We’re reviewing the top 7 best phaser pedals for electric guitars. The models we list range from budget to premium models. Moreover, we’re covering a short butter’s guide, plus a guide on how to use these otherworldly stompboxes.
Phaser pedals are modulation effects. It’s a distinctive effect for your guitar, although it’s a challenging sound to employ.
A phaser adds individual notes to create movement and swirling sounds. You’ll have to hear it yourself on Van Halen’s Eruption hit song before we go on:
Specifically, a phaser filters a signal by generating peaks in the frequency spectrum. It has an internal low-frequency oscillator to create a sweeping effect over time.
The resulting sound is somehow electronic or “synthesized.” For example, the voice of Star Wars’ C3P0 was created with a phaser effect.
Modulation effects modify the sound by adding a second signal. The second signal has a time delay, and it may or may not have minor tonal changes.
Guitar phaser pedal buyer’s guide
Otherwise known as phase shifters, guitar phasers are one of the earliest effects. The original idea was to emulate how rotating organ speakers sound.
Back in the ‘60s, audio gear manufacturers adapted phasers to recreate a wider array of sounds. They became a go-to for psychedelic rock and experimental music in the ‘60s decade. Then, they were famous for 70’s and 80’s rock bands.
Van Halen is one of the most notable users of the pedal (rest in peace).
How do phasers work?
A phaser takes an input signal wave, duplicates, and adds a time delay to move it out of phase. Then, the phaser recombines the two waves. The difference between the two signals creates the peaks, the phaser sound.
The sound creates a sense of space and distance. The distance is accurate, as it’s the difference between the processed signal and the dry sound.
What are the controls?
You can add phase shift stages with the pedals to create stronger or weaker peaks. A digital phaser typically offers 4, 8, 10, or 12 stages to recreate various phased sounds.
Analog phasers have fewer stages and less variety, though. Despite the reduced flexibility, analog phasers are warmer and more natural. Digital phasers tend to sound more electronic and synthesized. They can destroy the signal rather quickly if you’re not careful.
Both options bring the phase speed control as well. It controls the speed of the wave’s rises and falls.
Another control you may see is depth control. It sets the intensity of the phased waves.
The last control is resonance or resolution. It’s an EQ control that varies the tone of the phase shift.
Other knobs may include a dry/wet knob that adjusts the percentage of each signal going into the speakers; a spread knob to adjust the “space” between the two signals.
“E-H Small Stone (vintage phase shifter) (HDR)” by Bryan / CC BY 2.0 Electro-Harmonix, MXR, Morgan, Jim Dunlop, Walrus Audio, Earthquake Devices, and Keely are some of the best pedal manufacturers in the world.
How to properly use a phaser pedal?
What you’d want to do is use a classic, swirling phase effect to emphasize your chords. You need to set four stages, short speed, minor tonal changes, and medium to low depth.
If you can manage to coordinate the beat with the speed of the phased waves, you’ll get excellent results. This way, a phaser can add warmth and psychedelia to a chord line.
Use it wrong, and the effect will crash with the melody.
In other words, it’s best to match the phaser’s speed with the song’s tempo. You can achieve this with a tap tempo button, as long as you’re playing with a metronome.
A MIDI feature will work as well, in case you’re recording on your computer.
Either way, you’d want to enable coordination between your phase shift and the song’s tempo.
Also, a phaser pedal is not only for chords. For example, Jimmi Hendrix uses a phaser to create a staccato effect on Machine Gun.
Another classic option to use a phaser is to boost individual lead notes without adding distortion.
Best overall phaser pedal: MXR Phase 95
The MXR Phase 95 is a classic analog phaser selling for an affordable price. It’s a small stompbox.
Coming from one of the top-tier pedal manufacturers, Phase 90 offers superior construction, refined sound, and a bundle of items, in some cases.
The 95 model combines Phase 45 with Phase 90 models. It’s a blend of mellow and power. In particular, it has a 45/90 switch that toggles between the two different circuit models.
The 45 circuit is the subtle alternative with two stages. Then, the 90 circuit is more intense and has four stages.
It also has a script toggle switch to remove feedback and get greater clarity and extra headroom.
Additionally, it has a Speed control to set the rate of the effect. It’s a simple knob, so you’ll have no problem using it.
Bear in mind Eddie Van Halen used the Phase 90 shifter. Now, the Phase 95 is an improved version with half the size and extra options.
Overall, the sound is between vintage and classic swirls.
Best budget phaser: Behringer Vintage Phaser VP1
Seasoned guitar players will find the Behringer VP1 hard to overlook. Much like most Behringer pedals, it’s an incredibly cheap solution offering tons of value.
It lacks a rugged metal enclosure, as Behringer saves money with plastic cases instead of aluminum, metal, or similar.
Still, it’s an A+ pedal when it comes to value per money.
The VP1 relies on two controls: a tone switch plus a rate knob. This simple setup produces three-dimensional phase shifts to enhance your chords.
The rotary knob delivers plenty of flexibility. It goes from classic and authentic tone to electronic jet plane sounds, and even sounds similar to a wah pedal.
If you crank the rate know to the end, you’ll produce chaotic and robotic chatters.
Then, the tone switch inverts the polarity of the pedal. This changes the sound from traditional phasers to elegant and modern shimmering.
Best rock phaser pedal: EHX Small Stone Nano
This is the phaser Radiohead uses, so we know there’s something special here. You can hear the pedal all over the OK Computer album.
