Strymon Lex Rotary review

December 13th 2011 | Posted in Reviews | 43 Comments

I’ve had a lot of requests for the Strymon Lex Rotary lately. This rotary speaker simulator seems to have caused a lot of stir and not least among Gilmour enthusiasts. I recently got my hands on one and here’s my review.

Rotating speaker cabs has been David’s secret weapon since 1971-72. His stage setup at this point featured the classic 3-head Hiwatt rack, WEM speaker cabs and a Leslie 147. The Leslie was swapped with two Yamaha RA200 cabinets in 1976-1983 and the jaw breaking 1994 stage setup featured custom designed Doppola rotating speakers. Read more about David’s rotary setups here.

Strymon Lex Rotary - Gilmourish.Com review

While Clapton, Vaughan, Harrison etc used Leslies as a main effect, David would blend or mix the effect with the main amps. This subtle liquidy swirl is the essence of many of his classic tones throughout the years. The newly released recording of Dark Side of the Moon from Empire Pool, Wembley 1974 is a great example of how the Leslie 147 cabs adds a huge dimension to his tones. You could easily use a chorus or flanger to create something similar but it’ll never be quite the same.

The Lex Rotary was designed with a painstaking focus on details and the complexity of a rotary cab and look no further people – this is as close as you’ll get to fit a Leslie in a box!

The Lex is housed in a slightly bigger TRex sized sturdy box with easy to reach big knobs. There are four controls allowing you to adjust the fast rotor speed, mic distance at the horn, horn level and preamp drive (quite decent but I recommend a better sounding overdrive pedal). There are also two on/off stomp switches for slow/fast and bypass. The pedal runs on 9V Boss style adaptor and feature true bypass switching. This is only the beginning though. The Lex also has a number of “hidden” controls that’s engaged by stomping both foot switches simultaneously. The four controls then allows you to make additional settings like different mic placements, volume boost etc. There are so much technical specifications that I won’t even dare to begin describing them. Fear not though – the Lex is super easy to operate. Check out the Strymon site for more details and soundclips.

No I haven’t become bald… I haven’t done any clips for this review simply because I can’t do it any better than this excellent demonstration. Please check out the clip and see the Strymon web site for more details, sound and YouTube clips.

I’ve tested the Lex both in mono and stereo. You can place it among your pedals like any other chorus or flanger and get a very dynamic chorusy tone with that classic tremolo swirl. However, if you need to run the pedal in mono I strongly suggest that you split the signal and place the Lex on one line with a second amp. This way you get a setup similar to David’s and you can adjust the level on the assigned amp for the desired amount of Leslie effect. See this feature for more on replicating David’s rotary setup.

The Lex should be operated in stereo though. The tone can fool even the most devoted Leslie fans and I had a hard time telling it apart from a Leslie 760 that I compared it with. Standing in front of the stereo setup you can hear how incredibly dynamic and sophisticated the Lex is. A Leslie or rotating speaker isn’t just a static effect like your average distortion but there are all these nuances that makes up the tone. A pedal alone can’t replicate the acoustics and dynamics of your studio or a stage but the guys at Strymon seems to have cracked the code and delivered a pedal that’s almost as organic and alive as a real Leslie.

So how does it compare to other rotary sims? The Lex is very similar to the old Korg G4 and HK Rotosphere. The Lex however sounds more natural and organic and the ramp to slow/fast is much smoother. The Line 6 Rotary Machine does a nice job but sounds almost like a ring modulator at high speeds. The Lex stays focused and allows you to carefully place the mic just where you want it for the right swirl.

I use the Boss RT20 a lot but it doesn’t really sound anything other than a very sophisticated chorus and that’s pretty much why I like it. In my opinion you can’t really compare the two but the RT20 has one huge advantage, which is the mix effect control. This is a slight draw back on the Lex especially in terms of David’s tones. The reason is that you don’t really want a dominating rotary effect but rather a mild swirl. Not quite a chorus and certainly no flanger but just a hint of that certain something. The Lex works very well for cleans and mild overdrives but gets all too dominating and dark when you try to run a Big Muff through it. In this case you’re better off with a Boss RT20 or simply a chorus.

