The Best B3 Organ Plugins in 2020

Hammond B3 Simulations

8/3/2020

I love Hammond B3 organ plugins! Then again, who doesn't! The Hammond Organ (paired with a Leslie rotating speaker) is such a sexy, classic instrument and a lasting testament to 20th century American Engineering. I not only make my own B3 organ plugin and organ shootout videos, I also use and experiment with all the different organ libraries, in quest of the Holy B3 tone. Which organ is the best plugin in 2020? Well, I have some thoughts on the matter! If you just want to listen to raw sound examples, watch the aforementioned video. For a more in-depth analysis on the pros and cons of each organ, continue reading. I will rate each plugin on three main categories: LESLIE, PLAYABILITY, FEATURES, and SOUND DESIGN.

Adam Monroe's Rotary Organ

Let's start with my organ. Am I biased? Sure! Is my organ still a decent plugin? I believe so, and here's why! I sampled my organ from a Hammond M3, so all the frequency tones come from a genuine Hammond tonewheel. I proceeded to give the organ the same range as a B3 and spent a lot of time on the Leslie simulation. I have written an article about simulating a Leslie Speaker here Simulating a Leslie Speaker, but to summarize, there are some basic things you should listen for in an accurate Leslie simulation:

Leslie
1.) Clear separation of Top and Bottom Rotors.
2.) Accurate ramp-up and ramp-down times from chorale to tremolo speed, with each rotor ramping-up and spinning down at different rates. (Video Clip)
3.) Subtle phasing/chorusing effects.
4.) Frequency-dependent directionality of the horns, especially the upper horn.
5.) Harmonic distortion that mimics 6550 and 12AU7 vacuum tubes of a Leslie cabinet.


Playability
1.) Easily assign and use Leslie and volume Swell controls?
2.) Easily switch between Drawbar Presets?
3.) Easily switch Percussion, Key-Click, ect?

Features
1.) Accurate Key Click modeling?
2.) Accurate Percussion modeling? (Clip)
3.) Vibrato Scanner?
4.) Upper and Lower Manuals?

Presets and Sound Design
1.) Number of Presets: 95
2.) Amplifier, Cabinets, and Reverb: 16 Amplifiers, 24 EQ Curves
3.) Tonewheel generators: 1

Value
1.) 2020 Price: $25
2.) Number of Samples: 8,232
3.) Memory Use: 575 MB



Thoughts
Great all-around plugin with lots of presets, sounds design, and a lower price. It blends nicely into mix. In the future, I plan to add cabinet simulations and additional reverb options. One decision I've made is to allow percussion to trigger on all notes (this isn't 100% accurate as a real Hammond B3 only lets you play percussion on single notes, ie, polyphony equals no percussion.
IK Multimedia Hammond B-3X Tonewheel Organ

This is the officially licensed Hammond Suzuki B3 Organ Simulation so it should be pretty good! To me it sounds like the modeling is based on what's used in the Hammond SK1, SK2, SKX, and all the other portable organs that Hammond and Suzuki have been manufacturing since the early 2000s, so if you are familiar with that organ sound, you will probably be familiar with the sound of this plugin!

Leslie
1.) Clear separation of Top and Bottom Rotors.
2.) Accurate ramp-up and ramp-down times from chorale to tremolo speed, with each rotor ramping-up and spinning down at different rates. (Video Clip)
3.) Subtle phasing/chorusing effects.
4.) Frequency-dependent directionality of the horns, especially the upper horn.
5.) Harmonic distortion that mimics 6550 and 12AU7 vacuum tubes of a Leslie cabinet.


Playability
1.) Easily assign and use Leslie and volume Swell controls?
2.) Easily switch between Drawbar Presets?
3.) Easily switch Percussion, Key-Click, ect?

Features
1.) Accurate Key Click modeling?
2.) Accurate Percussion modeling? (Clip)
3.) Vibrato Scanner?
4.) Upper and Lower Manuals?

