The original Shin-ei Uni-Vibe was a curious pedal. Originally conceived as a rotary speaker emulation, it might have faded into oblivion if it weren’t for artists such as Jimi Hendrix using it on a number of his classic records, including the song ‘Little Wing’. But it ended up being very much its own thing, and we’re now in the situation where an original costs a fortune and a large number of pedal manufacturers are building their own vibe-alikes. With both chorus and vibrato modes, the Uni-Vibe was based on four photocells arranged around a pulsating light. Because the four stages didn’t perform in an identical way, the resulting modulation had a slightly ‘lumpy’ quality, which became a key component of the Uni-Vibe sound. While one of its modes is called ‘chorus’, the circuitry and sound of the Uni-Vibe is actually far more closely related to that of a phaser.
The Berkeley pedal, from UK-based manufacturers Horrothia, aims to recreate the vintage Uni-Vibe sound but it’s not an outright clone. For starters, although the signal path is entirely analogue — it’s largely faithful to the original design, with some tweaks in line with popular mods — the LFO is digital, and Horrothia say that this models the behaviour of the original. Also, there are three internal trim pots allowing the user to revoice the sound to their own liking, by adjusting the wet/dry balance (when in chorus mode), the input impedance, and the voicing, which goes from following the LFO width and depth contours of the original to a wider, deeper effect.
Built into a cast case, the Berkeley is designed to stand up to the rigours of touring. Power comes from a centre-negative, external 9V supply, which is not included. The pedal sports a large footswitch, a very large indicator lamp and a 3.5mm TRS expression pedal input for remote control over the modulation speed. A rocker switch selects chorus or vibrato modes (vibrato simply kills the dry part of the sound), with three main knobs governing rate, intensity and volume. In both Vintage and True Bypass modes, when the effect is engaged the large indicator lights green. In Vintage mode, when bypassed this indicator turns red, but it doesn’t light at all when bypassed in True Bypass mode, which is selected by holding down the footswitch as you plug in the power supply. Note that in True Bypass mode the volume knob affects only the effected sound, whereas in Vintage mode, which leaves a buffer in circuit (as did the original Uni-Vibe), the volume control works on both the effected and bypassed sounds. A smaller white LED pulsates at the current modulation rate.
The Berkeley produces a very convincing Uni-Vibe effect.
As set up at the factory, the Berkeley produces a very convincing Uni-Vibe effect that matches very closely what you hear on tunes such as Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Little Wing’ and Pink Floyd’s ‘Breathe’. There’s a small amount of circuit noise that modulates along with the sweep rate, but nothing excessive. Having the option to control the speed via an expression pedal makes rotary speaker emulations more realistic, but for me it’s the slow, languorous sweeps that deliver the most attractive sounds.
All in all, then, the Berkeley is a very capable modern take on the Uni-Vibe that still delivers the vintage sound character and is built to survive life on the road. Being able to tweak the sound to your liking via the internal trimmers is a thoughtful inclusion that makes this pedal a touch more versatile than many other vibe-alikes.
£370 including VAT.
$370 (about $470).