An unsung hero in the pedal world, the humble phaser rarely gets the credit it deserves as one of the most iconic effects pedals in the world. From the iconic solos of Randy Rhodes and Eddie Van Halen, to the signature sound of Incubus’ Mike Einziger, the phaser has certainly carved out a spot in the storied history of rock ‘n roll.

Today, we’re going to take a closer look at everything you need to know about the phaser, and we’ll review some of the best phasers you can add to your rig today.

What is the Best Phaser Pedal?

What exactly is a phaser pedal and what does it do?

A phaser is an effect pedal which adds a rich sonic character to your playing, thanks to a series of filters inside the pedal. Understanding the science behind this pedal is a bit more complex.

When you play with a phaser, your guitar’s signal is sent into the pedal, where it enters a stage of all-pass filters which affect your signal. In the next stage, the phaser combines this new out of phase signal with your dry in-phase signal, and then it spits all that out to your amp, where the result is a tone that can range from a light spacey effect to the sound of a jet engine firing up.

Phasers belong to the family of effects known as modulators. Modulation effects produce wildly different sounds, but they all operate on the same basic premise or splitting your signal into a wet and dry version before combining them back together to produce the desired effect.

Phaser pedals have been around for about fifty years, and some of the top guitarists in rock, fusion, and jazz have made use of them to add color and character to their rhythm and lead playing, or to produce wild and far out psychedelic sounds.

What makes a great phaser pedal?

With so many different options on the market, it can be challenging to pin down precisely what makes a great phaser pedal. The four factors below are what separate the best phasers on the market from the cheap copies. Whether you opt for one of our recommendations below or choose a phaser we haven’t covered, always make sure that the pedal you’re looking at checks these four boxes:

  1. A broad range of modulation
  2. Intuitive controls
  3. Solid build quality
  4. True bypass wiring

A Broad Range of Modulation

A solid phaser pedal doesn’t need to have a ton of bells and whistles, but it does need to allow you to tap into a broad range of modulation. How much range the pedal has will determine the number of different sounds you’ll be able to capture with the pedal.

A good phaser should be able to achieve a range of different tones from subtle phasing that’s perfect for strummed chords and clean passages, slightly more dramatic phasing that can add an interesting tonal character to leads and solos, and more extreme phasing that allows you to explore more far-out sounds.

Achieving these different tones should be easy. Many of the best phasers on the market can hit on all of these sounds with the use of only a single control. So, the presence of additional controls or bells and whistles isn’t necessarily an indicator that a particular pedal will provide you with added functionality.

Intuitive Controls

When you’re shopping for a phaser, you’ll find models that use only a single knob to control the effect, and you’ll find models with three, four, five or more different controls for you to manipulate.

Both simple and more complex phasers can produce great tones, so you shouldn’t necessarily be put off by a pedal that doesn’t give you much room to manipulate its parameters. But, if you do decide to go for a pedal that provides a ton of different controls, you should make sure that all the controls are easy to use and make sense.

This shouldn’t be rocket science; an excellent phaser pedal will provide you with plug and play functionality that shouldn’t require a degree or a three hour reading of the owner’s manual before you get it fired up.

Solid Build Quality

It should go without saying, but so many players still find themselves frustrated by pedals that break, lose functionality, or stop working the way they’re supposed to. These are relatively simple devices, and there’s no reason why your phaser pedal shouldn’t be able to last for decades if you take good care of it.

When evaluating different pedals, you’ll want to ensure that they’re built to last. This means you should avoid pedals made from plastic or ones that are made with inferior quality components such as cheap input/output jacks, poor-quality potentiometers, or footswitches that are only intended for light duty.

While an excellent phaser pedal shouldn’t be heavy, it should certainly have some weight to it if it’s made from quality components.

Look for pedals that have aluminum or steel chassis. Rotate the potentiometers and check to see if they move smoothly and feel stable, make sure the ¼” jacks feature solid construction and ensure that the footswitch will be able to stand up to you stomping on it over and over again.

True Bypass Wiring

In your search for the best phaser, you’ll find pedals that employ two different wiring styles: buffered bypass and true bypass.

Pedals with a buffered bypass act almost as a pre-amp, and they amplify your signal to send it through the processors on the pedal. While a pedal with buffered bypass won’t impact the sound of the pedal when it’s on, it can have a dramatic impact on your tone when the pedal is off.

Meanwhile, pedals with true bypass wiring completely bypass the pedal’s circuitry when the pedal isn’t in use. This allows your dry signal to pass through the pedal completely unencumbered as it travels through the rest of your signal path.

