These days you will find few brands that still produce Leslie cabs, but there is a more practical solution: Leslie simulator pedals. These pedals were created to emulate what Leslie rotating speakers did mechanically.
There are analog and digital versions of these pedals, and most of them get the core of this effect right. If you are looking for one of these units for your pedalboard, you are in the right place. We did some digging, and we have found 4 of the best Leslie pedals around. We chose these based on how accurately they emulated the Leslie experience and their overall quality. Without further ado, let’s get started.
Neo Instruments Ventilator Speaker Simulator
The Ventilator II from Neo Instruments is arguably one of the most faithful representations of an authentic Leslie cab you can get from a stompbox. True to the original, it’s designed to work with both guitars and keyboards. It gives you a clear, warm, vintage tone that stays true to the Leslie character, even in overdrive, which is often lacking in simulator pedals.
The Neo Ventilator is a beast of a pedal. It’s solid, first of all, with a sturdy aluminum construction on both the casing and the footswitches (see full specs), and can stand up to a lot of stomping without letting you down. But it is also a large pedal, at least twice the width of simpler pedals. One of the reasons for this expanded footprint is the array of customization options it gives you. Along with the three footswitches (bypass, stop, and slow/fast) there are five additional recessed controls for tweaking the speed, balance, and mix of the effect.
Sonically, the Ventilator is especially impressive when used with a guitar. You can turn off the speaker simulation to use the pedal with your usual amp. The smooth, lush quality the Ventilator adds to your sound is a near-perfect emulation of a vintage wooden cabinet, even if your amp is more modern and utilitarian. The sheer power of the sound is worth the extra space. If you’re looking for the truest, best Leslie pedal on the market, the Ventilator is your answer.
DLS is another company that makes a solid Leslie simulator pedal. In many ways, it’s a more flexible platform than the original Hammond design, although both of these have their own personalities. RotoSim is definitely one of the more popular Leslie pedals these days, and for a good reason. The balance of price, quality and performance is just right.
Much like the other pedals in this category, DLS RotoSim is a big, wide stompbox (see full specs) that has that vintage look to it. The enclosure is made of durable metal, making it extremely reliable and capable of constant use. Same goes for all the components DLS chose to put in the RotoSim. Everything about it simply screams quality.
Even though it’s packed full of various features and controls, the core performance of this pedal is as straightforward as they come. With all the knobs lined up and labeled clearly, you won’t have many problems trying to dial in the perfect Leslie experience. When it comes to value you get compared to the price you’re expected to pay, the balance is tipped heavily in your favor. It’s among the best Leslie pedals around.
Electro-Harmonix Lester K
When a certain effect, especially one as unique as Leslie, gains some traction, you can bet that Electro-Harmonix is going to deliver their version. Lester K is a no-nonsense stompbox that achieves a pretty great Leslie effect at a reasonable price and outstanding quality. The whole thing is packed into a standard Electro-Harmonix enclosure that we are all familiar with.
In terms of controls, you get the most important ones along with the speed/brake footswitch. It’s not covered in knobs like the previous two pedals, but what you get is more than enough for you to dial in anything you want. Performance you can expect is on par with many premium boxes on the market. Even though Lester K was designed to be used with keyboards, it’s a more than suitable for guitars.
Last but not least, we have a budget-oriented Leslie simulator pedal that delivers the core of this effect at an affordable price. It’s not as complex nor riddled with features as the other pedals on our list, but it’s the closest thing you can get to a Leslie cab if you are on a very tight budget.
Hotone Roto is a standard sized stompbox that comes in a zinc alloy enclosure. The whole design is dominated by a very large speed knob that sits on the top of the pedal and is actually one of only three available controls you have. Even though it is extremely rudimentary, Hotone Roto still manages to squeeze out that Leslie effect quite accurately.
With that said, it’s definitely not a pedal for those who need a lot of control over their tone. You can tweak the main parameters of the effect, but anything more than that is pretty much not possible. No matter how limiting that sounds, you are going to have a hard time finding a better Leslie emulator for this type of money.
The pedals we have shown you are among the best Leslie pedals you can get these days. We went with products which sounded authentic and tried to find a representative from several price ranges all the way down to the affordable ones.
For the most part, no matter which one you go for, you will get the performance you need. Some like the Leslie pedal will undoubtedly be as close as you can get to a real rotating cab, but each of these has its own unique character. Give them a whirl!