HOW IT SOUNDS: The Micro Vent 122 nails that vintage Leslie 122 sound, perfect for keys, guitar and bass. The sound is clearly defined, whether blended in a small amount or mixed full (although at full you still have the instruments tone coming through), an impressive feat since including an effect to an analog signal can result in some mud, but not with the Micro Vent 122. In essence the 122 compliments and augments the original signal. What you get is a more organic outcome, rather than one that sounds overly-processed. You can vary the effect in different ways. Speed varies the rate of the rotor, from a subtle and swirling wave, to a tremolo-like pulse. The Blend knob controls how obvious the effect sounds (how much Leslie mix you want), and the Distance knob adjusts how close the mic is to the cabinet (turned low and the sound is less three-dimensional and softer versus up full for that full-on Hammond sound). The Micro Vent 122 sounds impressive with keys (watch demo included with the review), but certainly works with guitar or bass. It works best with a clean(ish) guitar/bass signal, although the pedal produces some very unique qualities (phaser-like in some respects) when blended low with an overdriven signal.
GENERAL USE: How fast the speaker rotates, from a slow swirl to more of a fast tremolo-like pulse is controlled by the Speed knob. Mixing between the instrument’s signal and the effect is controlled by the Blend knob, with a 50/50 mix set at 12-noon. Distance (mic distance from the simulated cabinet) ranges from less intense (full counterclockwise) to more obvious (full clockwise). The Ramp knob controls the rotors’ acceleration and deceleration when shifting between Speed 1 and Speed 2 (via the footswitch); this can provide an abrupt or smoother change, depending on the selection. For example, when switching between a very pronounced Leslie effect to shutting it off completely (Ramp all the way down counterclockwise), there is a sudden termination of the effect versus the Ramp all the way up with an apparent slowing of the rotors.
The footswitch combined with the Speed 2 toggle switch produces some very useful combinations. With the Speed 2 toggle switch flipped up, and the footswitch engaged, the speed of the effect reaches maximum, thus allowing a slow speed followed by a fast speed. On the other hand, with Speed 2 flipped down the effect produces the slowest speed of a Leslie 122, and this allows you to play with a faster effect followed by a slower speed. Next, with the toggle switch in the center position, there is a stop of the effect altogether, although depending on the Ramp (see paragraph above) there may be a sudden stop, a slow gradual stop or something between (depending on the setting).
Another important operation of the Micro Vent 122 is the Global Settings (instructions outlined in the pamphlet). For instance, you can have the pedal operate in buffered or true-pass when off, or use the footswitch in a momentary or latched manner when shifting into the Speed 2 settings. The footswitch also has three modes of operation – when it is on, what happens when engaged once and what occurs when stepped on and held. As with any pedal, the LED lights when the pedal is on (solid red). However, with Speed 2 engaged, Global Settings can produce various changes by clicking the footswitch again or if holding for 1.5 seconds (again, see the pedal’s pamphlet). As well, you can turn the pedal off either by a single click of the footswitch or holding it down for 1.5 seconds. Depending on your needs and how you use it in a live setting, you can customize the footswitch.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: The Micro Vent 122 is based on the Leslie 122, a famous speaker system designed originally for organ. Similar to the Micro Vent 16 (that emulates a Fender Leslie guitar amp), the 122 model produces very authentic rotary sounds, although more pronounced than the 16 model. Neo Instruments did a superb job in replicating the Leslie sound, but also with its flexibility. There is a wide range of speed, intensity and how the imitative rotor behaves when gearing up or down – as well as being turned off. However, one of the best features is the Blend control, which allows a modest amount of Leslie to creep into the mix, as opposed to turning it up for a very flagrant swirl that almost sounds three-dimensional. Priced at $349 USD, the Micro Vent 122 is somewhat costly for a pedal, but it does produce a high quality and realistic result. Comparably, there are less expensive Leslie emulators, but for those Leslie aficionados, the Micro Vent 122 is the crème de la crème. The pots turn smoothly and without any background noise. The footswitch is soft (no hard clicking) and silent (no ‘click’ in the signal when engaged). The toggle switch for Speed 2 has a solid feel and shifts into each position well. The signal processing uses a very powerful 32-bit SHARC DSP, which is the same one found in the larger Ventilator II, by Neo Instruments, thereby producing the same great sound in a smaller package. Both the analog digital and digital analog conversion is 48khz, 24-bit, with a -90dBA noise level. Current draw is 180mA and requires a standard 9VDC power supply.