Uni-vibe pedals were a massive part of the swirling, 60s sound. If you’re trying to replicate the Woodstock Hendrix sound, a uni-vibe pedal is as essential as overdrive, delay and wah.
Uni-vibe pedals add a vibrato effect to your guitar that can make it sound more alive. They were first created after guitarists began experimenting with Leslie amps made for organists in the early 60s, which had rotating speakers that modified the sound of the instrument. Hendrix got hold of one in 1969, and used it heavily at Woodstock and at following concerts.
In this article we explore the things you need to consider when buying a univibe pedal, from the different types (e.g. analogue, digital) to different use cases. It’s the most comprehensive guide to buying one of these pedals on the internet. If you’re in a rush, here’s the products we review further down the page. If you’re new to univibe pedals, I recommend you read the entire article so you make the right purchase.
At a Glance: Our Choice of the Best Univibe Pedals on the Market
Moen Shaky Jimi Vibe Pedal
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MXR M68 Uni-vibe
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EHX Good Vibes
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Fulltone Custom Shop MDV-3
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Ok. here’s what we cover in this article. Read it from top to bottom if you want a complete education on univibes, or jump to a section of your choosing.
What is a Uni-vibe Pedal?
A uni-vibe pedal is a small stomp box with two main settings and several adjustable dials. The two main settings are ‘chorus’ and ‘vibrato’, making uni-vibe pedals essentially dual-pedals.
These chorus and vibrato settings were originally designed to sound like Leslie amps, which guitarists started experimenting with in the 60s.
The pedals have been around since the late 60s, and are still in demand largely due to the legendary guitarists – including Hendrix and Gilmour – who made the most of them.
What Does a Uni-vibe Pedal Sound Like?
Uni-vibe pedals have two different sounds: chorus and vibrato.
The chorus effect takes your guitar signal and fattens it by adding pitch-shifted and delayed versions of it You can adjust the depth of this and the speed of the delay using the knobs on the pedal.
The vibrato effect on uni-vibe pedals aims to emulate the sound of a spinning speaker found on Vibratone amps made in the 60s and 70s. These amps were named after the first Leslie speaker which was used to amplify Hammond Organs from the early 40s and were created so that guitarists could achieve the same spinning effect.
It sounds like a Vibratone amp or Leslie cabinet and works similarly to a phaser with its circular motions of sound.
How Do Uni-vibe Pedals Work?
In chorus mode, uni-vibe pedals work by mixing the guitar’s dry signal with signals that are shifted in time and pitch. These create fat, phase-y sounds which are one of the main reasons people choose to use uni-vibe pedals.
In vibrato or ‘vibe’ mode, these pedals release no dry signal at all. They take the signal and make it throb, so that it sounds a bit like the signal is cutting in and out, or spinning in circles – like the speakers on a Leslie amp do.
Benefits of Uni-vibe Pedals
Getting a 60s Sound
One of the main benefits of using a uni-vibe pedal is how it allows you to achieve the sound of the late 60s.
These pedals manage to do this in a lightweight, compact way whilst still allowing access to the vintage tones of bulky equipment.
Increase your Tonal Options
Even if you don’t play 60s-style or psychedelic music, one of these pedals will give you more sounds to play with and enhance your creativity.
The sounds on more modern, digital uni-vibes go far beyond the sounds of the 60s and may well have a place in the music you make.
Which Uni-vibe Pedal Did Hendrix Use?
Hendrix used the ‘Shin-ei’ uni-vibe pedal. It was the first pedal of its kind and was made by the Japanese in an attempt to mimic the spinning speaker sound of Vibratone amps.
It was a pretty bulky pedal, which was compatible with organs and electric pianos as well as guitar, and had an attachable expression pedal.
You could flick between chorus and vibrato, adjust the volume and intensity of the effects and use the expression pedal to take full control of the sounds.
You can hear this pedal on Machine Gun, Izabella, and on many of the Woodstock versions of Hendrix songs.
These pedals are still available today, but invariably they sell for upward of a grand.
Where to Put a Uni-vibe Pedal on a Pedalboard
Most people decide to place uni-vibe pedals before any overdrive or distortion pedals in their chain.
If you place it after distortion or overdrive pedals, it can sound a bit thin or weak. Then again, you might like the sound it makes.
There’s no right or wrong way of positioning a uni-vibe, so it’s best to experiment and see what sounds best to you.
We’d recommend that you place it before your distortion or overdrive pedals if you want to hear its maximum effectiveness.