Presets and Sound Design
1.) Number of Presets: 63
2.) Amplifier, Cabinets, and Reverb: 2 Reverbs, Chorus, EQ, 2 Guitar Amps, 4 Leslie Amps, Tube Screamer
3.) Tonewheel generators: 4

Value
1.) 2020 Price: $299
2.) Number of Samples: ?
3.) Memory Use: 1.6 GB



Thoughts
Being the officially licensed organ this is a pretty accurate sim. However, for $300 I feel like the amplifier sims could be just a little bit better (the Leslie Amp sims sound good when pushed, but the guitar and tubscreamer sims are questionable). The default presets can also sound slightly dull to me when used in a mix, for example, here, here, and here. What I mean by this is that there should be slighly more variation when the horns are spinning at a fixed speed, due to the mechanical nature of a Leslie Speaker. These are minor quibbles, but due to higher price I am more critical of this plugin in my evaluation. If you are reading this and the price has gone down to $150 or even $99 the value will be higher.
Acousticsamples B-5 Organ V2

Acousticsamples B3 Organ is a nice organ vst that has been improving over time (version 2 includes an updated leslie simulation). Acousticsamples are one of my favorite plugin companies because their stuff tends to sound a little more natural and usually feature great built-in effects and sound design - their B3 organ is no exception.

Leslie
1.) Clear separation of Top and Bottom Rotors.
2.) Accurate ramp-up and ramp-down times from chorale to tremolo speed, with each rotor ramping-up and spinning down at different rates. (Video Clip)
3.) Subtle phasing/chorusing effects.
4.) Frequency-dependent directionality of the horns, especially the upper horn.
5.) Harmonic distortion that mimics 6550 and 12AU7 vacuum tubes of a Leslie cabinet.



Playability
1.) Easily assign and use Leslie and volume Swell controls?
2.) Easily switch between Drawbar Presets?
3.) Easily switch Percussion, Key-Click, ect?

Features
1.) Accurate Key Click modeling?
2.) Accurate Percussion modeling? (Clip)
3.) Vibrato Scanner?
4.) Upper and Lower Manuals?

Presets and Sound Design
1.) Number of Presets: 190+ (Drawbars)
2.) Amplifier, Cabinets, and Reverb: 28 Cabinets, with 8 "rotary" cabinets
3.) Tonewheel generators: 5

Value
1.) 2020 Price: $112
2.) Number of Samples: 11,000
3.) Memory Use: 549 MB



Thoughts
This is a very nice organ if you are searching for a mellow vintage tone. The "tube distortion" is tastefully done compared to some of the other plugins and it blends into a mix fairly well. I don't really like the UVI player as there are some GUI and loading glitches. The presets are also drawbar based and therefore don't affect reverb, distortion, or cabinet settings.
Logic X Vintage B-5 Organ V2

The organ that comes with Logic is quite good. It's so good that I use it as a benchmark when comparing organ plugins. Even after all these years, it still holds up and swings with the best of them, but you have to be an Apple user and a Logic user, which I am sadly not.

Leslie
1.) Clear separation of Top and Bottom Rotors.
2.) Accurate ramp-up and ramp-down times from chorale to tremolo speed, with each rotor ramping-up and spinning down at different rates. (Video Clip)
3.) Subtle phasing/chorusing effects.
4.) Frequency-dependent directionality of the horns, especially the upper horn.
5.) Harmonic distortion that mimics 6550 and 12AU7 vacuum tubes of a Leslie cabinet.


Playability
1.) Easily assign and use Leslie and volume Swell controls?
2.) Easily switch between Drawbar Presets?
3.) Easily switch Percussion, Key-Click, ect?

Features
1.) Accurate Key Click modeling?
2.) Accurate Percussion modeling? (Clip)
3.) Vibrato Scanner?
4.) Upper and Lower Manuals?

Presets and Sound Design
1.) Number of Presets: 36
2.) Amplifier, Cabinets, and Reverb: 7 Cabinets, Wah-Wah, Distortion
3.) Tonewheel generators: 1

Value
1.) 2020 Price: Comes with Apple's DAW Logic
2.) Number of Samples: modeled
3.) Memory Use: 12 MB



Thoughts
This is a very balanced organ and if I were a Logic and Apple user I'd be tempted to just use this. It blends nicely into a mix. The distortion algorithm is starting to show it's age but still manages to somehow sound better than most of the paid libraries. Apple really nailed the Leslie simulation, especially the chorusing effect at "tremolo" speed.
GSi VB3-II Tonewheel Organ Simulator

This was the go to B3 organ plugin for a long time on the PC. It still holds up, sounds good, and will work for many situations, but is maybe slightly less exciting than when it first hit the market.

