Crumar Mojo Limited Edition Manual Tonewheel Organ
By Chris Loeffler |
Crumar Mojo Limited Edition
Ridiculous Vintage Mojo
By Chris Loeffler
While technology continues to rocket music gear into the sonic future, there’s a soothing nostalgia and warmth to the past that keeps musicians returning to analog gear, or at least to push software to achieve vintage sounds. Keyboard players may have access to soft synths that create otherworldly sounds through complex algorithms that would have broken 1980’s NASA super-computers, but to a dedicated group of players, the sounds and feel of the Hammond B-3 dual-manual drawbar organ is the definitive player experience. While Hammond is still in business (and continues to make dual-manual drawbars in a different format), manufacturers like Nord and Crumar have honed in on that space in a contest to see who can most accurately recreate the experience while taking advantage of technology to expand the sonic possibilities.
The Crumar Mojo Limited Edition, despite it’s emphasis on physical presence and control, is essentially a MIDI controller running a custom computer hosting a customized version of Genuine Software VB3 Version 2 by Guido Scognamiglio. That said, it feels like a solid, physical piece with the added benefit of being reasonably light and no headaches to be had around moving parts. Each of the two in-line 61-note 5 octave C - C waterfall keyboards is controlled by nine dedicated, physical drawbars (plus two drawbars for the pedalboard) for something over 250,000,000 sound possibilities with drawbar adjustments alone, four percussion buttons, and three chorus/vibrato controls. Each keyboard has seven presets in addition to volume, overdrive, and reverb controls, meaning the core vintage organ performance experience is achieved without needing to dive into menus or looking at a single digital screen. The main differences between the Mojo Limited Edition and the standard Mojo is the addition of a protective textured coating to the wooden ends and upgraded knobs and controls.
Diving into the software editor via the USB output (a separate MojoEditor box is available for purchase that allows deep software edits without needing a computer), I gained access to 22 different virtual generators scaled to specific virtual organs and the ability to build my own from the ground up. While distinctly different from each other, all demonstrated a depth, grit, and presence that is the antithesis of “software sounding”.
The various virtual instruments all walked the line from crystal clear and percussively sharp to producing grit, grind, and grime I’ve never hear heard sound as authentically analog in a software or modeling environment. The breath and sense of mechanical movement could be hear in every pumped chording and the overdrive, whether dialed back or driven hard, expressed a naturally round compression. Even the accidental audio quirks created by the original B3 sound like an organic part of the multilayered sound created by the mechanics of the organ tone generation process. The upper octaves, in particular, were a revelation and maintained the power and warmth of the rest of the octaves whereas most competitors I have tried tend to get thin or shrill near the top of the keyboard. To my ears, the most extreme overdrive settings (maybe the last quarter of the control’s sweep) lost some of the sweetness and dimension. I invited my daughter to contribute to the “try to make polyphony glitch” test with a twenty note, five octave spread of a chord and couldn’t detect any audible glitch or latency strangeness.
Everything that is key to the B3 experience, the tone, triggering of the harmonic percussion, key click, and drawbar holdback, is nailed by the Crumar Mojo. Non-organ sounds like Rhodes, Wurly, and Farfisa are available and sound great, but their editing parameters are somewhat limited and the assortment of instruments falls short of, say, a current production Nord or Hammond. Those are icing on a perfect cake though. For those not in the know, Genuine VB3 is as close an end-all to rotary simulations as is possible and widely considered to be the most authentic sounding rotary simulation available. The rotary shines and manages to avoid the effecty-sounding pitch shifts or multi-line chorus sounds of typical simulators and nails the doppler effect taking place in physical space, air moving and all.
The Crumar Mojo is well built with solid hardwoods and steel; the pull knobs and sliders have the right travel and just feel right. There’s no denying the vintage feeling of the the Crumar Mojo; it plays like an immaculately maintained piece from a bygone era, down to the construction and give of the individual components and keys.
While it’s more a “feature” than a bug, the current limited distribution of Crumar (most orders are made directly though their Italian site) means that there aren’t many opportunities to play one before plunking down the not-insignificant change required to purchase one. For such a specialized piece, the logistics aren’t likely to detract the Crumar’s target audience, but many potential organ enthusiasts will never find themselves with an opportunity to experience the mojo of the Crumar in person, which is a shame.
The Crumar isn’t cheap, and it is a pretty niche piece for a very specific subset of keyboard and organists, but it is one of the most “authentically vintage” feeling and sounding experiences I’ve had with a current production instrument. It feels real, it sounds real, and it plays real.
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.