Adam holds a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in Linguistics, and creative writing has always been his greatest passion. For more than 25 years he's been working for several well-known automobile and travel magazines as an editor and expert consultant, but when Adam started his writing path here, at WisePick, it turned out that he's capable of writing practically anything about everything.
Initially being an engineering specialist, Tom has never stopped learning and acquiring other knowledge and skills. Now he’s involved in technical support for a well-known household appliances manufacturer, so no wonder he knows everything about almost everything you buy for your home.
Last updated: May 20, 2021
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A phaser pedal is a sound modulating effect pedal that uses special filters to change frequencies as you play your music. The peaks of the sound wave vary throughout the duration of play to produce soft sweeping sounds. It’s popularly used in guitars and was originally designed to simulate rotating speaker sound. The best pedal phaser can be used in all kinds of music, from reggae to ballads, metal, and funk. Widespread use of phasers began in the early ’70s, with popular musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, and Robin Trower incorporating them to create a distinct sound that uniquely identified their music.
In this review, we seek to highlight the different features that define a phaser pedal, why they are important in a phaser, and how they work. We tackle things like size, weight, controls, and warranty, and show you what to look for in each and how to choose the best values for the type of phaser you need.
This is a culmination of months of research, where we engaged music practitioners with varying years of experience. We’ve taken their insight, our experience, and the facts of our research findings and compiled it all in an easy-to-follow format with a comparison table, in-detail reviews of each phaser, and a comprehensive buying guide to help you find the right phaser.
Pigtronix EP2 Envelope Phaser is designed to offer a wide range of effects intensity. The phaser does this through the wide number of knobs available and supported variables. There are 10 knobs and switches which you can use to customize your sound however you like. The Sensitivity knob determines how much the envelope opens in response to the available signal. The Depth knob controls the amount of LFO modulation in use and can be used to activate either LFP modulation or EF modulation. The Center knob determines where the sweep is at in the audio spectrum and controls how bright or dark a tone is. The Staccato switch closes the envelope when there’s a pause in the notes, and works to make the envelope pop on each note. Other important knobs and switches are the Invert switch, LFO Smooth switch, EF Sweep switch, Blend switch, Resonance knob, and Speed knob.
The phaser comes with an 18 Volt DC supply, meaning you’re covered when it comes to powering the phaser. The manufacturer recommends that you only use this power supply to avoid damaging the pedal.
The phaser comes with a 1 year limited warranty on parts and workmanship. Pigtronix will repair or replace any defective parts during this period.
What are its best features?
Comes with an 18V DC power supply
Comes with a blend knob that mixes EF and LFO modulation
Has a large number of jacks and knobs
What could be improved?
Should only be used with the accompanying DC supply
The Digitech SP-7 Hardwire Stompbox is a sound phaser with True Stereo settings. It comes with all the trappings you’d need to customize your signal however you like, including seven phaser effect types. These are the Vintage 2 which gives a classic phase tone, Vintage 4 which gives a rich phase tone with feedback control, Vintage 10 which renders a full vintage tone with feedback control, Modern mode which gives a deep phase effect with enhanced feedback, Boutique mode which gives a vibrant tone with phase frequency control, Envelope mode which gives a dynamic sweep effect with variable sensitivity, and Dynamic mode which gives dynamic depth with variable sensitivity. You can use each of these modes with any of the controls to get a range of rich, unique tones.
Tap tempo controls allow you to set the exact speed you want, while true bypass keeps out most of the noise to preserve signal integrity. DigiTech uses Stomplock knob guard on each knob to lock in the knob and ensure that it does not shift accidentally. With the pedal switch glow sticker, you’ll be able to use the phaser even in stages with poor lighting as it illuminates the pedal rather well.
This phaser comes with a replaceable 9V alkaline battery, but can also be used with a power adapter.
The Big Joe Stomp Box B408 Phaser Guitar Pedal is a solidly-constructed phaser that comes with three knobs for depth, rate, and feedback. It is designed to control effect presence, gain, and output, and delivers a range of intensities that will give character to any chord. It also has a two-position cabinet simulation toggle which offers you a broader range of modulation. Because of this, it can be used on almost any slow to moderately-paced music. One of its best features is the Mix knob, a genius addition that allows you to blend the enhanced signal and the dry signal to a ratio of your choice for a unique sound.
