Refreshing a Leslie 222’s Tube Amp
Though a friend, I was notified of a Hammond organ and Leslie that were free for the taking about a year ago. It turns out that the instrument was a Hammond H-100. This was a “home” version of the B-3. Like the B-3, it has a full set of tonewheels. Unlike the B-3, it adds several “orchestral voices” that are really not very emulative. The organ from a monetary standpoint is worthless. While it does the tonewheel thing just like the B-3, it is not really a B-3.
The Leslie is an interesting beast. It’s a Leslie 222. This is the “home” version of the 122, and is laid out horizontally instead of vertically. The treble rotor is beside the bass rotor, so the whole thing is about the size of a standard high-boy Leslie turned on its side. This one is finished in “Provincial Walnut” It has a tube amplifier that looked as new as the day it was built when I opened it up – not a speck of dust inside.
The Leslie was very noisy with static, pops, and a hum too! After 40 years, all the capacitors were quite shot, so it was time for a rebuild. I ordered a rebuild kit and instructions from here. They have rebuild kits for organs and Leslie speakers of all types. Their 122 kit had everything needed to fully refresh the amp.
So, after storing it in my studio for a year, I got tired of looking at it and decided it was time to move it along. I followed the directions and replaced all the capacitors with fresh modern ones (that’s all the Orange Drops in the picture). One of the power supply diodes was also fried, so I replaced all four of those as well.
I had a frustrating go at first until I put a bigger tip on my soldering iron. The old leads were kind of chunky and just needed more surface area to transfer the heat. Once I was going, it went pretty quickly. The nice thing is that the schematic is printed on the side of the amp, and it is also available on-line. This made verifying all the parts and their location very simple.
The amp worked correctly as soon as I turned it on. All the magic smoke staying inside, and it is ready for another 10-15 years of service.
There is something to be said for the serviceability of a fine tube amplifier. All the parts are readily available, often with better parts than were available at the time of construction. The work is simple, and anyone who can solder can easily complete basic maintenance.
The organ and Leslie are on their way to my neighbor, who used to play, but hasn’t had a instrument in years. It will be good to move this out of my space and onto its next owner. I will certainly be glad to have the floorspace back.
For my own use, I think I’ll just stick to emulators. There is magic in a perfectly maintained and updated tube Leslie matched with a fine and fully restored B-3. There are also not that many of them, and they require maintenance. B-3 maintenance is a whole different level or maintenance than a tube amp. Not really being a Hammond player at heart, the emulations are frankly good enough for my purposes. I’d rather spend my instrument maintenance budget on my piano. Putting a screaming organ behind some distorted guitars seems to work fine with VB-3 or the B-3 emulation built into Apple’s Mainstage. Both are quite serviceable. There is a bit of magic that happens with the sound bouncing around inside the room, but not having ever played the real thing, I don’t miss what I don’t have muscle memory for.
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