IK Multimedia Leslie Collection by Sound-Guy
IK Multimedia Official Leslie® collections for AmpliTube and T-RackS
IK Multimedia has released a new Leslie cabinet emulation endorsed by Hammond-Suzuki for the AmpliTube equipment rack and the T-RackS mastering suite. It includes several models covering about 50 years of Leslie designs.
What's a Leslie?
As Mr Natural said back in 1969, "If you don't know by now, don't mess with it!" The Leslie cabinet and associated amplifier was a very early FX box originally designed for the Hammond organ. First sold in 1941, it became very popular with jazz musicians, and very unpopular with Laurens Hammond, the inventor and president of Hammond Organs. The Leslie uses two rotating assemblies, a treble horn arrangement at the top and a rotating baffle at the bottom below a down-firing woofer. The classic cabinet was 41" high x 29" wide x 20" deep and weighed over 140 pounds! The rotating speaker effect creates both variation of the volume and frequency shifting from the Doppler effect, and can be varied from a "chorale" mode through a "tremolo" mode as the speeds of the rotating speakers are increased from just under one revolution per second to five or six. The treble assembly spins a little faster than the bass, and the two are not synchronized, which makes the sound vary in complex ways.
Over the years the Leslie cabinet was used for other instruments such as guitars and pianos, and has even been used for vocals. There have been several software emulations, and many pedals to model the Leslie effect electronically. I have a few of these and they run from crude approximations to fairly good ones. The IK Multimedia Leslie has been 'approved' by Hammond-Suzuki, and from my tests sounds as good as recordings of real Leslies that I've heard. BTW, Hammond Organs finally approved of real Leslies when Laurens Hammond retired in 1960. He himself never accepted the idea.
IKM have developed two different Leslie interfaces, one for AmpliTube and one for T-RackS. The underlying sound generation is the same, but the interfaces are very different. The AmpliTube version can be used in your DAW within the AmpliTube "rack", while the T-RackS model can be used in the standalone T-RackS suite, or as a separate plug-in that can be directly inserted as an FX in a DAW track. I thought it strange having the Leslie in the T-RackS mastering system since I can't imagine applying a Leslie effect to a full mix! But it is a slick way to enable a 'free-standing' plug-in version for DAW use.
Both Leslie versions have the basic controls such as slow and fast modes along with a brake control, slow and fast speed settings, acceleration and deceleration settings, two mic configurations and mic distance settings, overall EQ, and gain for each of the four mics. IKM have included several Leslie models including five different amplifiers and six cabinets, and you can combine any amp model with any cabinet. With either version you can add other FX, using the 38 modules in T-RackS or anything you have in your AmpliTube rack. And using the plug-in version in a DAW, you can add any FX you have.
The AmpliTube version benefits by having all the extra features of the "rack" - the ability to add different amps, EQs, compressors, etc., as well as the "cab room" with six different rooms and variable position of the room mics for picking up room ambiance. It also allows running additional series and parallel signal paths for all kinds of effects. It splits the amplifier section to a separate signal block from the cabinet section, which adds flexibility beyond a real Leslie cabinet, but also makes set-ups more complicated than in the T-Racks/Plug-in version.
And if you haven't looked at the latest full AmpliTube 4 offering, it has an 8 track recorder and a four channel looper built in so that you can use it with your guitar/mic to record live songs without needing a separate DAW. And if money is tight, the free AmpliTube Custom Shop model now includes features previously only in the paid version 4: Dual mic placement on any speaker, speaker interaction modeling, cabinet mixer for mics, room, DI and master level, and the very nice 3D Cab Room mentioned above. It also has a built-in two-track recorder. And as with many savvy software vendors, IKM lets you audition any of the AmpliTube processors before you buy (and they hope you will buy some!)
The T-RackS/plug-in model includes a spring reverb not in the AmpliTube model (though with AmpliTube you have access lots of FX units!). It has a simpler and more "user-friendly" interface than the AmpliTude version, being a single panel with three buttons in the left pane to switch between basic set-up, amp parameters and EQ. The plug-in version that comes with T-RackS has the same interface as the T-RackS suite version.