Another great feature is the true bypass footswitch. If you’d rather not worry about external interferences and how they might impact the quality of your output, this true bypass feature puts your worries to rest. By connecting the output and input jacks directly at the on/off switch, true bypass reduces the possibility of interference, helping to retain the integrity of your signal.
The phaser comes with a non-transferable limited lifetime warranty for components and workmanship. The warranty will be voided if you don’t have a registered warranty card. So make sure that you buy from an authorized dealer to get the warranty card and receipt.
The BOSS PH-3 Phase Shifter Pedal allows you to customize the phase tone effect in a large number of ways. One of its most distinguishing features are the multi-stage phasers with selectable stages. You can select the stages at the 4th, 8th, 10th, or 12th level. Also unique in the BOSS PH-3 are the Rise and Fall modes, which give unidirectional phasing with either upward or downward moving sounds.
BOSS takes the tap tempo controls a step further in this phaser by incorporating a syncing mechanism, where the phasing effects are synced when you tap in your desired tempo. You can also connect an expression pedal if you like for real-time rate and filter control while you play.
This phaser comes with a 5-year warranty, one of the lengthier warranties among competing models. By giving a long warranty period, BOSS demonstrates confidence in the quality of product you’re getting when you purchase this phaser. This should take away any doubts you may have about the quality.
What are its best features?
Tap tempo sync
5-year limited warranty
What could be improved?
Though expression pedal settings are included, you have to purchase the pedal separately if you need to use them
The MXR CSP-101SL Script Phase 90 is designed as an easy-to-use phaser, and with only two control knobs, it meets this expectation quite well. If you’re new to using phasers, this is a perfect beginner model as it’s as close to a one-knob phaser as you can get. The two knobs are the speed knob and the footswitch toggle, which turns on the effect and also activates the true bypass.
True bypass preserves the original sound of your signal. If you only want a subtle effect, this feature will prove useful. If on the other hand you want the effect to be more noticeable, the speed control knob will supply a range of rates that will produce the desired intensity.
The phaser can be powered by a 9V battery or be connected to a power supply. This versatility only means more convenience for you as you choose the option that’s more practical for you.
On/off status LED makes it easy to tell if the phaser is on. This is a useful feature, particularly when using the phaser in a setting where the lighting makes it hard to tell if it’s on or off.
The TC Electronic Helix Phaser Pedal is a well-structured phaser with four control knobs and one switch: depth knob, speed knob, mix knob, feedback knob, and a toggle switch. The mix knob is a welcome addition to the range of controls as it gives you the freedom to blend the dry and affected signal as you like. The Vintage and Smooth modes both give distinct sounds, and with True Stereo I/O, the three-dimensional tones sound even more dramatic.
The Tone Print, one of the best features in this phaser, adds to the Helix’s appeal. This feature allows you to use custom TC Electronic TonePrint sounds, which you can download from the company’s website. TC Electronic makes downloading easy for you; simply connect the USB port that’s located at the top of the pedal, right next to the DC jack, to download your TonePrint. You can only store one TonePrint at a time though. This may sound like a bummer but you also have the option to beam the TonePrint to the phaser using the TonePrint app on your Smartphone. Also enabled is the TonePrint editor, which allows you to customize the sound even more.
This phaser is reasonably priced and comes with a 3-year warranty.
What are our favorite features?
Can use a battery or power supply
Includes a Tone Print feature
Has a mix knob
Has true bypass and an optional buffered bypass mode
Includes true Stereo I/O
What could be better?
Can only accommodate one TonePrint sound at a time
The most fun bit about the Empress Effects Phaser is its operating modes. The phaser supports three operating modes: knob mode, tap mode, and auto mode. Under knob mode, you set the speed of the phaser by adjusting the speed knob and speed range switch. Under tap mode, use the tap stomp switch to select the desired phaser speed, then set the ratio using the ratio knob. The actual speed will be the tap speed multiplied by the chosen ratio. For example, if you set a ratio of 1:3, the effect will be three times as fast as the speed you’ve tapped. Under auto mode, the speed of the effect and other parameters adjust automatically depending on how you’re playing.
