The sound of the Hammond tonewheel organ is highly sought after in many styles of music; gospel, jazz, blues, rock and country all have numerous examples of the classic Hammond sound. What some folks don't realize is that one of the most important factors in achieving that sound is the Leslie cabinet that these are played through.
The Leslie cabinet takes the raw sound of the Hammond organ (or, in fact, any instrument… see "Other Instruments" below) and brings it to life. The classic Leslie cabinets use rotating horns and drums to create a "doppler" effect that animates the organ sound, and giving it movement.
There are a lot of digital instruments on the market that are dedicated to capturing the magic of the Hammond & Leslie combination, in a lightweight package (the original B3 + Leslie combination weigh in at close to 575 pounds!). While many of these instruments are able to recreate the raw tone of the organ, very often they fall short in the emulation of the Leslie cabinet.
Enter the Neo Instruments Ventilator.
This robust pedal unit is the latest creation from Guido Kirsch, the founder of Access Music (creators of the Virus series of virtual analog synths). It is a stunningly accurate recreation of the Leslie 122 cabinet, with a number of features that allow the user to alter the simulation to their liking.
The Ventilator immediately impressed me with its construction; this is one solid piece of gear! Weighing in at 2 lbs, 7 oz, that might not seem like much until you remember this is a pedal unit. The knobs are solid, and recessed to protect them from wandering feet, but the recesses are large enough to make grabbing and turning the knobs a simple matter for even the meatiest of hands. The two switches are incredibly rugged, easily as good as any other stompbox I've come across on the market.
Speed: This alters the speed at which the upper and lower rotors spin.
Acceleration: The time it takes to change from slow to fast rotation.
Balance: The mix of upper rotor (treble) and lower rotor (bass) sounds.
Drive: The amount of simulated tube saturation from the amp.
Distance: The placement of the virtual mics on the rotors.
Bypass: A true bypass circuit, relay-based, means that when the pedal is bypassed, it does not colour your tone at all. Great for keyboard players using workstations or other boards that serve as both organ and other sounds; activate the Leslie sim when you need it (allows you to get that Beatles Leslie'd piano sound, like on Sexy Sadie, for example).
Slow/Fast: Depressing this will switch the speed from slow to fast or vice versa. Pretty obvious, really. :-)
There are also two switches on the rear of the unit:
Hi/Lo: This is the gain setting, allowing you to select the correct amount of gain for whatever instrument you're running through the Ventilator
Key/Git: This switch allows you to eliminate the simulation of the speaker cabinet; this is useful for guitar players that want to get their tone from their amp cabinet rather than from the pedal's simulation.
The stock Ventilator has a mono input (Hammond organs are mono sources), and mono or stereo outputs. All connections are 1/4", so standard instrument cables are all that is needed to connect to your instrument. There is also an input for a remote pedal, that allows you to put the Ventilator on top of your keyboard (as I like to do) or anywhere else you prefer, allowing you to have the controls close at hand, but still do speed switching with your feet. If you're a classic Hammond player that prefers a half-moon switch, the Ventilator will accept control signals from the Hammond CU-1 half-moon switch straight out of the box.
The Ventilator is also a great pedal for guitar players looking to acquire the real Leslie sound in their rig. Frankly, this pedal blows away every other "rotary simulator" that came before it; if you're a guitar player, come on in and give it a try, you will NOT be disappointed! The relay-equipped true bypass circuit means that it won't compromise your tone when it's not active.
The Ventilator is the best piece of gear I've personally added to my rig in some time. It has allowed me to get more mileage out of my older "clonewheel" keyboard, which I was considering upgrading. I've done a number of gigs, both small and large, and I regularly get sound engineers asking me where I'm hiding the Leslie cabinet! Oh, and it weighs 1/50th the weight of a Leslie 122… and I don't need to mic it… and I can dial in pretty much every Leslie character I need, from Steppenwolf to Jimmy Smith, from Pink Floyd to Gregg Allman. If you're an organ player of any sort, you need to check out this box. It'll breathe new life into your rig and wondering how you ever got by without it!
Keyboards, Recording & Piano Specialist
905.770.5222 x 332