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Electro-Harmonix Lester G Rotary Speaker Pedal

Guitarists- tired of hauling around a 150 pound rotary speaker cabinet?

 

by Chris Loeffler

 

 

 

Many modulation effects get close to copping the Leslie sound, but they ultimate are just that… approximations. The fast warble of a chorus effect doesn’t capture the moving of air as a physical horn and speaker ramp up and spin around, nor the essential grind the tube preamp imparts. Electro-Harmonix, never one to shy away from taking on big effects challenges, came up with not one, but two options for players looking for big Leslie tone without the hernia-inducing realities of the real deal. The Lester K (reviewed separately) and Lester G both offer the rotary speaker sound in a box, with the Lester G focused on giving guitar players the B3/Leslie sound. The Lester G features true bypass, expression pedal input, true stereo outputs, rotary speaker controls for Fast and Slow speed settings, Balance of the horn and bass, and Acceleration to control the transition time between the two speeds as well as control over gain and attack via Drive, Sustain, Attack, and Squash controls. The Lester G runs on an included 9v power supply or any standard 2.1mm negative tip source.

 

While it’s tempting to jump straight into the rotary speaker side of the effect, one of the more subtle but utterly essential aspects of the Lester G is creating a solid “Leslie” foundation through the gain section, comprised of an independent overdrive control and a compressor with Attack, Sustain, and Squash controls. When the Overdrive is turned down the signal is 100% clean (or at least as clean as it was going in), and things get pretty dirty by the time the Drive knob is dimed. The identity of the Overdrive circuit isn't explicit, but it’s a gritty, EQ neutral tone that is both tubelike and perfect for nailing the grind of the Leslie many emulators miss. The compressor circuit is based on the EHX Soul Preacher, omitting the Volume control and upgrading the Attack control from a three-way toggle to a knob for more control over how the compressor behaves. The compression section is an important part of attaining the Leslie sound (especially when trying to emulate keyboard parts), as it softens the attack and prolongs the sustain to make the effect smoother and more organ-like. The Squash control does exactly that, entirely blunting the initial attack and pumps on and off for staccato-style riffs. The subtle high-end rolloff of the compressor effect furthers the “this isn’t a guitar” vibe.

 

Now that we’ve got the foundation for our Leslie tone, we can talk about the rotary speaker component. Balance control lets you adjust the blend between the top treble horn and the bass speaker.The Lester G features two speed settings you can ramp up and down between… Slow and Fast. Using the Slow knob, the horn’s rotation can be adjusted between 0.1Hz and 3.2Hz, and the rotor can be adjusted between 0.0875and 2.8Hz. Using the FAST knob, the horn’s rotation can be adjusted between 1.55Hz and 24.8Hz and the rotor can be adjusted between 1.475Hz and 23.6Hz. The Acceleration knob sets the time the speakers take to ramp up (or down) when switching from one speed to another. This is another key characteristic of the Leslie behavior, and can be used to great effect in ramping up the speed between a verse and chorus. Transitions can be near instantaneous or as long as five seconds. Braking is achieved by holding the Fast/Slow footswitch down, an effect that grinds the speaker rotation to a halt (as slow or as fast as is dialed in with the Acceleration control) until the footswitch is released, at which point it springs back to the set speed.

 

The speaker simulation is convincing… it doesn’t sound like a phaser, or a harmonic tremolo, or a univibe; it sounds like rotating speakers. The doppler-effect creates a subtle asymmetry to the sound that gives true 3D imaging to the effect, and using the true stereo outputs makes for an even more massive sound, as the horns are thrown from amp to amp. The facilmile is somewhat blunted if fed into a dirty amp, but there are interesting alternative sounds to explore in that (and other) unorthodox signal chain.

 

Limitations

 

I found a couple of instances where noisy pickups or a sketchy cables introduce a small amount of noise. Nothing to detract from playing or live performance, but I’d recommend clean power if going into the studio.

 

Conclusion

 

It’s a little big, and not the cheapest, but it’s one of the most authentic sounding rotary speaker simulators on the market (and likely the most flexible and feature-laden). The addition of compression and true-to-life ramping between settings makes organ tones possible as well as guitar. Sure, one could put a drive and compressor in front of a Lester G for a similar result (sans Acceleration control), but there’s not that big a difference in price and size for the benefit of changing your entire sound in a single stomp. Short of droping $1,000 and hauling a 150 pound Leslie around, the Electro-Harmonix Lester G is as good as it gets for that rotary speaker sound.

 

Resources

 Join the discussion on Harmony Central's Effects Forum

 

Electro-Harmonix Lester G Product Page 

 

Buy Electro-Harmonix Lester G (MSRP 298.70, Street $224.00) at B&H , Sweetwater, or Guitar Center

 

 

___________________________________________________

 

Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer. 

 

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