Not at all! Today’s market offers a selection of special floor effect devices for keyboardists and guitarists who are especially interested in emulating the sound of the famous Rotor Cabinet, and all this to perfection.
Anyone who loves the Hammond organ knows the sound. But it’s not the organ alone that creates this unmistakable sound, from cathedral-like beat to shimmering tremolo. This sound is produced by the Leslie Cabinet connected to the organ, a special two-channel loudspeaker from the 1940s, which uses mechanical sound deflectors to reproduce the high frequencies and the bass part, which sit in front of the loudspeakers and rotate against each other in the 360-degree plane.
This results in a special modulation of the pitch by exploiting the Doppler effect, which, depending on the speed of rotation, is represented by a beat or a special vibrato. The organ cabinet invented by the American Don Leslie allows it’s sound deflectors to rotate at two speeds: CHORALE (approx. 48 rpm) for a slow beat and TREMOLO (approx. 380 rpm). There is no rotation in the STOP position.
In addition to the impressive sound produced during rotation, the effects are known as ‘Rise’ and ‘Fall’ are atypical and fascinating characteristic of mechanical sound deflection. Due to the weight differences between the two sound deflectors for the bass range (drum or rotor) and the high-frequency range (horn), interesting listening impressions are created when changing the speeds, since the bass rotor always accelerates and decelerates more slowly than the high-frequency horn. You can use the “Rise-” and “Fall” effects during the first 23 seconds in this
Not just for the organ!
Besides organists, guitarists also use the powerful sound slingshot, whose sound also lets the guitar sound in new dimensions. In the 1970s, only a few manufacturers tried the electronic simulation of the Leslie effect, which was only possible to a limited extent with analogue technology. Technical progress and digital technology provided the springboard for intensive further developments, which can now be seen in the software and hardware.
Today, in addition to perfect Hammond clones including Leslie simulation, there are also stand-alone floor effect devices that have reduced size, weight and price and are dedicated to the effect of the old Leslie box in terms of sound. This makes it interesting for keyboard players and guitarists alike to take the famous sound with them on stage or into the studio.
To give you an idea of what the market has to offer, here we show you the five best ‘Rotary Speaker’ effect pedals in the price range from just under 400 to less than 40 Euros.
NEO Instruments Fan II
It’s no secret that real Leslies are as hard to come by as they are to drag, but that the sound they produce is still as popular as ever. The list of attempts to imitate the rotary loudspeaker invented by Donald Leslie in 1940 is correspondingly diverse, and as authentic as possible, but more back-friendly and much more comfortable to handle.
With the Ventilator II, the German manufacturer Neo Instruments sets the bar even higher for electronic Leslie simulations after the ‘Ventilator’, and you can hear the Leslie in vest pocket format. Based on the simulation of a Leslie 122 rotor cabinet, the Fan II uses complex modelling algorithms to emulate a rotor cabinet that is picked up with three microphones – one for the bass and two for the treble rotor – as is common practice. Both rotation units can be adjusted independently. In addition to a drive section for an authentic overdrive effect, the Fan II also offers control of rotor speed and mix via an expression pedal and can be operated from an external remote pedal.
NEO Instruments mini Vent II
The mini Vent II is even smaller in dimensions and cheaper than the Fan II. The mini Vent II has the same sound level as its big brother, but the settings have been slimmed down. It lacks the potentiometers for parameter adjustment and the physical stop button for rotor stop control. However, this can be activated by pressing the bypass and the slow/fast buttons at the same time. So that the sound can be individually adjusted, the mini Vent II is brought into the programming area by a special key combination when it is switched on. Here, all settings can be made and saved within an edit routine. If you like the way the mini Vent II is programmed, you can save approx. 130 Euro compared to Fan II.
Boss RT-20 Sound Processor
The Boss RT-20 ground effect pedal has also set itself the task of making the sound of the powerful Leslie cabinet accessible to keyboardists and guitarists in a handy format. With the help of Boss’s COSM technology, the Boss RT 20 is a further development of the Leslie simulation from the Roland organs VK-7, VK-77 and VK-8, which is also an emulation of the proven 122 Leslie. The RT-20 is also equipped with an overdrive to imitate the warm distortion of the Leslie cabinet, various settings for tuning the simulated rotors and a connection for an optional expression pedal for manual speed control. Direct and effect parts can also be adjusted separately. The ‘Virtual Rotor’ located in the centre gives the player a colourful representation of the sound. Thanks to its robust design, the Boss RT-20 effect pedal is ready for tough stage use.
Electro Harmonix Lester G and Lester K
With the model ‘Lester’, the American manufacturer Electro Harmonix offers a stompbox for creating the famous Leslie effect. The Lester effect pedal is available in two versions: ‘K’ for use with keyboards and ‘G’ for use with the electric guitar. Both differ in the input impedance and the frequency spectrum in which the controlling instrument types lie. The control panel of the pedal is very simple and offers adjustment possibilities for the two rotor speeds, the overdrive and the balance between the two rotors. These are standard settings, which are also offered by the pedals described above. Its special features include a tube-emulated overdrive and a warm sounding rotary sound. Whether the guitarist chooses the ‘G’ or ‘K’ version is up to the ear.
The Vibraclone Rotary from the Danish manufacturer TC Electronic is the cheapest solution for getting the sound of rotating loudspeakers. The clone of the 1968 Fender Vibratone Speaker Cabinet, the ‘Vibraclone’ simulates the sound of the rather short-lived original impressively. Unlike a Leslie cabinet, the original Fender Vibratone was equipped with only a single rotating drum in front of the speaker and was specifically designed for guitar use. Equipped with two potentiometers for speed control of the rotor and a warm drive, the Vibraclone pedal features a toggle switch for switching between chorale or tremolo settings and a bypass button.
While all other effect pedals mentioned above are suitable for use with organ and guitar, the Vibraclone Rotary Pedal is an inexpensive alternative for guitar use and fulfils this purpose very well.