I have to confess that I used to be a touch confused between Chorus/Vibrato and Vibe/Uni-Vibe effects. In certain pedals there is a degree of overlap, but generally a genuine Uni-Vibe pedal is actually a sort of phaser / phase-shifter whose effect is generated by bulb-driven photocell modulation. The original Shin-Ei Uni-Vibe was developed in around 1967/8 to replicate the Leslie / Rotary Speaker sound. While it did not come nearly close enough to achieving that effect, it did nonetheless create a lovely rich syrupy modulation all of its own - that was soon picked up by guitar luminaries like Jimi Hendrix of course.
On to modern times then there are a number of ways currently to generate the same kind of swirly modulation, but the older core photocell methodology is still the best loved here, and most of those in this listing are of that type.
I have considered several of these before although I own only one to date, and it’s of the digital rather than photocell variety - the DigiTech Ventura Vibe. I specifically acquired this for its stereo rotary effect, which is not quite syrupy enough for my liking, but this pedal is a decent proposition overall - I just feel there are several others which are better sounding. One of the key reasons for getting the Ventura Vibe is its stereo output - there are only 3 such in the listing - the also digital TC Electronic Viscous Vibe and the genuine analog photocell variety - the Dawner Prince Viberator which I have come close to acquiring on a number of occasions.
I’m generally not a fan of over-sized single effect pedals - so I’ve stuck to the Compact and Medium size enclosure versions. The larger ones here include the DLS Effects Versa Vibe, Electro-Harmonix Cool Vibes, recently shrunken Fulltone V2 DejàVibe, JAM Pedals RetroVibe and Retroman Uber Vibe - all of the genuine photocell type. I particularly like the Fulltone and Retroman pedals here with their easily accessible larger Speed/Rate dials which you can manipulate with your foot. I would really have preferred a separate tap-tempo footswitch on one of these - but the JHS is unique in offering that!
Of the remaining selection, the actual licensed and branded Dunlop/MXR is not a photocell variety, but an analog JFET circuit which tries to replicate the same. The final 3 - the much loved DryBell Vibe Machine, EarthQuaker Devices’ The Depths and JHS’s Unicorn Vibe V2 are all proper photocell varieties. Each of these has a loyal following, but I would lean towards the really innovative and recently ’compacted’ JHS Unicorn - the only one here with tap-tempo.
I’m a huge fan of the Uni-Vibe effect, but I’m struggling to find the pedal that is exactly right for me - ideally I want one that is stereo-capable and has tap-tempo. I have long been juggling my preferences between the Viberator, Vibe Machine and Unicorn Vibe - I still can’t quite decide which is right for me - all those are excellent, possibly the JHS just nips it?
Pedals are listed alphabetically be brand:
This is currently the most formidable of the stereo uni-vibe types - and has plenty more features besides - including of course Chorus/Vibrato and Vintage/Modern switches. The one thing holding me back here really is the lack of easy rate adjustment - via either a larger foot-controllable dial, or better still - a separate tap-tempo footswitch. Other than that this is a really great sounding Vibe - particularly in stereo setup.
As mentioned, this is the only one in the listing I currently possess, it has 3 modes - Vintage Vibe, Modern Vibrato and Rotary. I acquired this as a more compact alternative to my main Tech 21 NYX RotoChoir effect, but it was not quite rich or syrupy enough for my liking. It's a great rather subtle and understated effect, but lacks the sheer dynamism of most of these other genuine analog photocell versions.
I've featured DLS before for its RotoSpin and RotoSim effects, and it's hardly a stretch progressing to Vibe type - via the Versa Vibe. You get a lot of parameters here - Depth, Rate, Blend, Volume, Waveform and Bass Throb dials, alongside Modern/Vintage and Vibrato/Chorus switches. No doubt a great sounding classic vibe type pedal, but could really have done with the Rate dial as a bigger knob in a more accessible location, or a second tap-tempo footswitch.
This Croatian-made pedal has so many fans, and has all manner of smart trim-pots and secondary / alternative functions that it would take a sizeable post to convey all of this pedals features. It is frequently bought with its mini companion pedal - for speed/ramping and other functions. I personally would prefer dual footswitches on the same unit - and I really want stereo outputs. Other than that this is one of the best Vibe pedals available anywhere - and I've been tempted several time to add to the collection.
