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Universal Audio’s UAFX Brigade: an elegant take on the OG chorus pedal

UAFX’s scaled-down effects have struggled to find their place in the market, but this CE-1 emulation feels much more like a step in the right direction.

Universal Audio UAFX Brigade, photo by Adam Gasson

Universal Audio UAFX Brigade. Image: Adam Gasson

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Review Overview

Our rating

8

Our verdict

Great sounds
Built-in preamp
Excellent build quality
Expensive
No stereo output

The Brigade makes the most sense of all UAFX’s compact pedals to date, and this is a useful and great-sounding chorus that will provide all the CE-1-flavoured sounds most of us would ever want.

$219/£189, universalaudio.com

Last year I checked out the first tranche of Universal Audio’s entry into the compact pedal game, and to be quite honest I was left a little underwhelmed. Broadly speaking, the pedals felt too expensive and too limited in their utility compared to the larger multi-sound units that they were derived from.

All that meant that candidly, I’ve not been falling over myself to check out the second drop of small-form pedals, which arrived at the tail end of 2023, but this Brigade caught my eye, because it makes a lot more sense to me as a customer.

I struggled to see why you would want to spend $200 on the Heavenly Plate Reverb, because who just needs plate reverb? Conversely, there are plenty of people who just want a great sounding vintage chorus pedal, but don’t need the flange and tremolo sounds of the Astra Modulation Machine – for them, the Brigade offers a more affordable and functional route into the UAFX game.

UAFX Brigade knobs, photo by Adam Gasson
UAFX Brigade knobs. Image: Adam Gasson

What is the UAFX Brigade?

In the most basic of terms, the Brigade is a high-end digital recreation of Boss’ legendary CE-1 Chorus Ensemble – i.e.  the OG chorus pedal and the sound of countless 80s (and 80s-influenced) bands. The Brigade has been a popular UA plugin for some time and was one of the stars of Astra, which remains one of the most versatile UAFX pedals around.

The CE-1 was of course an all-analogue Bucket Brigade chip fiesta, hence the name here, but it’s worth noting that like the rest of the UAFX range, you won’t find anything analog here when you pop the back – the Brigade is effectively a pedal-based interface for the plugin of the same name.

Is the UAFX Brigade well made?

Like the other UAFX compact pedals, the Brigade makes use of a rugged smooth-edged steel chassis with a soft-touch footswitch and three chunky knobs with lovely travel and resistance – it certainly feels robust and reassuring.

You get switches on the top to select either true or buffered bypass, as well as one to turn off an emulation of the CE-1’s preamp – a nice little bonus to have for sure. Power is via standard 9V barrel only, and you’ll need at least 250mA to get this thing firing.

There’s also a USB-C port for firmware updates, and mercifully the much-maligned UAFX app is nowhere to be seen here – what you see on the pedal is what you get.

More controversially, however, the pedal features mono input and output jacks – there’ll be no stereo chorus sounds here, which will be an understandable instant deal-breaker for stereo-rig enthusiasts.

UAFX Brigade footswitch, photo by Adam Gasson
UAFX Brigade footswitch. Image: Adam Gasson

How does the UAFX Brigade sound?

You know what a CE-1 sounds like right? Robert Smith, Andy Summers, Alex Lifeson… more latterly The 1975, The War On Drugs, Tame Impala… look it’s the chorus sound we’re all thinking of in our heads, and the Brigade does a really impressive job of replicating the warm analogue bath of the CE-1.

In fact, if you told me that it was genuine Bucket Brigade chips producing those wonderfully warm undulations and shimmers, I wouldn’t bat an eyelid – as digital chorus emulations go, this is up there with the very best. The preamp is also a nice bonus to have, adding a bit of body and edge to the sound without colouring things too heavily.

Should you buy a UAFX Brigade?

The elephant in the room here is Boss’ own CE-2W – an impressive beast that does a similarly pitch-perfect rendition of the CE-1, but is all-analogue, has stereo outs and costs just $20 more than the Brigade.

But if you don’t really care about that stuff, and just want a great-sounding, seriously rugged and elegant take on an iconic sound, you should make a quick march to the Brigade’s HQ.

UAFX Brigade input and output jacks, photo by Adam Gasson
UAFX Brigade input and output jacks. Image: Adam Gasson

UAFX Brigade Alternatives

As mentioned above, for a lot of people the CE-1 conversation will begin and end with the Waza Craft Boss CE-2W ($219/£219). If you want a similar vibe with analogue sounds, Walrus Audio’s Julia V2 ($219/£189) is an excellent choice, as is Keeley’s Seafoam+ ($199). If you want analogue sound but LOTS of chorus options, Mad Professor’s Double Moon (€243) has been a fixture on my board for a while now.

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