Rotating speaker effect, or better known as Leslie speaker, is a unique device that was popular back in the day when sound effect pedals were in the realm of science fiction for the most part. If you thought that rotating speaker is just a figure of speech, you are in for a surprise. Old school Leslie speakers were consisted of an actual rotating speaker and an amplifier in most cases. The resulting effect is something completely different from anything you have ever heard. Some like to point out that Leslie speakers are similar to tremolos or other basic effects, but that is just not true.
Downside to actual Leslie speakers is that you would have to spend multiple thousands for one, and they are extremely rare these days. The next best thing is a rotary simulator like the BBE Soul Vibe analog guitar pedal. Some of them are good, some of them not so much. Soul Vibe is one of those that actually gets you pretty close to the actual Leslie.
On the outside, BBE Soul Vibe looks deceptively simple. What we have here is a wide chassis that is devoid of any graphics or interesting details. The only controls at your disposal are two knobs and a foot switch. To someone who doesn’t know what they are looking at, it might come across as a power supply or another auxiliary device on the pedal board. The truth is that a proper rotary simulator doesn’t require a bunch of knobs and switches. Instead, what really matters is what you find inside the chassis.
BBE has used proper analog circuitry that does a great job at emulating the real thing. As a matter of fact, it is so close to the original that you will notice some very subtle details in its sound that are almost exclusively found on a true Leslie speaker. The efficiency and engineering success related to Soul Vibe has brought BBE a number of prestigious awards. Aside from the complexity of its internals, Soul Vibe is more or less standard in every other aspect. By that we mean the means of powering the pedal by either using a standard battery or some sort of power supply.
When it comes to performance, it is easy to see why Jerry Cantrell chose BBE’s Soul Vibe for his main setup. The pedal brings that authentic vintage rotary experience. This is where we kind of have to stop and make a small disclaimer aimed at true fans of Leslie speakers. Yes, no emulator pedal can achieve the exact same performance, detail and nuances of a true Leslie speaker. However, if you belong to this group of die hard fans, you should definitely check out Soul Vibe. It might just surprise you.
Once you plug everything in, you are basically sent back in time of David Gilmour’s peak. Not only that, but you are given the exact same tool and abilities. That is something very special even though not many people tend to use it. It is a unique effect in a sense that it has its place and time, and that is something that doesn’t sit well with most guitar players. With that said, when a moment arises where plugging in a rotary speaker is the right thing to do, it can make a tangible change.
Trying to accurately describe the sound and performance of BBE Soul Vibe is harder than it seems. It is really one of those pedals that you have to try out for yourself in order to truly appreciate what it has to offer. Here’s the thing, though. Soul Vibe may not be the absolute best rotary emulator on the market. However, it is an impressive package when you consider how much it costs. At this price, it can easily give much more expensive models out there a good run for their money.
BBE Soul Vibe is proof that guitar effects pedals go far beyond the usual suspects. Rotary speakers may be niche, but they are among the most powerful effect that you can have at your disposal when the time is right. You won’t use it frequently, and if you do it actually tends to lose some of its charm. Jerry Cantrell is a pretty great example of how rotary simulators ought to be used. Naturally, this all depends on what kind of music you are playing and what your personal style is.
We always wanted to do a review of a good rotary simulator pedal, mainly because of how hard it was to pull one off successfully. Well, today we have found the model we have been looking for all this time. The balance of performance, price and general reliability is exactly what a professional would need on stage. If you are a fan of Jerry Cantrell and are looking to emulate his tone or style, chances are you will need to add BBE Soul Vibe to your collection sooner rather than later. As soon as you do, you will find out what just what kind of detail this thing can add to your tone.