Apr 25, 2017

Sometimes (more often than not?) life sends people and things on unexpected trajectories. The intriguingly named effect Uni-Vibe has a story to tell in this regard.

THE ORIGINAL: THE SHIN-EI UNI-VIBE (also sold as a Univox product)

Originally manufactured as a stand alone effect (i.e. no foot switch) by legendary Japanese manufacturer Shin-ei, the Uni-Vibe was conceived in the ’60s as a portable Leslie speaker emulator (i.e. a small, “pluggable” version of this giant). Not a terrible idea if you ask us… however, the product bombed rather badly among keyboard players. Except, towards the end of the decade, some guy named Jimi Hendrix, and then some other guy named David Gilmour grew fond of it, and started using it live and on what came to be a few immortal records (notably, you can hear it in Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun” and in the arpeggio-ed guitar in Pink Floyd’s “Breathe“ – go to 1′.13″ in the video).

Here’s a demo of an original Uni-Vibe from 1969 – Playing, in the following video begins at 3′:40″

BUT WHAT IS A UNI-VIBE, ANYWAY?

The Uni-Vibe is a phase-based modulation effect similar to a chorus, but whose undulating and watery oscillations are obtained through different means. The guys at ProGuitarShop (who shot videos of a majority of the effects featured in this page) describe the technology as “the use of an incandescent lamp-and-photocell arrangement with proper transistor selection and biasing phasing filters,” while Wikipedia more simply refers to “a staggered series of phasing filters” in place of “usually aligned filters of a normal phasing effect.”

VIBE EFFECTS VS. ROTARY RECREATIONS

We need to stress that this guide doesn’t take into account pedals that aim at recreating a more faithful rotary/Leslie effect. As mentioned in the intro, the original Uni-Vibe was inspired by Leslie speakers, but the approximation of its emulation transformed it into something entirely new. We, therefore, consider modern rotary emulation as a separate category not covered here.

We also excluded from this list pedals that tackle several modulation effects in one box.

So, if you’d like to take home the original Uni-Vibe unit from the ’60s, you better start looking around (they are extremely rare) and have $3k or so to burn. But, if you are a shredder with a limited budget like us, here are some more affordable options for ya!



HIGH END VIBES TRUE TO THE ORIGINAL

We begin, as usual, with a list of high-end pedals on the market designed to faithfully reproduce the original Uni-Vibe. Some of these are authentic re-creation—employing the same exact components as the Shin-ei unit—while others attempt to improve on the original circuit without necessarily taking it to new places.

 The pedals in the following interactive galleries are organized in order of “perceived popularity.” To hear/see the video demo of the effect, click on the images.

MJM – Sixties Vibe – $275
A classic take on the design with accurate photocells and controls. Capable of great low end “throb”, just like the originals.

Sweet Sound – Ultravibe – $380
A very popular Uni-Vibe clone, the Ultravibe sports custom photocells and a control to adjust the bias of the bulb.

Black Cat Vibe – $325
A popular recreation of the original classic with slight improvements to increase reliability and stereo output. Also available in half-rack format.

Castlendine Supra Vibe – $335.54
A faithful recreation of the original Uni-Vibe, with updates to the power supply for a lower noise floor.

Shin-ei Vibe-bro – $699
An attempt by the original manufacturer of the Uni-Vibe to recreate the past as closely as possible, with a series of custom features available.

Jim Klacik – Uniquevibe – $900?
An exact copy of the original Univbe, this unit will set you back quite a bit. But if you are looking to nail that Uni-Vibe sound, nothing but an original even comes close.

Ox Fuzz – Oxvibe – $300
A no frills, stripped down Uni-Vibe-inspired modulator made with components faithful to the original circuit.



UNI-VIBE EVOLUTIONS

Humans are never happy with what they’ve got, and engineering is all about challenging perfection in the pursuit of newer, better standards. The following pedals aim at refining the Uni-Vibe’s original design through a myriad of different techniques like innovations in tubes, sliders, or extra control options.

Effectrode – Tube-Vibe – $469
The only tube unit on the list, the Tube-Vibe conjures up some of the thickest, swampiest tones in classic rock.

Sweet Sound – Ultra Vibe – $325
A classic recreation, the Ultravibe sports custom photocells and a control to adjust the bias of the bulb.

Jam Retro Vibe  – $319
Featuring correct NOS components, the Retro Vibe sports an internal trim pot that adjusts the sound and feel of the pedal.

Korg – Nuvibe – $500
A faithful development of the Univibe created under the original engineer Fumio Mieda’s supervision, with added wave sliders that allow the creation of original waveforms.