This Phaser has a universal control port and is designed to respond to MIDI control change messages and MIDI Clock messages. You can control it using a MIDI controller or a digital audio workstation software. The manufacturer includes a detailed guide on how to do this, so in case you’ve never used a MIDI controller or digital workstation software before, you’ll find the clear instructions easy to follow.
You can use the MIDI Clock when the phaser is in normal and tap mode. The MIDI Clock identifies quarter notes and sends them in 24 MIDI messages. Don’t attempt to reset the speed or ratio knob while these messages are coming in as this will interfere with the phaser’s operation, which will switch to the knob setting and back to the MIDI Clock setting.
Why are we impressed?
Includes tap tempo controls
Includes true bypass
Offers a choice of 3 stage modes
Has a universal control port
Comes with a 2-year limited warranty
What negatives must you be aware of?
Speed and ratio knob settings cannot be adjusted when MIDI Clock is being sent
One of the most exciting features in the Electro-Harmonix Stereo Poly Phase Optical Envelope/LFO Phase Shifter Pedal is the Toggle switch, which in ENV mode allows you to set the envelope follower to either fast or slow depending on the speed at which you’re playing. You can control the waveform of the oscillation by using the Toggle switch in LFO mode. In the up position, you get a triangle wave with a smooth modulation, while in the down position you get a square wave. This extra setting is great to have when looking to get more out of the effect than the standard up and down oscillation.
The phaser can be operated in either of three modes: envelope, expression pedal, or LFO mode, and comes with 7 knobs and switches, which offer an extensive of possibilities of the effect you get by combining different variables. Note that some of the knobs can only be used when the phaser is in a specific mode. For example, the gain knob is only active in ENV mode, while the rate knob is only active in LFO mode.
A 24V AC adapter is included with this phaser, with the manufacturer recommending that you only use this adapter.
What stands out?
Includes true bypass
Comes with a 24V AC adapter
Has a high number of knobs and switches
Comes with a 1 year warranty
What cons did we manage to find?
Can only be used with the included adapter
Some knobs can only be used in specific modes
Things to Consider
Buying a phaser can seem like an impossible undertaking for a new user, but this guide shows you all you need to know, making choosing the perfect phaser easy.
What does a phaser pedal do?
A phaser pedal modifies the signal coming out of the guitar in a number of ways depending on the stages the signal has to go through. It can alter the pitch, the frequency, the intensity, the resonance, and other elements of the sound. To do this, the phaser uses a series of all-pass filters that block different portions of the signal at varying times. The result is a sound with a sweeping, otherworldly feel to it.
The phaser is very similar to the flanger, another modulation effect with linearly-spaced notches. It’s easy to confuse the two, and if your ear is not trained, you may not tell the two apart when they’re used in a guitar. However, the main difference between them is that phasers are subtle and somewhat surreal, whereas flangers are more pronounced and natural-sounding.
What is better – analog or digital?
Whether analog phasers are better than digital phasers, or vice versa, is purely a matter of personal opinion. The important thing to note is that they both do the same thing. Only difference is that the analog phaser does sound more organic, while the digital phaser offers more versatility. If you’re aiming for a more natural sound, an analog phaser will deliver it to you. But if the quality of sound isn’t particularly important, you can consider a digital phaser, if nothing else, for its versatility.
You get more options with a digital phaser and there is more you can experiment with than in an analog phaser. Analog phasers are also simpler to use in a plug-and-play kind of way. With digital phasers, you’ll need to fiddle with multiple buttons more and adjust settings a few times to figure out which variables give the kind of effect you want.
Where a phaser shifter will come in handy?
As with any effect, the phaser isn’t to be used all the time. It’s also more suited for some types of music and not others. How do you tell which music will be enhanced by the use of a phaser? Generally, the phaser works great in slow music with few notes and clean channels with little distortion. The phaser won’t sound good in music with the fast tempo and lots of distortion, especially when used aggressively. Use this as a guide when deciding whether to use a phaser shifter and you’ll hardly make an error in judgment.