With pedals using a buffered bypass, the tone from your guitar can lose some of its quality or character as it travels through your signal path, and it becomes especially noticeable if you’re using a bunch of different pedals with a buffered bypass.

Using true bypass pedals allows your tone to remain unchanged as it travels through your pedalboard, ensuring that the true sound of your guitar is precisely what makes it’s way to your amplifier.

Phaser Pedal Reviews – Our Top 5 Recommendations

MXR Phase 90 M101

Best Overall

What Makes It Special?

The most iconic phaser since 1972, the MXR Phase 90 has been a staple on the boards of the world’s most iconic guitar players for over four decades. With faithful analog circuitry, true bypass construction, and incredible ease of use, the Phase 90 is still the best phaser on the market.

  • Incredibly simple operation
  • Full analog circuitry
  • True bypass construction
  • Runs on batteries or AC Power

At first glance, it’s hard to believe that a pedal this simple, with only a single knob to manipulate, is capable of producing such a broad range of different tones. From subtle spatial shimmer to full-on psychedelia, the Phase 90 allows you to unlock a myriad of different sounds with the turn of a single button.

Virtually unchanged since it debuted in 1972, the Phase 90 features completely analog circuitry, a single speed knob to control the effect, and transistors that are hand selected by MXRs crack team of builders. The result is a dynamic phaser pedal that’s capable of taking your solos and rhythm playing to the next level.

What Customers Like

  • Unbeatable classic tone
  • Nano size is ideal for cramped pedalboards
  • Easiest phaser on the market to use

What Customers Dislike

  • Output level is higher on dirty/overdrive channels
  • Doesn’t provide much opportunity to tinker with settings

CNZ Audio SPH-20 Phaser Pedal

Best For the Price

What Makes It Special?

Classic styling and industry-leading ease of use combine in this quality phaser that costs about half the price of what the heavyweight brands demand for their pedals. All metal construction, a weighted control knob, and stylish graphics make this simple phaser a smart addition to any pedalboard.

  • Single control knob for ease of use
  • Vintage and modern voicing modes
  • True bypass construction
  • All aluminum build

CNZ Audio is a newer company that burst onto the scene with a cachet of high-quality pedals that are available at unbeatable prices. This pedal allows you to tap into the classic analog-style phase in its vintage mode. That same switch can also be flipped to modern to provide an updated take on the classic phaser sound.

The casing for this pedal is made entirely of aluminum, and it features a weighted aluminum speed knob and a heavy duty voicing switch. True bypass wiring ensures that your dry tone can pass through the effect unencumbered when the pedal is off. CNZ managed to cram all the components of this pedal into a nano casing, so it’s perfect for pedalboards where real estate comes at a premium.

What Customers Like

  • Vintage and modern voicing modes
  • Easy to use
  • Affordable

What Customers Dislike

  • Can’t be run on batteries
  • Doesn’t include a power supply

Boss PH-3 Phase Shifter Pedal

What Makes It Special?

This classic Phaser from Boss is one of the most popular phasers on the market, and recent upgrades such as tap tempo functionality, multiple phasing modes, and rate, depth, and resonance controls allow you to take complete control of your tones.

  • Tap tempo speed setting
  • Seven different phasing modes
  • Expression pedal compatible
  • 5-year warranty

A decidedly modern take on the classic sounds of the phaser effect, this pedal from Boss is packed with intuitive features that today’s guitarists are sure to love. Instead of relying on a speed knob to set the speed of the effect, players can tap the tempo into the pedal to ensure that it’s correctly set for all scenarios.

The standout feature on the PH-3 is it’s seven different phasing modes. While most phasers provide a standard rise-and-fall phasing, this pedal allows you to tap into that classic sound, as well as six other modes, including always up, always down, 12, 10, 8, and 4 stage phasing.

Other controls allow you to set the rate, depth, and resonance of the effect, which is a level of customization that most phasers lack outside of the boutique category. For modern players who are looking to achieve total control over their phaser without getting into $200+ territory, the Boss PH-3 is well worth a closer look.

What Customers Like

  • Multiple phase modes
  • Tap tempo speed setting
  • Proven Boss quality and durability

What Customers Dislike

  • Not true bypass
  • Doesn’t have the vintage warmth of analog phasers

Joyo JF-06 Vintage Phase Phaser Pedal

Best for Beginners & Students

What Makes It Special?

