“This is a warm and appealing little keyboard… it thoroughly deserves the description ‘organic’. You can add a little dirt via the tube and drive settings or, for more lush, organ-y textures, turn on the rotary speaker. A quick tweak of its attack and release controls lets you push its repertoire as far as lush and fuzzy pads. This is terrific value” – Sound on Sound magazine
Sheltone is available at a special discount price as part of our Reed Organs bundle. See our Hot Deals page to grab this offer.
If you’re looking for something a little left-field to add real organic warmth to your pads, or a uniquely textural lead sound, or an old-school roots vibe to your Reggae, Sheltone might just fit the bill.
The ShelTone 226 is a cool electric reed organ built into a tolex suitcase. It makes its sounds by using an electric fan to drive air over reeds, much in the style of a harmonium or accordion. As well as three octaves of keys, the original 226 boasts a set of Bass Note buttons to the left of the keyboard, plus two sets of Chord buttons – one major set, one minor set. You don’t get all the bass notes and chords of a full octave, though, just a selection, which limits playing on the original keyboard to certain keys (basically C, D, G, A and F).
The great thing about the ShelTone is its warm, reedy, breathy quality of sound. It’s simply more organic than most organs, with a rich, throaty sound in the bass and a keen, driving treble. With all its settings left on “natural”, it sits effortlessly in folky or alt-folky tunes, and can sound either like an organ or – with a bit of manipulation – like an accordion. But run through some outboard effects, which of course we’ve built right in, the sound can become very different – everything from a 60s mellow mood-setter to much more driving, grungy and aggressive roar that works well for a 70s punk organ sound. It can do that Caribbean thing too, chunking along on the offbeat of your Bob Marley tributes.
We’ve taken advantage of the sampling process to take things that bit further. The Bass Note buttons have been incorporated seamlessly into the keyboard samples so you get a full key range instead of just three octaves. If you want to play with those Major and Minor chord buttons, simply click the Bass Chords switch to swap from a full key range to a split keyboard: single notes on the right, and two octaves of Major and Minor chords under your left hand. (The Chord buttons on the original 226 engage a totally different set of reeds that sound noticeably different, so they have a kind of fuzzy warm character all of their own and are well worth experimenting with.) And very importantly, you can choose whether to have the fan noise on or off, and the level at which it sounds, for authenticity or sound-design.
Of course we’ve also put some choice effects in the signal path: Chorus, Tube saturation, some good old-fashioned shouty distortion, a rotary speaker and a nice 1960s speaker cab to round off the high ends and bring everything together. We’ve even got Attack and Release controls so you can roll your own pad sounds instantly: the Release control kicks in a little bit of pitch drop-off as the note fades, which emulates what happens when you very slowly release a key on the original board (the vibrating reed slows as the airflow drops, and pitch falls away as a result). It’s very cool and it sounds great.
Sheltone isn’t supposed to knock your B3 emulation off its pedestal, but it’s a lovely unusual and warm sound to have in your sonic arsenal. And if comes with its own suitcase, which is pretty neat. Just don’t forget to pack your mojo.