The univibe effect was a massive part of the swirling, 60s sound. It came into being when sound engineers tried to replicate the sound of rotating Leslie speaker cabs – they’re pretty much essential if you want to get that Jimi Hendrix sound.
In this article, we explore the things you need to consider when buying one. We also consider the different types available; from analog to digital to hybrid.
At a Glance: Our Choice of the Best Univibe Pedals on the Market
Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.
Ok. here’s what we cover in this article.
Table of Contents
- What is a Univibe Pedal?
- Buyer’s Guide – Key Considerations
- Product Round-up & Reviews – Best Univibe Pedals
- So, Which Should I Buy?
What is a Univibe Pedal?
As we already mentioned, the univibe is an essential guitar pedal for capturing that 60’s Hendrix sound. It came into being when sound engineers and guitarists started experimenting with Leslie amps (which had rotating speakers that modified the sound of the instrument). These amps were originally made for organists, but people quickly realized that the effect worked tremendously well for guitar too.
So what do they do? Well, they basically have two main functions: to add chorus or vibrato (making them essentially dual-pedals).
The chorus effect takes your guitar signal and fattens it by mixing the guitar’s dry signal with an effect that’s shifted in time and pitch — the result: a fat, phase-y sound.
The vibrato effect emulates the sound of a spinning speaker found on Vibratone amps made in the 60s and 70s. This mode makes the signal pulsate so that it sounds like its cutting in and out, or spinning in circles – like the speakers on a Leslie amp.
There are two main types you need to know about. The analog variety, made using photocell circuitry, give you a warm, natural, vintage tone. As you’d expect, modern digital alternatives have more features and generally offer a cleaner sound than analog ones, too. There are one or two ‘hybrid’ univibe pedals available (such as the Fulltone we look at below), which use a combination of analog and digital circuits and give you the best of both worlds.
There are some features common to almost all of these boxes.
The rate or speed control allows you to control the pace of your sweep. When you’re in chorus mode, this controls the speed of the delay of your altered signal. When you’re in vibrato or ‘vibe’ mode, it changes the rate at which your virtual speaker spins. When you turn it up, you can get some 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. The bigger the circle, the more full the vibrato. Like with the rate/speed knob, turning this up full will get you some wild sounds. The lower you go, the more discrete the effect will be.
Buyer’s Guide – Key Considerations
Some of the better stompboxes come with either integrated (or connectable) expression pedals that were a feature on the original. They look a bit like a wah, and are used to control the speed of your sweep. They’re a must for those who want to use it ‘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 products and let you visually track the rate of your sweep. On the analog variety, they’re often connected to the photo-cells to ensure that the effect is in time with the music. Flashing LEDs are also handy if you require a visual representation in the dark.
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 more accurate to your instrument’s original sound.
Product Round-up & Reviews – Best Univibe Pedals
So, now you know what to look out for, it’s time to take a look at some of the best products on the market.
Moen Shaky Jimi Vibe Pedal
One of the cheapest on the market, the Moen Shaky Vibe produces a sound easily comparable to the more expensive models on the list. It uses photocells – as the originals did – to help prevent any unwanted distortion and to enable classic Jimi Hendrix tone.
There’s a switch for you to choose between chorus and vibe effects, and 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 also an LED to tell you when it’s switched on. The only downside is this LED doesn’t flash in time with the speed of the effect, unlike with some more expensive vibe pedals.
A 9V adapter can power it, but there’s no battery power option, so remember to pack your charger before a gig.
Overall, the Shakey Vibe is excellent 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 or chorus effects, or to those who want to control the expression with their feet. Despite the price, it comes in sturdy, metal housing too.
- 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!).
- 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 effects.
- It seems to be larger than it needs to be so that it will take up quite a bit of room in your pedalboard.
- No expression pedal or connector.
NUX Mini Core Monterey
Next to make our list is the digital Mini Core Monterey Vibe by NUX, so what’s good about this pedal? It has to be the variety of uni-vibe tone you get considering the low cost. Thanks to its 32Bit DSP processor, the Monterey Vibe can recreate all the classic chorus, rotary speaker and phaser tones that the originals did fairly well. Plus there’s also a micro USB-port so you can upgrade the firmware for a better sound whenever NUX design a new algorithm.
When it comes to control the Monterey Vibe is pretty diverse, but easy to handle. To switch between chorus and vibrato you simply press down on the footswitch for a second or two. You can also quickly tap the footswitch to change the speed of your wave, which is particularly handy in a live setting. The only thing we noticed with this, is that the rate of swell doesn’t always match up perfectly with your tapped in tempo. But saying that, you can simply turn the speed dial to change the sound too.