But, the Lex was never made with Gilmour in mind. Judging by the Strymon website they set out to create the most authentic sounding rotary simulator and in my humble opinion I think they’ve done it. Highly recommended!

43 comments so far

  1. josh says:

    nice pedal….did you compare it with the line 6 m9? I´ve heard it got pretty good leslie sim!!!
    Cheers!!!!!

    [I compared it with the Roto Machine,which I the same effects they’ve used for the M and POD series. Please see the review :) – Bjorn]

  2. osvaldo says:

    hello I have a korg g4, according to your experience, is better to split the signal? to avoid affecting the modulation with the big muff?, or go online with a single amplifier?, if I divide the signal, how do I get, plus I have a GCX and ground control pro

    thanks
    osvaldo
    Chile

    [Please see this feature for some tips :) – Bjorn]

  3. Hugo says:

    Great Review!!!.. One trick that you can use with this pedal is to use a parallel loop pedal and place the LEx (or other rotary fx) there. If you place a volume pedal after the rotary and set the mix of the loop at 50% you can use the volume pedal to mix the wet signal with the direct and in this way it gets more “gilmourish”. I used this method with the loop of my amp and the RT20 (direct level at 0) and worked great!

    [Thanks for the tip! – Bjorn]

  4. João Francisco says:

    Hi there!

    You said that the pedal will be better on stereo… The pedal have an left and right output… left to your main amp and right to the other one?
    Or… use the pedal apart in a stereo amp?

    And… Peter Framton’s secret weapon is the leslie too! ;-)
    You can hear it at the end of “do you fell like we do”, “lines on my face”, etc…
    Amazing sound in Lisbon last month! Very full and organic!

    [You need two amps :) – Bjorn]

  5. Darkside says:

    Nice pedal, and a LOVELY sound!

    However, its yet another pedal that costs a fortune. Sadly not many of us can afford £250 (UK money) pedals.

  6. Floydfactorman says:

    Strymon seems to be creating some of the best modulation and delay pedals out there, including the ElCapistan delay, which from what I’ve heard on YT, seems to come the closest to sounding like an Echorec IMO, and I can say that with some authority as I have/use a Echorec 2 myself. However, having recently purchased the Neo Ventilator, I must say that it is the winner of the race to capture the Leslie sound. I suggest that you give that a whirl (pun intended) :-)

    [Thanks for the tip! – Bjorn]

  7. Ruudpp says:

    I have the Strymon Lex rotary and it’s really perfect for the Darkside tones. Breathe, Us and them! and with one click you will get an awesome Any Colour you like swirl. I recognize Bjorn’s opinion that it’s to dominant for solo’s like Numb but it’s very usefull for the Dogs solo’s and Pig’s chords Em/D C/Bes. Great pedal!

    [Yes, it works nicely on the songs that David’s rotary amps are more dominating. – Bjorn]

  8. Cristóvão says:

    Have you heard about the Neo Ventilator Leslie Simulater? It’s preety good

    Regards

    [Heard about it but haven’t had the chance to try it yet :) – Bjorn]

  9. Mark F says:

    Great review, as usual! Strum on makes great gear their ‘el capistan’ is quite something else, definitely worth a review at some stage ;-)
    Also check this out for another good demo of Rex’s capabilities:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjbXRoq3iT0&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    Cheers

    M

    [Thanks! – Bjorn]

  10. Chris says:

    That was a great review Bjorn, I always look forward to one of your reviews. Just wondering have you heard of the Motion Sound rotary speakers, more specifically the SRV-212 & SRV-112, I’m at the moment checking them out. I was just wanting to know if you heard of them and what you think about them.

    One other thing since I found this site, just a little over a year ago, is that I come here regularly to check what’s new. Just saying that this is a great site.

    [Thanks for your kind words Chris! I haven’t tried the Motion Sound. I’ll check it out. – Bjorn]

  11. Guido says:

    Hello Bjorn, nice review as usual!