DryBell Vibe Machine – $298
One of the most versatile Vibes around, with controls for depth of modulation, tone, input impedance (for using different guitars), and output volume.

Electronic Orange MoonVibe – $280
Classic quadruple photocell design with an innovative Symmetry control to shape the waveform.

Dawner Prince – Viberator – $299
An interestingly named Uni-Vibe evolution featuring stereo output, Vintage/Modern switch & Bright trimmer for amp matching, and the unique Shape knob that modifies the waveform that drives the internal light bulb

McCaffrey Audio Run Rabbit Run
It emulates all of the classic sounds of the vintage Uni-Vibe TM pedal, adding a new and wide palette of sounds. CRAZY (doubles the rate of the modulation) footswitch to go between normal operations to ring mod/octave/synth features. THUMP (three-way switch) allows you to add low end response when turning down the DEPTH knob.

Retroman – UberVibe – $285
What sets this pedal apart is the detail of filtering. It features 4 filter knobs to fine tune the sound, a selectable buffer, envelope shaping and stereo output.



TREADLE BASED VIBES

The original Uni-Vibe came with a separate pedal to control the modulation speed. Dunlop—likely inspired by their own Cry-Baby Wah—introduced a model called “Rotovibe” that embedded the entire effect in a treadle based pedal. Others followed…

Dunlop – Rotovibe – $219.99
Embedding the treadle within the effect pedal designed to create the infamous rotating speaker effect.

Fulltone – MDV-3 – $224
Running at 18v, this offering from Fulltone features a treadle for real-time effect manipulation.

Classic Amplification Vibe Baby – $260
Boasting many components true to the original Uni-Vibe design, the Vibe Baby is a treadle-based effect that’s very pedalboard friendly.



MIDDLE OF THE ROAD VIBES ($150-$260)

Mid range priced effects are the most popular among pro players. Here’s what’s out there in this range:

Fulltone Mini Deja-Vibe CS-MDV-1 – $191-350
A popular, 18 volt, re-engineered, smaller version of the original, now out of production Deja-Vibe, which started the Uni-Vibe clone trend. Mini-toggle switches between original Uni-Vibe warmth and “Modern” option (louder, brighter). Also available in Stereo.

Earthquaker Devices – The Depths – $195
One of the more versatile Uni-Vibe designs, controls aren’t the only thing that set this apart. It is designed for guitar, bass, and keyboard and plays well with any type of pickup. ‘Voice’ lets you dial in the perfect midrange, and ‘Throb’ blends in some low-end pulse to the modulation. Lacks expression pedal option.

Sweet Sound – Mojo Vibe – $325
A smaller footprint of the Ultra Vibe, this unit is a slimmed down version. While it doesn’t have quite as many features, it stays true to the tone.

JHS – Unicorn – $249
Classic sounds with modern control. What really sets the Unicorn apart from the herd is tap tempo functionality and a speed knob for dialing in precise rhythms. A “Tap/Exp” in lets you plug in a TRS expression pedal or any momentary tap control.

Mojo Hand – Villanova Vibe – $229
Huge depth range allows access to a wide variety of modulation sounds. Tone knob tailors EQ to any rig. No input for expression pedal.

Foxrox Aquavibe – $299
All analog, classic circuitry, with an interesting “Center” control for altering the balance of the sweep. Standard expression pedal input.

Wilson Effects – Haze – $165
A simple stompbox clone with a vintage sound and multiple external controls. Standard expression pedal input.



AFFORDABLE VIBES (Between $100 and $150)

Hey let’s be clear: cheaper doesn’t mean worse. If you find what you need in a more affordable pedal, and it sounds good through your gear (and your ear!), everyone wins. Here’s the selection of more affordable Uni-Vibe emulations. These are mostly not hand-built units, and few feature an expression pedal input.

MXR – M68/Dunlop JHM3 – $129.99
Simple 3 knob stompbox with vibe switch and small footprint, the one with Jimi Hendrix’s Picture is a 70th anniversary limited edition pedal. No expression pedal input.

Digitech – Ventura Vibe – $149.95
A vibe that can conjure tones past and present, it features stacked tone and drive knobs, adding versatility. A toggle switch allows for 3 effect varietieswith independend controls. It has expression pedal input.

TC Electronic – Viscous Vibe – $109.95
A stereo, digital recreation of the famous analog original, this one is a little darker than many of the others. Tone Print enabled, but no expression control.

Voodoo Lab – Micro Vibe – $149.99
A small-footprint unit sporting some of the same design features as the original Uni-Vibe, like the sinewave oscillator, bulb, and photocells. No expression pedal input.

