Electro-Harmonix Lester K Rotary Speaker Effects Pedal
By Chris Loeffler |
Electro-Harmonix Lester K Rotary Speaker Pedal
True-to-life rotary speaker sound?
by Chris Loeffler
Many modulation effects get close to copping the Leslie sound, but they’re 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 and Lester G (reviewed separately) both offer the rotary speaker sound in a box, with the Lester G being aimed at guitar players seeking organ sound and the Lester K targeted at keyboard players. The Lester K includes true bypass, expression pedal input, true stereo outputs, rotary speaker controls for Fast and Slow speed settings, Balance of the horn and bass, as control over gain and attack via a Drive. The Lester K runs on an included 9v power supply or any standard 2.1mm negative tip source.
An essential aspect of the Lester K's “Leslie” foundation is creating a proper gain section. When the Drive knob 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 is a mystery, but it’s a gritty, EQ neutral tone that is both tube-like and perfect for nailing the grind of the Leslie many emulators miss.
With the preamp section handled, we can move on the rotary speaker component. Balance control lets you adjust the blend between the top treble horn and the bass speaker.The Lester K features two speed settings you can ramp up and down between… Slow and Fast speed. 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 two speeds are changed via the Fast/Slow switch and have a set ramp time. This is key to the authenticity of the physical behavior of the rotary speaker, and can be used to great effect in ramping up the speed between a verse and chorus. Braking, another Leslie classic, is achieved by holding the Fast/Slow footswitch down, an effect that grinds the speaker rotation to a halt until the footswitch is released.
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 Lester K takes a line level signal without putting up a fuss, and I found it provided some subtle warmth to the B3-style keyboard patches I ran through it. Unlike with the Lester G for guitar, I did find myself wishing the Lester K has pass-through stereo inputs, but that’s more a want than a complaint.
I found a couple of instances where line inputs 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.
The Lester K is somewhat difficult to position in the keyboard category, as most keyboards include built-in rotary speaker effects. That said, all but the most expensive (typically also hardware) optioins I’ve come across sound more like modulation than moving speakers, and there’s a pleasant presence that the Lester K adds, making it one of the most authentic sounding rotary speaker simulators on the market. The addition of breaking and true-to-life ramping between settings makes that elusive sound more achievable and, surprisingly, more controallable. Short of drops $1,000 and hauling a 150 pound Leslie around, the Electro-Harmonix Lester K is as good as it gets for adding true-to-life rotary speaker sound to your keyboard rig. -HC-
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.