No effect will enhance a solo section better than a phaser. Use it to give personality to your solos and depth to the tone. When used in a clean chord progression, it enriches the tone, making it sound better than it does without the effect.
It’s also worth noting that your style of playing can affect how the phaser sounds. When starting out, use few variables and take note of the changes to the sound when you switch the variables. This will help you learn how to tune the phaser to match your playing style so that you don’t oversaturate your chords with effects and degrade your tone.
Tips on using a phaser pedal
The wave function in the phaser, made possible by the oscillator with filters, is what makes it possible to enjoy the sweeping effect on the sound. To get it right, you must time the phaser right so that the effect is activated in the signal at the right time. This is harder to achieve with analog phasers as you have to manually set the speed. Sometimes the timing will be near perfect; other times it will be slightly off. The more you use the phaser, the easier it becomes to get the timing right. Things are much easier with digital phasers, where you only have to set the desired speed using the tap tempo button.
The secret to great sound is in getting the phaser speed to match the tempo of the music you’re playing where possible or at least as close to it as possible. When getting started with using a phaser, try out different speeds by implementing small speed increments listening for how the phaser responds. Soon enough, you’ll find speed combinations that work for different music.
Regarding positioning, the phaser is typically positioned towards the back end of the pedal, but before any ambient effects you’re using. This would mean that the phaser effect applies to everything that’s placed before the phaser in the pedal. This isn’t set in stone, however, and you can move the phaser around as you play with different sounds until you find a positioning that works for you.
If you want the phaser effect to apply to the cleanest version of the signal, place the phaser in the effects loop of your amp.
Features to consider while choosing a phaser pedal
How well a phaser serves you may depend on a few things, which include size and features among other things. Let’s analyze the different features that make up the phaser so you’ll be in a better position to identify what counts and what doesn’t when you finally step out to buy one.
Phasers come in different sizes. Some are quite small while others are noticeably large. Many are in-between in size. You may have a small phaser that works better than a much bigger phaser. Having said that, there are some characteristics you ought to look out for when comparing any two phasers of different sizes. One, does the phaser turn noisy when you apply distortion or does it still sound great? Two, is one more natural sounding than the other? Three, does one give a bass-like tone and the other a higher treble-like tone? At the end of the day, these are some of the properties that affect your signal and they are what really matters in determining the kind of output you get. Even as you consider the size, consider these aspects more as they indicate the real worth of the phaser even more than its size.
The other angle to the size equation has to do with pedal arrangement and where to place your phaser in your rig. Due to limited space and depending on the kind of rig you use, you may be forced to opt for a small phaser. Even so, check all other features to ensure that the phaser will produce the kind of effect you desire before compromising on size.
The casing of the phaser is usually made with metal. Some manufacturers use die-cast metal for durability. When choosing a phaser, check the grade of metal used and confirm if any additional treatment has been done on it to boost its strength and prevent rusting. The stronger the metal is, the longer it will last without denting, corroding, or tearing. Phaser knobs can be made from aluminum or have a hard plastic cover. The interior of the phaser is filled with electronic components like resistors, capacitors, transistors, and potentiometers.
The input cable of your phaser connects to the guitar, while the output cable connects to the amp. Check whether the amp comes with cables when buying. In case connection cables aren’t included, you’ll need to buy these separately. They use standard in-out cables, so compatibility will not be a problem. Most phasers come with batteries and don’t need to be connected to a power source them during use as long as the batteries are fully charged. Others can be powered via the power supply.
There are different controls that can be used to give your signal the swirling effect that’s unique to phasers. Here are the most common of these controls:
Also referred to as rate, speed determines how close or far apart the filters arrange themselves. When you set the speed to slow, you get fewer spikes and dips and less swirling. Likewise, at high speed, you get lots of peaks and dips, with greater swirling levels. But be cautious as very high speeds can sound chaotic in fast signals or signals with many notes.
This controls the extent of peaks and dips. The greater the depth, the more warped the signal will be.
This determines how much effect is applied to the signal. The lower the level you choose, the less the amount of effect applied. When setting the level, it’s important to remember that at high levels, the effect can fully distort your signal instead of enhancing it as it should.