    Only a question. In a mono setup with a single amp, you suggest the RT-20 above all? I should use it on clean, mild od and Muff sounds. Do you notice andy tonal loss using the Boss pedal in chain? Thank You very much

    [I think I’d go for the RT20. Like I said in the review, it’s more like a mix between a rotary amp and a very deep chorus but it works much better than the Lex in mono. – Bjorn]

  12. Chris says:

    Great review Bjorn, I’m always interested in rotary speaker sims. Just wondering have you heard of the Motion Sound rotary speakers I’m checking them out and wanted to know if you heard of them or tried them out?

    [Haven’t tried them yet but I’ll check it out :) – Bjorn]

  13. Brian says:

    Great review…I’ve been very interested in the Strymon line, particularly this pedal.

    [Thanks! – Bjorn]

  14. TC Santos says:

    I knew it would be a matter of time before you did a review on the Lex. I’m still waiting to hear one in person, but impressed with the level of detail Strymon put into it. I have an H&K Rotosphere, & love it. I use it for the synth side of my synth-guitar rig, & a Line 6 M13 for the guitar side when we’re performing our DSOTM set. While checking out all the forums looking for people’s thoughts on the lex, one sentence was common in most: “Nothing beats a real Leslie…(but the Lex comes close)”. This has given me a new obsession to build a few true rotating speaker type cabinets to use live, at least until I can get my hands on a Lex. Always appreciate your reviews & articles! Cheers!

    [It’s true though… you can never beat a real Leslie. The reason is simple, – a pedal will never be able to fully replicate the many nuances that makes up a Leslie tone. A pedal will always be a box with wires while a Leslie is so much more than that and interacts with your rig, your playing and the surroundings in a whole different way. – Bjorn]

  15. Ruud PP says:

    I’ve played the Dark Side with my band Pink Project last Saturday. Inspired by the 74 live version we have improvised on Any Colour where I used the Strymon Lex Rotary for. I have put it on you tube especially for this review. Recorded it with the Zoom Q3. The videoquality is bad due to wrong settings but the audio is pretty good- I´ve played stereo on two hiwatts with my Gilmour relic strat, TC Nova, Smallstone Nano through the Strymon.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dt9_fSyUTKk&feature=youtu.be

    [Thanks for sharing! Great version! – Bjorn]

  16. Ruud PP says:

    Hereby another Strymon Lex Rotary example from our Ahoy show on Us and Them and Any Colour at 9:30
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQnvjPhUnrk&feature=related

    [Thanks for sharing! – Bjorn]

  17. Alan says:

    This pedal sounds great! I must ask, have you tried out their Timeline delay? Regardless of the answer, would you recommend it for Gilmour type tones?

    [I haven’t tried it my self but judging by the soundclips and many reviews, it should be a perfect match for David’s tones with lots of different options and sounds. – Bjorn]

  18. Glenn says:

    I have both the RT20 and the Lex. While I am still in the honeymoon phase with the Lex I love it. The RT20 is a very good and enjoyable pedal and has its own place in many sounds and I will still be using it. That said, I find the Lex so responsive to tweaking and so natural sounding (and note – so far only in mono). So much so that it has made me realize that so many of the phase, chorus and flange type sounds on classic tunes I love were actually rotary speakers. It takes a good effect to do that! My first Strymon pedal and I am impressed.

  19. Daniele says:

    http://www.tolerancesound.com

    the price is also good, only a little bit more than some pedals! :)

  20. Toni says:

    Hi Bjorn,
    I had to decide: HK Rotosphere, Boss RT20 or the new Lex and my main concern was that I’d play it in mono, mostly with a soft, mild overdrive (Colorsound power boost or BK Butler Tube Driver, depending on the song).
    Now, after reading your article and the comments from Glenn and Guido, I’ve finally made up my mind: Boss RT20.
    Big, big, big thanks from Barcelona!
    Toni

    [Great! I think you’ll be very satisfied. – Bjorn]

  21. Vincent Morel says:

    The Lex is great but I also found that the lack of mix is a pain to achieve subtle effect. Also I found it a little arsch with overdrive. I want to try the Dls Rotosim… Stereo input/output and a Mix control! Supposed to nail that subtle Gilmour tone!

