H. Noble’s Univox guitars were funky and forward-thinking, and they remain so today.
I never seem to get rid of anything, including clothes. I have Vans from the ’80s that my son swears are worth a “ton of money,” and I have t-shirts dating way back. Since I never embraced fads, most of my old clothes are retro cool—according to my daughter, at least. The other day she was going through some aged t-shirts of mine and managed to claim a whole pile as her own. I looked through the shirts she liked, and among them I saw a Univox shirt, which I had totally forgotten about, but I quickly recalled that angular logo. (Man, the Univox Super-Fuzz is still my favorite all-time fuzz pedal.)
Here’s some backstory on the brand. The Unicord Corporation in New York started to import various Japanese models under the Univox name in the early 1960s. Those instruments were made at the rather famous Matsumoku guitar factory in Matsumoto City. Unicord and Univox had a pretty good run and lasted until the mid-’80s, when the Univox brand was phased out and Matsumoku burned down. To be honest, I never really dug most Univox guitars, because I mainly remembered them as ’70s-era copies of other brands. But being the nut that I am, I was able to track down some of the earliest Univox models, which were the brainchildren of a rather creative dude.
At that time, Matsumoku had two employees who played guitar and really dove into the factory’s new endeavor.
Let’s take a trip back to 1964. Matsumoku was ending business with the Singer sewing machine company. Basically, Matsumoku was a wood-crafting facility that made the cabinets for Singer. (I even have a Matsumoku-made cabinet and sewing machine in my house.) Also in Matsumoto, Fujigen was starting its guitar line and soon had instruments made at Matsumoku. By all accounts, Matsumoku, which had plenty of old, properly dried wood, had an easy transition from manufacturing cabinets to making some good-looking guitars. Not always super playable—but cool nonetheless.
Matsumoku had two employees who played guitar and really dove into the factory’s new endeavor. An older designer named Noritkatsu Harayama created parts such as the infamous tremolo/bridge unit found on many Matsumoku-made axes. Harayama later went on to become a master guitar-neck maker, and his work was featured on many ESP, Kramer, Schechter, and Moon models. The other employee at Matsumoku was Nobuaki Hayashi. Let me tell you, H. Noble (as he calls himself) is a mad genius. His current company is Atlansia Guitars. If you want your mind blown, check out his creations. Back in 1964, H. Noble was filling notepads with guitar-design ideas. Tragically, most of his coolest never saw life. But the two early Univox electrics in this column’s photos offer some insight into the man’s vision.
The headstock on the UC 6-string sports some subtle flair at the end, but the entire body shape and split pickguard reveal an eye for the original.
Now, I don’t know the exact model names, but many of the Univox guitars were called UC-2 or UC-1. Check out the design on these. I don’t even know how to describe them. The headstock shape with the little stack on the end, the double cutaways like two big horns, the sweeping lower bout.… Those pickups were in-house jobbies and always play with sizzle. The controls were totally simple volume/tone knobs with a 3-way switch.
Every time I’ve visited Japan, I met with H. Noble, which is not an easy task. He’s a great person with a superb mind. He’s very thoughtful and soft-spoken, and he values his time. I also visited the site of the Matsumoku factory, which is now a lovely park. There’s so much history to cover with Matsumoku, Univox, and H. Noble that I could probably fill a good-sized book with what I know. But for today, let’s give a nod to all these fine people, and to my daughter who gave me another idea for another column.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Flare is a dual-function pedal with a tube-like booster and a 1970s-style ring modulator effect that can be played separately or together.
Flare’s ring modulator is based on the iconic tone of the original Dan Armstrong Green Ringer. This vintage classic was made famous by Frank Zappa who loved the unusual modulations created by generating a harmonic octave over notes. Messiah’s version offers two control knobs: a “Sparkle” tone attenuator and output Level control. Its taupe-gold body, purple and green knobs and stick-figure rock ’n’ roller holding up a flame convey an appropriately rockin’70s vibe.
In a unique twist, Messiah’s Flare pairs the ringer with a warm tube-style boost instead of a fuzz. Flare feeds the booster into the ringer for an extra punch, while preserving the Green Ringerspirit. The ringer side also turns any fuzz into an octafuzz, and it has the ability to quiet signal background noise fed through it.
