Did Universal Audio just unveil the greatest Marshall-in-a-box with the UAFX Lion '68 Super Lead Amp pedal?

Universal Audio Lion '68
(Image credit: Universal Audio)

Amp pedals aren't going away, and Universal Audio is right at the forefront of convincing players they're stage and studio-worthy. It's Dream '65, Woodrow '55 and Ruby '63 raised the bar for modelling Fender and Vox tube amp tones. Now its turned its forensic attention to Marshall with the Lion '68. And it's a three-in-one Plexi deal. Sound like it could be a roar deal…

The Lion '68 offers a trio of 100-watt Marshall 'plexi' amp emulations; the Super Lead, Super Bass and 'Brown' – the latter presumedly based on Eddie Van Halen's Plexi with Variac (allows a lower supply voltage to the amp), while the others translate as a choice Plexi and one without a bright capacitor. 

There's also three curated speaker models taken from UA's recent Ox Stomp pedal – with three more downloadable on registration.  

Universal Audio Lion '68

(Image credit: Universal Audio)

"When we released UAFX Dream, Ruby and Woodrow amp emulator pedals, we were thrilled to see their near-instant acceptance from guitarists who had never even considered 'modelling' pedals before," said James Santiago, Sr. Product Designer on the UAFX line. "We put our heart, soul, and decades of analog expertise into Lion '68. So from the first chord that you play, it will sound and more importantly, feel, like the amp that defined rock and roll."

The Sweetwater video below shows just how deep Santiago and his team went into providing players with nuance and options in their modelling process (spoiler: very).

One of UA's biggest strengths is its curation of speakers for the cab modelling in its amps. And the team has clearly given this a great deal of consideration with the Lion and the history of classic Marshall tones it seeks to recreate. 

"Half of the other battle is what cab are you playing through," he notes. Santiago drew from his own collection for that challenge, including the Van Halen combo of JBL 120s and Celestions. "It's a good mix for rock – it's a great mix for a clean sound," notes the designer. 

This plays into the sense of versatility these models capture. 

"The range of tones, even if I just put the amp on five and I just use my volume control; I've got lead, I've got dirty rhythm and I've actually got a clean. There's certain songs of [Eddie Van Halen] where you can hear him roll down the volume for a clean."

Our experiences with UA's previous amp pedals have been very positive, despite our frustrations at the lack of headphone output we found UA's customisable footswitch assigning really opened up flexibility on the Dream '65 especially. As soon as they were released, players were calling for a Marshall equivalent and UA has answered the call, with some carefully considered features.

The boost here is equivalent to the EP-3 Echoplex's preamp that UA modelled for its Starlight and Orion pedals. Santiago has confirmed this adds a decibel and a half to two decibels of gain when engaged. When turned up it offers a midrange bump that Santiago demonstrates in the Sweetwater video above – it sounds great, and will help with those Eric Johnson-style violin tones. 

UAFX Lion '68

(Image credit: Universal Audio)

Different mics have been integrated the onboard IR for optimum results based on what the cabs delivered best with. Alt secondary controls for Room reverb, Presence and Boost are available alongside the ability to assign functions to the preset switch with the UAFX Control Bluetooth app – such as a boost or activating a second saved amp. Players can bypass the onboard IRs and use another source if they wish too.  

The app will also allow players to adjust the noise gate for amps and download artist presets. 

The UAFX Lion '68 Super Lead Amp pedal is $399. More info at Universal Audio

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.