Used – Mint
18% price drop
+ $264CAD Shipping
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Shipped From
Headbanger Rare Guitars
Madrid, Spain
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About This Listing

As you can see, it appears little different from its predecessors, the Oberheim OB‑3 and OB‑32 (reviewed in SOS March 1996 and September 1997, respectively), or its current competition, instruments such as the Hammond XK2, Roland VK8, and Korg CX3. A wooden chassis reminiscent of a vintage Hammond encloses a five-octave keyboard, with a control panel and drawbars at the left-hand extreme, and as with the OB‑32, there's also a module version which offers the controls and drawbars but loses the keyboard. Yeah... well, so what's new? Given that the DB3 is yet another competent Hammond emulator in a world replete with competent Hammond emulators (not least of which is Viscount's own aforementioned OB‑32, which I personally rate highly), why should we take any notice?

The answer is simple, and compelling. Whereas the Hammond, Roland and Korg will cost you upwards of £1500 (or thereabouts), the Viscount can be yours for a mere £500 (and the module, at £349, is even more reasonable). This has to be worth a closer look...

Like its competition, the DB3 incorporates a DSP-powered physical modelling system dedicated to emulating the sound of a vintage Hammond played through a dual-rotor Leslie speaker. Consequently, the control panel (which looks much smarter in black than its predecessors did in cream) sports the expected controls: nine drawbars, a six-position knob for chorus/vibrato, a reverb knob, switches for percussion, and switches for Leslie on/off and rotor speed.

The DB3 provides three manuals — Upper, Lower, and a pedalboard called 'Bass' — all of which you can play on the DB3 itself using split points that allow you to allocate each to a range on the keyboard. You configure these (and determine the DB3's other functions) using the nine extra buttons — Bass, Lower, Rotary, Rev Type, Equaliser, MIDI, Global Memory, '-' and '+' — and the three-digit LED screen that also resides on the control panel. Oh, for heaven's sake... not another three-character screen, surely?

I have been critical of silly little screens in the past, and I see no reason why the one on the DB3 should escape my ire. Why manufacturers think it acceptable in 2002 to use displays incapable of displaying the letter 'M' is beyond my comprehension. Admittedly, the simplicity of the DB3's operating system renders this less of a limitation than it is on synths that adopt the same approach, but I'm still not happy about it. Sure, adding a 20-character LCD might add to the cost. But then again, it might not.

Allocating the three 'manuals' to regions on the keyboard is simple. You start by pressing the Bass button. On doing so for the first time, the screen displays 'BLx', which means 'Bass Level, x' where 'x' is a number from zero to nine. You can then press the '+' or '-' buttons to adjust this. Pressing the Bass button again displays 'BSx', which allows you to program the Bass Sustain, which is, of course, a Release time. True, you won't find Sustain on vintage Hammonds, but it is nevertheless welcome.

The next press of the button allows you to determine whether the Bass is layered over the bottom end of the Upper or Lower manuals, or whether it is assigned to its own region. A fourth press allows you to set the Split Point itself, simply by pressing '+' followed by the appropriate key. Similarly, pressing the Lower button allows you to determine a split point and level for the lower manual. The system is simple, and after a quick whizz through the skimpy but clear manual, I configured the DB3 quickly and with a minimum of fuss. Maybe I'll forgive the three-character LED, after all.

If you wish to use the DB3 within a multi-keyboard MIDI rig, that's no problem. Pressing the MIDI button allows you to select a MIDI 'mode': send/receive on a single channel, send/receive on two channels for separate Upper and Lower/Bass use, and send/receive on three channels, setting the MIDI channel for each section independently. Furthermore, the DB3 offers a healthy MIDI specification, with SysEx or MIDI CC# control of almost all parameters, and as on the OB‑32, the hardware drawbars transmit and respond to MIDI controllers. You can transmit Program Changes from the panel and you can dump the memory to a MIDI sequencer (on playback, though, the DB3 will reload any files it encounters, so be careful).

The final MIDI parameter is Key Touch. Surprisingly, given the nature and low cost of the instrument, its 'waterfall' keyboard is velocity-sensitive, with five response curves. This proves to be pleasantly playable, and you should have no difficulty using the DB3 as a controller for a velocity-sensitive synthesizer or expansion module. Bear in mind, however, that the DB3 offers no provision for a sustain (damper) pedal, so playing piano sounds is doomed to failure. This is odd... why go to the bother of implementing multiple velocity response curves, and omit the sustain pedal? This indicates muddled thinking; surely it would make more sense for Viscount tor stick to one philosophy or the other? Also, there is no aftertouch, and no performance controls such as a pitch-bend / modulation lever or wheels. On balance, I think that it would be best to ignore the MIDI Out socket as far as using the DB3 as a keyboard controller goes.

This item is sold As-Described

This item is sold As-Described and cannot be returned unless it arrives in a condition different from how it was described or photographed. Items must be returned in original, as-shipped condition with all original packaging.

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Product Specs

Listed7 months ago
ConditionMint (Used)
Mint items are in essentially new original condition but have been opened or played.learn more
Made In
  • Italy

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