The booster side features a single Boost knob to control the MOSFET circuit, making it very tube-amp-friendly with a warm, organic boost and gain of up to 32dB.
The pedal is a distinct improvement over the 1970s pedal that inspired it. “Most ringer pedals don’t track well,” Tom Hejda, owner of Messiah Guitars. “The player can’t rely on repeating the same effect even with the most consistently played notes. We carefully matched the components, so our ringer follows your every move, producing that slightly dirty octave you expect on demand.”
Messiah developed this vintage octave pedal with flexible features so that people who love that messy, dirty Zappa-esque sound can get there with ease but there’s also something for those who have not fallen in love with fuzz or the Green Ringer alone. Flare offers an array of sonic options while retaining simplicity in the controls.
Each Flair Pedal Includes:
- 3 control knobs: Boost, Sparkle, and Level
- Two effects – Ring Modulator and Boost – can be used together or separately
- Space-saving top side jacks
- Durable, cast aluminum alloy 125B enclosure with fun artwork
- Easy to see, illuminated True-bypass foot switch
- Standard 9V pedal power input
Flare Pedal Demo
Messiah Guitars pedals are designed with an explorative player in mind. Like their custom guitars and amplifiers, Messiah’s pedals are hand-crafted in Los Angeles for a long life with guaranteed quality.
Flare retails for $199.00 and can be purchased directly at Messiah Guitars or you can hear it in person at Impulse Music Co. in Canyon Country, CA.
For more information, please visit messiahguitars.com.
This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal.
If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and QUACKS like a duck, then it must be a duck. That's how we came up with the name for our new envelope filter. This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal. Trevor explains how this is possible in the launch video, as well as gives a demo on Le Canard’s operation.
The attack control determines how quickly the filter responds to the envelope, and the decay sets how quickly the filter releases afterward. The range controls which frequency spectrum the filter does its magic on. Add to this relay-based full-bypass switching with failsafe, and you've got one crazy little quacky beast. It is so expressive that you'll want to give up on your rocker-wah forever.
The MayFly Le Canard envelope filter features:
- Super fast responding envelope follower. Touch it and it jumps!
- Range control to dial in the character of the filter
- Attack control to control how fast the filter moves on that first touch
- Release control to control how slowly the filter slides back to baseline
- Full bypass using relays with Fail SafeTM (automatically switches to bypass if the pedal loses power)
- Cast aluminum enclosure with groovy artwork
- MSRP $149 USD ($199 CAD)
Introducing the MayFly Le Canard Envelope Filter
All MayFly pedals are hand-made in Canada.
For more information, please visit mayflyaudio.com.
Outlaw Effects introduces their next generation of NOMAD rechargeable battery-powered pedal boards.
Available in two sizes, NOMAD ISO is a compact, versatile tool that offers the convenience of a fully powered board plus the additional freedom of not having to plug into an outlet. NOMAD ISO is ideal for stages with limited outlet availability, quick changeovers, busking outdoors, temporary rehearsal locations, and more.
NOMAD ISO builds upon the legacy of the ultra-convenient and reliable NOMAD rechargeable pedalboard line originally launched in 2018. The brand new NOMAD ISO editions feature eight isolated outputs (1 x 9V DC, and 1 switchable 9V/12V DC) for even more versatility and clean, quiet power. With an integrated lithium-ion battery pack boasting 12800mAh capacity, NOMAD ISO can fuel a wide array of pedals, and will last over 10 hours* on a single charge.
Each NOMAD ISO pedal board includes adhesive hook & loop pedal-mounting tape, eight (8) standard DC connector cables, and one (1) reverse polarity DC cable, giving you everything you need to build your ultimate "off-the-grid" rig. A rugged, road-ready padded gig bag with shoulder strap is also included, to safely protect your gear while you're on the move.
NOMAD ISO S
NOMAD ISO S: MSRP $309 / MAP: $249
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 5 ¼"
NOMAD ISO M
NOMAD ISO M: MSRP $349 / MAP $279
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 11"
More info: https://www.outlawguitareffects.com.