NUX has made sure this uni-vibe pedal is tiny and can easily fit onto your pedalboard. Of course, this means you can’t use a battery, so remember to pack your 9v DC charger before setting off to rehearsal. There’s also the option of using either true-bypass or buffered bypass to keep your tone strong as you strum.
As you’d expect, the digital circuitry here doesn’t fully recreate the classic vintage 60’s or 70’s tone that analog pedals do, but for the considering the low price, it does pretty well. We’d recommend the Monterey Vibe to anyone shopping on a budget that needs a portable, subtle uni-vibe to work in a live setting.
- Versatile – Can use the tap tempo for extra sonic creativity in a live setting.
- Software upgrades are available to improve the tone.
- Affordable – This pedal is a lot cheaper than most of the analog versions out there.
- Configuration doesn’t match up tap input to the speed of swell perfectly.
- Tone – Because the Monterey is digital, the pedal doesn’t fully recreate a vintage analog sound.
- The Monterey’s small size means your feet are more likely to mash the tone controls whilst operating the footswitch.
MXR M68 Uni-vibe
The MXR M68 Uni-vibe is a small analog unit, which, like the Moen Shaky, allows you to switch between chorus and vibrato effects. It has speed, level and depth controls which lets you fine-tune the intensity of the effects, plus 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 pedalboard, and it’s also lightweight. There’s a true bypass too, so it won’t muddy your sound or create any unwanted buzzes or hums when you’re not using it. Another bonus is that the M68 can also be powered via either a 9V power supply or using a 9V battery.
When it comes to tone, the MXR univibe can get very powerful and is great at creating otherworldly psychedelic sounds or the classic Jimi Hendrix style. The only downside is sometimes the M68 is a little too intense, especially if you’re looking for a calm, washy chorus effect. In particular, this vibe tends to add a touch of bass into your mix, whilst cutting some of the mids.
Overall, the M68 is best 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 broad range of sounds.
- Includes true bypass, so it won’t interfere with your signal when it’s not in use.
- Powerful, smooth vibe tone.
- 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 of the digital variety which not only captures the sound of original but places emphasis on your unique needs as a musician. 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 that allow you to adjust your sound, without making things overly complicated. That said, there’s a handy ‘hold-on’ option which lets you increase your swell speed whilst you play live too.
But the coolest aspect here is that the Viscious Vibe is the most customizable product in this round-up, featuring software that lets you store the sounds of your favorite guitarists into your phone, tablet or computer and quickly fire them into your pedal via the free app. Plus you can use the app to fine-tune your sound exactly as you like it. The only downside is that there’s no way to completely cut off the effect, instead, the swell rotation gradually slows down when you press the off switch. This could be an issue if you’ve got to finish a riff at the same time as other instruments in a band.
In summary, we think the Viscious Vibe is perfect for tech-geeks who want to get creative with their sounds using the software. However, it will be less suited to those who want something more akin to an old-school unit.
- Customizable tone, making the achievable sounds virtually unlimited.
- Stereo input and outputs give you extra recording options and give you more control over your sound.
- Can increase the swell speed whilst you play live.
- The volume and intensity knobs are tiny and fiddly to those with larger fingers.
- If you’re looking for a Hendrix vibe, the functions may prove superfluous and distracting.
- 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 is a reasonably priced analog unit that is simple to use and captures an authentic tone pretty well. There are volume, intensity and speed dials which let you 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 originals, this uses photocells to create a warm chorus and vibrato in light of Jimi Hendrix.
It has an additional switch to control the functionality of the expression pedal, which you can set to control either speed or intensity, making this the most performance-friendly of the products on our list. Just be aware that you’ll need to purchase the expression pedal separately. That said the 9v DC power supply is included in the price, which saves a little cash. The only downside is that when used behind a fuzz unit, the Good Vibes loses a little volume and intensity.
Overall, this uni-vibe pedal will suit more expressive performers who like complete control over various aspects of their sound on stage. It’s 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 that lets you control either the intensity or speed with your foot.
- There’s a flashing LED, so you can easily monitor the speed of the vibe.
- Robust yet compact
- At higher intensities, sounds can become jerky.
- The switches are tiny and the knobs are close together, which can be fiddly for larger hands and inconvenient in a live situation.
- Expression pedal not included
Voodoo Lab Micro
The Micro Vibe by Voodoo Lab has been designed as a sort of modern take on the original ‘68 four-stage phase shifter or Leslie speaker. All this analog groove is made possible through the use of a classic sinewave oscillator, incandescent lamp, and photocells. The circuitry is also true bypass so that the pedal doesn’t kill your tone when not in use.