Leslie
1.) Clear separation of Top and Bottom Rotors.
2.) Accurate ramp-up and ramp-down times from chorale to tremolo speed, with each rotor ramping-up and spinning down at different rates. (Video Clip)
3.) Subtle phasing/chorusing effects.
4.) Frequency-dependent directionality of the horns, especially the upper horn.
5.) Harmonic distortion that mimics 6550 and 12AU7 vacuum tubes of a Leslie cabinet.


Playability
1.) Easily assign and use Leslie and volume Swell controls?
2.) Easily switch between Drawbar Presets?
3.) Easily switch Percussion, Key-Click, ect?

Features
1.) Accurate Key Click modeling?
2.) Accurate Percussion modeling? (Clip)
3.) Vibrato Scanner?
4.) Upper and Lower Manuals?

Presets and Sound Design
1.) Number of Presets: 60
2.) Amplifier, Cabinets, and Reverb: 2 Reverbs, Mic Positioning, Distortion
3.) Tonewheel generators: 22

Value
1.) 2020 Price: $113
2.) Number of Samples: Modeled
3.) Memory Use: 1 MB



Thoughts
This is a very good utilitarian organ and does service to things like percussion and the Woodsy "Hammond squabble." It's modeled so it doesn't take up very much memory. There will always be a debate around modeled vs sampled plugins, but personally I feel that if the tones were sampled you'd get just a tiny fraction more authenticity out of this plugin. This is probably the PC equivalent to the Logic organ, in terms of being a good benchmark for other plugins, as well as being a prime example of what a well modeled and engineered organ plugins should sound like. It can sound pretty good in a mix.
GG Audio Blue 3

The GG Audio Blue 3 Organ is definitely an organ with character! Sonically it is tied with the DB33 as "most driven sounding," and the GUI is incredibly close to the IK Multimedia organ.

Leslie
1.) Clear separation of Top and Bottom Rotors.
2.) Accurate ramp-up and ramp-down times from chorale to tremolo speed, with each rotor ramping-up and spinning down at different rates. (Video Clip)
3.) Subtle phasing/chorusing effects.
4.) Frequency-dependent directionality of the horns, especially the upper horn.
5.) Harmonic distortion that mimics 6550 and 12AU7 vacuum tubes of a Leslie cabinet.


Playability
1.) Easily assign and use Leslie and volume Swell controls?
2.) Easily switch between Drawbar Presets? (Presets reset)
3.) Easily switch Percussion, Key-Click, ect?

Features
1.) Accurate Key Click modeling?
2.) Accurate Percussion modeling? (Clip)
3.) Vibrato Scanner?
4.) Upper and Lower Manuals?

Presets and Sound Design
1.) Number of Presets: 155
2.) Amplifier, Cabinets, and Reverb: 4 Cabinets, Mic Positioning, Distortion, Reverb
3.) Tonewheel generators: 30

Value
1.) 2020 Price: $99
2.) Number of Samples: ?
3.) Memory Use: 286 MB



Thoughts
This is a very driven sounding organ plugin with lots of potential, but in my opinion the Leslie simulation falls a little short. As rotors spin-up (especially the top rotor) you want to hear some subtle phasing and chorus effects that just don't seem to be present here. This is especially pronounced when trying to fit the plugin into a mix because there's nothing "smearing" the sound at high speed which really makes it stick out here, here, but especially here.
Arturia B3-V

Arturia is a company known for their accurate simulations of classic synthesizers. Occasionally, they branch out and try to model classic gear like Wurlitzers and the Hammond B3.

Leslie
1.) Clear separation of Top and Bottom Rotors.
2.) Accurate ramp-up and ramp-down times from chorale to tremolo speed, with each rotor ramping-up and spinning down at different rates. (Video Clip)
3.) Subtle phasing/chorusing effects.
4.) Frequency-dependent directionality of the horns, especially the upper horn.
5.) Harmonic distortion that mimics 6550 and 12AU7 vacuum tubes of a Leslie cabinet.


Playability
1.) Easily assign and use Leslie and volume Swell controls?
2.) Easily switch between Drawbar Presets?
3.) Easily switch Percussion, Key-Click, ect?

Features
1.) Accurate Key Click modeling?
2.) Accurate Percussion modeling? (Clip)
3.) Vibrato Scanner?
4.) Upper and Lower Manuals?

