Universal Audio UAFX Del-Verb Ambience Companion pedal: What is it?
We've never had it so good with reverb and delay pedals. Yes, they can be pricey but the sounds! Lush, cavernous… celestial goodness. So why is it few pedal companies have ever combined classic reverb and delay algorithms in one easy-to-use compact-ish stompbox?
The cynic in me suspects they may want to sell us two effects pedals instead of one. But in a market responding to the demand for increasingly complex and involved creative stations for our pedalboards, combining so much time-based wonder in one pedal surely means compromise. Well, up steps the might of James Santiago and his Universal Audio team to take on the challenge with the Del-Verb Ambiance Companion. What a reassuring name for a pedal, but can its performance reassure you and your $350 investment?
We've already heard the sounds of the Del-Verb; they are found in two of the models in UAFX's 2021 launch into the pedal market; the Starlight Echo Station delay and the Golden Reverberator. In effect, pardon the pun, the Del–Verb is a greatest hits collection; taking three of the delays and reverb algorithms from each of those aforementioned pedals for each side of this new one. Canny move. Because both the Starlight and Golden Reverberator were up there with the best from Strymon and Walrus Audio in their fields.
So it's a done deal then, we can just give our score and be done with it? Not quite.
The menu here is a delicious decade-straddling proposition; echo from the '60s based on the Echoplex EP-3, Bucket Brigade delay from the '70s based on the EHX Deluxe Memory Man and Universal Audio's own Precision digital delay. On the reverb side we're offered a chambered smorgasbord of Spring '65 (as also featured on the excellent Dream '65 Amp Emulator pedal based on the Fender Deluxe Reverb amp). Alongside it is the Plate 140 modelled on the 600lb EMT 140 studio unit, and the Hall 224 capturing the Lexicon 224 Digital Reverb from the late '70s. Phew!
It's tempting and understandable to ask, what more could you need? And for many the answer will be, 'That will do nicely!' It's also easy to see these as conscious pairings from the UA team; echo and spring, BBD and plate, digital delay and hall. It's certainly a good place to start.
Universal Audio UAFX Del-Verb Ambience Companion pedal: Performance and verdict
We can't help noticing that after its first six pedals, Universal Audio has changed the knob design from silver and black here, and for the other two pedals in this third wave – the Max Preamp & Dual Compressor and Galaxy '74 Tape Echo & Reverb. They're a plainer, bronzey plastic here with the contrast on metallic blue. We like it – UA has delivered another classy-looking addition to your pedalboard.
A cursory glance over the controls starts to reveal the compromises UA has chosen/had to make in order to combine its delay and reverb tech into a single pedal. Most controls are for the delay side of things with only the reverb selection mini toggle and a wet level. That's either worryingly limited or refreshingly streamlined depending on your needs and expectations. The Golden Reverberator is waiting with its Predelay, Mix, Bass, Treble and Modulation parameters for you deeper divers. But yes, it's quite a contrast between the two, and the lack of a Decay control on the Del-Verb is surprising. But Universal Audio has offered a way to address this to some degree, and we'll get to that later.
The delay side of the Del-Verb features the essential Time and Feedback (repeats) that any self-respecting delay pedal requires. That's supported by a Mix control with Color and Modulation parameters that change different elements depending on the reverb model in question. On the face of it this could all amount to a more gig-friendly option for players than the more involved separate delay and reverb pedals Universal Audio offers.
In keeping with the UAFX tradition so far, there's two footswitches. One for Delay and the second for Reverb / Tap. Alarm bells immediately ring for us; is that reverb or tap tempo delay? Because if it is it could mean reverb and delay are tied in to and off/on situation and off if you want tap tempo. A dive into the UAFX Control app is needed to confirm the answer.
The app is available for Android and iOS and, just like it did on the previous UAFX pedals, opens up presets options but most importantly, assigns the footswitch functions. As we found with the Dream '65 pedal, this is crucial to fully customising and exploiting that pedal's potential for your rig. Here it's a source of disappointment.
Like the UAFX pedals before, the Del-Verb doesn't have MIDI. For some that's a dealbreaker. The majority of players won't consider it a problem – the majority not all, before we're pelted with rotten tomatoes by the switching crew. For those players it's an odd omission when many of UA's peers offer it and we agree. What's much more of an issue are hard choices to be made elsewhere.