As well as this, every single FX pedal that Voodoo Lab sells is handmade and comes with a five-year warranty, so you can stomp away assured that the device won’t break.
When it comes to control, the Micro Vibe is easy to handle with one intensity and one-speed dial, plus an on and off footswitch. This makes it a useable option for both beginners and experienced players alike. That said the maximum swell speed is slightly lower than several other univibes out there, so it might not be able to create really experimental, spacey tones.
One thing to be aware of is that the Micro Vibe will slightly change your EQ, often boosting the bass and cutting the highs and mids a little. This can result in a noticeable difference in tone whilst playing live. That said, it costs slightly less than some of the premium univibes we’ve mentioned today, so it is great value for money for guitarists that love the simplicity and authentic tone.
JHS Pedals Unicorn
The feature that sets the Unicorn uni-vibe pedal apart from the rest has to be its tap tempo control of low-frequency oscillation. This combined with ratio control and expression pedal input grants the guitarist full reign over their sound whilst they play live. The manufacturers have even included a handy LED that pulsates in time with the rhythm of your vibe swell.
Of course, JHS Pedals have used a signal path that’s completely analog with photocell topology to keep the vibe authentic 60’s. The Unicorn is slightly more complex to master than others, with four control dials: Volume, Depth, Speed and Ratio, a Dry/ Wet toggle switch and the tap tempo switch.
The Ratio control is fun to play around with, seeing as it lets your melodies swirl out in ¼, ⅛ or triplets. Then you can set the toggle switch to dry for a classic uni-vibe oscillation or wet for a more extreme, wavy vibrato.
Overall, the Unicorn is a great pedal that will suit any guitarists wanting a uni-vibe that can do vintage 60’s, but also gives some extra features and functionality. This device works especially well in a live setting, thanks to its tap tempo footswitch. The Unicorn sells for a similar price to other premium pedals, so you might need to save up a little before you buy one.
- Tap tempo footswitch with LED observation light.
- Versatile – Does vintage and experimental swells and waves well.
- Expression pedal input for extra control.
- Expensive – This is a more expensive uni-vibe.
- Not micro – The Unicorn isn’t huge but isn’t a small as a micro-pedal.
Mojo Vibe by Sweet Sound
Next to make our list is the Mojo Vibe by Sweet Sound, so what exactly do you get here for your dollar? The best aspect has to be the pedal’s clever circuitry, which makes it suitable for playing both 60’s vintage riffs and more modern music genres.
Sweet Sound has also designed the Mojo Vibe so that the 9 volts power input is converted to 18 volts internally, so that the maximum headroom is pumped out, with the right “throb” or “wobble” in your sweep. Better yet, they’ve also included an internally switched FET buffer pre-amp. This means you can choose either a warm, vintage sound or a more modern FET buffered input for more tonal clarity.
Another cool feature is the Mojo Vibe’s versatility. There’s an expression pedal input, which lets your foot control the throb speed, as well as a chorus/ vibrato toggle switch and volume/ speed/ intensity dials. So you can get creative without having to program any complicated technology. Sweet Sound has also included a true bypass circuit, so the rest of your tone won’t be disrupted when you switch the device.
We’d say the Mojo Vibe is best for those that want a pedal that can kick out both modern and vintage tones well, without any complex features. The only downside here is the price, as you’ll need some extra cash saved up to afford this unit.
- Does modern and vintage univibe tones well.
- Simple but effective tone controls, with expression pedal input jack.
- Quality circuitry, with FET buffered pre-amp.
- Price – the Mojo Vibe is more expensive than most univibe pedals.
- Fairly large – This device isn’t massive, but it’s not a micro-pedal either.
Fulltone Custom Shop MDV-3
This hybrid number from Fulltone is the closest you can get to the originals of the 60s, without tracking down a second-hand vintage. They’re pricey compared to the likes of the Moen Shakey Jimi Vibe, but the quality’s unbeatable. It’s a digital/analog hybrid offering which, as well as letting you switch between chorus and vibrato, has an extra switch to shift between vintage and modern sounds. It also uses photocell circuitry and an incandescent bulb: the same that’s found in 60s univibes.
There’s an intensity dial and a volume dial – the intensity dial has an LED next to it which flashes according to the speed of your vibrato. With an integrated expression pedal, you have full control over your effects at all times and can treat it like an instrument in its own right. There’s also a switch for true bypass so that the Fulltone won’t hurt your sound. Better still, Fulltone has included a greater speed range, up to 15 dB boost and a fuller, “wetter” vibe sound.