  22. Keith Clarke says:

    Just got that “last pedal’ yesterday! And wouldn’t you know it was the RT-20! I asked Bjorn,he answered, I purchased. It’s become a pretty simple process for me as far as pedals go. I told Bjorn what I wanted to do, gave him my options, he gave me his opinion, I took his advice, and I have yet to be disappointed!
    Thank you Bjorn, I not only can somewhat emulate David’s playing, but through you, have definitely got the tones down pat!
    Peace,Love, And Gilmourish!!!

    [Glad to hear Keith! – Bjorn]

  23. Ron Frey says:

    I have one here great pedal even mono its quite convincing ..
    Question how can I run this pedal with amps that require buffered efx loops ?
    I am racking most of my equipment using ground control system and some efx
    are before the amps some are within the efx loops of specific amps some efx are behind the
    rack but just before the amps designate on all the time…. Since this pedal is best used before 2 amps
    preferably and I have a timeline as well how should I run the two together.. I see the flint has internal switches to allow stereo in and or mono in.. curious if the Lex has that same feature or if not exactly how I should run this pedal along with timeline for instance between two amps I could run it mono to one amp in its efx loop but how to split that between two amps that have that ? I cant figure that out unless its mono and let me say the lex sounds amazing mono and stereo…. I just want my cake…

    [Hmmm… I’m afraid I don’t have much experience with this. I’d send the good people at Strymon an e-mail and ask. They’re helpful tone freaks and I’m sure they’ve tested this… – Bjorn]

  24. Mike says:

    Has anyone experimented with this?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQkJqLMnHG8

    It seems like it would be great for making the Lex (or a mistress) more subtle. Perhaps also the parallel delays DG used in 2006…

    [Great stuff! Thanks for the tip! – Bjorn]

  25. Nico says:

    Bjorn, you MUST listen to this! Even if you don’t care about the pedal.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5osnINfj_48

    I’m on the verge of crying.

    [Yeah, I know. It sounds incredible. I love the Strymon Lex too but the Ventilator is one step beyond… – Bjorn]

  26. Glenn says:

    Bjorn,
    In April Hammond is releasing a Leslie pedal with 122 and 147 modeling. Of course you need to review this one too! Thanks for all the great reviews and wonderful site.

    http://hammondorganco.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/PR-NewLesliePedal-Public.pdf

    Glenn

    [Thanks for the tip! Looking forward to this one! – Bjorn]

  27. Glenn says:

    Hi Bjorn,
    Have you tried the “One Control Mosquite Blender” wet/dry mix pedal? I’ll order one, hopefully it will be transparent with respect to tone. I’ll try putting only the rotary pedal in the wet loop and so how the mix sounds. Maybe ~25% wet and ~75% dry.

    One limitation is that it is not stereo

    http://www.one-control.com/mosquite-blender.html

    [Yep. Works nicely and I don’t notice any colouring. – Bjorn]

  28. Keith says:

    Hey Bjorn, would the above mentioned wet/dry pedal work for my two amp and Rotary set up we’ve discussed? No need to post, unless you think it will help others!
    Postmaster K~

    [Not really. You want to split the signal but the Mosquite is basically a volume control. – Bjorn]

  29. Reid says:

    Hi,

    I have a Strymon Lex and I want/need to blend it. I bought a Saturn Pedalworks Blender/Loop and for some reason it does not play well with my Lex. The blend function works but the volume comes thru about 50% of what it should be. I am seriously considering purchasing the One Control Mosquite Blender. Have you used this blender with the Lex specifically? and it works well? If so please let me know and I would feel comfortable pulling the trigger after your confirming that.

    Thank you very much

    -Reid

    [Works fine. Never had any issues with it. – Bjorn]

  30. Dave says:

    Nice one, sir! Any chance you will review more of those Strymon-Tools? I bought a Mobius recently and honestly: I can’t believe how incredibly good it sounds! I play guitar for about 20 years and had lots of gear, some of it absolutely top notch stuff. But Mobius completely floored me… just a matter of money until i’ll buy a Timeline as well.

    Would love to hear your thoughts on those devices with the special perspective of Gilmour-related sounds and your experience!

