Earl of Whirl
Capturing the motion and emotion of the Leslie speaker cabinet.
By Brian Knave
Its no wonder most musicians and producers prefer recording the real thing to using an emulation. But is it really possible to accurately capture the magical sonic phenomenon you encounter in a nightclub while listening to the likes of a Jimmy Smith, Joey DeFrancesco, or Larry Goldings (to name just a few masters of the classic Hammond B-3/Leslie combination)? No, not really. No matter how well you record a Leslie, the experience of being in the room with the Earl of Whirl is simply not going to translate fully through a pair of stationary speakers. But take heart: many of the elements that make up the Leslie sound can be documented faithfully in the recording studio.
The cabinets closed middle compartment contains the high- and low-frequency drivers and 800 Hz passive crossover. The treble unit is a 3/4-inch Jensen compression driver (the kind used in P.A. speakers) connected to a vertical tube that feeds into the rotating horn assembly. Bass frequencies are handled by a 15-inch speaker that fires downward into a rotating wooden drum located in the cabinets lower compartment (see Fig. 1). The lower compartment also houses the Leslies 40-watt monophonic tube amplifier.
The treble horn and wooden drum are turned by rotors driven by two dual-speed motors, letting the player choose between slow and fast rotation speedsfor chorus and tremolo, respectivelyindependently for each element. Interestingly, the wooden drum turns clockwise and the treble horn counterclockwise. In addition, the two units rotation speeds, though roughly the same at slow and fast settings, differ during ramp-up and ramp-down times because of the wooden drums greater massyet another factor that can deepen the complexity of the sonic stew.
Reprinted with permission from Magazine, March, 2001
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