Buying Guide – Things to Consider when Buying a Uni-vibe Pedal
There are a few things to consider before you commit to the purchase of a uni-vibe pedal.
Types of Uni-vibe Pedal
There are two main types of uni-vibe pedal: analogue and digital.
Analogue Uni-vibe Pedals
Analogue uni-vibes are often made using photocell circuitry, which changes your signal to light before it adjusts it. This results in a warm, natural, vintage tone and as it’s resistive it can also keep unwanted distorted sounds out of the way.
Photocell pedals don’t always sound the same as one another, though, as the way in which the bulbs were stored before they were tested can have an impact on their eventual sound.
Digital Uni-vibe Pedals
Digital uni-vibes tend to have more editing options than analogue ones, even connecting up with apps, and they can be more predictable.
These pedals can offer a cleaner sound than analogue pedals, too, which might be what you’re looking for.
There are one or two ‘hybrid’ uni-vibe pedals around, which use a combination of analogue and digital circuits to get the best of both worlds.
Features You’ll Find on Most Uni-vibe Pedals
There are some features common to almost all uni-vibe pedals
The rate or speed control will allow you to control the pace of your sweep. When you’re in chorus mode, this controls the speed of the delay of your altered signals. When you’re in vibrato or ‘vibe’ mode, it changes the speed at which your virtual speaker spins.
When you turn it up you can get some really intense, psychedelic sounds. At lower speeds, the effect can be a subtle swirling.
In chorus mode, this control will decipher how ‘far out’ the pitch shifts are in your wet signal.
In vibrato mode, it controls how big your circle is, if you like. The bigger the circle, the wider the vibrato.
Like with the rate/speed knob, turning this up full will get you some wild sounds, whichever mode you have your pedal on. The lower you go, the more discrete the effect will be.
Sometimes these pedals can cause an unwanted decrease in volume between the input and the output.
There’s a knob on many of the pedals to correct that, and to give you control over the level of your effected output.
Useful Features You’ll Find on Some Uni-vibe Pedals
Some of the better uni-vibe pedals come with either embedded or connectable expression pedals.
This was a feature on the original uni-vibes and can make using one much more fun and effective.
They look a bit like a wah pedal, and are usually used to control the speed of your sweep.
They’re a must for those who want to use the pedal like an instrument, as they give you control and creative options that can be adjusted mid-performance with your foot.
Flashing LEDs are a feature on many of these pedals and they enable you to visually track the rate of your sweep.
They’re often connected to the photo-cells, which makes them reliable and organic.
They can be really helpful for those who want to ensure that their effect is in time with the music, and require a visual representation of that which is easy to see in the dark.
Some uni-vibe pedals have extra dials that aren’t traditionally found on those emulating the originals.
You can find ‘throb’ controls, which fine tunes the low end pulse, and you can also find tone controls to adjust which highs, mids and lows are coming through the pedal.
True bypass is when there is no circuitry or buffering between the guitar’s input and output. It enables you to turn it off without having a touch of interference, and many argue that it also affects the sound while you’re playing, making the tone truer to your instrument’s original sound.
Round-up & Reviews of the Best Univibe Pedals
So, now you know what to look out for in a uni-vibe pedal, it’s time to take a look at some of the best products on the market.
To help you to decide which one’s right for you, we’ve included some info about the kind of player each of the pedals are most suited to.
Moen Shaky Jimi Vibe Pedal
One of the cheapest possible vibe pedals, and yet the sound produced by it is easily comparable to the more expensive models on the list.
It uses photocells – like the original Uni-vibe pedals in the 60’s – to help prevent any unwanted distortion and to enable classic Hendrix / Trowers tones.
There’s a switch for you to choose between chorus and vibe effects, and there are three control knobs: rate, depth and hue. These allow you to change the speed, intensity and tone of the sound so you can fine-tune it to suit your playing style. There’s an LED to tell you when the pedal’s switched on, however this LED doesn’t flash in time with the speed of the effect, unlike with some more expensive uni-vibe pedals.
The pedal can be powered by a 9V adapter, but there’s no battery power option.
Despite the price, this pedal comes in sturdy, metal housing. It is great value for money and will suit those on a budget who want something simple, sturdy and reliable.
It will be less suited to guitarists who play in dark rooms or venues and would benefit from a flashing LED to track the rate of their vibrato/vibratone or chorus effects, or to those who want to control the expression with their feet.
- It’s budget-friendly and gives off an authentic Hendrix / Trowers sound.
- Very sturdy due to its metal casing (which also has a nice picture of Jimi on!).
- There are a wide range of tones thanks to its rate, depth and hue knobs plus chorus/vibe switch.