The only downside is that this device weighs a lot, so it will take its toll on you if you’re carrying it around with other pedals all day. As well as this, novice guitarists may struggle to get the hang of the foot technique straight away, so the Custom Shop MDV-3 might take some getting used to.
In summary, this vibe will be best suited to those looking to recreate the hazy swells of the 60s. The dB boost makes the MDV-3 especially great in solos, thanks to its ability to get your guitar heard through the band’s mix. It will be less suited to players who are looking for innovation and want to be able to adjust their sounds using software etc.
- Integrated expression pedal, so you can control how much/how little of the effect you use with your feet.
- An extra switch to shift between vintage and modern sounds.
- Flashing LEDs so you can keep track of the speed of your vibe effect even on a dark, smoky stage.
- It’s pretty expensive.
- The placement of the on/off switch can make it easy to accidentally turn off the expression pedal while you’re using it.
‘The Depths’ tries something new and breaks away from the typical univibe offering. 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.
Another cool feature is that this device features Flexi-Switch technology. Which means you can simultaneously use momentary and latching style switching. For standard latching, you simply tap the footswitch once to activate the effect. Momentary operation is engaged by pressing the footswitch down for as long as you’d like to use the effect. When you release the switch the effect stops. EarthQuaker have even included a noiseless relay-based soft-touch circuit, so you won’t hear a peep of interference or background hum.
When it comes to durability, the Depths is a compact, well-built unit with sturdy metal casing. It’s fully analog and can be powered by either a 9V adapter or a 9V battery. There’s a true bypass so that it won’t muddy your signal at all, and a status LED so you can track the speed of your sweep when you’re on a darkened stage.
The bad part is it’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 or with no previous experience using a univibe.
- Two additional knobs for ‘voice’ and ‘throb,’ so you can do a bit more subtle tweaking than others on this list.
- It comes in a sturdy metal case that has a tentacled sea monster design!
- Includes true bypass, so it won’t interfere with your signal when it’s not in use.
- It’s expensive.
- No expression pedal or option to connect one.
- Knobs are very close together, which can be fiddly and inconvenient to adjust on stage.
Dunlop JD4S Rotovibe
The JD4S Rotovibe by Dunlop is slightly different from the other pedals we’ve mentioned, in that it functions more like an expression pedal than a footswitch. This is actually a good thing if you use one already, as it gives you real-time control over the rate of swell coming through your mix. As well as this, Dunlop has included both a chorus and vibrato mode depending on what sound you’re going for.
When it comes to tone, the Rotovibe sounds very authentic mostly thanks to having circuitry that recreates tones produced by old school rotating Leslie speakers. In fact, this univibe sounds so good that musicians like Zakk Wylde and Jerry Cantrell have been known to have one on their pedalboards.
The only thing to watch out for is getting the right power supply. This device needs a Dunlop ECB003 AC Adapter to power it or a 9v battery. As well as this, you’ll need to save up before buying one because the Rotovibe costs a small fortune.
Overall, we’d recommend this pedal to guitarists that have experience using some kind of expression pedal beforehand and want great tone. That said if you’re a beginner the technique isn’t too hard to pick up, but it might take you a few attempts before you can use it correctly.
- Real-time speed control via the foot pedal.
- Great tone used by famous guitarists.
- Simple controls – Just two modes and a speed/ intensity control.
- Expensive – This univibe pedal is one of the most expensive out there.
- Footpedal speed control might be a little difficult for beginner guitarists to grasp.
So, Which Should I Buy?
Overall, there’s no completely right or wrong choice when it comes to finding the best univibe pedal. It depends more on how you want your guitar to sound and the style of music you’re trying to play. That said, some vibe pedals are more complex than others, so you may need to consider the level of experience you have before you buy one.
Vibe pedals come at different costs, ranging from around $40 to $350. If you’re shopping on a budget we’d recommend the Mini Core Monterey Vibe by NUX. For the low price, you get a tap-tempo control footswitch and the ability to update the device when new upgrades are created.
On the other hand, if you’ve got a little more cash saved up, the Unicorn by JHS Pedals is a fantastic unit at a mid-range price. This uni-vibe pedal is super versatile thanks to its expression pedal input and tap-tempo footswitch, the tone is also great thanks to the quality analog circuit.
Perhaps you’ve been saving for the best vibe effect that money can buy? If so, the JD4S Rotovibe by Dunlop might be your best option. This pedal comes as close as you can to the classic Jimi Hendrix tone and is capable of creating some incredibly diverse sounds. Just remember that getting the hang of the real-time speed control can take some practice if you’re a beginner.