- Phaser pedals are a staple of pedalboards worldwide.
- What are the best phaser pedals for psych-rock or just general experimental noodling?
- We round up 9 of the best phaser pedals for guitarists on the market!
Phaser pedals are a favorite of guitarists worldwide. Whether searching for screeching 80’s tones or just looking to add a bit of dimension to your clean playing, a good phaser is a worthwhile addition to any guitarist’s collection.
There are many options on the market, so deciding which to go for can be challenging. If you can, it’s always worth taking a pedal on a test run at your nearest guitar store to see if it’s for you.
However, we know that’s not always possible, so to get you started, here’s our rundown of the 9 best phaser pedals.
What Are The Best Phaser Pedals On The Market?
For our money, the MXR Phase 90 takes the cake as the best phaser pedal. This classic and stylish pedal is affordable and gives you that phaser sound you’ve heard on countless records.
Our value pick for those on a budget is the Joyo JF06 – essentially a clone of the Phase 90 at a rock bottom price.
Finally, the BOSS PH-3 Phase Shifter is the most versatile pick, with a load of tone-shaping options on board to suit all styles.
Aside from these, you’ll find plenty of other unique options on this list for all budgets. Here are our top picks for the best phaser pedals:
- MXR Phase 90
- JOYO JF 06 Vintage Phaser
- BOSS PH 3 Phase Shifter
- Empress Effects Phaser
- TC Electronic Helix Phaser
- Electro Harmonix Small Stone
- Walrus Audio Lillian
- Earthquaker Devices Grand Orbiter
- Behringer Vintage Phaser VP1
MXR Phase 90
If we’re talking about the best phaser pedals, we have to start our list with MXR Phase 90. This is easily one of the most recognizable analog phaser pedals due to its bright orange housing and simple speed knob.
The MXR Phase 90 has been around since the 70s and has taken on multiple incarnations, with the older models featuring script-style text on the front before moving to a block-style font in later models.
Phase 90 has a classic phaser sound, and it’s no wonder it’s been one of the most popular phaser pedals for nearly 50 years. If you’re looking for an easy-to-use option that sounds great, you can’t go wrong with this model. It’s very popular, so you’ll probably find the Phase 90 in stock in your local guitar store.
2. JOYO JF 06 Vintage Phaser
JF-06 Vintage Phase effect pedal is a modern replica that made Eddie Van Halen's sound!
- Easy to use
- Extremely versatile
- Beautifully replicates 70's & 80s phaser sound
The JF 06 Vintage Phase pedal is similar in design to the
Produced in a similar orange metal casing, the unit uses a similar speed control with a simple on/off switch.
The JF 06 sounds excellent and stands up next to other phaser pedals, including the
You’ll still be able to create that Van Halen sound with this option while shaving a few dollars off the price tag.
The unit also has true bypass meaning there is no coloration to your guitar tone when the effect is switched off.
BOSS PH 3 Phase Shifter
The BOSS PH 3 Phase Shifter is a versatile unit whose phased sounds range from modern to vintage but also utilizes a unique Rise and Fall effect option to create an entirely upward or downward moving effect.
The effect’s tempo can be easily selected with the inbuilt tap tempo function, and for real-time control over the rate and filter, you can use an expression pedal.
The control knobs are simple and easy to use, meaning you can get loads of great tones with minimal effort.
4. Empress Effects Phaser
The Empress Phaser Pedal is the next generation in the evolution of digitally-controlled analog technology.
- Killer Sound Quality
- More controls than a typical phaser pedal
The Empress Effects Phaser is one of the market’s best modern phasing effects pedals. The unit is a digital phaser pedal and comes in a little pricier than some of the other items on our list but is well worth the investment.
There are more controls than a typical phaser pedal which opens up so many doors for sculpting a unique phaser tone, including eight auto modes: envelope follower, center & speed, speed (sine), speed (square), audio sweep trigger, random level trigger, rhythms, and direct control.
