"It was totally, totally nuts": The Edge was so impressed with Universal Audio's Lion '68 amp pedal, he didn't just add it to his rig – it changed the tone for his intro to U2's Las Vegas Sphere gigs

U2 live at the Sphere / Universal Audio UAFX Lion '68 pedal
(Image credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation / Universal Audio)

Tore Mogensen and James Santiago head the team at Universal Audio that has big ambitions. They knew their effects and amp modelling pedals belonged on huge stages as well as in homes and rehearsal rooms, what they may not have imagined was that one of the best-known and most fastidious tone-hound guitarists in the world would embrace what they had worked on so enthusiastically.

MusicRadar has already heard from the Edge himself about why he chose to use Universal Audio's UAFX Ruby '63, Woodrow '55 and Dream '65 amp modelling pedals to replace the tube amps in his rig and supply Vox AC30, Fender Tweed Deluxe and Deluxe Reverb tones for U2's sets at the cutting edge Sphere venue in Las Vegas that have helped to change the perception on what is possible to achieve with live music in the audio and visual realms. What we didn't know was there was more.

Universal Audio Lion '68

(Image credit: Universal Audio)

By the end of the band's residency at the Sphere, Edge and his longtime tech Dallas Schoo had added a fourth UAFX amp emulation pedal; the Lion '68 – recreating Marshall Plexi Super Lead and Super Bass tones. Not only that, its sound had inspired him to swap out a vital tone in the set's intro that was traditionally covered by the AC30, and then Ruby '63 pedal.

For the first time we have the inside perspective from Tore and James on the news that brought their whole project with UA into sharp focus. 

"I have not talked about it all but I did see one of the last shows at Sphere," James tells us as part of an in-depth MusicRadar interview. "And I did go under the stage to meet with the guys right before showtime. They're like, 'You're here, come under this'. The venue was packed, crowded all the way to the front. So they snuck me under the stage right there, about 20 minutes before they went on, to show me the setup."

He loves the Marshall sound right now

What struck Sound and Product Designer James wasn't just the setup but how it was being used. 

"I know I can't share any pictures or anything, but they showed me this little rack that basically had shelves that just had Rubys, Lions, Dream – every one of our pedals was on a shelf," James remembers. "Dallas was like, 'We use every one of these and when you watch the show tonight, the opening song, which is the Zoo Station intro that Edge plays to start the concert – that's the Lion pedal. He's not even using the Ruby. He loves the Marshall sound right now. We just got it this morning. And he was into it. He put it in the rig today.'"

The sense of pride was enriched further by how enthusiastic Schoo was about the pedals being added to the rig.

"They were just so excited to have consistent tones and for Dallas it was he got to not be pummelled by the amps, because under the stage used to be where the amps were," says James. "He had to live in this world of just the amps hitting his head and the craziness of keeping a whole locker room full of amps under a stage running during a show. He was so happy, he said: 'It's so great down here. Look at the shelves, and it works perfectly'".

"Then meeting the front-of-house engineer and then just seeing the show was great, because you saw what he had," James tells us. "And we talked about MIDI – Edge has a lot of programmed changes, a lot of timed delays. So he had this crazy amount of rack delays and post-effects stuff. And he goes, "I'm using the pedals exactly like I use the amps", because all he did was get rid of the amps and that cable that would have gone to multiple AC-30s and Tweed Deluxes just went into the pedals as a drop-in replacement for the rig. That's what we're doing."

Universal Audio UAFX Lion '68

(Image credit: Universal Audio)

It was the ultimate scenario of what James and Tore had envisioned when they were tasked with developing Universal Audio's amp pedals.  

"I was shocked to see it because that's what we wanted with someone," admits James. "And we had these discussions, me and Tore saying, 'We want somebody that if they had their pedalboard and their backline at a gig and if the amp went down, they could just take that cable, plug it into one of these pedals and it will do the exact same thing and go straight to house'. That's what they did. 

It was a real live version of what Tore was hoping would happen, when this idea came up but he pushed us through to get this sort of team together to make these amp pedals

"And in fact, it was a full circle moment because I had talked to some of the [other UA] guys before we even did the stuff. So it was like, 'Hey, remember that thing you talked about trying to do? You did it and the pedals are here tonight, and they're onstage and you're about to see them go live in 10 minutes go live.

"It was a real live version of what Tore was hoping would happen, when this idea came up but he pushed us through to get this sort of team together to make these amp pedals."

Back in November 2023, MusicRadar reached out to the Edge after reports surfaced that he'd added UAFX amp pedals to his rig. He confirmed to us that was indeed the case and they'd replaced his usual backline of vintage amps for the Las Vegas shows.

"For various reasons at the Sphere I decided to switch from amplifiers to digital amp emulators," the U2 guitarist told MusicRadar. "I'm using UA Ruby, Dream and Woodrow amp pedals with some Fractal Axe-FX units handling additional amp emulation and FX. 

"When you introduce radio leads and all the electronics involved it's never the same as a simple guitar into amp tone so it's a case of high-level complexity to make it sound simple,” Edge added. 

While UA's amp pedals have provided a solution that's seemingly without compromise for Edge, it's really interesting to hear how the Lion '68 actually inspired a change in the sound of Zoo Station live.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 29: (Exclusive Coverage) Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Bram van den Berg of U2 perform during opening night of U2:UV Achtung Baby Live at Sphere on September 29, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevad

U@ onstage on the opening night of U2:UV Achtung Baby Live at Sphere on 29 September, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevad (Image credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation)

Then you get a call from Joe Walsh going, 'Hey, man, I was talking to the Edge and he said I should try these pedals'

"It was totally, totally nuts," says James. "And then you realise that he talks to his other buddies and then you get a call from Joe Walsh going, 'Hey, man, I was talking to the Edge and he said I should try these pedals.' And then that guy talked to John Mayer. And then you realise all these guitar nerds talk to each other. Bob Weir talks to Mayer. That's how the natural growth happens. Because you can't just make somebody like a product or a sound. 

"I think any one of us know the same thing where you have a friend and they say, 'You should try this pedal', or, 'You should borrow mine and check it out'. And that natural growth of tone nerds sharing cool ideas and new products.

Check out our full interview with James and Tore as we talk about the process of developing amp pedals, the challenges so far and why they see them as passing the torch of classic amp sounds for a new generation to enjoy. 

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.