Canadian Musician - July-August 2022 - Page 22

ROAD TEST

Universal Audio UAFX Guitar Pedals

By Adam Gallant

Universal Audio has been expanding its product offerings at a staggering rate . With the recent news of the UAD Spark plug-in subscription service and the latest low-cost Volt audio interfaces , we can assume the number of UAD users is going to grow dramatically in the coming months . So , up for a test this month we have all three of UAD ' s recently-released guitar pedals . These units were developed with an enormous amount of detail . In this article I will give a quick overview of the pedals and offer some details about the iconic studio-inspired sounds each box reflects .

On first impressions these pedals look and feel like boutique pieces of high-end hardware . The cases , switches , knobs , and toggles are all classy , road-worthy , and satisfying to use . Each box offers mono , dual mono , and stereo operational modes . We have two 1 / 4-in . ins and two 1 / 4-in . outputs on each and they require a standard 9V power adapter . The pedals have USB and Bluetooth connectivity for detailed configuration and product registration . Bluetooth connectivity happens via the UAFX Control software , which is available for both IOS and Android devices . This control panel is where users can adjust parameters like Bypass mode types , Preamp Coloration , and the footswitch modes for toggling tempo tapping and the behaviour of the Preset switch ( more on that later ). The software UIs for both the USB and Bluetooth connections are extremely simple and well presented . Also , by registering each pedal , new sounds are instantly opened up for each unit ( more on that in the breakdowns ).
So , what I received for review are the first three pedals released in the UAFX series ; the Golden Reverberator , Starlight Echo Station , and Astra Modulation Machine .
Golden Revererator Lush , inspiring , and versatile , the Golden Reverberator holds five reverb types with up to three effect modes per type . Two of the five reverb types are opened up only once the product is registered . All types are selectable by the left-most toggle switch . In total , we have a Spring reverb , an analog Plate 140 , a Lexicon 224 Hall , 224 Chamber , and a 224 Plate . Essentially , most reverbs one could ever want all in one box , with many sub-parameters for the ultra-tweaky users . The spring sounds are incredibly authentic-feeling , tube-driven spring tanks with three flavours , all selectable via the Effect Mode toggle switch .
The Plates are three unique plate sounds derived from The Plant recording studio in Sausalito , CA . The Lexicon 224 reverbs have all the grainy iconic characteristics found in the studio mainstay .
Starlight Echo Station A library of delay pedals built into one unit , the Starlight Echo Station recreates the most note-worthy delays in recorded music history . We have a tape echo mode , an analog mode ( based on technology referred to as Bucket Brigade — think vintage Memory Man ) and a precision digital mode . Once registered , users will get access to the Cooper Time Cube mode .
For the tape delay setting , we have all the mojo of a vintage Echoplex with none of the maintenance . Users with vintage tape delay experience will be humbled by the Starlight ’ s ability to bring out all the quirkiness found in units of varying levels of ( dis ) repair . Things like transformer hum , tape hiss , tape ware , preamp circuit saturation , tape splice , wow , and flutter have all been incorporated into the sounds of this delay . The analog delay mode is based on late- ’ 70s / early- ’ 80s Memory Man-style circuits . Add in the Mod knob and we have beautiful vibrato and chorus textures . The digital delay mode features modern , studio-grade delay with dynamic modulation effects .
Astra Modulation Machine Timeless , versatile and familiar , the Astra Modulation Machine is a handful of classic modulation units built into one pedal .
Firstly , we have the Chorus Brigade mode : A complete circuit emulation , including the preamp section of the earliest Boss Chorus pedals . The tones are thick , saturated , and rich .
Secondly , the Flanger Doubler is the world ’ s most accurate reproduction of a lesser known unit , the MXR Flanger / Doubler Model 126 . This hardware unit was released in the 1970s and was popularised for guitar by Dimebag Darrell . The sounds created in this mode go way beyond typical flanger boxes . With the mode switch on B , we get a false doubling effect that creates some amazing stereo widening .
Thirdly , we have the Trem 65 , an emulation of the classic Fender circuit . Once registered , this unit will also have a classic MXR Phaser X90 and a Dharma Trem 61 opened up . The sounds from the Astra are classic-feeling and have a breadth of usability from subtle to insane .
All three pedals have two operational modes controlled via the main footswitches : Live mode and Preset mode . Live mode reflects the effect knobs ’ positions , while Preset mode engages the saved preset regardless of the knobs ’ positions . Hardware changes ( knob turns , toggle pulls ) made while in preset mode are automatically saved / updated . This dual operational mode is great , as each pedal can essentially behave as two units , which opens up a massive pallet of sounds .
Universal Audio ’ s guitar pedals have been painstakingly designed to compete with the many boutique FX companies out there . The tones are immediately inspiring while offering an incredible amount of nuance and detail for users looking to get the most iconic guitars tones in recorded history .
Adam Gallant has worked in all facets of digital audio production , from music composition to location and post audio for television and film . He currently owns and operates The Hill Sound Studio in Charlottetown , PE .
22 CANADIAN MUSICIAN