I love the sound when employed with an Organ ( Jimmy Smith) and on Little Wing(SRV) - I vaguely remember seeing Kings X live once and I believe Ty Tabor had a pair of Leslie speakers that sounded awesome. Anyway, any "homemade" ideas so I don't have to shell out $1,500 for a pair?

  • 5
    Just spin around in circles while you play. It's much easier with a wireless rig. Otherwise just get a really long cable.
    – yossarian
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 17:26
  • 6
    That only works until the cord wraps around my ankles, making me trip and fall into the drummer's kit which only makes him mad, causing him to play even louder than normal, and then the keyboard player gets mad and turns his gear off and walks out calling us all children, which is fine because we don't like him, except he has the van, plus his girlfriend, who's now our lead singer is really cute and she goes to tell him off so we get nothing done. It would have been worse except the bass player was late and missed it all.
    – Anonymous
    Commented Feb 6, 2011 at 4:46

7 Answers 7


The others have already said yes and then listed time and money, I'll say yes but also tell you that it's actually not that hard if you take a different approach.

First, I'll say that nothing comes close to a true rotating speaker in the room. Chorus is nice. Emulators are nice, especially if you can run them in stereo, but the Doppler effect can't be had any other way than physical motion and there is nothing quite like your first rotating speaker experience. It's a bit transcendental really.

I have a friend who, in addition to being very handy, also fell in love with the rotating speaker and wanted to build something portable that got pretty close to the real deal. A real Leslie setup rotates both the upper frequencies via a horn-type speaker that spins, and the lower frequencies via a down-firing cone-type speaker and a rotating wooden drum. See:

Leslie Diagram

That's a fairly large setup. What my friend did was adapt the lower frequency portion of the classic Leslie design to make a more portable setup that was specifically tuned for use with guitar (where a lot of high frequency content isn't necessarily wanted). He took a traditional 1x12" guitar cabinet design, doubled the depth and instead of firing the guitar speaker in to a cloth grill, he fired it in to a rotating disc made from styrofoam. I'm sure he's got pictures of the whole setup, I'll see if I can get him to post them. The light styrofoam means you don't need a particularly beefy motor to rotate it. He used an Ernie Ball volume pedal to do speed adjustments. The whole thing weighs a little more than a regular guitar cabinet and it can fill a room with sound that moves so well it's quite heavenly.

  • That's a very interesting concept and design your friend has there. I'd like to see it in action.
    – Jduv
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 13:02
  • I emailed him this morning with a request for pictures.
    – Ian C.
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 14:41
  • Finally got some more detail on this: the wheel and motor assemble he boxed up came from an old Kawai organ he snagged for free off CList. I'll take some pictures of it soon for educational purposes.
    – Ian C.
    Commented Feb 3, 2011 at 18:58
  • Nice answer, but I fundamentally disagree with "the Doppler effect can't be had any other way than physical motion". There is no reason at all why emulation couldn't exactly reproduce a Leslie.
    – slim
    Commented Jun 13, 2014 at 9:15

As @Jduv said, it's possible to make them but I doubt you'd find it economically worthwhile, besides the bigger problem with possibly stomping on patents.

If you're committed enough to the idea that you'd want to spend money making one, take a look at some of the dedicated rotary stomp-boxes first. Boss, Line6 and TC-Electronics come to mind as having units.

Having played with organists with Leslies, I can vouch for how heavy they are, and how much work it is to travel with them. Having it on a small pedal would be SO nice.

  • +1 on the heavy part. I once owned a 1x12 Goodsell combo that had a leslie speaker in it. That thing would break your back, and it was tiny!
    – Jduv
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 1:07
  • It took three of us to move the "portable" Leslie unit our keyboardist had. I wish we'd had chorus units back then.
    – Anonymous
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 1:11

Building a Leslie speaker yourself is certainly possible but unnecessarily much effort: just get one of numerous Leslie clones and start with them. My own starting point was a Solton Turbojet. There are a number of other clones, most of them using a motor/rotor/relais combo from Ancona, Italy.

Why "starting point"? Well, a 45 year old bass speaker is not going to have the greatest suspension. The frequency response is iffish, partly because of a 450Hz–16kHz (somewhat optimistic) phenolic membrane compression driver. The frequency crossover (12dB/octave on the horn driver only) is a bit of a joke, with a steel screw (I kid you not) attaching the inductivity to the circuit board.

The amp does not invest a lot of effort minimising noise but then it's not like the motors will be inaudible.

Lots of potential for improvement, but having the mechanics catered for is actually quite useful.

So why not just use a pedal? In truth, pedals have become really good and (apart from the motor noise) it's close to impossible to tell a recording of a Leslie speaker from a recording of a good pedal.

Live, however, there is a world of difference due to the complex soundscape created by the Leslie around the listener. Unless you have to squeeze the sound through a PA, in which case we are effectively back at distinguishing recordings because of the required microphoning.


Well, yes you could--if you had the time, money, and roadies to carry it. Here's a great technical link to how they work, so you could theoretically use this to build your own solution.

If you want to emulate a Leslie, why not go with a chorus or vibrato set to a high speed? I have an analogman BiChorus with one side set to a leslie sound and the other to a slower chorus. It works great for all my leslie emulation. The Retro Sonic Chorus also does a nice leslie.

<Shameless self promotion> I did a review on my personal site of the Analogman BiChorus vs. the Retro Sonic Classic Chorus complete with sound clips, and the conclusion is located here. You can perhaps use this to see that chorus units are indeed good for emulating Leslies. </Shameless self promotion>

  • I agree that a chorus can do a good job. A real leslie is more subtle though, and can add some decent distortion all on its own when the amp is overdriven, getting a nice growl, which Clapton used one for a lot of his early albums. Line6 has a decent rotary emulation that reminded me how much I like that sweep; It's much more subtle than phasing and sounds awesome with chord work.
    – Anonymous
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 0:28
  • You don't need to worry about patents if you aren't selling what you build. For personal use, patents don't apply.
    – Ian C.
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 0:55
  • Have you got a reference for that statement?
    – Anonymous
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 2:45
  • The Wikipedia article says he tried to patent the speaker but couldn't. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leslie_speaker)
    – Anonymous
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 21:14
  • Fair enough. It's still quite hard to build one of these things, and little boxes weigh less than gigantic speakers.
    – Jduv
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 21:23

FWIW, Fender made (and may still make) a Leslie style thing for guitar.

I haven't seen them new in quite a whlie, but they've popped up on used craigslist here and there for anywhere from $250 to $700 IIRC. I'm still kicking myself for not buying the $250 one when I had a chance.

They're not nearly as heavy as the real thing and sound better than a Univibe/Rotovibe to me.


Adding to the "get a pedal" list, the Leslie/Hammond combo has a speed control switch. The Univibe has as new optional expression pedal which you can use to control the speed. Not perfect but lighter and cheaper than a real Leslie.


I as well salvaged the rotary speaker and I had a transformer 240 down 100 volts, my question what sort of box you built to resemble the organ enclosure which had a small square opening at the front! Still I can't notice any difference see my entry under arpolwest1 under kawai rotary speaker! The sound combined with a left channel Advent 10' two ways sp. Maybe mounted on top of a round column with a slit down in a corner as a omnidirectional project

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