    Greeetz
    Dave

    [I’d sure love to check out the Mobious. No one in the nearby that carries them so perhaps I need to buy one :) – Bjorn]

  31. TK says:

    Great site! One of the web’s better repositories of Tone knowledge. It does seem there’s some misunderstanding as to the existence of a level/blend function on the Lex; using the Mic Placement, Horn Level, and Boost/Cut functions make it possible to sit a mono signal in the mix quite well for Gilmour’s milder rotating-cab tones, in my experience. The Lex is a pedal that I don’t think I could play without anymore. . .after the first gig I used it, one of the “tone snobs” that haunt the venues here asked me what mics I was using on the Leslie. . .he was SO sure we had a Leslie hiding in the backline. His pride was noticably wounded after I explained that it was a Lex. Anyway, great site, keep up the fantastic research!

    [Thanks for your kind words, TK! Those snobs needs to be put in place! Well done :) – Bjorn]

  32. ray says:

    Chris
    the srv 212 and 112 sound great I have both and with the right amp they add that lush thickness that as close as pedals come, don’t quite capture.
    Ray

  33. Carlos Brazil says:

    Hi. Bjorn. These “rotary effects” aren’t very similar to a “DryBell Vibe Machine” with the chorus mode activated (and maybe a flanger connected in chain)? Regards!

    [Not really. Two very different effects. A rotary or Leslie is based on the Doppler effect or a delay signal, while a UniVibe is a phase shifter. – Bjorn]

  34. DanP says:

    Best option for mono, IMHO is to use a good blender loop pedal. simple!

  35. Pedro says:

    Bjorn.
    I have played this Lex and I have a Boss rt 20 and I think that the boss sounded better and closer to the recorded Leslie sounds. What am I missing? I have a bad ears??? Hahah. The lex sounded too muffled. And it’s a shame that doesn’t have a direct sound blender

    [The Lex is VERY similar to the tone you get when you plug a guitar straight into a Leslie. The guitar gets slightly muffled and very modulated. In comparison, the RT20 sounds like a chorus at best… it’s really a poor simulation of a Leslie. That being said, the tones you often hear on albums, and David’s tones in particular, are blended with the regular amp, which makes the whole guitar sound more open and naturally modulated. In that sense, the RT20 is a much better alternative and it can do a pretty good amp+Leslie simulation. I use both but for different applications :) – Bjorn]

  36. Brad W says:

    Bjorn,

    I currently play an Ampeg VT40 with a “Cordovox Leslie,” and the “slow” speed 10″ leslie cabinet mixed with the four 10″ Ampeg speakers is my “default” tone. With the speed on slow, and being mixed with another amp, you almost can’t detect an “effect” on the tone. But it just produces this wonderul, lush, subtle chorus effect that rounds out the sound and slightly compresses it.

    As much as I love this rig, it is impractical to lug this stuff around. The vt40 alone is a behemoth, and should not be a combo amp! In fact, I am caving cabinets made to break it into a head and four ten cab.

    I want to get a rotary sim pedal and use it in just the same way to always affect my tone, just slightly. For a long time, I thought I would get closest to this “blend” by using a pedal like the Lex, and a “blend” pedal.

    But lately I’ve been reading that digital effects cause phasing issued when put in a parallel effects loop (essentially what the blend pedal is).

    Do you have any experience with this? I’m hoping the Lex or the mini vent will play nicely with a blender pedal so I can try to simulate my “blended” rig a la DG.

    Cheers!
    Brad

    [I’ve tried the Lex with a OneControl Mosquite Blender and it worked fine. – Bjorn]

  37. Brad W says:

    Thanks, Bjorn!

    Do you think using the One Control pedal with the Lex is the best way to get DGs blended leslie sound, or can you do just as well using the controls on the Lex such as Mic placement? Do you still feel your RT20 is best at capturing that subtle blended sound?

    Thanks!
    Brad

    [I do think the RT20 is a better choice because it doesn’t really sound like a Leslie and David’s old Yamaha and Doppolas didn’t either. The Lex is an excellent Leslie sim but not that good for replicating David’s combo tones. – Bjorn]

  38. KEITH says:

    Hello once again, I’m curious, when recording do you use the Lex, or one of the many supposedly great Leslie plugins? I haven’t tried any with guitar yet, but the leslie effect in the YC3b Yamaha b3 VST sounds dead on a 147?, and though that particular Leslie is part of the YC3b, it definitely shows how close to a real Leslie these plugins can get, dirt and all, even loose belt settings for the slower transition from slow, to fast that is yet another accident turned into a great effect, now referred to as ramping up, and down.