- True bypass means that it won’t interfere with your tone or your signal when it’s switched off.
- The LED doesn’t flash to inform you of the rate of the vibrato(ne) effects.
- It seems to be larger than it needs to be, so will take up quite a bit of room in your pedal board.
- There’s no expression pedal or expression pedal connector.
MXR M68 Uni-vibe
The MXR M68 Uni-vibe is a small analogue pedal, which – like the Moen Shaky – allows you to switch between chorus and vibrato effects.
It has speed, level and depth controls which allow you to finetune the intensity of your effects, and there’s an LED status light to give you a visual representation of the sweep rate at a glance.
It will hardly take up any space in your pedal board and it’s also lightweight. Despite this, it’s well-built and comes in a sturdy shell, so it’s more than suitable for gigs
There’s true bypass on this pedal, so it won’t muddy your sound, or create any unwanted buzzes or hums when you’re not using it, and it can be powered off either a 9V power supply or using a 9V battery.
This pedal will be suited to those who gig regularly and are looking for something psychedelic to slip into their pedalboard.
It will be less suited to those who are looking to recreate the exact sound of a Vibratone amp and require the use of an expression pedal to achieve this.
- Includes status LED, so you can easily monitor the speed of the vibe.
- Speed, level and depth controllers give you access to a large range of sounds.
- Includes true bypass, so won’t interfere with your signal when it’s not in use.
- There’s no expression pedal or option to plug one in.
- It doesn’t come with a power adapter.
- It can suppress the treble sounds of your guitar.
The Viscous Vibe is a digital pedal, which doesn’t only capture the sound of original uni-vibe pedals, but places an emphasis on your unique needs as a musician. It’s the most customisable uni-vibe pedal, as it comes with Tone Print software which lets you store the pedal sounds of your favourite guitarists into your phone, tablet or computer and quickly fire them into your pedal via the free app. You can use the app to fine tune your sound exactly as you like it.
The Viscous Vibe also has both Stereo and Mono inputs and outputs, which is great for both recording purposes and clarity of sound during gigs.
There are speed, intensity and volume dials to allow you to adjust your sound without additional software, and there’s a switch which can take you between chorus, vibrato and Tone Print.
The Viscous Vibe is small, sturdy, has true bypass and can be powered by either a 9V adapter or battery.
It’s perfect for tech-geeks who want to get creative with their sounds using the software.
It will be less suited to those who want something more akin to an old-fashioned uni-vibe pedal.
- Compatible with Tone Print software, so you to completely customise the tone of the pedal making the achievable sounds virtually unlimited.
- It manages to recreate the Uni-vibe pedals of the 60s very accurately.
- Stereo input and outputs give you extra recording options and give you more control over your sound.
- The volume and intensity knobs are very small, so may be fiddly to those with larger fingers.
- If you’re looking for a Hendrix vibe, the functions of this pedal may prove superfluous and distracting.
- There’s no expression pedal, so once you set the speed you’re stuck with it until your hands are free.
EHX Good Vibes
The EHX Good Vibes pedal is a reasonably priced analogue uni-vibe which is simple to use and captures an authentic tone pretty well.
There are volume, intensity and speed dials which allow you to control how much you can hear the effect, how powerful it is and how fast the rate of the sweep is. There’s also an LED which flashes at the rate of the sweep, so you can track how fast it’s going even in darkened environments.
Like the Moen Shaky, and like the original uni-vibe pedals, this pedal uses photocells to create a warm chorus and vibrato which is similar to the original sounds of the 60s. It also has a switch to flick between chorus and vibrato.
The EHX Good Vibes has an additional switch, and this is to control the functionality of the expression pedal. You can set the your expression pedal to control either speed or intensity, making this the most performance-friendly of the uni-vibe pedals in the list. The EHX Good Vibes doesn’t always come with an expression pedal, though. You may need to purchase it separately.
It will suit more expressive performers who like complete control over various aspects of their sound on stage.
The EHX Good Vibes will be less suited to those who want something super-simple to get started with, though it isn’t difficult to use by any means.
- There’s an expression pedal input which enables you to control either the intensity or speed with your foot.
- There’s a flashing LED, so you can easily monitor the speed of the vibe.
- It’s robust yet compact in sturdy metal casing that doesn’t have any excess surface area.
- At higher intensities, sounds can become jerky with this pedal.
- The switches are very small and the knobs are close together, which can be fiddly for larger hands and inconvenient in a live situation.
- Expression pedal many need to be purchased separately.
