The Universal Audio Astra Modulation Machine

Stately Shimmer
The Universal Audio Astra Modulation Machine
Price: $399

Famous for well-regarded interfaces, plug-ins, and vintage-gear emulations, Universal Audio has entered the pedal business with the Astra Modulation Machine, Starlight Echo Station, and Golden Reverberator. Each has an array of effect types modeled after a specific piece of gear, has a global control for each mode, and offers a variety of sounds that can be accessed via toggle switch.

The dual-processing engine housed inside a rock-solid box endeavors to replicate period-correct sonics. The Starlight Echo Station offers tape delay, modulation bucket-brigade analog delay, and digital delay, while the Golden Reverberator dials up classic amp-style spring, plate, hall, and chamber reverb.

The third in the line-up is the Astra Modulation Machine with its warm bucket-brigade chorus, flanging, and tremolo. The Astra Modulation Machine is a trip back in time to the cool studio flanger sounds of the ’70s. It’s lush, warm, and gritty, offering Boss Chorus, MXR phasing, and tube-style tremolo with additional modes for vibrato and a doubler effect. All three UA pedals have stereo inputs and outputs with buffered and true-bypass selections, optional trails, and silent switching. It even allows storage for presets and has a USB input for downloading additional effects from Universal Audio. In stereo, you can use the Mode knob to switch between classic routing and stereo separation.

When set up in stereo, the Flanger-Doubler mimics the sound of the old MXR studio flangers. Dial-in anything from whooshing jet plane sounds to guitar presets for a Police reunion concert. It nails the tones of the ’80s but warms up nicely for ’70s sounds. And the Trem 65 toggle setting yields classic Fender blackface tremolo tones but with more control.

The Astra Modulation Machine shimmers, stutters, and returns notes like a boomerang. Universal Audio’s pedals ain’t cheap, but if you want rackmount gear in pedal form, this is state-of-the-art.

This article originally appeared in VG’s September 2021 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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