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This article was originally published in issue #40
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One of the truly great sounds in contemporary music from the last 50 years is that of a Hammond organ spooling up through a cranked 122 Leslie cabinet. Many guitar players such as Eric Clapton, Joe Walsh and George Harrison realised the potential that this great swirling effect has on the guitar and were among the first to utilize it on iconic recordings such as Clapton's 'Badge' or George Harrison's 'Something'. Wouldn't it be great if there was a pedal out there that recreated this amazing sound so closely that you would be hard pushed to tell the difference in an A/B comparison? Well (big fanfare), there is!
This Ventilator II by German company Neo is the latest version of the Ventilator that has been around for a number of years and that I got to try for Guitar Interactive many issues ago (in Issue 5, to be precise - Ed). The original version was pretty amazing and it is hard to see how they could have improved it, but this latest version has been tweaked to give you even more fine tuning detail. No stone has been left unturned into how close you can get it to the real thing, and this would probably benefit the expert Hammond organ users out there who know what and how they want their Leslie effect to sound in very fine detail, whereas most guitar players just want to plug in go and would be impressed that their guitar instantly sounds like a fantastic swirling 122 Leslie cab. It also says a lot about the difference between how most keyboard players and guitarists' brains are wired - mine especially!
So, the Ventilator II is both a huge tool for guitarists and keyboard players alike and it certainly saves the need to lug a massive Leslie cab about. The pedal has an expression pedal capability to speed up and slow down the rotors if you can't place the pedal in a situation where you can reach the onboard switch that does this. As a keyboard player, you might want the pedal sitting on top of your keyboard so you can manually tweak the settings as you go, but have an expression pedal on the floor continually controlling the speeding up and slowing down of the top and bottom virtual speakers. As a guitar player, though, you would probably want this pedal somewhere close to the front of your pedal board so you can get easy access to the fast slow rotor function, the on off function and the 'stop' rotor function, which slows the sound of the spinning speakers to a complete stop ending up facing front. This is a great detail and it sounds fantastic as the effect goes from a complete stop to full speed. The Ventilator II is also true bypass, so will not interfere with your tone in any way, no matter where you put it in your pedal chain.
The attention to detail is endless with this new Ventilator. You have complete tweakability over anything you can think of. If you use it in stereo, you would hear how the top tweeter rotor is miked up left and right and how there is a single directional mic on the lower rotor, which is the ideal configuration for the full stereo effect. You even have control over how close or far away you want the mic placement. This has the effect of balancing hi or low speakers, in case you want more or less of one or the other. In mono, it still is an ear catching sound and can be just as effective in a band context. If you are recording though, you definitely want to use the stereo in and out to full effect.
You also have a drive function to simulate pushing the valves in a 122 cab to give more grit and dirt to the sound. Think Jon Lord from Deep Purple if you are an organ player, and think added fun if you are a guitarist, because the interaction with your valve guitar amp can lead to even more sonic options! Another fantastic programmable detail is how you can preset how fast or slow you want the top and bottom rotors to end up at their max and minimum settings, and how quickly or slowly you want them to get there. The in between sound as the rotors are revving up is really addictive, with the added fact that the lower rotor would take longer to speed up or slow than the tweeter, so how they interact is a great midway effect and is true to the original 122 Leslie cab.
A 12 volt power supply comes with the unit as do adaptors for each world territory and it would have been the icing on the cake if you could have powered the Ventilator by your average 9 volt power which most guitar players are geared up for in their pedal boards. A small niggle indeed for what is a truly fantastic product by the guys at Neo.
This is almost certainly the ultimate rotary effects pedal and for most players would probably count as a luxury purchase - after all, you can get very good rotary FX for guitar for a lot less money. On the other hand, if this is a key effect for you, or you just insist on the best, you know where to come!