I'm always slightly surprised that the authentically named, licensed product does not actually make use of the genuine bulb/photocell circuit type that most of the best loved ones do. Dunlop/MXR have still done their best to make this an authentic analog experience, and using a JFET type circuit the get you pretty close to the sound of the original - I still think I would have preferred a more authentic core circuit though - but many are very happy with this. Note that Dunlop also has the rather large for me, but eminently useful RotoVibe (£229) where the Vibe is in the form of a rocker/wah style pedal with the treadle controlling the speed/rate parameter. I am patiently waiting for Dunlop to shrink the form factor into its more compact range of Wah-style pedals!
This is a superbly controllable and rich, syrupy genuine photocell circuit with 5 controls - Intensity, Rate, Voice, Level and Throb. It does pretty much everything you might want - bar having a tap-tempo footswitch and stereo outputs. This is a really great example of the genre and somewhat overlooked of late.
EHX have a great knack of producing affordable but really capable pedals. This is a fairly simple design, but based on the genuine photocell circuit, and rewarding rich and syrupy. Has a neat toggle switch control to apply either Speed or Intensity via additional expression pedal - nothing to complain about really at this price.
Fulltone has had quite the reputation of producing some of the very best modern, genuine photocell Vibe pedals. This latest version slims down the form factor significantly to a square-ish medium format enclosure. The usual 3 dials and Modern/Vintage and Vibrato/Chorus switches - what sets this one apart though is the size and placement of the Speed dial - large and in the bottom right hand corner for easy foot-manipulation on the fly. The Sweet Sound Mojo Vibe has a very similar layout and form factor - with larger speed control in bottom right hand corner - which more should take up really if they aren't going to deploy tap-tempo.
This Medium Enclosure pedal is the simplest derivation here - another great sounding genuine photocell style circuit with just Depth and Speed dials and Chorus/Vibrato switch. With all that real-estate they should really have made the Speed dial a lot bigger - a la Fulltone and Sweet Sound. Great sounding pedal though no doubt.
Of all of these, the newish V2 Unicorn is probably my pick of the bunch - being a great sounding genuine photocell circuit with the unique addition of tap-tempo footswitch and sub-divisions, all in a compact form factor. The only thing missing for making this my absolute perfect Uni-Vibe of choice is the lack of stereo outputs - which limits the pedal's placement in my pedal-chain.
The less well known Retroman has created a really smart take on the Vibe - utilising the classic photocell circuit, but with 4 frequency filters to accentuate the waveforms. It's also found a slightly different solution to the Speed dial - going with the larger form factor but placing it on the side of the unit for ultimate foot-accessibility - this does eat up some more real-estate so I'm sort of on the fence on this execution versus that of the Fulltone and Sweet Sound - it's another great sounding and slightly unusual Vibe pedal though.
And finally the lowest cost offering here, but with a handful of really useful TonePrint options for sculpting that perfect Vibe sound - albeit in digital DSP format versus the classic analog photocell approach. That said, the Viscous Vibe sound suitably rich and syrupy, and does come equipped with stereo outputs - as well as a slightly larger Speed dial for sort of accessible foot-control. I still feel that TC Electronic should be glancing over their shoulder at Alexander Pedals - and what they're doing with dual footswitches and secondary functions in the same form factor. For the price though you can't quibble, and considering it's digital, it really sounds very good.
I've obviously limited the roster to my favourite 12, as there are plenty more available besides - including the Lovepedal Pickle Vibe Mini Analog Univibe (£147), the not-long-discontinued Mojo Hand FX Villanova Vibe (c£140), and the Sweet Sound Mojo Vibe ($229/£185) which is superficially quite similar to the updated Fulltone Dejà Vibe which I prefer overall.
I feel that the above 12 are the best representatives of this genre, although there is not one yet quite perfect for my own requirements - which include tap-tempo and stereo outputs. My 3 favourites here are the Dawner Prince Viberator, DryBell Vibe Machine V2, and JHS Unicorn Vibe V2. I've considered each before several times, and while I'm leaning towards the JHS Unicorn right now - I still really like the look of the Viberator and Vibe Machine - if either of those had a second footswitch for tap-tempo I would be hard-pressed to make a decision.
I also have the quandary that I really like Chorus, Flanging and Phasing - so I'm hard pressed as to which existing modulation slot I would sacrifice to accommodate the Uni-Vibe. I guess I could really do with a combined Vibe/Phaser pedal which gave me all the options I need. For now, I'm still waiting for the perfect Vibe pedal for me - although I might still acquire the JHS Unicorn for sometime rotation and experiments in the mono half of the pedal-chain.