‘The Depths’ is a more unusual uni-vibe pedal which makes an effort to try something new and break away from the typical uni-vibe sound that others try to emulate.
As well as intensity, rate and level controls, there are additional knobs for ‘voice’ and ‘throb’. The ‘voice’ control works like a tone control, allowing you to bring out low, mid or high ends. The ‘throb’ control focuses on the pulse of the low end sounds, which although subtle can be very effective and gives you increased control.
It’s a compact, well-built pedal with sturdy metal casing. It’s fully analogue and can be powered by either a 9V adapter or a 9V battery.
There’s true bypass on this pedal, so it won’t muddy your signal at all, and there’s a status LED so you can track the speed of your sweep when you’re on a darkened stage.
This pedal’s quite expensive, so it will suit the professional performer who wants to get their hands on something special that they are happy to spend a bit of time getting to grips with. It will be less suited to musicians on a budget.
- As well as intensity, rate and voice, there are two additional knobs for ‘voice’ and ‘throb’, so you can do a bit more subtle tweaking than on other uni-vibe pedals, and access some different tones. The ‘voice’ dial works like a tone control, and the ‘throb’ controls low end pulse.
- It comes in a sturdy metal case which has a tentacled sea monster design!
- Includes true bypass, so it won’t interfere with your signal when it’s not in use.
- There’s no expression pedal or option to connect one.
- It’s expensive.
- The knobs are very close together, which can be fiddly and inconvenient to adjust on stage.
Fulltone Custom Shop MDV-3
Fulltone uni-vibes are the closest you can get to the original uni-vibe pedals of the 60s. They’re pricey compared to the likes of the Moen Shakey Jimi Vibe, but the quality’s unbeatable.
It’s a digital/analogue hybrid pedal which, as well as allowing you to switch between chorus and vibrato, has an extra switch to shift between vintage and modern sounds.
There’s an intensity dial and a volume dial, and the intensity dial has an LED next to it which flashes according to the speed of your vibrato.
It’s built like a wah pedal, with an integrated expression pedal, so you have full control over your effect at all times and can treat the pedal like an instrument in itself.
There’s also a switch to enable true bypass, so the Fulltone won’t have a negative impact on your sound, and inside the pedal is photocell circuitry and an incandescent bulb: the same as in 60s uni-vibe pedals.
This pedal will be most suited to those who are really trying to recreate the ‘vibe’ of the 60s.
It will be less suited to players who are looking for innovation, and want to be able to adjust their sounds using software like Tone Works.
- Has an integrated expression pedal, so you can control how much/how little of the effect you use with your feet.
- There’s an extra switch to shift between vintage and modern sounds.
- There’s a flashing LED so you can keep track of the speed of your vibe effect even on a dark, smoky stage.
- The expression pedal isn’t as sturdy as the rest of the pedal and may break after it’s been thrown around at gigs.
- It’s pretty expensive.
- The placement of the on/off switch can make it easy to accidentally turn off the expression pedal whilst you’re using it, if you’re not careful.
As you can see, which uni-vibe pedal you use depends on whether you’re hunting for the Hendrix sound, seeking innovation or looking for the ultimate controllability of tone.
If the Hendrix sound’s what you’re after, the Moen Shaky Jimi Vibe Pedal can offer this at a budget price and it even uses photocell circuitry to achieve those warm, analogue tones. The MXR M68 Uni-vibeis similar, but includes a flashing LED and comes at a slightly higher price. Both of these pedals are easy to use and have a switch between vibrato and chorus effects as well as three control knobs.
If you want something with an expression pedal, the Fulltone Custom Shop MDV-3 has one integrated, and it’s also the highest quality pedal on the list. It combines digital and analogue circuitry to achieve controllability and vintage tones and allows you to choose between vintage and modern settings.
The EHX Good Vibes also has excellent expression pedal functionality and comes at a reasonable price, though the pedal isn’t integrated and it’s likely you’ll need to fork out more for one.
The Depths offers a bit more than other uni-vibe pedals. It has extra tonal settings which can result in some original sounds, so will be attractive to those looking for innovation rather than replication. Even more attractive to innovation-seekers will be the Viscous Vibe. It’s compatible with Tone Print software, which enables you to fine tune sounds using your phone, tablet or computer and it also has stereo outputs which can make your effects really stand out.
Whichever kind of sound you’re going for, we hope that our research has helped you to find it.
Featured image: cesar miguel
Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He’s a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band ‘Django Mango’ and a lover of all things music. When he’s not ripping up and down the fretboard, he’s tinkering with his ’79 Campervan.