The pedal can be used as a two, three, or four-stage phaser with eight waveform options and tap tempo functions. The unit also comes in a small package meaning it has a minimal impact on your pedalboard space.
5. TC Electronic Helix Phaser
Whether you're after satisfying Gilmour-style swirls or driving sweeps inspired by Van Halen, the TC Electronic Helix Phaser guitar effects pedal delivers the customizable and versatile modulation effects you need.
- Extremely versatile
- Huge tonal possibilities
- Value for money
TC Electronic offers a huge range of pedal options and the Helix Phaser is (as TC claim) the most ‘versatile phaser ever’.
Housed in a luminous yellow case the pedal showcases four simple controls – depth, mix, speed, and feedback.
TC Helix also offers stereo inputs and outputs to help create some awesome stereo effects.
What’s even cooler is that the Helix is compatible with TC Electronics Toneprint App, meaning you can load up the software and tweak your tone with a screen, which most other pedals don’t offer.
Helix is another pedal on our list that features true bypass. It comes in at around $110 and is a great option for huge tonal possibilities without needing to spend a fortune.
6. Electro-Harmonix Small Stone
The Electro-Harmonix Nano Small Stone's full-bodied, three-dimensional phasing adds a special swirl to every musical style.
- Great for your first phaser pedal
- Classic to crazy and experimental phaser sounds
The Small Stone is another classic pedal from Electro-Harmonix that manages to be smaller than their traditionally chunky stompboxes.
The first pedal on our list that doesn’t come in luminous color, the Small Stone catches the eye with its bold design and unique ‘color’ switch.
The Small Stone can be used for both classic and experimental phaser sounds.
The rate control allows you to speed up or slow down your phaser effect, while the color switch will turn up the feedback for more intense sounds.
This is a great option if you’re looking to buy your first phaser pedal. It won’t cost the earth, and you can quickly get to grips with the controls, giving you a wealth of tones at your feet.
7. Walrus Audio Lillian
Lillian is a multi-stage analog phase pedal incorporating its design from another Walrus Audio classic, the Julia chorus pedal.
The unit comes with rate, width, feedback controls, and a D-P-V blend that lets you switch between phase shift, dry, and a classic vibrato sound.
This pedal is another true bypass pedal and it won’t take up much space on your pedalboard.
Earthquaker Devices Grand Orbiter
The Grand Orbiter is a 4 stage phaser that ranges from subtle sounds to more intense modulated tones.
The pedal also incorporates unique functions, such as the sweep knob, which we don’t see on many guitar pedals.
This allows you to decide where in the frequency spectrum the peak lies. Turning full clockwise means a more lively and intense sound, whereas anti-clockwise results in a much darker tone.
This pedal is completely analog, features true bypass, and is even hand-built!
9. Behringer Vintage Phaser VP1
Traditional to the core, the VP1 gives you just a single rate knob plus a very cool Tone switch, which lets you invert the polarity of the effect.
- Authentic and classic 3-dimensional phase-shifting
- Easy to use interface
Behringer has a somewhat mixed reputation, but the truth is some of their stuff isn’t bad at all!
The VP1 is reminiscent of a certain other pedal brand on this list but incorporates a very simple interface with a single-speed knob and tone selector. The rate will take you from slow and subtle through to crazy vibrato-style sounds.
The huge bonus with Behringer products tends to be their affordability, so if you’re looking to pick up your first phaser pedal and don’t want to spend a lot of money then this is a great option.
What Is A Phaser Pedal & Why Use One?
We talk about ‘phase‘ a lot regarding recording and mixing. We usually don’t want to alter the phase of a sound as it can cause mix problems when certain frequencies get canceled out. However, a phaser pedal uses this technique to deliberately create movement in the sound for a watery, psychedelic effect.
Very briefly a phaser pedal works by creating phase shifts in a waveform, then mixing this signal with the dry input to create notches in the frequency spectrum.
The position of these notches shifts due to modulation from an LFO or Low Frequency Oscillator. This creates the classic “sweeping” effect, similar to a flanger but cleaner and less detuned.
