How to find the best phaser pedal for you
Phaser pedals are incredibly popular with so many guitarists because they can add so much life and energy to your tone. Since phaser pedals first came available to guitarists in the 60s, guitarists from a range of different styles have been using them to come up with iconic tones and songs.
Finding the best phaser pedal for you depends on what you want from a phaser pedal, your budget and what you plan to do with the phaser.
In this guide, we’ll look at some of the most popular phaser pedals as well as a pick for the best phaser pedals in different categories.
If you want to learn more about phaser as well as all other types of common guitar effects, check out Guitar Gear Finder’s Guitar Effects Course here. The course digs deep into all common types of guitar effects and how to use them.
Phaser Pedal FAQs
Before buying a phaser pedal, it helps to know what you’re getting. While you can learn everything you would want about phaser pedals and how they compare against other modulation effects, here are some answers to common questions about phasers.
Q: What is the difference between a flanger and a phaser?
A: The easiest way to describe the difference is that a flanger has a more metalic sound, while a phaser has a more organic sound. Flangers can sound like jet engines or they can give your tone a metalic quality. Phasers can produce similar swirling and swooshing effects, but without the metalic jet engine quality.
Q: Are Phasers analog or digital?
A: Like most effects pedals today, there are both analog and digital versions available. While some guitarists will swear that analog phaser pedals will always sound better than digital phaser pedals, it’s becoming harder to even tell them apart from each other.
Q: How can I use a Phaser pedal?
A: There are many different ways you can use a phaser pedal. You can use it on a clean tone to give it some life and character. You can use it during solos to help your guitar stand out from the rest of the band, or you can crank the effect up for some psychedelic effects. Have a listen to the songs mentioned later for some great examples of a phaser pedal in action.
Q: Is a Phaser a good pedal for beginners?
A: Phaser pedals are easy to use and can be used in a variety of different ways. So phaser pedals are an excellent choice for beginners wanting to get started with effects.
If you’re looking at what guitar pedals to get first, check out this guide: What Guitar Pedals Should I Get First?
Q: What should I look for in a Phaser pedal?
A: The answer isn’t brand. There are three things to consider when buying a phaser pedal: features, price, and quality.
Some guitarists prefer simple pedals with limited features while others prefer versatile pedals with a range of different settings, knobs, and features. Think about what is important to you. You’ll notice some incredibly simple phaser pedals in this guide. Think about whether you’re happy with only one knob to control the effect or whether you want more control.
The price also plays an important part in choosing the right phaser pedal for you. A higher price doesn’t always mean a better pedal. You may find a $50 phaser pedal suits you better than the ultra-premium $200 phaser. Set your own budget based on how often you think you’ll use a phaser and how important it is to you.
When it comes to quality, think about the tone quality. Do you want something that you can tweak and dial in to get the perfect phaser tone? Or are you happy with a simple phaser that gives you a good quality effect without any fuss? Quality is subjective so think about what quality means to you as you read through the rest of this guide.
Best Phaser Pedals Shortlist
While there’s no one best phaser pedal, there are a few phasers that tend to show up again and again. Look through any list of phaser pedals and you’ll come across these popular options (links to Amazon):
- MXR Phase 90 or MXR EVH90 Phase 90
- EHX Small Stone Nano
- BOSS PH-3 Phase Shifter
- Red Witch Analog Deluxe Moon
- TC Electronic Helix Phaser
- Empress Effects Phaser
There are plenty more excellent quality phasers out there, but the above are all incredibly popular. A pedal being popular doesn’t always mean that it’s the best option, but many of the above pedals have stood the test of time and are worth checking out.
Many of the above phaser pedals can be found for very low prices on the secondhand market.
Songs Using a Phaser Pedal
If you’re new to phasers, have a listen to the video below to hear a range of different sounds a typical phaser can offer you:
Here are some well-known songs that use a phaser pedal:
- Eruption – Van Halen
- Little Wing – Jimi Hendrix
- Paranoid Android – Radiohead
- Soma – Smashing Pumpkins
- Shattered – The Rolling Stones
Have a listen to some of the above songs to get a feel for how a phaser can be used in different ways to enhance a song. Some songs use a phaser with a clean tone, others with a drive tone. It’s an incredibly flexible effect that can also sound great in combination with other effects.
Listen to each of the above songs and try to pick out when the phaser is used. Learning how to identify effects by ear is an incredibly powerful skill and can help you dial in better tones. This is a skill I focus on in my Guitar Effects Course, so check it out if you have trouble identifying the effects used songs.
Best Budget Phaser Pedal
My recommended budget phaser pedal is the FC13 Phaser by FLAMMA (link to my review):
This tiny pedal gives you a simple and cheap way to dive into the world of phasers. The fact that it sounds fantastic makes this an easy recommendation.
As you can see from the above photo, there are two modes: vintage and modern.
