Slow sound is a frequently exploited phenomenon that metamaterials can induce in order to permit wave energy compression, redirection, imaging, sound absorption and other special functionalities. Generally however such slow sound structures have a poor impedance match to air, particularly at low frequencies, and consequently exhibit strong transmission only in narrow frequency ranges. This therefore strongly restricts their application in wave manipulation devices. In this work we design a slow sound medium that halves the effective speed of sound in air over a wide range of low frequencies, whilst simultaneously maintaining a near impedance match to air. This is achieved with a rectangular array of cylinders of elliptical cross section, a microstructure that is motivated by combining transformation acoustics with homogenization. Microstructural parameters are optimised in order to provide the required anisotropic material properties as well as near impedance matching. We then employ this microstructure in order to halve the size of a quarter-wavelength resonator (QWR), or equivalently to halve the resonant frequency of a QWR of a given size. This provides significant space savings in the context of low-frequency tonal noise attenuation in confined environments where the absorbing material is adjacent to the region in which sound propagates, such as in a duct. We term the elliptical microstructure `universal' since it may be employed in a number of diverse applications.