The Del-Verb pedal doesn't have an onboard preset and this is the first UAFX pedal for us where those two footswitches present a glaring issue at the outset. With the Astra Modulation Machine even one preset didn't feel like enough with all the great sounds it offered. Here you'll have to kneel down and do the changes yourself as there's no quick switch. But that's not the issue we're getting at; where does tap tempo come into play, and are there workarounds?
The answers all lie in the UAFX Control mobile app – paired with the pedal via Bluetooth. Successful connection (and we found the app on an Android smartphone much more temperamental when it came to detecting the pedal compared to iOS) reveals switching options and the ability to turn trails on and off, alongside a huge array of preset 'Voicing' tones that can be attributed to each of the six algorithms – a way of personalising the Del-Verb's delay and reverb choices to your tastes that go beyond the onboard controls.
First up, you can have the two switches set to select reverb and delay on/off or you have reverb and delay activated together and the second switch as tap tempo. Yikes…
It means that you turn both effects on and off with the first switch. Turn the delay off and reverb goes off too. The idea of this pedal providing always-on reverb goes out the window if you need tap tempo delay. That's a huge compromise to have to make, especially as something like the significantly cheaper Nux Atlantic offers tap tempo on the same footswitch as delay on/off. It's a really strange and frustrating limitation to discover here, because this pedal gets so much right elsewhere.
If tap tempo isn't something you use much, you'll be keeping this pedal in stock switchable delay and reverb mode. And this is where it's at, especially when you start perusing the Voicings that bring in extra effects, such as bucket brigade chorus on the EP delay, higher octave repeats on the DMM and ambient modulation on the reverb side – just for starters.
There's lots of extra goodness going on here, and suddenly the scope of the Del-Verb becomes much deeper and wider with these Voicings. It combines wonderfully with the ease of use of the hardware controls.
There's a dizzying stack of stunning sounds on tap – and predelay built into some of those reverb voices – to make your ultimate trios of delay and reverb sounds. The price in this mode feels right for what you get in terms of quality and quantity, and for us it eases the lack of footswitchable preset/s. Just select a Voice and it's automatically added to the pedal, or just switch back to your previous choice. For the range and standard of delay and reverb sounds the Del-Verb is the best delay / reverb combination pedal we've played to date; a high-end set it-and-submerge ticket into gorgeous tones.
As great as the experience is, we can't help but cast our weary eyes into the future and wonder if locking so many integral features behind a Bluetooth mobile app for a pedal could be a slippery slope when it comes to futureproofing, especially compared to your trusty old Memory Man Deluxe. It's a digital conundrum.
We've seen Universal Audio compared to a musician's version of Apple on some guitar forums; in that it's undeniably in the premier league of hardware and software solutions in its fields, but it also comes with a 'this is how we do it, take it or leave it' approach to that proposition. And the two-footswitch with an app approach worked very well for the Dream '65 – and actually expanded on the amp it modelled with its boost modes and presets – but we're not sure about it working so well for everything else. Here that rigid format will limit the Del-Verb for some players. Those sounds though… as we said with the Starlight and Golden Reverberator we will repeat; these are undeniably top-tier tones.
MusicRadar verdict: If tap tempo is crucial for your delay sounds, this pedal is a big compromise. But we also think it's the greatest selection of reverb and delay sounds in one pedal on the market right now. A tale of two effects, but user experiences too, depending on your needs.
Universal Audio UAFX Del-Verb Ambience Companion pedal: The web says
"Distilling the best bits of two other UAFX pedals into one simple unit, the Del-Verb makes so much sense for ambient soundscapers."
Universal Audio UAFX Del-Verb Ambience Companion pedal: Hands-on demos
Universal Audio UAFX Del-Verb Ambience Companion pedal: Specifications
- TYPE: Digital stereo delay and reverb pedal
- ORIGIN: Designed in the USA, made in Malaysia
- CONTROLS: Reverb level, Delay time, Feedback, Mix, Color and Modulation, three-way delay and reverb type selector mini toggle switches; Delay and Reverb or Tap (tempo) bypass footswitches
- FEATURES: Mono / stereo inputs and outputs, USB-C input for firmware updates via UAFX Control desktop app
- BYPASS: Buffered
- POWER: 9V centre-negative power supply (400mA minimum draw, PSU not included)
- CONTACT: Universal Audio