Last Updated: 06.10.2021
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/UNIVOX UNI-VIBE
Originally manufactured as a stand-alone effect (i.e. no footswitch) 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:
WHAT IS A UNI-VIBE?
| Click here to expand/shrink this section |
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.”
UNI-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 is a thorough list of the Best Univibe pedals on the market you can afford, organized by type and popularity!
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 or tap twice.
We organized this list in the following categories (click to jump to list):
- High-End Uni-Vibes True to the Original
- Best Uni-Vibe Pedal Evolutions
- Treadle-Based Uni-Vibes
- Mid-Priced Compact Uni-Vibes
- Affordable Compact Uni-Vibes
- Super-Cheap Compact Uni-Vibes
- Vintage and Out of Production
- Stereo Uni-Vibes
If you found this article useful, please rate it!
High-End Uni-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.
MJM Sixties Vibe
A hand-wired, classic take on the Uni-Vibe design with accurate photocells and controls. Capable of great low-end “throb”, just like the original, it runs at 18v for higher headroom and sports a case a lot smaller than the original, which is always welcome.
Sabbadius Fillmore East Funky-Vibe, 2020 Edition
Hailing from Argentina, this is a thoroughly researched Uni-Vibe recreation that captures the “chewy” sound of the Uni-Vibes Jimi Hendrix played in 1969 and 1970. A Cancel footswitch allows you to use the pedal as a Pre-Amp with the character and color of the original Uni-Vibe effect. The Funky-Vibe Woodstock edition improves the effect’s intensity and delivers both faster and slower speed rates.
Black Cat Vibe
A popular recreation from the ’90s of the original classic and probably the first stereo vibe. The circuit features slight improvements over the original to increase reliability. Also available in half-rack format.
Sabbadius Woodstock Funky-Vibe
A thoroughly researched Uni-Vibe recreation capturing the “chewy” sound of the best ’69 and ’70 units. A Cancel footswitch allows you to use the pedal as a Pre-Amp with the character and color of the original. The Woodstock version has exclusive 7mm custom-made CdS Photocells, which increase the intensity of the throb and feature an improved Speed function that allows for slower and faster rates than the original.
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.
Pedal Pawn Gypsy Vibe
A very compact Uni-Vibe clone running at 18v and featuring hand-selected, hermetically sealed photocells, lightbulb lamp matched to original spec. Fully hand soldered and hand-drilled, the pedal features the same controls as the original, and a bigger speed knob that can be controlled with your foot.
Formula B Vintage Vibe MK2
This is a well-respected high-end unit from Italy running internally at 18v. It offers the same controls as the original plus two speeds that can be easily switched through a dedicated footswitch.
Castlendine Supra Vibe
A faithful recreation of the original Uni-Vibe, with updates to the power supply for a lower noise floor.
Best Uni-Vibe Pedal 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.
DryBell Vibe Machine
One of the most versatile Vibes around, from a company that for several years was fully invested in the Uni-Vibe niche. It has controls for depth of modulation, tone, input impedance (for using different guitars), and output volume.
Jam RetroVibe Mk2
A Uni-Vibe recreation featuring original NOS 2SC828 transistors and carbon comp resistors, and sporting an internal trim pot that adjusts the sound and feel of the pedal. Like the vintage unit, it offers both Vibrato and Chorus modes and lets you dial in anything from slow-rate wavy sounds all the way to fast Leslie-speaker effect, which can be controlled via an EXP4 expression pedal.
The only tube unit on the list, the Tube-Vibe conjures up some of the thickest, swampiest tones in classic rock.
Dawner Prince – Viberator
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.
Bearfoot FX Mint Green Mini Vibe
A personal take on the Uni-Vibe that delivers a modulation sound somewhere between a Uni-Vibe and a Leslie rotating speaker, with controls for Velocity, Amplitude, and Gain. It’s often used as a boost with the Amplitude setting down to zero.
Sweet Sound Mojo Vibe
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.
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.
Electronic Orange Moon Vibe MKII
Classic quadruple photocell design with an innovative Symmetry control to shape the waveform.
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…
Embedding the treadle within the effect pedal designed to create the infamous rotating speaker effect.
Running at 18v, this offering from Fulltone features a treadle for real-time effect manipulation.
Classic Amplification Vibe Baby
Boasting many components true to the original Uni-Vibe design, the Vibe Baby is a treadle-based effect that’s very pedalboard friendly.
Mid-Priced Compact Uni-Vibes ($150-$260)
Mid-priced effects are the most popular among pro and advanced players. Here’s what’s out there in this range:
JHS Pedals Unicorn V2
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.
Earthquaker Devices The Depths v2
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.
Fulltone Mini Deja-Vibe
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.
All analog, classic circuitry, with an interesting “Center” control for altering the balance of the sweep. Standard expression pedal input.
Wilson Effects Haze
A simple stompbox clone with a vintage sound and multiple external controls. Standard expression pedal input.
Mojo Hand Villanova Vibe
Huge depth range allows access to a wide variety of modulation sounds. Tone knob tailors EQ to any rig. No input for expression pedal.
A personal take on the Uni-Vibe from Brazil that does a great job at recreating Jimi Hendrix’s sound (high depth, low rate) in Chorus mode and Ray Vaughan (at high rate).
Affordable Compact Uni-Vibes (Between $110 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
Simple 3 knob stompbox with vibrato switch and small footprint from the company that now owns the Uni-Vibe trademark, the Dunlop JHM3 with Jimi Hendrix’s Picture is a 70th-anniversary limited edition pedal with the same circuit. No expression pedal input.
Electro-Harmonix Good Vibes
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.
Digitech Ventura Vibe
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 varieties with independent controls. It has expression pedal input.
Voodoo Lab Micro Vibe
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.
TC Electronic Viscous Vibe
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.
A simple 2 knob pedal, perfect for funky 70’s sounds, no expression input.
Best Uni-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.
NUX Monterey Vibe
A DSP-based, straightforward mini Uni-Vibe recreation with controls for speed, volume and intensity. Among the mini pedals, it’s the one with the best reviews on Amazon.
Mooer Soul Shiver
A simple dual function Uni-Vibe/Rotary emulation in a mini case. In Rotary mode it delivers shimmering Leslie-like tones.
Moen Shaky Jimi
Incredible value at less than $50 for this pedal that has quite a lot of fans.
Hot Box Pedals HB-VB5
A surprisingly fine sounding chorus, vibrato, and vibe effect pedal.
Tiny enclosure with all the controls you need, including chorus/vibe switch.
Kokko FUV2 Mini Pedal Vibe
Rather generic mini-pedal from an obscure Chinese manufacturer – super affordable though!
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:
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
An all-analog, dual speed Vibe with Fuzz.
Now out of production, this Fuzz’n’Vibe features 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
Instant Jimi. A combined silicon Fuzz Face and UniVibe.
What’s better than a great vibe tone, you ask? Two channels of it, in stereo!
Vintage and Out Of Production
Some gem can be found in the used market among the defunct Vibes…
If you found this article useful, please rate it!
P.S. You can find other shopping guides to specific effects here.
Did we forget something or posted incorrect information? Please post a comment and we’ll look into it!
VIBE CLONES SHOOTOUT VIDEOS!
Here’s a cool video about the Uni-Vibe pedal by JHS with some tech details about the effect!