11 Best Phaser Pedals for Your Pedalboard

Along with chorus pedals, flanger pedals, and tremolo pedals, phasers are among the most popular modulation effects for guitar you’re likely to see on pedalboards. Whether you want it for subtle color or for wild laserbeam sounds, discover the best phaser pedals on the market to give you flavor you need.

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How Do Phaser Pedals Work?

Phaser is unlike chorus and flanger, in that it doesn't rely on a delay chip at all. While those pedals work by splitting the dry signal and sending one half through a short delay, generally between zero and 50 milliseconds, which is modulated by a low-frequency oscillator.

In a phaser, no part of the signal is delayed, as such, but instead passes through multiple filters which, when combined with the original signal, produce that distinctive swirling sound.

The filters change the phase relationship between the frequencies, affecting phase cancellation among some and causing others to create notches. It's those notches that produce the effect, and in turn are modulated by the LFO, which is moving up and down the frequency range.

While the flanger creates a number of notches based on the length of the delay, phaser creates a number of notches according to the number of filters. These are called stages, which you'll see reference to when shopping for a phaser.

The MXR Phase 90 is a four-stage phaser, which is often thought of as the traditional phasing sound. It's enough notches to be noticible, but not enough to get totally out of control. If you want totally out of control, go for an option that allows for more stages to be added as needed, like the Boss PH-3 Phase Shifter.

Where Does a Phaser Pedal Go In the Signal Chain?

Pedalboard order is highly subjective, but most players put phasers in the modulation section of their chain, alongside chorus and flanger and before time-based effects like delay and reverb.

Phasers work well in effects loops or into the front of the amp. They're also one of the better modulation effects to go before your overdrive and distortion, because the frequency cancellation creates a very integrated, organic overall sound. This is how Eddie Van Halen did it, if you're wondering.

Personally, I like to have it right after my dirt section before any other modulation. Having other effects after it can make the effect more subtle, but still adds movement.

What Does Phaser Sound Like?

For a great demonstration of phaser sounds, check out the Music Is Win video that demos a few examples in music history. Speaking of Eddie Van Halen, the opening to "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" also has a clear rendering of the effect.

It's a swirling, filtered sound that is fairly distinct once you start listening for it. It can sound a lot like a flanger, but flanger tends to be more extreme and tubular.

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