Flange is known to be one of the most hated effects. Why, you might wonder. The reason for this is as simple as it can get: it tends to overpower your sound quite a bit, meaning that your tone will be hard to control. However, if you are up for a challenge, this effect will completely change everything you know about music. Flange can be quite intense, but if you master it, you will end up with mesmerizing results. There are a lot of confusing things to consider while utilizing this bad boy, but do not worry, that is why I am here. In the following article, I will try to explain the flangers in the easiest way possible, give you a little tour through time and provide you with some tips and tricks on how to use them. Are you ready to accept the challenge? If so, follow me in the world of the best flanger pedals and enjoy the ride!
Table of Contents
- Top 10 Best Flanger Pedals
- MXR EVH117 Flanger Guitar Effects Pedal
- Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Electric Mistress XO Guitar Flanger
- Source Audio SA240 Mercury Flanger Effect Pedal
- Boss BF-3 Flanger Guitar Effects Pedal
- TC Electronic Vortex Flanger Pedal
- MXR M152 Micro Flanger
- Mooer Eleclady Classic Analog Flanger
- Donner Jet Convolution – Classical Analog Rolling Flanger
- Joyo JF-07 Classic Flanger Guitar Effect Pedal
- Nady FL-10 Flanger Pedal
Top 10 Best Flanger Pedals
|MXR EVH117 Flanger Guitar Effects Pedal||(4.9 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Electric Mistress XO Guitar Flanger||(4.9 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|Source Audio SA240 Mercury Flanger Effect Pedal||(4.9 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|Boss BF-3 Flanger Guitar Effects Pedal||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|TC Electronic Vortex Flanger Pedal||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|MXR M152 Micro Flanger||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|Mooer Eleclady Classic Analog Flanger||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|Donner Jet Convolution - Classical Analog Rolling Flanger||(4.7 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|Joyo JF-07 Classic Flanger Guitar Effect Pedal||(4.7 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|Nady FL-10 Flanger Pedal||(4.7 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
What does a flanger pedal do?
Flanging is an audio effect that occurs as a result of merging two signals together. It is created by messing with delays: one part of the sound is detained by a certain amount of time, which fluctuates slowly. This way a sweeping is produced, generating the feel of the comb filters – the frequency spectrum is altered by varying peaks and notches. The movement of the effect is dynamic and gradual, which develops a distinctive sound. Oftentimes, the wet signal (the output) is put back in to the input and creates a resonance (a.k.a. feedback). This deepens the sound even more and increases the amount of peaks and troughs in the frequency. Sometimes the phase of the wet signal is altered as well. These subsequently results in producing an array of sonic possibilities. As a pedal, a flanger does the same thing. It mixes up two delayed signals that are harmonic in nature.
History of flange
Back in the day, the most popular way of producing the effect was by manually altering the playback of different sources. This was made possible by using the tape machines to which the music was recorded concurrently. This sound was then played again in sync, which was ultimately fed back to a third recorder. One of them was slowed down by the engineer with the help of a tiny rim (a.k.a. flange). This way the classic “swoosh” or “sweeps” were created. It had one direction and would get mixed up with the other signal that was subtly behind when releasing the rim. By pressing it one more time, the flange would move in the opposite direction whilst the decks aspired to being in sync. This technique is hugely associated with the name The Beatles and their producer George Martin. The first usage of the effect can be found on the record “Tomorrow Never Knows” (1966). Since John Lennon and his band were big names back then, the popularization of the term still remains acquainted to their name. It was all thanks to Ken Townsend, who created an Artificial Double Tracking (ADT) system, which made it possible to deliver the effect with little to no effort.
Flanging was a sort of an imperfection, a fault that would take place while recording long tracks in studio. In ‘60s and ‘70s, studio engineers suffered a great deal with this problem. Basically, the pioneering recording machines could not handle such a vast amount of tracks and tended to create a flanging in dubbing. As you can see, this effect (now beloved by so many guitarist) was a badger and getting rid of it was not a child’s play.
However, there is a recurring controversy about the origins of the effect. No one really knows who was the first to invent the flange. One of the names that often comes up during this dispute is Les Paul. He was among those who have the right to claim the “ownership” of the discovery (somewhere between ‘40s and ‘50s). It is true, though, that the effect he used resembled phase shifting, since he utilized different disks on recorded and would play with altered speed (for instance, “Nuevo Laredo” and “Mammy’s Boogie”).
Furthermore, the claims continued. Toni Fisher’s “The Big Hurt” (1959) widely benefited from flange. David S. Gold and Stan Ross, who recorded this track, state that they were the ones who created the first commercial recording. One way or another, the effect was quickly caught on by various guitarist and became ubiquitous in a short time. Later recordings, such as “Itchycoo Park” by The Small Faces and “Bold as Love” by Jimi Hendrix also feature flanging.
