I’ve always been a huge fan of UniVibes. That mysterious haunting tone made famous by Hendrix, Trower and Gilmour is simply irresistible. However, the UniVibe’s large footprint is often a hassle for cramped pedal boards. The Dry Bell Vibe Machine promise to capture all the magic and lure of the classic tones with a few extras under the hood. All in a neat little box suitable for any pedal board. Here’s my review.
To say that I’m a fan of UniVibes is perhaps an understatement. I love them and can’t live without them. Machine Gun, Breathe, Bridge of Sighs… It doesn’t get any better that this. David Gilmour first started using UniVibes in early 1972 when Pink Floyd premiered and toured Eclipse – the suite that would later evolve into Dark Side of the Moon. Years later, the circuit was customized into a rack unit still featured in David’s rig.
The Vibe Machine is housed in a MXR-sized box with true bypass switching and 9V Boss-style adapter power feed. A smaller sized design allows the same four photocells opto-system of the original UniVibe to be fitted into a neat little box. By carefully testing and measuring the physics of the system, Dry Bell has come up with a pedal that’s quite impressive and unique.
The Vibe Machine is loaded with lots of cool features. It has two main controls for intensity, controlling the depth of the sweep, and speed. A mini toggle switch switches between vibrato and the more familiar chorus mode. A second toggle switch switches between bright and original mode. The original mode produces the same lo-fi throbbing sounds of the original UniVibe. The bright mode sets a higher input impedance, boosting the high mids and treble and creates a more dynamic tone that works especially well with low output single coils and large tone draining pedal boards.
Located on the side of the pedal there are three trim pots allowing you to adjust the symetry, the range of the intensity control and the master volume (reduce up to 4dB). There’s also a second input for expression pedal for controlling the speed just like on the original UniVibe. Any expression pedal will do (100 kOhm pot recommended). Inside the pedal there are two jumper switches. One switching between buffered or original Uni-Vibe output circuit and a second switch that sets the speed ramp for the expression pedal just like on a real Leslie.
I’ve lost count over how many different UniVibes I’ve played over the years. Some of them are very true to the original while others offer something different with more or less success. I must admit that I was a bit skeptic when I first heard about the Vibe Machine. Yet another clone cramped into a small box that didn’t live up to its name? Well, I was wrong. This is the real deal.
I’ve always preferred brighter sounding UniVibes. It works best for my setup. However, the original mode sounds incredibly open and lush and blends nicely with overdrives and more aggressive distortions. The bright mode is my favourite though. With the intensity at about noon the Vibe Machine will produce those huge Hendrix tones even on the lowest amp volume levels. Add a bit of tube gain and you’re on your way to Woodstock! As you can hear from the featured clip, the Vibe Machine also manages to stay focused and balanced even at the fastest speed rates.
The Vibe Machine is definitely one of the better UniVibes I’ve played and with its smaller footprint it will be welcomed with cheering applause to my pedal board. Whether you want Gilmour, Hendrix or just a great sounding vibe pedal, the Vibe Machine will deliver! Check out DryBell.Com for more details.
The Vibe Machine was tested for both stage and home setups with a Reeves Custom 50 and a Laney L20 with both single coils and humbuckers.