J Rockett Audio Designs Uni-Verb: What is it?
A Uni-Vibe clone with photocell tech as per the vintage units popularised by Hendrix, Tower et al is hardly the most unusual pedalboard offering. Players in the 21st century have plenty of options when it comes to sourcing heady, chewy swirl for their electric guitar tone.
But how about a Uni-Vibe clone that offers a twofer with spring reverb? That is definitely less common, maybe even a little off the wall, and yet this is exactly what J Rockett’s Uni-Verb is all about.
J Rockett Audio Designs spent five years developing the Uni-Verb. Key to its success has been perfecting the sounds of the original ‘60s Uni-Vibe, and of a classic spring reverb tank from the decade previous.
It is a three-footswitch pedal. One turns the effect on and off, one toggles between Vibrato and Chorus (read: Uni-Vibe) modes, the other turns the spring reverb emulation on and off.
There have been some refinements to the original ‘vibe design; replacing the rocker switch with the aforementioned footswitch is practical. There is more output, and the range of speeds you can run the Uni-Vibe at has been extended, so this can be slower, or faster.
Can it nail a sound that occupies its own place on the pantheon of modulations, a four-stage phaser that gets called a chorus on the front of the pedal, but that is a sound that is quintessentially ‘other’?
And how might the splash of spring reverb sauce the swirl? The Uni-Verb – with its white text on black and typeface referencing classic units – is a tantalising prospect.
The unit has two large chickenhead dials, one for the Chorus Mix, which increases the amount of chorus vs dry signal in your sound as you turn it clockwise, and one for Dwell, which controls the length of the reverb’s tail.
There are dials for Speed and Intensity, the former self-explanatory, the latter offering “subtle and smooth” or “almost choppy”. The Reverb knob, meanwhile, controls the intensity of the reverb, while Output controls the overall output level of the pedal.
There is also an internal trim pot for fine-tuning the effect’s response, boosting the low end for more warmth and a smooth turnaround, or giving more to the top end for what J Rockett calls a “Ying/Yang” sound – one that’s accented with a slight wah pedal quality. Note, however, turning this trim pot to either extreme can damage the photocell, and with a pricey piece of kit, you want to tread lightly. “Do not max it out or turn it all the way down” is J Rockett’s advice.
There is a send and return loop between both effects which increases your pedalboard routing options, allowing you to run other pedals in between both the Uni-Vibe and reverb effects.
Though where the Uni-Verb is going to send you is not a loop of electrical engineering – it’s through a wormhole to yesteryear, to a heady era of psychedelic tones, of rotating speakers, free love and hand-rolled cigarettes of questionable dubiety… And sounds that have never gone out of style.
J Rockett Audio Designs Uni-Verb: Performance and verdict
The Uni-Verb might offer up an unorthodox pairing but there are a number of things that work in its favour and persuade us that this sort of thing is something we’d like to see more of – phaser and delay twofers, flanger and tape echo? Firstly, the two effects are presented practically. With the send/return loop, you can use a pedal switcher could look at it as two pedals in one rather than a straightforward combo.
Also, well, both effects sound superb. Thematically, with both of them sharing that time capsule quality, it seems right that they should share space here. The spring reverb is pretty much what most people would expect from it.
Go easy on it and it gives your tone some depth, but it soon reveals its character as you dial more of it in, presenting as an eerily accurate emulation of a spring tank unit, with serious drip at the extremes.
• J Rockett Audio Designs Clockwork Echo
Like the Uni-Verb, here J Rockett takes a pass on a pedalboard classic, updating the Deluxe Memory Man's bucket brigade delay and modulation in a more functional format, with longer delay times.
• Strymon Lex
If you're looking for an extremely natural-sounding rotary speaker emulation in a decent-sized stompbox, you'll find it in the Lex.
• Electro-Harmonix Lester G
From Steven Wilson-esque subtle modulation to seasick, Jimi Hendrix Uni-Vibe fare, the sounds you crave are in here.
• Source Audio True Spring Reverb
Although this pedal is perfect for surf instrumentals and Spaghetti Western/spy movie soundtracks, the True Spring goes beyond genres to provide a spring reverb and tremolo experience that adds vintage flavour to any amp.
From that point of view, you could look at the Uni-Verb as some kind of unofficial Jimi Hendrix x Dick Dale signature pedal, a pop-cultural crossover in one metal casing, but there is a lot of range to the vibe side of the pedal that makes this every bit as effective for adventurous tone-seekers in the here and now.
The Chorus mode is more what you might traditionally associate with the Uni-Vibe, that melting gooey phase-shifting psychedelia – and it can be a sound that’s truly show-stopping. As Hendrix proved back in ’69, as does the Uni-Verb in 2022; the undulating vibe and the overdriven scream of a high-volume guitar amp are kindred spirits. Adding drive or fuzz brings out all kinds of new textures.
Don’t overlook the Vibrato mode, however. It excels at adding subtle movement to your sound. Again, like the ‘verb, this can give your tone a bit more depth without necessarily calling attention to itself, while more intense settings present a nice alternative flavour of modulation, more Black Hole Sun than Star Spangled Banner.
Now, the Uni-Verb is not cheap, but then neither was J Rockett’s Clockwork Echo, its redux imagining of the Deluxe Memory Man that drafted Howard Davis onboard for its design, and that justified it through sound and function, and there are more than enough players out there who would really get off on having top-quality vibe on one side, spring reverb on the other, and the capability to mix and match.
MusicRadar verdict: Two classic effects paired in a practical fashion, and co-habiting happily, the Uni-Verb is a deluxe stompbox with a lot of mojo.
J Rockett Audio Designs Uni-Verb: The web says
"However, it’s probably the Chorus mode that the Uni-Vibe is best known for and it’s a great sound, in a similar ballpark to other four-stage phasers such as the MXR Phase 90 – but it’s distinct from them with a waveform that’s perhaps not quite as uniform and a lovely warm tonality.
'The Intensity knob turns up the signature swooshiness, but you can bring it back from the max setting for a more subdued effect, while the wide speed range runs from a really slow cycle through to the flavour of a fast rotary."
J Rockett Audio Designs Uni-Verb: Hands-on demos
J Rockett Audio Designs
J Rockett Audio Designs Uni-Verb: Specifications
- ORIGIN: USA
- TYPE: Uni-Vibe and reverb pedal
- FEATURES: True bypass
- CONTROLS: Dwell, Reverb, Output, Intensity, Speed, Chorus Mix, internal trim pot for tonal tweaking, Reverb footswitch, Vibrato/Chorus footswitch, Bypass footswitch
- CONNECTIONS: Standard input, standard output, standard send, standard return
- POWER: 9V DC adaptor (not supplied)
- DIMENSIONS: 130 (w) x 122 (d) x 48mm (h)
- CONTACT: J Rockett Audio Designs