The Hammond name is invariably associated with the tonewheel organs that changed the face of rock and jazz keyboards, but Hammond made a number of other not-exactly-organ keyboard instruments. The most ambitious of these by far was the Novachord. Released in 1939, it was a failed product in its day, because like many other forward-looking inventions, it was so far ahead of its time that customers didn't know what to make of it. For all intents and purposes, the Novachord was the world's first fully-polyphonic "divide-down" synthesizer, making use of the now-familiar tone generation system used in endless organs and string machines. It also included embryonic versions of analog synthesizer-style filter and envelope generators. Unfortunately, the aforementioned "what the heck is this thing" factor, its unstable room-heating 163 vacuum tubes combined with its huge weight (500 lbs!), and ultimately, a materials shortage at the start of WWII, brought Novachord production to a halt in 1942 with around 1000 produced.
These days, precious few have survived, and even fewer remain in working order. This is a shame, because the Novachord makes a sound like no other instrument - a sort of haunting and vibey "old film" tonality - particularly when swamped in spring or tape echo. In fact, years later, the Novachord found new life when used in 50s and 60s sci-fi film soundtracks.
Us Cherry Audio folks have a soft spot for any and all types of electronic music oddities, so when legendary DSP whiz Mark Barton (MRB) approached us with the idea of recreating the Novachord, we jumped on it. Mark's spot-on recreation truly captures the spirit of this unique instrument, and we hope you'll enjoy as much as we have.
A special thanks to Joseph and Justin Martin Fill for invaluable access and recordings of their beautifully restored vintage Novachord.
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