At first glance, it’s clear that this pedal is a carbon copy of the iconic Phase 90 from MXR. But, is that a bad thing? Of course not. This pedal offers vintage styling, convincingly vintage tones, and incredible ease of use thanks to its single chickenhead knob speed control.

  • Vintage style phasing
  • Single speed control
  • True bypass wiring
  • Battery or AC power

Like the MXR Phase 90, the Joyo Vintage Phase is exceptionally intuitive and easy to control. Beginners and students will be able to focus all their attention on playing instead of trying to figure out how to use their new pedal. The speed knob is sensitive and allows players to go from subtle phase to full-on psychedelic rock by turning a single knob.

This pedal features true bypass wiring so you won’t have to worry about the pedal coloring your tone when it’s off. The Vintage Phase can be used with most 9V power supplies, or with a 9V battery. It’s also tiny in size, so it’s perfect for stashing in a gig bag pocket when you’re on your way to lessons or band practice.

Add to that the bargain price of this pedal, and you have a quality, easy to use phaser that any student can add to their arsenal without breaking the bank.

What Customers Like

  • Easy to use
  • Runs on batteries or AC power
  • Built to last

What Customers Dislike

  • Not as warm or dynamic as an analog phaser
  • Clips easily when ran through an overdriven amp

Behringer VP-1 Vintage Phaser

Best on a Budget

What Makes It Special?

Behringer has established a reputation for making some of the best budget pedals on the market, and their VP-1 phaser is no exception. This phaser combines incredible ease of use, vintage style phasing, and true bypass construction in a budget-friendly package that’s perfect for players who aren’t looking to shell out big money for a phaser.

  • Tone switch provides an additional level of control over the effect
  • True bypass construction

The VP-1 allows you to dial in tones ranging from a light analog-style phasing to full-on jet engine modulation. You can add additional color to your sound with the help of the tone switch, which provides a brighter or darker tone depending on its position.

True bypass wiring ensures that your dry signal can travel through the pedal unobstructed when the pedal is off. This pedal is a bit larger than most, so you’ll need to carve out some space on your pedalboard to fit it in, but that seems like a small concession to make if you’re looking to add a quality phaser to your arsenal for peanuts.

What Customers Like

  • Classic, no-frills phasing
  • True bypass wiring

What Customers Dislike

  • Larger than a standard stompbox
  • Doesn’t provide the tonal range of top-of-the-line phasers

6 More Really Good Phaser Pedals

Fender Lost Highway Phaser

Best known for producing some of rock ‘n roll’s finest guitars and amps, Fender has recently developed a full line of effects pedals, and they’re making some serious waves.

The Lost Highway phaser is one of those pedals, and it’s packed with intuitive features that guitarists should love.

This phaser provides a myriad of controls to help you shape your sound. There are independent rate and depth controls that correspond to the fast/slow footswitch, allowing you to set two distinctly different sounds with a single pedal. There’s also controls for blend, feedback, and sensitivity.

Switches on the face of the pedal allow you to set the phaser to work in four or eight stages, and a second switch allows you to select between sine or triangle waveforms to further shape your tone. On the rear of the pedal, there’s a boost toggle and a toggle to turn on or off the LED indicators on each knob.

For players looking to exercise total control over their pedals, the Lost Highway phaser is certainly one that’s worth a closer look.

Electro Harmonix Small Stone EH4800 Phaser

If the MXR Phase 90 is the world’s most iconic phaser, the Small Stone from Electro Harmonix is hot on its heels.

This iconic phaser has been locked in a 1-2 battle with the Phase 90 for over four decades, and it even precedes the Phase 90, having been first released in 1970.

The Small Stone features full analog circuitry for a warm, vintage style tone, and a single rate control for dialing in your desired tone. EH takes it a step further than the classic Phase 90 by incorporating a color switch which adds Q and thins the filters to produce an even smoother, warmer tone.

Housed in a heavy-duty nano chassis, this pedal is ideal for cramped pedalboards, and it can run on either AC power or 9V batteries.

Walrus Audio Vanguard Dual Phase Phaser

For players looking to see how far they can push their sound, the Vanguard from Walrus Audio is one you need to try out.

This pedal functions as two separate phasers. The first is a classic 10-stage phaser. The user then has the option to send their signal through a second phasing engine that features three different modes: 10-stage phasing with regeneration, 6-stage phasing with pitch bend, or 4-stage phasing with a filter. While it may seem like a lot, this phaser is exceptionally intuitive, and anyone can dial in awesome new tones without any experience using the pedal.