Check out Red Hot Chilli Peppers performing Throw Away Your Television to hear John Frusciante using a noticeable phaser effect to enhance the clean guitar sound:
The controls can be a little confusing if you’ve just bought a phaser pedal. It’s easy to crank everything up to maximum SWOOSH but getting to know these controls can help sculpt your tone:
Rate – This makes the effect faster or slower. A slow rate will create a subtle sweeping effect, whereas a higher rate will result in a faster, tremolo-style sound.
Depth – The depth control dictates how ‘intense’ the effect is, and usually, this controls the range of the sweep. Many phaser pedals exclude this control entirely and assume you want the maximum depth the whole time.
Feedback – Some phaser pedals will include a feedback knob (or color switch). Usually, this causes a certain amount of the phaser output to be fed back to the input signal. This changes the tonal characteristics for a “steeper” sound.
Mix – Some phasers, such as the TC Electronic Helix will include a mix function. This allows you to blend in your clean guitar sound against the phaser effect. This reinforces your guitar’s natural tone and stops the phaser from completely taking over.
(For a complete rundown of phaser functions, head on over to Chorus vs Flanger vs Phaser: Breaking It Down)
What Is The Difference Between 4, 8, and 12 Stage Phasers?
The different stages in a phaser relate to the number of notches and peaks in the frequency spectrum. A 4-stage phaser will have 2 notches, an 8-stage phaser will have 4, and so on.
More stages create a more dramatically filtered tone. This can be tricky to fully understand, but we recommend checking out the Lillian pedal to hear a 4-stage and 6-stage phaser.
Where Should My Phaser Go In My Pedal Board Chain?
Like most things in music, there are no rules! But there are still some important things to keep in mind when it comes to placing your phaser in your signal chain.
Generally speaking, a phaser should go towards the end of the chain after your reverbs and delays. This is because the ‘notched’ effect can become obscured by overdrive and modulation effects later in the signal path.
(If you’re confused about your pedal order, check our article on how to arrange your pedals.)
Should My Phaser Pedal Be In An Effects Loop?
Again, there is no right or wrong. An effects loop allows you to place your pedals after the distortion on your amp.
Much like your pedalboard chain, the sound will differ depending on where you place your phaser pedal. Still, some guitarists feel that placing their modulation type effects (phaser, chorus, tremolo) before the amp distortion can create a muddy sound.
We’d say experiment with sounds, although it is common to only put modulation effects within the effects loop. Adding an overdrive pedal here will ruin your amp’s natural distortion tone.
Are Analog Phasers Better Than Digital Phasers?
The Analog vs Digital argument rages on!
In truth, when it comes to pedals, there will always be those who favor analog. However, digital pedals are so advanced that they still sound great and open up many options for tonal possibilities.
In 2021, emulating circuits with digital technology is a piece of cake. Digital pedals offer a wider range of features and, to most, will sound indistinguishable from their analog counterparts, though some will argue they are not as ‘warm’.
Of course, if you’re a tone freak, you’ll probably favor an analog phaser, but we’d say, either way, go into it with an open mind and don’t form an opinion until you’ve tried a selection of pedals.
When Should I Use My Phaser Pedal?
Phaser is a fantastic effect for adding color and depth to your guitar playing. However, it can be easily overdone and so is often best used tastefully and sparingly!
For example, using a phaser on a distorted riff will emphasize the phased sound!
Using a light amount with a slow rate can add thickness and character to your solos, and while we love the extreme sounds Eddie Van Halen created in the 80s, this can be a bit over the top in modern music.
Similarly, using a small amount on a clean guitar riff can work wonders and add more dimension to your playing. If your guitar parts are pretty sparse, then an increased rate can create lush-sounding, watery effects that can make your playing warmer and more enjoyable.
Listen to Pink Floyd’s Shine On You Crazy Diamond to hear how David Gilmour uses a simple, clean guitar intro with a little phaser added to create extra dimension.