    Best Regards, KC

    [I sometimes use the rotary cab sim featured in Logic but it’s really not that good. Haven’t tried any of the others. On the last Airbag album I used the Lex a lot and on the one before that I used a Leslie 760. – Bjorn]

  39. Rob says:

    You mentioned Vaughan used a Leslie as a main effect. Actually SRV used a Vibratone cab as an extension speaker with his Vibroverb. I have also read he used his Dumble SSS into the Vibratone. The Vibratone was then miked to mix it in with his blistering volume. So SRV was using a Vibratone in a similar way to how you describe Gilmore using the rotating speaker effect. SRV always used several amps. As far as I know there was only ever a single Vibratone cab. I’ve never heard an SRV song with an overwhelming rotating speaker effect. It sounds like more of a blended in effect.

    [Yep, you’re right. He used a Vibratone. Thanks for pointing that out :) – Bjorn]

  40. KEITH says:

    I knew SRV, and Jimmie better, before anyone ever heard of Stevie, the Fabulous Thuderbirds played at my local neighborhood bar at least a couple of times a month, and I crewed for them after their first hit, when they opened for J. Geils when they reemerged, at a 4000 seat venue. Now that I’ve established that, fact is, before he got famous with “Sweet Little Thang”, I met him at a local venue he played, standing drop jawed next to Lindy Fralin. Had his brother not told me I needed to go, I would never have known the greatest blues rock guitarist ever born. I can’t say what he had on stage when I saw him in 10-25,000 seaters, but that first show, he had a Lesile 147, the nice old wooden model that every b3 player used. So, I know that he indeed used a Leslie early in his career live.

    Peace, Keith

    [Awesome! Thanks for sharing Keith! Interesting to hear that he indeed did use a Leslie. Still, I think he was more more known for using the Vibratone :) – Bjorn]

  41. KEITH says:

    And just a quick addition to my last post. Stevie Ray Vaughn, and his equally, incredibly, talented brother were the most down to earth Rock stars I’ve known, Stevie never forgot my name, or acted like he was special. He treated me like a good old friend whenever I was with him, and akways a gentleman, and very funny. His brother was the same kind of good ol’ Texas boy made good. I miss Stevie greatly!

    Keith

  42. Forrest says:

    Keith, his last name is spelled, Vaughan–not Vaughn
    As was his brothers’, by the way

    Forrest

  43. KEITH says:

    I’m writing this so that Forrest, who seems to dislike me leaving the A out of Vaughan, won’t make anyone think I lied about it. It may be found on Google, although if not, I’m sure that the intelligent Forrest will find out somehow, The T-Birds opened for J.Geils at the Richmond Mosque, now known as the Landmark Theatre. I worked as head of hospitality for the show. The date is simple to find, but with some digging, you might find that the T-Birds Manager for a portion of that tour, was a heavy whiskey drinker named Herb, who introduced me to Jerry Geils. I was so young, and dumb, I asked Geils,” should I call you Jerry, or do you prefer Mr. Geils?”, which made everyone crack up, ( except me of course). The date was February 4, 1982. I’ve never asked for an autograph in my life, so my only proof, is my word. I did have photos, and many badges, but they were all lost in the early ’90’s, along with everything I owned. I hate this kind of BS, where someone for no apparent reason picks a minute detail out to specifically get to me. Well, obviously it bugged me, I shouldn’t have even responded, but I think I get on well with most on this forum, and want to dispel any thoughts,; that I would be as petty as, the person calling themselve Forrest. What would I gain by making: up such a tale to people I’ll likely never meet? Zero! I’m almost 53, and will be a grandfather in March. That’s a bigger story than the multitude of Rock, and Blues stars: I’ve met in my life. I did a lot of road work, and open Ed for a lot of big bands, so what!!! I was merely saying that I met him several times, that he was nice, and he used a Leslie the first time I saw, and met him at MUCH MORE, if any other Richmonders are on here, and remember the club. That’s all folks!

    Peace, Keith

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