This gives you two different-sounding phaser options and both of them sound incredible.
The vintage mode has a warm sound similar to a 2-stage phaser like the MXR Phase 45. The modern mode gives you a brighter and deeper sound similar to a 4-stage phaser like the MXR Phase 90.
When I first tested this pedal out, it exceeded my expectations of what a budget pedal is capable of. I instantly removed the phaser I had on my daily pedalboard and the FC13 now lives there.
Read my full review of the FLAMMA FC13 Phaser Pedal here (includes audio clips of the pedal in action).
Is the FLAMMA FC13 Phaser Pedal right for you? This budget pedal sounds better than many higher-priced pedals and only takes up a small part of your pedalboard space. If you’re interested in adding a phaser to your board but don’t want to spend a lot, it’s easy for me to recommend this great-sounding pedal.
Best Classic Phaser Pedal
If you’ve read anything about phasers before, you would have already seen or heard about the Phase 90. When it comes to phaser pedals, the MXR Phase 90 is iconic. The orange pedal with the one knob has been inspiring generations of guitarists.
Script vs Block: When people talk about the Phase 90, you often hear them talk about the ‘script’ version and the ‘block’ version. This refers to the font used for the ‘Phase 90’ text on the pedal. The more modern pedals with the block style text have a different feel or color compared to the original script logo pedals. Some people love one and some love the other so it’s hard to recommend one over the other.
David Gilmour uses a Phase 90 on many iconic tracks and live and a big part of Eddie Van Halen’s ‘brown sound’ is a Phase 90.
Speaking of Van Halen, he uses the Phase 90 so much that he has his own signature pedal that is almost as popular among guitarists as the original Phase 90. So if you’re a Van Halen fan, or want a bit more flexibility compared to the standard Phase 90, you might want to check out the MXR EVH90:
It still only gives one control knob, but you’ll notice a small ‘script’ button on the top left. This button allows you to change to a more classic phaser tone.
Is the Phase 90 right for you? If you’re looking for a very basic phaser pedal that will still give you an excellent tone, the Phase 90 is a solid choice. You won’t get any flexibility with the effect, but if that’s not important to you, go for the Phase 90.
Best Boutique Phaser Pedal
The Red Witch Analog Deluxe Moon Phaser not only has a really long and confusing name, but is a confusing pedal as well. It’s a phaser and tremolo pedal with three control knobs: velocity, trajectory and cosmology…
It’s a unique pedal and the only phaser-tremolo hybrid I can think of. If you’re looking for something a little different than the norm when it comes to phasers, check out the Deluxe Moon. I haven’t had the opportunity to try one yet, but from what I’ve seen and heard from other guitarists, it’s a pedal worth the boutique price tag.
Is the Red Witch Analog Deluxe Moon Phaser right for you? this isn’t a typical phaser, so if you’re after a straight-forward good quality phaser, this might not be the best choice. But if you’re looking for something to spark some creativity, you’ll definitely get it with the Red Witch…Moon…Deluxe..something.
Looking for an alternative boutique? Check out the Keeley Phase 24 for a phaser that allows you to toggle between two or four stages.
Best Phaser Pedal for Flexibility
TC Electronic’s modern pedals give guitarists a lot of flexibility thanks to TonePrint. The Helix Phaser is no different and offers guitarists a very modern set of features for a phaser. Through TonePrint you can essentially come up with any sounding phaser you like with up to 12 stages. Even without TonePrint the pedal offers more flexibility that most other phasers.
It’s also a proper stereo pedal unlike almost all other phasers available. It’s a solid performer that offers far more than a typical pedal for a pretty good price.
Is the Helix Phaser right for you? If you’re after a modern pedal with typical modern features and a lot of flexibilty, the Helix offers much more than most other pedals on this list.
Best Phaser Pedal for Quality
Empress Effects produce some stunning guitar pedals. While on the pricey side, one look at the pedal and you know you’re getting something amazing.
The Empress Effects Phaser gives you ultimate control over the effect with a massive range of features as you can see below:
You can toggle between stages, set resonance, switch modes and even change the waveform. This pedal is a stark contrast to the Phase 90 and other pedals that don’t give you control over the effect. If you want to be able to craft the perfect phaser for any situation, it would be hard to look past the Empress Phaser.
Is the Empress Phaser right for you? If you want the best and don’t care about cost, this is one of the best choices available. Of course, other people will still swear by their Phase 90, but you can do things with the Empress Phaser that isn’t possible on most of the pedals on this list.
Getting Started With a Phaser Pedal
If you want to get the most out of a phaser pedal and learn how they work, how to use them and combine them with other effects, check out the Guitar Effects Course here.
The course will give you a complete overview of all main types of guitar effects and how to get the most out of them. Whether you’re just getting started with guitar effects or want to learn more, check out the course.