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Motion Sound SRV-212 Rotary Speaker Cabinet

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It probably wasn’t long after guitar-organ-drums combos became a swinging staple in neighborhood bars that guitarists began looking for ways to emulate their Hammond and Leslie-toting brethren. Now there’s an entire market dedicated to making guitars sound like B3s, with effects pedals and rack-mount processors claiming to have that perfect mix of chorus and tremolo so six-stringers can sound not like Grant Green, but like his buddies Big John Patton, Brother Jack McDuff, Jimmy Smith and Dr. Lonnie Smith.

Truth be told, as in amp modeling and digital recreations of analog stompboxes, nothing generates that rotating speaker sound except an actual rotating speaker. But where vintage Leslie organ cabinets often have logistical problems in terms of connections (not to mention their being cumbersome and ungodly heavy hardwood boxes), manufacturers began offering rotating speaker cabinets voiced specifically for guitar, with portability and the one-size-fits-all convenience of a regular stereo patch.

Enter the Motion Sound SRV-212, which is easier to use and transport than your average half-stack cab. Weighing in at 64 lbs., the SRV (a reminder of bluesman Stevie Ray Vaughan, who achieved his famed Leslie tones on “Cold Shot” with a Fender Vibratone amp) is built tough, feeling more like a rugged PA speaker or bass amp than a guitar cabinet. It’s a handsome box, however, with a durable polymer finish, metal handles at each side, six gray grill-cloth panels (two large in the front, two smaller on each side) and caster wheels. A simple controls setup (with “Slow,” “Fast” and “Transition” dials and a “Rotor” light that flickers according to the speed of the speakers) is positioned at the front of the cabinet with a nameplate directly below. Simple enough.

The SRV is an extension cab to be used with a 4-ohm load, with a maximum power input of 100 watts RMS. The model comes stock with two 12-inch Eminence Screamin’ Eagle speakers wired parallel, and a quarter-inch stereo speaker jack connects the speaker cab directly to an amp’s speaker hookup or to a preamp out jack. A quarter-inch stereo jack also connects the necessary two-button control pedal, which switches from slow to fast speeds or stops the rotation altogether (resulting in an elongated decay/resonation effect).

Plugged into a 40-watt Fender tube combo and demo’d with Strats and semi-hollows, the SRV boasted a chorusy sheen with a small amount of operational noise, though no more than you experience with the average Marshall or Mesa cab hookup. With the speakers stopped, the SRV is supposed to be more one-directional in its output; it’s not, and the signal can’t help but escape through the sides of the cabinet, but that isn’t a bad thing. The speakers’ output manages to envelope the room even while the rotary speakers are still. Turning up the Slow control, the outstanding sustain and chorus tones only improve: The sound has a crisp, sparkling doubled-up effect that turned fingerpicked passages into gleaming, pianistic mini-orchestrations and arpeggiated chords into cascading, liquid things. With a fair amount of chorus (turned to the “5” position, let’s say), you’re ready to crank the Fast dial and really get the speakers moving, adding the tremolo necessary to achieve those funky, greasy Hammond B3 sounds.

With faster rotation you’ll hear a soft, fanning sound and smell that “new electronics” scent of hot plastic. Playing dense seventh and ninth chords or breaking off curt triads, the SRV turns your guitar into Joey DeFrancesco’s left hand. Add a walking bassline underneath to simulate DeFrancesco’s feet, and, if you’re as ambidextrous as Lenny Breau or Tuck Andress, pick a melody line for complete one-man-band-dom. A rotating speaker for guitar deftly outlines how guitar and keyboard are harmony instruments alike, but horn-like single-note lines are also fattened up and take on a quirky authority that seems worlds away from that of a typically round, warm jazz-guitar tone.

The faster the speakers rotate the greater the “surround-sound” effect, and with the Fast knob cranked the signal coats the room. In an unmiked, sans-monitors rehearsal situation with my trio, both the drummer and keyboardist could hear me with unusual clarity (the keys player, who plays a Rhodes as well as a B3 simulator, enjoyed trading licks with my SRV-effected tone in a faux organ-vs.-organ cutting contest). The Transition dial is also fun to experiment with, and when using the control pedal’s Speed button, you can abruptly or gradually switch between the tightly pulsating tremolo sound and the glossy chorus overtones. For a very fair $809.95 retail, it’s a boutique-quality cabinet that will quickly become a part of your live rig.

Originally Published