Presets and Sound Design
1.) Number of Presets: 50
2.) Amplifier, Cabinets, and Reverb: 2 Ambs, 5 Cabinets, Distortion, 9 Reverb, FX Peals
3.) Tonewheel generators: 7

Value
1.) 2020 Price: $150
2.) Number of Samples: Modeled
3.) Memory Use: 135 MB



Thoughts
Arturia can sometimes be a frustrating company! In this particular case, the tonewheel models are decent but the Leslie is fairly inaccurate. Specifically, the bottom rotor ramps up much too quickly. The distortion in their plugins can be lacking. It also seems impossible to map the sustain pedal to control the Leslie as it appears to be locked onto sustaining notes. This is an odd choice, considering that a Hammond B3 has no sustain pedal. If not Leslie control, why not volume swell? Overall, the sound isn't bad, but on certain songs it can be hard to fit it into a mix. The main issue for me is the aforementioned MIDI control problem.
Air Music Technology DB-33

The DB-33 organ by Air Music Technology is perhaps the most driven sounding plugin. Couple that with the fact that it can usually be found on sale for $20, and this plugin might make a useful addition to your plugin library, especially if you already have a clean sounding organ and are looking for something to compliment it. This plugin is also a little leaner and less feature-rich than some of the other plugins.

Leslie
1.) Clear separation of Top and Bottom Rotors.
2.) Accurate ramp-up and ramp-down times from chorale to tremolo speed, with each rotor ramping-up and spinning down at different rates. (Video Clip)
3.) Subtle phasing/chorusing effects.
4.) Frequency-dependent directionality of the horns, especially the upper horn.
5.) Harmonic distortion that mimics 6550 and 12AU7 vacuum tubes of a Leslie cabinet.


Playability
1.) Easily assign and use Leslie and volume Swell controls?
2.) Easily switch between Drawbar Presets?
3.) Easily switch Percussion, Key-Click, ect?

Features
1.) Accurate Key Click modeling?
2.) Accurate Percussion modeling? (Clip)
3.) Vibrato Scanner?
4.) Upper and Lower Manuals?

Presets and Sound Design
1.) Number of Presets: 120.
2.) Amplifier, Cabinets, and Reverb: Reverbs, Distortion, limited Cabinet modeling
3.) Tonewheel generators: 5

Value
1.) 2020 Price: $80
2.) Number of Samples: ?
3.) Memory Use: 44 MB



Thoughts
This is a very crunchy organ with the distortion turned up by default on most of the presets. In that way it's similar to the GG Audio Blue 3, but the Leslie simulation is a little more accurate than that plugin and sounds less "spitty" in a mix. It's a good value if you can find it on sale for $20 through the ASDR reseller website.
Native Instruments Vintage Organs

If you've ever used a sample library then you might be familiar with Native Instruments. They are well known for their Kontakt sample player, but also make many sample libraries. If I could use only one word to describe Native Instruments and their Hammond Organ plugin it would be serviceable.

Leslie
1.) Clear separation of Top and Bottom Rotors.
2.) Accurate ramp-up and ramp-down times from chorale to tremolo speed, with each rotor ramping-up and spinning down at different rates. (Video Clip)
3.) Subtle phasing/chorusing effects.
4.) Frequency-dependent directionality of the horns, especially the upper horn.
5.) Harmonic distortion that mimics 6550 and 12AU7 vacuum tubes of a Leslie cabinet.


Playability
1.) Easily assign and use Leslie and volume Swell controls?
2.) Easily switch between Drawbar Presets? (Presets reset)
3.) Easily switch Percussion, Key-Click, ect?

Features
1.) Accurate Key Click modeling?
2.) Accurate Percussion modeling? (Clip)
3.) Vibrato Scanner?
4.) Upper and Lower Manuals?

Presets and Sound Design
1.) Number of Presets: 100
2.) Amplifier, Cabinets, and Reverb: 10 Cabinets. 2 Reverbs. Distortion
3.) Tonewheel generators: 5

Value
1.) 2020 Price: $100.
2.) Number of Samples: ?
3.) Memory Use: 87 MB



Thoughts
This is actually a collection of 5 organs: B3, C3, M3, Compact (Farfisa), and Continental (Vox Continental), so if you are looking for an affordable collection of organs beyond the Hammond B3, this might be for you! I believe these are older libraries, but the sound quality, sound design, and Leslie are not bad. However, I have some issues with Kontakt itself - hear me out here! For one, it's middleware, which wouldn't be so bad, but some things about Kontakt are annoying. Switching presets requires you to unload and reload a library's samples. Except for simple scripting, developers are dependent on Kontakt's built-in library of effects. Don't get me wrong, I started making plugins using the Kontakt Player and still have respect for it, but I have long since abandoned it in favor of native C++ programming, which lets me do so much more. But I digress. Overall, this is a plugin that still sounds surprisingly good, but is nowhere near as feature-rich of some of the more modern plugins. The upper rotor speed is also a tad bit slower than the other plugins, which can be heard here.
8 Dio Vintage Studio Organ