This pedal also provides controls for the wet and dry mix, the rate, depth, and regeneration of the main phaser, and controls for tweak, rate, and depth for the second phaser. This pedal can also save presets, is compatible with most expression pedals, and stereo outputs to allow the most versatility possible.

Many players will find all the bells and whistles on this phaser to be overkill, but for the serious knob tweakers among us, the Vanguard may be just what the doctor ordered.

Earthquaker Devices Grand Orbiter Phase Pedal

As one of the leading producers of boutique quality pedals, Earthquaker Devices are taking the humble phaser pedal to the next level with their Grand Orbiter.

This pedal serves two separate functions, it operates as a phaser, a phaser with vibrato, or just a vibrato, so it’s instantly more versatile than almost all its competitors.

This classic 4-stage phaser features three different rate modes to control the character of the pedal. Users can choose from a slow sweep, grand orbiter mode, or a fast sweep, and each mode can be controlled with the rate knob on the right side of the pedal.

Additional controls for depth, resonance, and sweep allow you to further dial in your signature sound, and a toggle switch allows you to choose between phase and vibrato.

If you’re also looking to add a vibrato effect to your rig, taking a closer look at this double-duty phaser is a no-brainer.

Ammoon Kokko Phaser Pedal

This affordable phaser from Ammoon blends classic styling with modern construction to provide a quality phaser that’s capable of achieving a broad range of different tones.

This nano pedal is similar in design to the classic Phase 90, but it forgoes the speed control in favor of rate, depth, and mix controls. This way, you’ll not only be able to set the speed but also the depth of phase, and how much of the effect is mixed in with your dry signal.

This phaser features true bypass construction, and it’s compatible with most 9V power supplies. Keep in mind that this pedal can’t be used with batteries, and it doesn’t include a power supply in the box.

From subtle phasing effects to more psychedelic ones, the Kokko from Ammoon is an impressive little phaser that’s available for a great price.

MXR M107 Phase 100 Phaser Pedal

Most players agree it’s impossible to beat the classic sounds or analog warmth of the iconic Phase 90 pedal from MXR. With that said, there are tons of guitarists who wish the Phase 90 allowed them to take greater control of their tone. After all, there’s only so much you can do with a single speed knob.

The Phase 100 provides that same classic styling and tone as the Phase 90, with the addition of a four-position rotary switch that allows you to take full tonal control over your phaser pedal. This control allows you to select between four preset waveforms to achieve tones ranging from subtle phasing to more dramatic and far-out sounds that the Phase 90 can’t capture.

Like the Phase 90, this pedal features an iconic orange metal case, true bypass construction, and it can be powered with a 9V power supply or batteries.

5 FAQ’s about Phaser Pedals

How do you use a phaser pedal?

Phasers may be a fairly simple and straightforward effect, but there are a ton of different ways to apply a phaser to add to your playing.

One popular way to use a phaser is for clean passages and volume swells. Set the speed knob on the phaser somewhere around 7 o’clock, and you’ll be treated to a light and easy effect that provides a slightly out of phase sound to your playing.

This method of using a phaser was popularized throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, and you’ll recognize it as one of the signature guitar sounds of bands like The Police and Incubus.

Similarly, you can also use a phaser to add an additional layer of tone to your lead playing and solos. Guitarists like Randy Rhodes and Eddie Van Halen would regularly use a phaser pedal to add a subtle effect to their solos, which enhances their tonal richness. Start with the speed knob somewhere around 9 o’clock and experiment from there until you’ve dialed in a great sound for your playing style.

You can also use a phaser to explore some more far-out sounds, and in doing so, you’ll instantly recognize the sounds you hear from iconic bands like Led Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones. For this style of playing, you’ll want to turn your speed knob up to 10 and dial it back from there until you’ve achieved the tone you’re looking for.

If your phaser has more control options than a single speed or rate control, you can experiment with the other knobs to achieve a range of different tones.

Most manufacturers provide some recommended settings in the owner’s manual, and they can be a great starting point to create your own signature sound from. We recommend exploring these basic settings and tweaking them until you’ve found the sweet spot for your sound.

Where do you place a phaser pedal (in the chain)?

Many guitarists are notorious for overlooking the importance of where they place their pedals in their effects chain. If you’re dealing with unwanted noise or pedals that just don’t seem to function the way they’re supposed to, there’s a strong chance something is out of whack in your chain.

When you’re setting up your effects, there’s a tried-and-true method of doing so to ensure you get the most out of your rig.

