"For various reasons at the Sphere I decided to switch from amplifiers to digital amp emulators," the U2 guitarist told MusicRadar when we reached out following speculation online. "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,” he added with regards to the reasons behind the switch.
The move for 2023's most high-profile rock shows is a huge vote of confidence in the work UAFX's Senior Product Designer James Santiago and his team have done with the Universal Audio's line of digital modelling amp pedals.
“We heard the news and are so proud to see UAFX pedals gracing some very high profile stages lately,” James told MusicRadar. “We believe these are the first amp emulation pedals that really get tube tone right. So it’s very rewarding to see them inspiring legendary artists.”
The Edge is notoriously particular about every element of his rig, from his huge rack of 43 guitars on tours to his effects and vintage amps. The move to amp modelling pedals is a huge statement about their validity on the world's biggest stages.
The Edge's amp requirements have always been very specific. On the band's 2009 MusicRadar visited Dallas Schoo, Edge's tech since 1986, on the road in New York and found him using his ever-present 1964 AC30 from '64, '58 Fender Deluxe with a Vox speaker and a '57 Deluxe with a Jensen speaker, rare mid-'50s Fender Harvard with another Vox speaker and early '70s Vox amps as backups."
The UAFX Woodrow, Ruby and Dream pedals are based on the Fender 5E3 Deluxe Tweed from 1955, Vox AC30 and AC30 Top Boost models and the 1965 Fender Deluxe Reverb, respectively.
The reports that the guitarist had moved to UAFX pedals for the Las Vegas Sphere shows first came after a fan posted a grainy shot of the U2 legend's rack from a distance that seemed to show the amp pedals and posted them on The Gear Page, while a pic of his pedalboard had blank spaces where the previous tube amps would have been labelled. That whole thread has since been removed from The Gear Page.
Over on the official Universal Audio forums, a representative confirmed that the guitarist is a fan of its pedals.
"Edge has bought most/all of our pedals. He's also shared his feelings with us directly, but we are not using it to promote specifically, out of respect for him."
We already know this wouldn't be the first time the guitarist has performed with modelling amps – Fender CEO Andy Mooney revealed to us that The Edge used the company's Tone Master amps for a TV performance.
"I had an interesting conversation with Edge and his guitar tech Dallas [Schoo], it was during the Joshua Tree [anniversary] tour, and I went backstage with him when he was in LA and he was showing me the setup. Live he's playing through four tiny amps; two fenders and two Voxs, 130 effects pedals; all of them analogue. And 23 different guitars, because this is how he rolls," said Mooney.
"Each song was a very precise combination of a guitar set exactly to the same volume, tone control, and from the 130 pedals, these 15 are going to be used on this song. So that's great when you're on tour and you have massive rigs to kind of carry from venue to venue. But the next night they were playing Jimmy Kimmel Live. And he said, "I can't take this to Jimmy Kimmel Live." So there he used modelling amps. And he goes, 'It's not the same, it's absolutely not the same'. But it's close enough. And it's the only practical way to perform in that type of venue."
Our reviews of the Woodrow '55, Ruby '63 and Dream '65 pedals remarked on how UA's modelling was setting a new standard for the digital detail of tube amps being captured. The recent release of the UAFX Lion '68 Super Lead, based on capturing three iterations of Marshall Plexi heads, aims to continue that great work.
The pedals offer up to six different classic speaker emulations alongside reverb, boost and replications of the amp's and their controls. In the case of the Ruby, there are the original and Top Boost interactions of the AC30.