The EHX Small Stone Nano is a mini-pedal offering classic and authentic phase shift tones. It has a simple setup, so you won’t need any experience to use it correctly.
Its sound is spacy, ethereal, and sometimes over-the-top. It’s an all-out 90’s rock swirl.
Because of its color switch, the EHX Small Stone Nano presents the extra flavor many phaser pedals lack. It swaps between robust and full phase shift tones to pronounced instances on the upwards position.
Moreover, the EHX pedal makes the harmonics glide in and out the signal for extreme peaks on the UP position of the color switch. On the other side, the DOWN position delivers a complete and controlled sound.
The second control it has is its rate rotary knob. It adjusts the phasing sweep speed. You only need to turn the knob clockwise to create a faster sweep.
Overall, the EHX is the best phaser pedal for rock genres. Its color switch gives you the flexibility to go from blues to country, metal, alternative rock, and everything in-between.
Best pro phaser pedal: Moog Moogerfooger MF103 12 Stage
Here’s a sophisticated and complex analog phaser pedal. It goes above, beyond, and onwards what most phaser pedals offer, both in terms of capabilities and construction.
This is a two-for-one pedal, as it brings a low-frequency oscillator alongside the phase shift.
The company’s CEO, Bob Moog, designed the pedal two complete two distinct modular functions.
Its first function is a 12 stage phaser with enough resonance and speed to match any tone and tempo.
Then, it has a wide-range LFO that generates surges, swells, swirling percussions, and sonic destruction.
Moreover, the MF-103 has various CV/Expression pedal outputs and inputs. This allows you to control and manipulate various parameters simultaneously.
The pedal carries an analog circuit for genuine vintage tones and sells as the “holy grail of analog phase.” It is fantastic, honestly, but it’s incredibly complex to use.
The pedal includes many controls. These are rate knob, a drive control, output, bypass, resonance, Lo/Hi, amount, and sweep. You can read the details of these controls on the Amazon listing.
Overall, the Moogerfroger is the go-to choice for professionals looking for the premium option for studio production and live performance. The challenge of its many knobs is not beginner-friendly. Still, an experienced player can do magic with a pedal like this.
Moreover, the Moogerfooger phaser pedal also works with vocals, keyboards, bass guitars, and more.
Best premium phaser pedal: Walrus Audio Lillian
Between 1943 and 1943, over 1,000 women volunteered to become WW2 military pilots. Their goal was to help troops during their retreats, as well as fight alongside the troops. The name of the program is W.A.S.P.
Lillian Yonally was one of the pilots. Her story of dangerous travels and heroic deeds is now paid tribute by Walrus Audio.
This analog Phaser pedal has one standout feature that turns it into a premium option. The D-P-V knob is a dry, phase, and vibrato control. It’s a blend function giving greater sensitivity between no phasing effect, 50/50 dry/wet signal, and full-blown effect. Also, it covers a wide range of sounds. In other words, it changes the dry to wet signal ratio.
A six-stage phaser meets the D-P-V to boost the sound further. This is a more straightforward switch that enhances the strength of the effect} by switching from 4 to 6 stages. It alters the effect’s voice from warm (6) to tight (4).
There’re also rate, width, and feedback knobs for extra options. In particular, the rate-setting makes the effect go from subtle to complex.
Overall, the Walrus Audio Lillian is one of the most complex and versatile analog phasers you’ll see. All of the sounds it produces are elegant, from full-blown phasing to subtle changes. Also, its knobs are capable of creating the most potent and most overblown effects in the market.
Most flexible phaser pedal: TC Electronic Helix
The TonePrint pedal premiered in 2011 with immediate success. Its pragmatic approach brings an outstanding amount of features.
Because it mixes digital extras with analog circuits, the TC Electronic Helix has fewer functions but more results.
Notably, the pedal brings the TonePrint Editor, a tone editor app for PC, Mac, Android, and iOS. It allows you to create sounds and save, then uses these sounds on the pedal. Additionally, it brings recreations of iconic phaser pedals, plus custom-created sounds made by other musicians.
There’s also a toggle to switch between vintage sounds and melodic/metallic tones. Speed and depth controls are also present as a simple solution to further your flexibility.
Additionally, mix and feedback knobs control wet/dry signals and feedback amount, respectively. In particular, it has a Kill-Dry feature that removes dry signals. You can engage the option to plug some effects and loops.
Lastly, it has stereo I/O options to split the signal and create three-dimensional tones.
Overall, the Helix pedal can access sonic bends, rocker sounds, subtle sweeps, wet warbles, and much more. Overall, it offers incredible versatility.
Top value phaser pedal: Boss PH-3
Boss often delivers top-value items, and their popular phaser pedal is not an exception.
The Boss PH-3 is a versatile digital phase shift pedal. It doesn’t deliver the most authentic or best sounds possible. Still, it brings the commodities of modern circuitry, which include ease-of-use, flexibility, and durability.
}For example, it has a switch to change between four, eight, 10, and 12 stages. The other controls are speed, depth, and resonance, which I already explained above.
There’s nothing new here. It’s the standard formula you expect from a phaser pedal. But it delivers a solid option, with functional features and a great sound.
Beyond that, the Boss phaser also brings a tap tempo to keep the effect in time. This allows you to use the effect exactly how you want.
On top of this, it has a Fall / Rise selector switch to further alter the effect.