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Review: MXR Uni-Vibe

The MXR Uni-Vibe is, as far as I know, the third generation of the legendary rotary effect. The original, made by Shin-ei and immortalized by Jimi Hendrix on “Machine Gun” and David Gilmour on “Breathe”, was a big honking unit, typewriter-sized and with a separate expression pedal to control the speed. The later Dunlop reissue was in a boutique-style chassis with regular stompbox controls and two footswitches: on/off and chorus/vibrato (“chorus” mixes the clean signal in with the effected signal, “vibrato” is effect only). This third generation packs all of that into a standard MXR mini enclosure with three knobs, an on/off footswitch and a small VIBE pushbutton. It is pedalboard-friendly and built to the usual MXR standards, i.e. like a Sherman tank.

In a sense, I’m a little bit bummed that I bought this only after getting the TC Shaker and the MXR Phase 90 and Micro Flanger. It is not really a phaser, not really a vibrato and not really a chorus (and definitely not a flanger), but a little of everything. The most important thing is that it totally nails the classic Uni-Vibe tone. Maybe not waveform for waveform, but close enough that I can put a Stratocaster through my Blackstar and pretend I’m Jimi or Dave for a moment and wear a huge smile on my face. It might be a bit of an exaggeration to claim that it will replace anything on my pedalboard, but it is a very nice addition to my arsenal, especially for late-60s/early-70s covers or a general psychedelic vibe. (Nothing can make me give up my Phase 90!)

I am not particularly bothered by the fact that you have to reach down to set the speed, or switch between the two effects manually. As I’ve already mentioned, I have several coloration pedals, so if a song really needs two different effects, I could probably make do with the flanger or the vibrato. If anything, the vibrato setting is a tad subtle, it needs some speed to really make itself heard. And the level control doesn’t work the way a level control usually does on a pedal of this kind: it raises the general output of the pedal. Handy if you’re looking for a bit of boost to your Fender sound, but use with care if you want to balance clean and effected sound.

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Posted by on 4 November, 2014 in gear, review

 

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Review: MXR Phase 90

I love phasing! It is such a classic-sounding effect, at the same time more subtle but yet more dramatic than chorus or flanger. I don’t normally get compliments on my sound, but when I bought my first phaser, I did. My drummer called it the “prog pedal” and even certain pedal-phobic people I sometimes play with gushed over it. However, I somehow managed to break a Boss pedal, which set in motion two processes at once: its replacement and, more vitally, its replacement by anything other than a Boss.

Therefore, I arranged a minor phaser shootout with the three pedals that the store happened to have on hand at the moment. I tried the Ibanez AP7, the Boss PH-3 (just to give it a fair chance) and finally the MXR Phase 90. Just to avoid any misunderstandings, this is the new, non-signature Phase 90, not the EVH model or the ’74 reissue.

The results hit me squarely between the eyes. The instant I switched on the ’90, I knew I had a winner. The Boss sounded all right, but it felt like I never could dial in the sound I had in my head. It was exactly the same way with the Ibanez – also a perfectly flexible and well-sounding phaser pedal. I would recommend any of these to anyone. It’ s just that the Phase 90 sounds better than both, and does so without the fuss. I belatedly realized that I was after the MXR sound all along, I had simply been struggling to make the Boss and the Ibanez sound like the ’90. This could be a self-confirming bias, since the recordings that sold me on the phaser effect were indeed made with… the Phase 90.

The MXR Phase 90 is about as simple as pedals come. It has one knob, Rate, and a switch that turns the effect on and off. It does not have to be more complicated than this so long as the effect is properly voiced from the get-go. It works just as well spicing up a clean sound as it does putting a bit of a swirl on a crunch sound, even when placed before the gain section. You get usable sounds throughout the entire rate range, even though I tend to leave it set to about 9 o’clock and don’t bother with the rubber sleeve that you can put on the knob to enable tweaking with your foot.

I especially like the sturdy construction and the small form factor. I’ll be damned if I’m going to kill two phasers in a row! About the only negative thing is that I now have developed a bit of an addiction to small pedals in general and MXR products in particular!

 
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Posted by on 22 April, 2013 in gear, review

 

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