John Lennon was a big fan of distorting his voice. He requested that his voice sound like “the Dalai Lama singing from the highest mountain peak” for his rendition of “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Engineer Geoff Emerick and the studio staff used a Leslie speaker to record his voice. The effect captivated John Lennon, according to Beatles writer Bob Spitz.
While the Leslie speaker is still manufactured and marketed, analog electrical devices and digital emulation may now be used to achieve comparable effects. The sounds generated by a Leslie speaker can be approximated using chorus and phase shifter devices. But have you ever wanted a VST specifically designed to simulate a Leslie speaker? We’ve done some digging and listed them here for you.
MrDonald is a virtual rotary speaker that looks and sounds like the legendary Leslie Speaker. Some features include minimum and maximum speed for both bass and treble speakers, acceleration and adjustable tone. Additionally you get stereo width and balance between bass and treble; are all included. It also has MIDI control and an animated graphical user interface.
This one comes as a VST strictly for Windows.
Download: Don’t Crack
The HaNon B70 is actually a B3 Hammond synthesizer that comes with a Leslie 122. It is built on the simulation of 91 toneWheels that spin continuously on a low-cost CPU, allowing for natural keyClicks and a rather easy synthesis.
A recreated tube preamp circuit, a tube power amp, and an approximation of the two rotors are included in the Leslie speaker cabinet model. It also simulates the acoustic resonance of the cabinet. Chorus and Vibrato effect modules are also included in the built-in FX section as a bonus.
The HANON B70 supports two sets of virtual drawbars and two audio channels. Additionally it has a split keyboard feature with MIDI learn. Playing both sets of drawbars from a single keyboard is possible with this configuration.
Here’s a list that consists of all of its features:
- Permanently active 91 toneWheel with natural KeyClicks (but adjustable)
- A drive to crush the organ which is modeled after tube amplification.
- Percussions, Chorus, Vibrato, and Reverb may all be manipulated through midi.
- Bleed that can be adjusted
- Leslie slow / fast on midi controller signal on both MIDI channels, and two sets of drawbars, a split with midi learn for a single keyboard.
- 44100, 48000, 88200, 96000, 176400, and 192000 Hz are supported via instant presets available from the UI.
Spinner LE is a free VST effect for Windows that emulates the original Leslie Cabinet software simulator with a basic two-band rotating chorus.
Some of its features include:
- Rotary chorus with two bands (aka “leslie simulation”).
- Distortion may be adjusted using the Drive and Output level controls.
- At 800Hz, there is a built-in crossover.
- Horn Filter with Frequency and Q Controls that may be adjusted.
Better yet, the same developers have a free hammond organ called NuBi LE, and it’s completely free too. That way you can get the classic sound that has been sought after by producers and musicians alike since the two were combined.
- 75-note range (61 pitches, plus one extra low octave and two extra high notes)
- 9 “basic” drawbars
- There are three scale modes, one of which incorporates heritage gear tuning.
- 2 distinct percussion sounds with 4 different mode algorithms
- Adjustable advanced algorithm Key Click level on the Attack and Release buttons.
- Fully customizable vibrato and chorus settings.
- Support for expression pedals that are Zipper-less through MIDI CC# 11
- CPU usage is quite low.
It would work great on some vocals, to get that classic John Lennon sound, on a Hammond organ or Hammond synth (like the one mentioned here). If you’re feeling really experimental, you could try it on guitars and drums to see what sounds you get out of it.
Download Spinner LE: KVR Audio
Download NuBi LE: KVR Audio
The Leslie speaker is a combo of an amplifier and loudspeaker that modulates sound by spinning a baffle chamber (“drum”) in front of the loudspeakers. A rotating horn mechanism in front of the treble driver produces a similar effect. It’s mainly famous for being utilized on the Hammond organ, but it was also employed on the electric guitar and also other instruments later on.
An amplifier, a treble horn, and a bass speaker are all common components of a Leslie speaker, however the exact components vary depending on the type. The Leslie speaker is controlled by a musician via an external switch or pedal that alternates between two speed settings, known as “chorale” and “tremolo.”
Don Leslie adored the new Hammond Organ at the time, but considered the tone to be a touch “square.” He hoped the Hammond could sound more like his “Mighty WurliTzer” Theatre Pipe Organ. He envisaged employing a mechanism known as the “Doppler Effect,” which explains why a train whistle appears to lower in pitch when a train passes you. Don created a device to make a horn speaker spin in a circle.
According to legend, Don built the entire thing in his closet! His experiment paid off: the rotating horn gave the Hammond Organ a “tremulant,” as it is known in the pipe organ world. Tremolo, the sound of air and vibrato are all combined in this piece. The Hammond Organ sounded totally different as a result. At that time, the Hammond’s existence in all forms of popular music—Jazz, Rock, and Pop—began, and Don Leslie cemented his place in the small olympus of timeless inventions.
Though there are only a few available when digging through the deep dark depths of the internet, still some are available. If you want to experiment with this unique and intriguing effect, but don’t have the money to afford the extremely expensive hardware, or relatively expensive paid for VSTs, give these Leslie speakers a try and explore the interesting sounds that can be obtained with it.
While you’re here, you may want to look at our list showing some of the best bass amp VST plugins around. Enjoy!