Dynacord CLS 222
Rotating Speaker Simulator
With acid jazz making the Hammond sound popular again the search is on for a practical alternative to the Leslie cabinet. Nick Magnus takes the CLS 222 for a spin.
EVERY NOW AND then a musical prayer is answered; for me, one of those was the arrival of the digital piano and the subsequent fitting of that into a 1U-high rackmount MIDI module. Affordable digital reverb was another of the marvels we now take for granted. Up to now, however, the "Leslie", or rotating speaker, has managed to elude convincing simulation, with little more than a wobbly chorus of auto-wah as the end result. It looked like the only way to get that most wonderful of sounds was to lug around the real thing with all the hernias and bruised fingers it entailed. But now you can throw away that truss, Neddy! The wunderkind at Dynacord have answered our prayer.
The CLS 222 is a 1U-high rackmounting device weighing in at a meagre 5.3lbs. And its operation is simplicity itself.
In a real rotating speaker, there is a treble horn and a bass "drum", which rotate independently at different speeds, and a crossover which splits the signal into treble and bass frequencies to go to each speaker respectively. When the fast/slow switch is operated, the speakers increase or decrease speed at different rates - the treble horn picks up and slows down relatively quickly, while the bass speaker (being heavier) takes longer to do this.
The CLS 222 exactly imitates this. It has a front-panel switch and a remote footswitch so your hands don't need to leave the keyboard (or fretboard) - you can stop the rotation if you so desire. So far, so good. What you also get is a balance control between the treble and bass "speakers" whose range goes from 100% bass to 100% treble. You can also bypass the effect via a front-panel toggle switch. Things get really hot when you run the thing in stereo. There are four output modes: Mono, Stereo I and II, and Super Stereo. The stereo works as if you'd miked up a Leslie with four mics - two on each speaker. What you hear is each one panning between left and right at different rates. Stereo gives you 40% separation, Stereo II gives 75% separation (ie, wider) and Super Stereo is 100% separation - quite dizzying, especially in headphones.
There is, of course, an input gain control with peak LED. Care must be taken here - the CLS being digital means that clipping sounds rather unpleasant. Also present are output level and a power switch.
On the back panel we find the left and right jack outputs (unbalanced) and a corresponding pair of XLR outs (balanced). The right jack will also run a pair of stereo headphones quite happily. There is a separate mono jack output. Here too are the input and remote fast/slow jacks. Dynacord have included a pair of fine-tune trimpots to adjust the basic speeds of the treble and bass speakers to taste. I found I had to slow down the bass speed a little until it sounded right to my ears.
Perhaps strangely, there is no MIDI input - a slight shame, that, because I'd have liked to have had the fast/slow settings under MIDI control (from a sequencer, keyboard, mod wheel or whatever) but maybe that's just supreme laziness on my part. Also the balance and stereo modules could have been similarly controlled. I'm sure the price would have rocketed though, for the CLS 222 isn't a cheap unit. Also the lack of a distortion effect for that valve Leslie "growl" is an oversight, despite the fact that still only valves manage to give that sound convincingly. Another little prayer, perhaps?
Obviously, the principal application here is the live situation - volume levels can be achieved with the CLS that the real thing has difficulty competing with (due to mic overspill and so on). I've successfully overcome the growling distortion problem in recent recording sessions by putting the signal through a Groove Tube valve pre-amp before the CLS. (And very nice it was too.) As few studios these days have a Leslie in situ, maybe this combination would be a worthwhile investment.
What else can I say? It works. I bought one. I'm happy. Obtaining one is not so easy - Dynacord don't include it in the items they normally export, so it has to be ordered. But then, maybe the appearance of acid jazz will change that.
Price Review model cost £342.
More from Various dealerships in the UK. Review model was obtained from Gigsounds, (Contact Details).
Review by Nick Magnus