The T-RackS and DAW Plug-in version has a single panel and is easy to use.
There are three versions available, AmpliTude, T-Racks and the Lesleie Collection that includes both the AmpliTude and T-RackS models. If you have AmpliTude and not T-Racks, the AmpliTube version makes the most sense. Likewise if you already have only T-Racks, then that version would work well for you. If you have both already, either version will do you well, though the dual version for $50 more will get you everything you ever wanted from a Leslie emulation, possibly more. If you have neither, you can use the free IKM Custom Shop to audit the Leslie and choose what you want.
Installing the IK Multimedia Leslie
Unlike all the other IKM software I've purchased, the Leslie must be downloaded to a computer connected to the Internet. There is no offline mode to obtain or authorize this software. Since my audio studio is not online, I had to run a 40 foot LAN cable from my office router to the studio, and connect it for a few minutes to install the Leslie. The procedure to install is also unique in my experience. You do not download the Leslie software directly - you first update AmpliTube and/or T-Racks to the latest version, then go into the Custom Shop and activate the Leslie with the license you get when you buy the software, and then go to the Gear menu at the top of the window and select ‘Restore My Gear’. And it will be installed automatically. BUT you need an internet connection during the whole process. At any rate, it worked fine for me. Just be sure that the AmpliTube and/or T-Racks in your system are first updated to the latest versions - otherwise nothing will be installed!
How Does It Sound?
I gave each of the cabinets a try with one or two of the amps using a couple Hammond emulations, and they all animate the sound nicely. There are 30 combinations of amp and cabinet, so you have a lot of variety just from that selection. Each cabinet, and each amp yield slightly different tones, as does changing the mic arrangement and distance. Since the emulation is of the whole Leslie amp, cabinet, and mic pickup, the resulting tonality is modified from the input signal, from slightly to significantly, even with rotation turned off. You can also drive the cabinet directly from an input signal without using one of the supplied amp models which enables using an external amplifier plug-in if you choose. And that like the real deal, the treble horn modulation is slightly faster than the bass modulation, so the tonal modulation is complex.
I set up a couple buttons of my MIDI controller to switch between the slow and fast speeds, and to apply the brake, so I could change those settings while playing a keyboard. It was like having a real Leslie in my studio.
A fine emulation of a classic fx unit which, while not cheap, is a lot cheaper than a real Leslie cabinet and a lot easier to handle and maintain. I can see using this effect with many different instruments, guitar, piano, harpsichord or clavichord, even sax and other horns. Fun for vocals too in the appropriate style (psychedelic, à la the Beatles Strawberry Fields or Lucy in the Sky!).
Very realistic Leslie sound, endorsed by Hammond-Suzuki, who make the real hardware.
Flexible controls for rotation speed, acceleration and deceleration, as well as amplifier settings and microphone positions. The AmpliTube version has additional fx such as room ambiance.
Very low CPU usage. With my PC Audio Labs Windows 7 machine (3.5 GHz with an Intel i7-4770k CPU), the cpu resource for each instance of the Leslie was about 1.25%. RAM needs are also low by today's standards, about 120 MB for the plug-in version to about 380 MB for the AmpliTube version with only the Leslie - of course adding more modules to AmpliTube will increase this.
IKM have hundreds of excellent processors available you can download to your studio.
Requires either AmpliTube 4.4 or T-Racks 5.1 but you can use the free Custom Shop versions (latest versions only) to test the Leslie (and any other IKM processor) before you buy.
As just mentioned, you can easily audition the abilities of any applicable IKM processor in AmpliTude Custom Shop and/or T-RackS Custom Shop for free, and with a click buy any and all of them! There are hundreds of modules available, so you can quickly max out your credit card!
Not cheap, but quality never is!
Product Info: IK Multimedia. Musicians First.
All prices in US dollars and Euros
Leslie for AmpliTube $/€129.99; Leslie for T-RackS $/€129.99; Leslie Collection (both AmpliTube and T-RackS models) $/€179.99
Upgrade and crossgrade prices are available.