It came to us in the ‘60s and changed the guitar sound forever. Most of the times, it looks pretty simple; it has few controls and takes up very little space. While few guitarists keep it on at all times, most of them consider it a must-have for their pedalboard. I am talking of course about the phaser pedal, one of the most complex, yet most influential guitar effects.
Since its beginning in psychedelic records, the phaser pedal has shaped the sound of various guitar gods, such as Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen, and has worked well with different music genres. Phase shifting has also been used a lot in other instruments, such as keyboards, bass guitar, and even vocals.
More than half a century after its initial release, hundreds of phaser pedals are available on the market. Finding the right one for you can be hard with so many options to choose from and so many things to consider: controls, filters, analog or digital technology… To help you out, I have gathered for you the 8 best phaser pedals to get your pedalboard on another level!
8 Best Phaser Pedal Reviews 2020
1. MXR EVH90 Phase 90 – Best In A Budget
It is impossible to make a list of the best phaser pedals and not put inside an MXR pedal. The iconic MXR Phase 90 has been around for a long time, and it is a personal favorite of many famous guitarists. This particular model, the MXR EVH90 Phase 90 is named after Eddie Van Halen, the master of guitar phasing, who has teamed up with the company to create this analog phaser. It is minimalistic and easy to operate, as it features one knob for speed and an additional switch to choose between vintage or modern sound (the so-called “Script Logo” and “Block Logo” settings). In terms of sound, it recreates that 80s guitar solo sound. Its size makes it easy to store, transport and fit your pedalboard. It comes in Eddie Van Halen’s colors (red, black and white), which makes it stand out. The MXR EVH90 is perfect if you need a minimalistic and portable pedal with the classic phaser sound.
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2. TC Electronic Helix – Best Value For Money
The TC Electronic Helix is one of the best digital phaser pedals on the market. It is part of the TonePrint series, which allows you to download presets from well-known guitarists and customize your phaser pedal sound. What’s more, you can also create your very own TonePrint presets and easily load them whenever you need them. Besides its TonePrint versatility, the TC Electronic Helix offers other attractive features, such as four different knobs (speed, depth, feedback, and wet/dry mix) that let you control many aspects of your sound, as well as three different switch modes: vintage, smooth and TonePrint. It has a very rich sound compared to other digital phasers, and you will find it quite hard to detect its tiny sound faults. It comes with analog stereo input and output that gives you two channels of analog sound for every occasion. If you are looking for a phaser pedal with tons of presets and versatility to create many different sounds, then the TC Electronic Helix is the right fit for you.
3. EarthQuaker Devices Grand Orbiter V3 – Best Buy For The Money
The EarthQuaker Devices Grand Orbiter V3 is a premium-quality analog phaser guitar pedal that stands out for the versatility of options it provides. It is the third version of this pedal, as EarthQuaker Devices seems to invest a lot in it. It comes with four different knobs that control the resonance, rate, depth and sweep as well as two switches that offer additional rate control and changing between the phaser and vibrato mode (yes, this pedal also works as a vibrato effect pedal). The flashing LED light lets you know the LFO speed, even if you have the pedal on bypass mode. It is a handcrafted pedal and comes with a very sturdy build quality that will last for a long time. Its versatility allows it to be used with all kinds of music, as you can tweak the settings to create the effect you want, and you can easily create many different sounds. The EarthQuaker Devices Grand Orbiter V3 is certainly recommended to guitarists who are looking for a single pedal that will allow them full phaser effect control in addition to a variety of sounds to explore and create.
The Walrus Audio Vanguard Dual Phase is a versatile phase pedal and one of the few digital ones on this list. This pedal lets you combine two phasers in one, which basically allows for endless possibilities of different sounding effects (you can also use a single phaser if you wish). It comes with eight different knobs that control various features of the two phasers, with a row of knobs dedicated to each one, as well as a three-way switch, providing full control to the guitarist. The digital technology allows you to store and recall up to three presets, a handy feature if you play live shows. You can also connect a remote controller or an expression pedal for easier access. While the many options that the Walrus Audio Vanguard Dual Phase provides might be a headache for beginners, they will undoubtedly be appreciated from those who like to spend hours tweaking knobs to experiment and create new sounds.
