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This article was originally published in issue #5
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In case you don't already know, a Leslie cab is a monstrous speaker enclosure with spinning baffles manipulating the sound by utilising the Doppler effect. The system, invented by Don Leslie in 1941, creates one of the best sounds invented by man or beast! You've heard it plenty of times in Soul, Rock, Blues and Pop on the trusty Hammond organ - think Jon Lord for the Rock thing, Procul Harum's Whiter Shade Of Pale, or maybe the legendary Booker T from some years earlier. But keyboard players didn't get it all their own way. Despite being the size of a significant piece of furniture (something Hammond players were already accustomed to!) guitarists eventually realised that they too could enhance their sounds with a Leslie. It wasn't very practical for use in stage (unless you were in a superstar band with a hundred strong road crew!) but you can hear the effect a Leslie creates on a thousand records from that era. The mid-section of Badge by EC springs to mind, as does Jimi Hendrix's Little Wing, or the lovely moody guitar tone from George Harrison's Something.
And now you can get if from an effects pedal - the Neo Ventilator!
Up until now, the only real choice for a Leslie effect pedal was the Hughes and Kettner Rotosphere, used by Dave Gilmour and Jeff Beck, and it is a great pedal, but the Neo Ventilator may just have the edge, especially with what you can do with the sweep and speed of simulated rotating high and low speakers, the mic placement simulation, and the emphasis on high or low rotating speakers. You have more control of the effect with optional remote controller, which would be more for the dedicated organ players. As a guitarist, we can get by with the on off switch, and the speed up, slow down switch.
The pedal can be put in front of your amp or in the effects loop (it's true bypass). It all depends on where you are getting the guts of the tone from, and a certain amount of experimentation is encouraged. I demoed this straight into the front of two Blackstar amps, and when you hear the effect in stereo, it is very, very addictive. If you were running a clean Fender amp for instance, you would probably have a couple of pedals in front to get some gain, and the Neo Ventilator will respond in slightly different ways, depending on whether you place it before or after your drive pedals. It all works, it just depends on the feel and sound you are after.
To be blunt, the Ventilator is not a cheap pedal and you have to ask yourself how much you could get away with using the effect, both live and on recordings. Like a flanger, or a phaser, or a wah, overuse can quickly become tiresome. So it may be a lot of outlay for not enough use, from a guitar point of view, but if you are a keyboard player, then this would be invaluable when you hit that organ sound!
I particularly like the drive pot, which simulates the valves in a Leslie 122 cab being pushed. It added a nice grainy breakup when using guitar, especially into the front of an already cooking crunchy valve amp. I also loved being able to bring the swirl of the effect to a complete standstill, using the remote, which is a fantastic attention to detail feature. If they keep it in the edit, you may just catch me do this at the very end of the demo. This has now taken the lead on the market for convincing Leslie tones, and although its not cheap, it is damn good, great fun, and most importantly, very musical. I Loved it!