Start by placing any dynamic effects you have up front. Dynamic effects include things like compressors, volume pedals, and equalizers. Next, you place any filters you have, such as a wah. From there, you can add gain effects such as distortion, fuzz, or overdrive. Next comes modulation effects like phaser, flanger, and chorus. Finally, time-based effects like reverb and delay come next.

You can experiment with the placement of certain effects. For example, some folks will place a graphic EQ towards the end of their chain, but before any time-based effects. You can do the same with a volume pedal to achieve some slightly different functionality. If you use a noise gate or suppressor, you can also achieve different levels of noise reduction based on where that pedal is in your chain.

If you use a two-channel amp, you also may want to consider placing your modulation and time-based effects into the amp’s effects loop. In doing so, you may be able to achieve a better tone and more character from your different effects than if you just left them all out in front of your amplifier.

The important thing to remember is to start with the basic setup we’ve described above, and from there, tweak it to see what kinds of tones you can achieve as you work to find the best way to set up your pedal chain.

What are the top phaser pedals brands?

When it comes to phasers, there are a few top brands that dominate the market.

MXR comes to mind first, as they produce a handful of iconic phasers that are among the most popular on the market. MXR is well-known for producing some of the best pedals on the market, and that reputation seems to be holding just fine, even though they were sold to the Jim Dunlop company many years ago.

Boss is another brand that produces an iconic phaser. They’re well known for producing some of the best quality stomps on the market all at middle-of-the-road price points. Their PH-3 phaser pedal blends analog warmth with modern functionality, including the ability to use tap tempo to set the phasers speed.

Electro Harmonix is another manufacturer of iconic phaser pedals, and their Small Stone phaser is one of the most renowned pedals available. They’ve been making the Small Stone phaser by hand in New York City since the pedal was originally released in 1970.

Beyond these iconic brands, there are a number of newer brands that also produce incredible pedals across a variety of price points. If you’re looking for a phaser under $50, plenty of newer brands have you covered. On the other side of the coin, there’s also plenty of boutique manufacturers who are pushing the envelope while producing pedals of impeccable quality.

How much does a good phaser pedal typically cost?

Like all pedals, a good phaser can run the full gamut in terms of price. If we use two of the most iconic phasers on the market, the MXR Phase 90 and Electro Harmonix Small Stone as our benchmarks, we can confidently say that a good phaser costs around $80-110.

There are quality phasers available in the sub-$50 range, but they usually lack the same warmth and character as more expensive pedals. You can also find boutique style pedals that cost upwards of $200.

Our advice is to start by trying a Phase 90 or Small Stone, and if you find that they aren’t delivering what you want, consider taking a look at more expensive options.

Where can I learn more about phaser pedals?

If you still have questions or are interested in learning more about phasers, there are plenty of resources online that can provide an even deeper education than the one you already have.

Guitar World has long been a trusted resource for guitar players, and there you’ll find everything from interviews with top guitarists to gear reviews and an exhaustive video library full of tips and tricks that any player can benefit from. The link above has some great information on how to get the most out of your phaser pedal.

Sweetwater is another great asset. While they primarily exist as a retail store, their product pages are full of info, tips, and tricks, and video demos you won’t find anywhere else. If you’re looking to get a handle on how different pedals sound without actually playing them yourself, Sweetwater is one of the best resources around.

Guitar.com is another indispensable resource for all things guitar related. Whether you’re looking for the latest guitar news, gear reviews, or player demos, this site is packed with everything you could ever want to know. The link above has tons of great information about different popular phasers.

Conclusion

While sometimes overlooked, a phaser can be one of the most useful and interesting effects to add to your collection. Whether you’re looking to add some rich texture to your clean channel, provide a little extra “oomph” during solos, or explore far-out sonic territory, a phaser pedal is just what you need to push the envelope.

Guitarists in the market for a phaser usually check out other pedals, too, including:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Cool stuff for cool people. Get yours.

We're testing the stuff you want to buy. Sign up for gear and gadget updates and giveaways.

You May Also Like

11 Best Noise Gate Pedals: Our 2020 Beginner and Hobbyist’s Guide

Let’s take a look at one of the most underutilized, yet powerful,…

11 Best Pitch Shifter Pedals: Our 2020 Beginner & Hobbyist’s Guide

When it comes to guitar effects, few pedals are as unique or…

11 Best Sustain Pedals: Our 2020 Beginner & Hobbyist’s Guide

When thinking of guitar effects, a sustain pedal probably isn’t one of…

11 Best Looper Pedals: Our 2020 Beginner & Hobbyist’s Guide

Most Popular Donner Deluxe Looper Ten minutes of loop time Unlimited overdubs…