5. Boss PH-3
The Boss PH-3 is a digital phase shifter guitar effects pedal that is one of the most popular phase pedals on the market. It comes with four different knobs that control rate, depth resonance as well as a stage select knob that lets you control how much you want the signal to be shifted. You can do 4, 8, 10 and 12 stage phasing that enables you to create a variety of sounds. This pedal provides both vintage and modern phasing effects. The “Rise” and “Fall” modes provide unidirectional phasing and you can use the “tap tempo” function to easily sync it to the tempo (a great option for live shows and improvisations). You can also connect an external expression pedal to control features such as rate and speed. The Boss PH-3 combines ease of use with a variety of controls that create a phaser pedal recommended both for beginners and advanced guitar players, as it will satisfy both.
The Red Witch Deluxe Moon is an analog phaser/tremolo pedal that easily gets the title of the most unique pedal on this list. It comes with three different control knobs with the peculiar names “velocity”, “trajectory” and “cosmology” that control the rate, the shape of the phase wave and the combination of tremolo and phasing. The Red Witch Deluxe Moon creates warm and subtle phasing effect that along with the tremolo effect can produce many different sounds. It also provides what they call “tremophase”, a unique combination of the two effects. The stereo output splits the wet and dry signal, allowing you to connect it in various ways in your pedalboard. Overall, the Red Witch Deluxe Moon is quite a special phaser and I would highly recommend it to guitarists who are looking for something completely different from what they are used to.
The Joyo JF-06 Vintage Phase is an analog phaser pedal that is a well-made replica of the MXR phase 90, but with the advantage of coming at half the price. It features a single knob that controls the speed (the phaser rate), which makes it very easy both to set it up and operate it. The lack of more controls is suitable for those who want to keep it simple, but it might disappoint you if you are looking for a complex phaser pedal. Regarding its sound quality, it sounds close to the iconic pedal that it replicates. However, it emits a little “buzz”, a well-known problem of inexpensive pedals, which can be corrected if you have a noise gate pedal. On the whole, the Joyo JF-06 Vintage Phase pedal is perfect if you are on a tight budget, or if you want to check out if a phaser pedal would fit your guitar sound, without spending a fortune.
The Electro-Harmonix Nano Small Stone EH4800 is a compact and straightforward yet best analog phaser pedal for your guitar. It delivers warm and deep phasing sound, despite its tiny size. It comes with a single rate knob that controls the speed and a two-way switch that controls the “color”, which allows you to create powerful or more subtle phasing effects. Not having many knobs and buttons, it is quite easy to operate and it features a small LED light that allows you to see its status in the dark. Its small size takes very little space on your pedalboard, and it can be used with a 9V battery or a power adapter. It is ideal for blues and metal guitarists that want to add a simple but powerful phaser pedal in their pedalboard, even if they have very little free space. Its friendly price (currently around $94 on Amazon) makes the Electro-Harmonix Nano Small Stone EH4800 available to almost everyone.
Now is the moment to ask: “Ok, so out of these eight pedals, which one is the best phaser pedal?”. Well, the best phaser pedal is the one that meets your needs and works right for you. It is really important to know how you intend to use your phaser pedal: do you want something simple that can be carried easily or do you like to spend hours experimenting with different knobs and switches?
Best Phaser Pedals – Buying Guide
Phaser pedals have been around for quite a long time now and are still popular with many electric guitar players. There are a lot of them in the market, with some being the good old ones or replicas of famous phaser pedals, while others have incorporated digital technology that offers more and new features. Deciding on which phaser pedal to buy can be a pretty hard task, as potential buyers don’t usually know what they should pay attention to before buying a pedal. That is why I have created for you the following buying guide that will explain to you everything you need to know about phaser pedals.
The sound performance of a pedal should be a top priority when deciding on which one to buy. Each pedal colours the sound different and provides you with various phasing options, so experimenting with some of them before buying one is a must. Alternatively, you can listen to their sound on videos or when someone is playing live with them. Additionally, note that pedals that come with true bypass don’t alter your guitar’s sound when they are turned off, which is a cool feature to have if you put the pedal on a pedalboard.
