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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: TC Electronic “Shaker” vibrato pedal

The TC Electronic Shaker is a vibrato pedal in TC’s celebrated Toneprint range. The first time I had the Toneprint function explained to me, I had to laugh. If you don’t know what it is, here’s a quick rundown: First, you download the TC Toneprint app to your smartphone. Then you use the speaker on the smartphone to upload settings to the pedal through the pickups on your guitar. But what you upload is not just a set of fixed settings. The Toneprint redefines what the controls on the pedal actually do. It won’t make a chorus pedal out of a delay pedal, but you can get one pedal to perform two different functions, provided you want to bend down towards your pedalboard in the middle of a gig and flick the little toggle switch on the pedal. And, of course, whipping out your phone mid-gig to change settings might be a cool thing for those who are into that sort of thing.

A bit about the background: I love phaser, but I have been looking for a cool modulation effect to complement it, and the natural thing has always been chorus first and flanger second. But then I plugged into one of those TC Electronic demo pedalboards and decided to give the Shaker a spin. Man, did I love it! I have nothing against chorus or flanger. Fact is, I might add one or the other later. But vibrato just felt more natural, more classic, less obvious. I immediately dialed in a cool mid-70s Camel tone, and further exploration of the settings led to a warbly Beatlesque Leslie-type sound. At once, I put the pedal on my wish list and today I finally got around to buying it.

You can indeed get chorusy-type sounds out of this pedal so long as you keep the rate fairly slow and the intensity low. I’ve also seen that you can download a Toneprint that gets even closer to chorus. However, be advised that vibrato is a fairly rhythmic kind of effect, and adjust and play accordingly.

One of the coolest little features with this pedal is the latch mode that is selected via the three-way toggle. In latch mode, the effect is only on so long as you keep the footswitch down. Here is where the “rise time” control comes into play. In “vibrato” mode, this control apparently does nothing. In latch mode, it controls the amount of time that passes before the effect kicks in. So you could conceivably also use the pedal as an ersatz vibrato bar. Pretty nice if you’re like me and block off the Stratocaster whammy bar but still want that shimmer from time to time.

Oh, and it’s orange!

 
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Posted by on 24 August, 2013 in gear, review

 

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Review: TC Electronic “The Dreamscape”

On paper, The Dreamscape is an excellent idea: a combined chorus/flanger/vibrato pedal. It costs about as much as two regular TC pedals, so what you get is three pedals for the price of two, and some of that John Petrucci mojo as well. And you only have to fit (and supply power to) one small pedal onto your board instead of three. Right?

No, you don’t. Not really.

I really wanted to like The Dreamscape, and not just because of whose signature is reproduced on the top of the chassis. Effects pedals are an on/off thing for me, and after selling almost all of them in 2010, I have recently entered a new “on” phase and am currently shopping for a chorus and a flanger. This pedal could be just the ticket and then I would get a vibrato pedal for free.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like it. It did sound really good. The chorus sounds, especially, were fantastic! They sounded good both clean and distorted, even when I put the chorus ahead of the distortion, which I prefer for simplicity’s sake.┬áBut that was basically it. The flanger and vibrato were too subtle for my taste and you also don’t get the level of control you would get from TC’s dedicated flanger and vibrato pedals. So this is basically just a good chorus pedal with John Petrucci’s signature on it. You could get that very same chorus sound by downloading one of JP’s TonePrints into the TC Corona for half the price.

 
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Posted by on 17 March, 2013 in gear, review

 

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