Review: Hammond-Suzuki built Leslie 302

by Mark Longo

Following are some facts and some subjective impressions about the Hammond-Suzuki built Leslie 302. I've used this amp with my Hammond-Suzuki XB2 in a live performance setting of mostly small to medium sized night clubs.

Overall Impression

My overall impression of the 302 is quite positive. It is a small, relatively portable box (but not a feather weight!) in a road-ready package including castors and handles (traditional walnut cabinet version is available as the Leslie 322), that provides respectable, but not excessive, volume levels (especially with the below described adjustments) and it has the familiar Leslie sound (though it's not quite a vintage Leslie).

Specifications

Model: Leslie 302/322 (manufacturer is Hammond-Suzuki)

Weight: 110 lbs

Dimensions: 27"H x 25 3/4"W x 20"D

Amplification: Bass Amp 65 watts RMS

               Horn Amp 35 watts RMS
               solid state
               cross-over is fixed at 800Hz

Controls: Master volume, bass tone, treble tone, power switch, remote switch

Inputs: 11-pin Leslie male connector compatible w/ XB organs

        (30' female/male cable included), 1/4" guitar style input, 
        1/4" footswitch jack for rotor speed (footswitch not 
        included), standard AC power receptacle w/ 10' cord.

Speaker System: rotor for highs, front mounted 12" speaker with electronic rotor simulation for lows.

Wheels: four medium-duty snap-in castors

Price: I believe the list is somewhere around $1400 US

Sound

The Leslie 302 sounds like, well, a Leslie; and while in my opinion it does not sound quite as fat and creamy as a tube Leslie, it does have the Leslie sound. It's lighter weight and smaller than a Leslie 122/147 and a little smaller than a 145/142

In some ways, the 302 is to the vintage Leslies what the XB-2 is to the vintage Hammonds. With some coaxing you can get it to do a very nice job of vintage Leslie emulation, though in a side-by-side blindfold test a Hammond jockey can tell the difference. Still, the tonal difference is not huge and is much less noticeable in a band mix.

Before I got the 302 I thought that the electronic simulation of the low end rotor would annoy me, but it hasn't. I should mention however that I have never owned a Leslie with a rotating bass bin, so your mileage may vary. But the human ear is not very discriminating when it comes to subtlety in low frequency sounds so maybe that's why it's not so noticably a simulation. The treble rotor's fast speed is a little faster than the vintage Leslies I've heard, but there's a potentiometer on a small circuit board in the treble rotor compartment that adjusts the fast treble rotor speed across a wide range. The treble rotor accelerate/decelerate time is less than a second while the bass rotor simulator accel/decel time is more like 6-8 seconds. The accel/decel time is not adjustable.

I thought that both the XB-2 and the Leslie 302 tonality as setup at the factory are on the thin and wimpy side, especially as compared with a B-3/122. I had GOFF Professional realign the 302's internal amplifier adjustments and also my XB-2's internal adjustments to my taste, which boosted the Leslie's volume and also fattened up the tone of the Leslie and my XB-2. Also, turning down the treble controls on the XB-2 and the 302 can help.

Volume

In my opinion the major weakness of the Leslie 302 is volume. The 302 out-of-the-box was not loud enough for my needs, which surprised me since the 302 has a 100 watt amp. I play in a small Blues and R&B band and my volume competition is a fairly loud drummer and a guitarist with a twin reverb and an average volume bass player. When I first got the unit I tried it out in a small club and found that with the XB-2 and Leslie volumes all the way up, the Leslie bass and treble settings all the way up, and with a little overdrive added from the XB-2, I could make the rig just loud enough but I had no head room at all and my solos didn't cut through very well. There just isn't a lot of volume in this amp as delivered from the factory.

I called Hammond-Suzuki USA to ask what my options were and they sternly warned me about violating the warantee by having custom work done. Thanks Hammond. Instead they suggested that I buy a second 302! hmmmm... I told them politely that that wasn't on my list of options. They reluctantly told me that they send all their custom work on the east coast to GOFF Professional, just south of Hartford CT. I called GOFF and they said they could fix my volume problems quickly and easily.

I took the Leslie (and my XB-2) to GOFF and played through it while the tech (a guy named Dave Vumback) fiddled with it. Dave made different changes to pots inside the 302 and also my XB-2 as I played it and told him which sounds I liked and didn't like. This took a few hours but when we were done the difference was amazing. I estimate that the output was increased by 30-40% and the tone was much fatter and closer heated B-3 tone I love.

Details

The 302 out of the box is very noisy with a prominent 60 hz buzz. A 60hz buzz through a slowly rotating horn is a nauseating thing. Fortunately this problem is almost completely cured by doing a ground lift on either of the XB-2 or 302 power cords, but not both.

The 30 foot Leslie 11-pin cable that comes with the 302 has those cheezy old-style bakelite plastic connectors on both ends. Maybe Hammond-Suzuki thinks it adds a nostalgic touch but that brittle plastic reminds me of the bad old days (how 'bout going for nostalgia via tone, eh?). Also, I was warned by the GOFF tech to be careful not to roll castored road cases over the Leslie cord on stage or it will need replacing very soon.

The 302 can be driven using the Leslie cable or a regular 1/4" guitar cord. I did A/B comparisons with a good quality guitar cord it seemed that the Leslie cable sounded a tiny bit hotter and a little more "open", but you'd never notice this without an A/B comparison and a very good pair of ears. Maybe the Leslie cable uses better wire and connectors. The 11-pin cable does not have a differential signal path.

The other reason to use the Leslie cable is that it sends the Leslie fast/slow command from the XB-2's leslie tab switch and/or footswitch and also sends a "power on/off" command that lets you power on/off the XB-2 and the Leslie together (though the Leslie cable doesn't carry AC power to the Leslie). You can plug a footswitch directly into the Leslie to control speed but then you don't get fast/slow feedback on the XB-2 leslie tab light.

Conclusions

The 302 is a compact and more portable version of the vintage Leslies we've loved over the years. But it's not a tube Leslie. This is both good and bad. It's smaller, more reliable, requires less maintenance (no tubes), and is more luggable than the old standard, but at the cost of a small tonal deficit. Still, it is a Leslie and in my opinion earns the name.

This page brought to you by:
VintageHammond.Com - We Buy-Sell-Trade Vintage Hammond Organs and Roll or Kari Organ/Vending Machine Moving Dollies Order Roll or Kari Dollies Here