When it comes to guitar effects, everything is quite tangled and difficult to understand. With the abundance of sounds and choices, it is hard to determine which one will be suitable for your music. It takes years of practice to finally understand what you want to do in terms of compositions and how you want to achieve the desired result. Pedals are those devices, that make that job quite easy. They allow you to experiment, layer different effects on top of one another and create something completely unique. Speaking of which, phaser pedals will become your best friend if you want to add a touch of something to your sound but you are struggling to determine what that something should be. It is crucially important to choose the best phaser pedal wisely, because it can improve and ruin your sound equally. Learn how to phase it up and you will become a true guitar virtuoso.
Table of Contents
- 1 Top 10 Best Phaser Pedals
- 1.1 Empress Effects Phaser Guitar Effects Pedal
- 1.2 Moog MF103 Moogerfooger 12 Stage Phaser Effects Pedal
- 1.3 Digitech SP-7 Hardwire Stompbox Stereo Phaser with True Bypass
- 1.4 Walrus Audio Vanguard Dual Phase Pedal
- 1.5 Pigtronix EP2 Envelope Phaser Guitar Effects Pedal
- 1.6 EarthQuaker Devices Grand Orbiter V2 Phase Machine Pedal
- 1.7 TC Electronic Helix Phaser Pedal
- 1.8 Electro-Harmonix Small Stone Nano Analog Phase Shifter Pedal
- 1.9 MXR EVH90 Phase 90
- 1.10 BEHRINGER VINTAGE PHASER VP1
- 2 Conclusion
Top 10 Best Phaser Pedals
History of phase shifting
Back in the day, flanger was often referred as phase shifting in records such as “Itchycoo Park” (1967) by Small Faces. Later, in 1968, Fumio Mieda created a Uni-Vibe effects pedal which combined phase shift and chorus effects. This creation led to the popularization of phase shifting among a lot of leading musicians including Jimi Hendrix and Robin Tower. The important advancement happened in early ‘70s, when this effect was incorporated in a stompbox. One of the first phase pedals was MXR Phase 90, often utilized by Eddie Van Halen (ultimately resulting in their collaboration). He was not the only one, though. Later on, Brian May (“Sheer Heart Attack) and Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead (“Paranoid Android”; “The Tourist”) often relied on this effect to add a unique touch to their music.
Nowadays, when quite a lot of time has passed after phaser’s first steps in music history, we have an abundance of pedals offering this effect. Each of them are unique in their own way and allow you to crank your sound up a notch. In order to fully understand this effect and figure out the best ways of using it, let’s dive into little details that make a big difference in the final end.
What is a stage in a phaser pedal
The biggest part of phasing the sound is the signal processor. It picks up the tones produced by your guitar and splits them up. One of the sections goes through multiple all-pass filters, which are also known as stages. The second part of the signal is left in its pristine condition. After passing all the stages, the parts are put back together, which creates peaks and throughs in the frequency. Each of them has a varied phase and blending them together produces a sweeping effect. Some of them are completely out of phase, which creates a dip in your sound. But when they are in phase, they produce spikes. These two blended together is where the magic happens.
Typically, phaser pedals can have 2, 4, 8, 10, 12 stages. The bigger the number of the stages, the more filters your signal will pass. This varies the amount of peaks and throughs in the frequency. To calculate this number, you should simply split the number of stages in two. Basically, more stages mean more width of phase. However, different circuits respond to the quantity of filters differently. For instance, a two-stage pedal from one brand might do exactly the same as 4 stage one from the other.
Stages are not exactly audible and they are mere mechanisms that contribute to creating phasing effect. This information will help you understand what the stage adjustment knobs do and how they alter your sound. This might be especially interesting for beginners, but sometimes even the professionals neglect the technicality and jump into performance. In my book, understanding even the smallest parts of your pedal will allow you to grasp what you are doing to its core.
How to use a phaser pedal
It is crucially important to know how to use your phaser pedals. Just as with many other effects, improper utilization can result in destroying your sound. All your effort made to saturate your sound with different characteristics will be in vain. If you want to avoid this unpleasant experience, just keep on reading.
First things first, never get overboard. Too much effect is as bad as too little. I know how easy it is to dive into phase shifting and tweak your knobs interminably. But applying excessive amount of Speed or Resonance will result in uneven performance and deprive your sound of integrity and clarity. Finding your silver lining will depend on your instrument, the genre you play and how you play it.
Speaking of which, typically, phasers are used with classic rock music in order to enhance solos, swirl them up or add some girth to them. Check the music of Eddie Van Halen and you will know what I am talking about. This guitar virtuoso basically reinvented the effect and changed the game drastically. Nevertheless, phaser pedals can be utilized with any type of sound if you figure out how to make it work. It will take you some time to match your phase shifting to death metal, but anything is possible.
Now, a bit more about the music styles. Phasers do not really work that great with music played at fast tempo. In that case, this effect will just reduce the definition of a lot of notes. Distortion is not their best friend either, but overdrives benefit from phase shifting a great deal. The main thing is to match the fluctuation of phasers to your rhythm. If you keep this in mind, you will be able to achieve the result you were striving for. Just do not be afraid of experimenting!
Last but not least, the parameter that will affect your sound the most is the tempo. Since phase shifting has audio waves and relies on oscillation, matching everything in time is crucial to create balanced tone. Imagine listening to something that has uneven rhythm and every part of the music is doing its own thing. I am pretty sure you would not enjoy that. Nowadays, many advanced pedals offer tap tempo, which allows you to do all of the abovementioned tweaking with just a tap on the switch. But if your pedal does not have this feature, you will have to set the speed (with Speed/Rate knob) yourself but it will take a lot of time and adjustment.
All in all, phaser pedals are not that easy to use. Even the fanciest pedals with a lot of features require a lot of tweaking and experimenting. But when you think about the unique music you receive with the help of these pedals, all that fuss will fade away into distance and everything will seem worthwhile.
Features of perfect phaser pedal
It is true that you can produce phase effect even with the simplest pedal, but there are features, that make this process easier as well as give you full control over your tones. Let’s discuss some of them and determine, what features define your choice.
I have already discussed the importance of adjustable speed and tempo, so we can skip over that part. I will just say briefly, that they are the prime features you should look for, if you love precision and accuracy in your sound.
Many pedals offer tweakable resonance, which means that you can monitor the rejuvenation of phase shifting and set the higher and lower margins of the frequencies. This way you have a lot of control on hand and the opportunity to shape every single parameter in your tones.
One more cool feature that takes your music to a whole new level is the Blend (sometimes labelled as Mix). It combines your dry and wet signals, meaning that your affected and initial notes will be layered on each other. This creates a unique sound that really stands out among others.
The ability to switch between different types of phase effects will help you a lot as well. This provides you with a lot of versatility by allowing you to choose from vintage or modern phasers. In this case, you can be as adventurous as you want and play with various styles every day. Some might prefer straight forward pedals, but it is a good thing to have an option of changing your music.
This is not very common, but several pedals let you choose between different waveforms. If you are a perfectionist and require a lot of accuracy, there is a high chance you will appreciate this feature. The more settings you adjust yourself, the more tailored your sound will be.
We all want to see the reflection of ourselves in our music. We spend days researching about the controls and adjustments on different pedals so that we can tweak as many features of our sound as possible. This is due to our belief that the reflection of ourselves must be perfect. It does not matter which stomp box you will label as the best phaser pedal. The main thing is to create something of your own, a piece of music that is driven from the bottom of your heart. I believe that our mission as humans is based on that very principle. Go ahead, get yourself the pedal of your dreams and become a creator yourself!