Things took a new turn after the development of Bucket Brigade Delay (BBD) chips in 1969. As a result, Eventide developed the first flanger in 1974. This led to the popularization of rack-mounted flangers and the utilization of the BBDs in almost every unit. For this reason, no one really knows when and where the first flanger pedal was created. Anyways, nothing can interfere with the solid fact that ‘80s were the flourishing era for the effect and had a great impact on shaping the music industry of today.
What is the big difference between phase shifting and flange?
Let’s start off by saying that phase shifting and flange are not the same. The difference between them is not that audible, but they add individual shades to your tone. Imagine that you are choosing between red and pink, they both fall into the same category of warm colors but technically they are far cry from each other. The same goes with phase shifting and flange. Let me define them separately in order to make the distinction more noticeable.
Phasing is an effect which is created by the interference of the signal with all-pass filters. When it passes through the different stages of those filters, the phase of it changes. The altered tone is then added back to the original sound. This creates peaks and troughs in the frequency that are not in sync with each other. To illustrate more clearly, imagine a comb with teeth that are placed in tangled order and are spaced from each other differently.
Flanging, on the other hand, is the mixture of the original signal and the replica of itself that is delayed in time. To put it simply, everything here is in harmony and resembles a regular comb with even teeth. The peaks and troughs are in order as well. Both of these effects have the same characteristics and parameters, but flanging creates a more jet-like swirl.
This might seem like a meticulous thing at first glance, but knowing the distinction between your effects is an essential part of quality performance. When you know what each of them does and how, you turn into a sound engineer yourself and have the ability to shape your sound on a professional level. However, flanging belongs to the family of more difficult effects, meaning that you have to know exactly how to use them. I will show you certain ways of utilization of these pedals, so that you have a general idea what to do with them.
How to use flanger pedals
First of all, it is crucially important to give flanger pedals the right place in your signal chain. We do not want to get a muddy sound with no audible character that resembles noise. We just want to achieve that extra texture and extreme sonic range that this effect provides us with. For this reason, there are certain simple “rules” to follow. If you want your sound to be saturated with Van Halen tones or simply be intense as hell, you should put your flanger after distortion pedals. This way you will add that jet swirl to a distorted signal, make it thicker and deeper. However, this is not an easy job and will require a lot of practice, since distortion is already a tricky thing on its own. Now, if you want to maintain a subtle flange with its beautiful swirls and sweeps, you should place the pedal before overdrives and fuzzes.
Second of all, you should always find your silver lining. Getting overboard with the effect can result in depriving your sound of its character, definition and clarity. While the right amount of flange will open up a bunch of new possibilities, its extensive utilization can ruin your sound. Do not forget, though, that these above mentioned rules are not set in stone. They are based on the general idea of how things have worked in the past. You might be someone who will turn the music world upside down by forgetting all the “commands”. There is only one rule here: never stop experimenting!
Last but not least, even the simplest flanger comes with a set of four controls: Rate (Speed), Depth (Width or Range), Manual and Regen (Resonance or Feedback). Knowing what each of them does is the key to understanding the effect itself. Let’s dig in and discuss in depth the functions of these knobs.
Rate: there is nothing that special and difficult about this one, however, it is one of the essentials when it comes to creating well-structured flange. This knob messes with the frequency of the audio wave, which means it modifies the speed of the effect. This is the parameter which pretty much defines the flange itself. At lower settings, you will get a subtle effect and vice versa.
Depth: this knob lets you control the intensity of the effect. It allows you to be as precise as possible and add just the right amount of the effect to your sound. It also determines how organic the flange will be. Turning this knob clockwise will result in more artificial and intense effect and saturate your sound with that swirl. In other words, Depth changes the amplitude of the low-frequency oscillator (LFO).
Manual: this one sets the frequency to which the effect is applied. To put it simply, it sets the center point of the sweep. Manual and depth are quite interactive. The more you enhance the latter, the less effective the former becomes. Again, at higher settings, it can really change your tone and give you an extreme ethereal flange.
Regen: this knob modifies the amount of feedback added back to your sound. Though this is not the exact replica of that original tape flanger, but it takes after its predecessor quite a bit. This control defines the effect even more and gives you a lot of room for creating something unique.
One more thing that plays a huge role in creating this effect is the delay time. It ranges from 0.5 to 10ms. This is what makes flange so versatile. Modifying the delay time results in creating either filter or pitch effects. Thanks to comb filtering, this effect can do pretty much everything.
Congrats, my friend, you have finally made it till the end. I hope this journey was not too tiring for you. I tried my best to give you all the information you need in order to find the best flanger pedal and use it properly. One last piece of advice from me: take as many risks as you can, because you will not have another chance to shine. Experiment with your effects pedals and create something ethereal. Consider my suggestions, but never forget to find your own unique way in everything. Flange is scary at first, but it will be a piece of cake after some time. Plus, you have to be a real pro to use this effect. Hesitate no more, fella, you have amazing musical adventures ahead of you. Show the world who is the boss! Good luck!