The 8Dio Vintage Studio Organ is another Kontakt organ library. 8Dio is a company known for their deep-sampling of instruments and their organ plugin is no exception, with an astounding 40,500 samples, making it by far the most deeply sample library.

Leslie
1.) Clear separation of Top and Bottom Rotors.
2.) Accurate ramp-up and ramp-down times from chorale to tremolo speed, with each rotor ramping-up and spinning down at different rates. (Video Clip)
3.) Subtle phasing/chorusing effects.
4.) Frequency-dependent directionality of the horns, especially the upper horn.
5.) Harmonic distortion that mimics 6550 and 12AU7 vacuum tubes of a Leslie cabinet.



Playability
1.) Easily assign and use Leslie and volume Swell controls?
2.) Easily switch between Drawbar Presets?
3.) Easily switch Percussion, Key-Click, ect?

Features
1.) Accurate Key Click modeling?
2.) Accurate Percussion modeling? (Clip)
3.) Vibrato Scanner?
4.) Upper and Lower Manuals?

Presets and Sound Design
1.) Number of Presets: 10
2.) Amplifier, Cabinets, and Reverb: 2 Reverbs. Multiple mic positions. FX
3.) Tonewheel generators: 2 ("Engine)

Value
1.) 2020 Price: $148
2.) Number of Samples: 40,500
3.) Memory Use: 88 GB



Thoughts
The 8Dio organ is an interesting plugin because, unlike every other plugin, the developer has attempted to sample the sound of the Leslie over modeling it (although they also include a "modeled" option, the recorded version sounds better). As a sample plugin devleoper, I can tell you that this must have been a mind-numbingly painful and tortuously slow process. This makes the library huge at 15 GB, which is far beyond any of the other libraries. The trade-off is that this library isn't as feature-rich, only has 10 presets - which can only be changed by loading and unloading the library, thanks Kontakt! - and the controls aren't great. I couldn't figure out how to control the Leslie speed with MIDI! It sounds fine in a mix, but there are some inconsistencies with the Leslie, and it suffers from slight rubber banding.
CollaB3

CollaB3 is a free Hammond organ plugin created by Sampleson, LalalandSynth, Librewave, and Studio427. For a free plugin it sounds remarkably good and has replaced AZR3 as the "go to" free organ plugin in my book.

Leslie
1.) Clear separation of Top and Bottom Rotors.
2.) Accurate ramp-up and ramp-down times from chorale to tremolo speed, with each rotor ramping-up and spinning down at different rates. (Video Clip)
3.) Subtle phasing/chorusing effects.
4.) Frequency-dependent directionality of the horns, especially the upper horn.
5.) Harmonic distortion that mimics 6550 and 12AU7 vacuum tubes of a Leslie cabinet.


Playability
1.) Easily assign and use Leslie and volume Swell controls?
2.) Easily switch between Drawbar Presets?
3.) Easily switch Percussion, Key-Click, ect?

Features
1.) Accurate Key Click modeling?
2.) Accurate Percussion modeling? (Clip)
3.) Vibrato Scanner?
4.) Upper and Lower Manuals?

Presets and Sound Design
1.) Number of Presets: 0
2.) Amplifier, Cabinets, and Reverb: Reverb, Chorus
3.) Tonewheel generators: 1

Value
1.) 2020 Price: Free
2.) Number of Samples: ?
3.) Memory Use: 197 MB



Thoughts
Again, for a free plugin, this sounds amazing! If you don't need an accurate Leslie and just need something that sounds like an organ, this is passable in many situations. Here's what it sounds like in the mix. If you know what you are doing, some post processing could potentially make this sound really good. This was made during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic and there's a little donate tab. I'm not sure we will want to be reminded of COVID-19 in the future, so it will be interesting to see what the developer does with this plugin. This is also the first HISE plugin I've seen, so it will also be interesting to see what other people do with HISE in the future.