If you have a Leslie rotary speaker cabinet in your studio, then the BookerLAB Fusion preamp interface (FPI) is an absolute must. The FPI allows you to connect instruments, microphones, and studio equipment to your Leslie via a 1/4-inch connector. This, coupled with an effects send and return and speed control makes the possibilities pretty much endless.

Thomas Booker O’Hanlan, the founder and head engineer at BookerLAB, has long had a passion for the sonic beauty surrounding Leslies and other rotating speaker systems. O’Hanlan started BookerLAB by designing a new, maintenance-free, and more versatile rotating speaker (the Revolution), and has since grown to offer many products designed to further the appreciation, relevance, and usefulness of the rotary speaker.

The BookerLAB FPI is about the same size as a small, thick book (8.75” x 5.5” x 3”), and housed in a brushed-plastic shell. The top of the FPI has wood grain printed on it, with labels for all the controls and I/O located on the sides of the unit. There is flanging with screw holes on two of the sides, giving you the option to mount the FPI wherever you like.

Five different models are offered (I have the FPI-D6-11-EFX), depending on what type(s) of I/O works best for your setup. Every model is equipped with a 1/4-inch input jack (compatible with both instrument and line levels), a 1/4-inch TRS input jack for a speed control switch, 1/4-inch instrument-level send/return jacks, and 6-pin outputs for Leslie 122s and 147s. The variation in each of the five models has to do with the combination of 6-pin inputs and 11-pin inputs/outputs. The speed can be controlled with a CU-1 half-moon switch or any compatible footswitch, and the FPI can switch between speeds effortlessly and quietly. The front controls give you plenty of options: separate sweepable knobs for Volume, Bass, and Treble, plus switches for input gain level (to adjust between line/instrument levels) and a low cut (BookerLAB does not specify where the cutoff is).

This preamp has opened up a lot of opportunities in my studio. It has been enthusiastically used (by myself, clients, and freelance engineers) with huge success during tracking and mixing sessions. Recording bass, Rhodes, Wurlitzers, guitars, and vocals through the FPI into a Leslie rotary speaker has been an absolute dream. In each of these instances, we tracked in parallel by multing the signal so we could have dry (DI) and wet (through the Leslie) inputs. Background vocals and bass sat in the mix in a whole new way. While mixing, I’ve been re-amping parts through the Leslie and couldn’t be more thrilled. Re-amping drums in mono through the Leslie was a particularly rewarding experience, giving it just the right amount of vintage flair. Lastly, using the FPI to add the Leslie’s vintage sound to synths and other electronic instruments has been equally rewarding.

Like I said in the beginning – if you own a Leslie, the BookerLAB Fusion Preamp will immediately open up the possibilities. It’s lightweight and can be used in a live or studio setting – it’s already seeing plenty of use in my tracking and mixing sessions. At less than $600, this is one of the coolest tools in my studio.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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