The original Univibe was one of the first modulation effects available to guitar players, and the fact that it is STILL the go to circuit for warbley, watery guitar tones is a testament to the original design. Meant to mimic a Leslie rotating speaker, the Univibe was built around the concept of a phase shifter using a light sensitive LFO surrounded by lamps that lit in sequence to create a lush, three-dimensional sweep. The result is something close to a rotating speaker, but much more syrupy and effected. The crude circuitry created a magical sound, but was also noisy, prone to damage due to the sensitivity of the parts, and cost a bundle. When MXR decided to rerelease the Univibe, their goal was to capture the tone of the iconic effect using today’s technology rather than focus on a part-for-part recreation and having to trouble shoot the original circuit. The result is a much smaller, quieter, and hardier pedal that recreates the sound without the hassle… mostly.
The MXR Univibe comes in the pedal board friendly “MXR Small Box” enclosure, features Speed, Depth, Volume, and Vibe/Chorus controls, is true-bypass, and is powered by a standard 9v power supply or single 9 volt battery.
The MXR Univibe sounds warm and chewy, phaser-like without the perfect LFO symmetry that makes typical modulation effects a little monotonous… it has the classic offset warble that defines the Univibe sound and does an admirable job of imitating the Doppler Effect and delayed swing of a rotating speaker. The Chorus mode passes about half the original signal through unaffected for a more subtle effect and sounds appropriately like the original signal for the first portion of the LFO sweep. The Vibe setting modulates the entire signal, resulting in a 100% wet output that nears pitch-bending territory.
At lower Depth settings the phase sweeping is subtle and adds dimension and movement without jumping out as an effect, while more extreme Depth settings warp the original signal and plunge it in and out of waves of modulation. The Speed control goes from Breathe slow to Machine Gun fast with a smooth, easy to dial in sweep. The Volume control allows for a little extra goose to the output via the pedals preamp section for players who are looking to jump out in the mix… overdriving a dirty amp is a part of the classic Univibe sound.
The MXR Univibe is not a direct clone of the original, and critical listeners may hear more than a little of a relationship to MXR’s Phase 45, but those seeking the off-set wobble of the original Univibe units for 1/5th the size and 1/20th the cost will find the MXR Univibe a welcome addition. It’s modulation for people who “hate” modulation!
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.