Electro-Harmonix – Good Vibes – $137.40
While not a full replication of the 1960s classic, the Good Vibes does sport some of the same distinct features – like utilizing photocells to achieve modulation. An added feature is increased headroom, so this pedal can fit right into virtually any rig. Optional expression pedal (assignable to Speed or Intensity) adds even more control.

BBE – Soulvibe – $129.99
A simple 2 knob pedal, perfect for funky 70’s sounds, no expression input.



DIRTY CHEAP VIBES (Under $110)

There’s beauty in great deals (and mini-pedals…). Check out these super affordable Uni-Vibe inspired pedals, you may find something that works for you. None of these feature an expression pedal input.

Hotone Roto – $89.99
Tiny enclosure with all the controls you need, including chorus/vibe switch.

Hot Box Pedals – HB-VB5 – $113.90
A surprisingly fine sounding chorus, vibrato, and vibe effect pedal.

Moen – Shaky Jimi – $48
Incredible value at less than $50 for this pedal that has quite a lot of fans.

Kokko FUV2 Mini Pedal Vibe – $56.88
Rather generic mini-pedal from an obscure Chinese manufacturer – super affordable though!



VINTAGE AND OUT OF PRODUCTION

Some gem can be found in the used market among the defunct Vibes… 

Roger Mayer – Voodoo Vibe – $450 (used)
By the mastermind behind the original unit, it features controls over virtually every sound parameter, a lower noise floor, and sturdier construction than the originals.

Dunlop – UV-1 – $200 (used approx.)
An industry standard for a long time, featuring a darker analog tone and buffered bypass.

Lovepedals – Pickle Vibe – $135 (used)
While not strictly a Vibe unit, the Pickle Vibe can pull off some very convincing sounds. Internal trimpots are tedious to change, but offer a variety of tonal options.

Hughes and Kettner – Rotosphere – $300 (used)
A solid tube-based unit featuring 2 speeds. Stereo mode is vibe heaven.

Dano Cool Cat Vibe – $50 (used)
Coming in at a very reasonable price point, the Cool Cat Vibe provides fine sounding vibe tones in a small footprint. Metal enclosure

KR Mega Vibe – $400 (used)
Faithful recreation of the original, it exists in two version, a bigger one (pictured) and a smaller one roughly half the size.

Prescription Electronics Vibe Unit – $500+ (used)
An early design by Bob Sweet of Sweet Sound. Faithful recreation, but no expression pedal input.

Heavens Vibe – $400  (Used)
Reputable, hand made Japanese clone

God Vibe – $400+ (used)
Compact version of the Heavens Vibe.

Chicken Salad Vibe – $60 (used)
Not a true Uni-Vibe, per se, this unit is for anyone looking to jump into the world of vibes, for fun. Extremely small and sturdy.



FUZZ’N’ VIBES

The Uni-Vibe sound has surged to popularity because of Jimi Hendrix, and the psychedelic guitarist used it almost exclusively combined with a fuzz. Some manufacturers thought it made sense to provide a pedal featuring both effects, in order to deliver optimized integration between them. Here they are:

Keeley – Monterey – $299
A combo vibe/fuzz designed to conjure the lush sounds of classic rock. It also features auto wah, and octave up AND down.

Carl Martin Purple Moon – $148
An all analog, dual speed Vibe with Fuzz.

DVK Goldtop – $250 (used)
Now out of production, this Fuzz’n’Vibe features a a toggle switch that lets you change the stacking order of these effects. The fuzz is  loosely based on a ‘Big M’ type.

Make Sounds Loudly Pedals – Jimi Fuzz Face/UniVibe – $200
Instant Jimi. A combined silicon Fuzz Face and UniVibe.



STEREO VIBES

What’s better than a great vibe tone, you ask? Two channels of it, in stereo!



VIBE CLONES SHOOTOUT VIDEOS! (Click for video)

Vibe Shootout! Voodoo Lab, Sweet Sound, Fulltone

Lovetone Doppel Ganger, Fulltone Deja Vibe, Voodoo Labs Micro Vibe and Roger Mayer Voodoo Vibe

Fulltone Deja Vibe x Mg Monovibe

Dunlop Uni-Vibe vs. Danelectro Chicken Salad

Mojo Vibe – Deja Vibe – Deja 2

Uni-Vibe shootout : Dunlop Uni-Vibe vs. Danelectro Cool Cat Vibe

Uni-Vibe vs Deja Vibe 2 shootout #1 – Uni-Vibe vs Deja Vibe 2 shootout #2

– by Brandon Stoner and Paolo De Gregorio

 Did we forget something or posted incorrect information? Please post a comment and we’ll look into it!

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