Also known as feedback, this refers to the amount of output signal that’s transferred back to the input. When applied in moderation, it can create a captivating effect. But when used excessively, it can give undesired, chaotic overtones that completely distort the signal.
Stages indicate the number of all-pass filters in the phaser. Analog phasers generally have fewer stages than digital phasers, which can have as many as 12 stages or more. The more stages a phaser has, the more intense the effect can be and the more swirling you can have in the output.
Tap tempo controls
These give precise BPM selection, where you can select the exact speed you’d like for the song you’re playing.
These allow you to control the Low-Frequency Oscillator (LFO) speed by playing the strings at varying speeds. They’re also responsible for speeding up and slowing down the phaser pedal at different speeds. As an example, just listen to the Pigtronix EP2 Envelope Phaser effects produced with it.
Typically, the phaser gives a steady, up and down waveform. With advanced waveform controls, however, you control the speed and shape of waveform for an even more unique sound.
The phaser works as an oscillator with all-pass filters. The number of filters in the phaser determines how much the signal can be altered. Digital phasers have more all-pass filters than analog filters. The number of filters is better identified as stages. Phasers with more stages have more filters, and vice versa. If you’re looking for a phaser with greater versatility, this is an important factor to consider. The level of customization you can do will be limited if the filters are few.
Most phaser pedals will have either true bypass or buffered bypass. True bypass is where the on/off switch of the phaser pedal directly connects the input jack to the output jack, so that the input signal and output signal is the same. Buffered bypass is where buffers are used to literally block any distortion or interference.
True bypass advantages
The biggest advantage in using true bypass is that the quality of signal is largely retained. This is assuming that nothing interferes with the signal as it moves from the input jack to the output jack.
True bypass disadvantages
In case you’re using a lot of pedals or many long cables, each pedal or cable will introduce some resistance to the signal, thus interfering with the quality of signal reaching the output.
Again, with true bypass, you don’t enjoy the benefit of sound decay since the effect is cut off as soon as you disconnect the circuit.
Another major disadvantage is that many true bypass pedals produce plenty of noise when turning them on or off.
Buffered bypass advantages
The benefit of sound decay is fully registered on the effect as it’s not abruptly cut off when you switch off the circuit.
The buffers keep out interferences that may alter the sound quality, in this way keeping the signal clean. Also, you don’t get additional noise when you switch the pedal on and off.
Buffered bypass disadvantages
The absence of a direct connection between input jack and output jack exposes the signal to all kinds of interferences. If poor quality buffers are used, these interferences find their way into the signal and cause distortion.
Always choose a phaser pedal with a warranty where possible. Should you experience problems with the phaser, you’ll have assurance of getting help from the manufacturer.
Sometimes though, you’ll come across what seems to be a good phaser going for a ridiculously low price, the only downside being that it has no warranty. If everything else about the product checks out, you can throw caution to the wind and buy it.
Yes it is, assuming you have no trouble getting a distortion. Here is why: the phaser one is easy to use. It has minimal controls, usually just one or two knobs. You’ll learn how to operate these fairly quickly and master how to balance speed to the tempo of your music, and it will be easy to apply the skill to other modulation effects you incorporate in the future. For starters you can use the MXR CSP-101SL Script Phase 90 phaser pedal as it is pretty easy to learn to use. This phaser also introduces you to a diverse range of effects options which you can use on any kind of music. From here, it’s easy to add more types of effects as need be.
The Pigtronix EP2 Envelope Phaser performed best in our opinion. We liked the high level of customization it gives, and the wide range of effect intensity you get with the different settings. With 10 control knobs, the intensities you can achieve and combinations to try out are endless.
Our second-best option was the Digitech SP-7 Hardwire Stompbox. What we liked best in this phaser are the 7-phaser modes, the tap tempo controls, and the knob guard. We also liked the pedal switch glow sticker, and the fact that you could use either a battery or a power supply to power it.
At number three and an easy choice for best phaser pedal is the Big Joe Stomp Box B408 Phaser Guitar Pedal. Its solid build gives it an easy win, but we also like the mix knob for dry and affected signals and the limited lifetime warranty that guarantees years of anxiety-free service.