Depending on the free space that you have on your pedalboard, the size of your new phaser pedal might or not be an issue. There are really compact phaser pedals available on the market that can fit even the most cramped pedalboard. On the other size, sometimes limited size also means limited capabilities, as compact pedals usually feature just one switch. It is a matter of your playing style whether a single switch can make your playing easier or harder.
Analog or digital
The discussion about guitar pedals always brings out the debate between analog and digital. Analog enthusiasts brag about the warmth, richness and overall superiority of analog sound, while fans of digital technology claim that the versatility and unlimited possibilities of digital pedals are unparalleled. It is basically a matter of taste and needs: if you want to store your presets, it is better to go with digital pedals, but if you want a classic phaser sound with no extras, you had better consider an analog pedal. In any case, try not to be narrow-minded about one of the two options and consider what you need in an objective way.
Inputs and outputs
While checking a pedal’s inputs and outputs might seem very obvious, a lot of potential buyers don’t pay attention to this feature. Some pedals come with stereo inputs and outputs that can be useful either for connecting a stereo instrument (such as a keyboard) or for splitting two different signals. Other pedals also come equipped with an input for an expression pedal that lets you control some parameters with your feet.
In terms of budget, we are lucky to be living in an era that everything can come cheap. That doesn’t mean that there are no expensive phaser pedals out there, but it is also true that there are good phaser pedals for musicians with a limited budget. It is needless to say that you should buy what you need: if you want to get your first phaser pedal for trying out its sound, it would be better to go for something inexpensive. On the contrary, if you want a good-sounding pedal with many different options, a pricey one might be better for you.
Versatility is not for everyone: some people are just beginning to play the guitar, others like to keep it simple and there are always those who have a lot of pedals already and don’t need a complicated phaser pedal to add to their pedalboard. However, if you want to experiment with your phasing sound, it is better to buy one of the more versatile pedals. Those are usually digital ones and come with many features such as 4, 8 or 12 stage shifting, combining more than one phasers as well as storing and recalling presets for easier live playing. Some of them can also combine other effects such as tremolo or vibrato.
Besides versatility, the way that you can operate a phaser pedal can differ. The simplest ones usually come with a single knob to control the phasing rate and one switch that allows you to turn the pedal on and off. Those are ideal for beginners, as they are easy to operate and to adjust. However, if you want to do more complicated phasing effects, you should get familiar with many knobs, two-way and three-way switches as well as storing presets for easier operation when playing live. Ultimately, it is what you want to do with the pedal that determines whether you need a simple or a more complex one.
There is a number of other features that you might want to take a look at before you decide on a pedal. The overall design can be an important factor to some of you, as some pedals look really elegant with a sleek design. The build quality and durability are also crucial, as there are even pedals that come with a lifetime guarantee on their electronics. Finally, there are pedals that come with tap tempo function that can be really useful for playing live.
To sum it up, there are a lot of things to be taken into consideration before you buy your new phaser pedal. Don’t forget to include your future needs before getting a phaser pedal: maybe a complex one will be useful in a couple of months. The most important features are sound performance, ease of use, versatility, the size of the pedal and of course your budget. It is inevitable that you get into the old dilemma “analog or digital”, but try to keep an open mind before you decide on that. All in all, a phaser pedal is a very useful tool that can add variety and style to your guitar sound. I hope that this guide has helped you pick one and start experimenting with it!
For every case, there are some features that you should absolutely check: if you often play live and want to tweak the phaser between songs, maybe a digital phaser that can store presets is what you need. On the other hand, if you strongly believe that analog technology is superior and you hate any kind of digital sound, then an analog phaser would be the best for you. In that case, you have to consider the free space that is left on your pedalboard: a complex analog phaser might take more space than a simple one.
Finally, a phaser pedal is a must for almost every guitarist, at least to experiment with for some time. I hope that this list will be a helping hand in your search for the phaser pedal that fits your needs and that you will buy one and start playing and creating cool phasing effects as soon as possible!