Phaser, flanger, and chorus effects are staples in just about every form of music. They infuse musical compositions with motion and texture, and pedals that create these effects offer musicians an easy way to add new dimension or completely transform the vibe of a song. Think Anthony Jackson’s soupy bass groove on “For the Love of Money,” Eddie Van Halen’s jet-like riff on “Unchained,” or Kurt Cobain’s dreamlike rhythm on “Come As You Are.”
All three effects fall under the modulation category. What that means is that they all modulate—or cyclically change—some aspect of your instrument signal. What distinguishes one from another is which part of your signal they change and how they change it.
MXR® PHASE 90
Phasers are all about the swoosh and swirl. Phasers are all about the swoosh and swirl. This effect is created by running your input signal through a series of filters that move at a speed set by a rate control and then mixing it with the unaffected signal at the output. How many filters, or stages, you have determines how pronounced your effect is. There’s no phaser more iconic than the MXR® Phase 90. Its four-stage phasing puts it right in the Goldilocks zone—not too subtle, not too intense—and its single Rate control provides expansive creative potential.
With the Phase 90’s Rate control set low, you’ll get a smooth rising-and-falling effect that’s a great thickener for clean passages. Turning the Rate control up is great for throbbing riffs and surreal melodies—crank it all the way, and you have a recipe for epic noise experimentation.
MXR® MICRO FLANGER
Stepping on a flanger pedal is like strapping a jet engine or a space rocket to your instrument signal—depending on pedal’s settings. We’re talking the surging swell of a jet taking off and a roaring trip through every layer of the atmosphere and straight for the stars. Like phasers, flanger pedals split your input signal in two and delaying one of the signals, but flangers apply that delay to the signal’s full frequency spectrum rather than using a filter. Essentially, your unaffected signal is mixed with a slightly delayed version of itself, which creates the effect’s signature sweeping sensation. Additionally, flangers often come with the option to feed the signal back into itself for increased intensity and distortion.
The MXR® Micro Flanger comes with Rate and Regen controls to set the length of the delay and the amount of feedback, respectively. This simple interface makes it the perfect choice for anyone wanting to dip their toes into the often turbulent waters of flanger world, as pedals with more controls can be difficult to dial in for the uninitiated. The Micro Flanger will lend itself well to similar situations as the Phase 90, only with more dramatic results. Set the Rate control to your desired speed, and then play with the Regen control to add texture and intensity to the mix.
MXR® ANALOG CHORUS
Chorus pedals are designed to recreate the slightly off-key sound of a choir of singers—each one is singing the same piece of music but with slight variations in pitch and intonation compared to the others. Chorus pedals do their thing in much the same way as flangers, only with a much longer delay and without the extra feedback.
The MXR® Analog Chorus is one of our favorites because it allows you to control volume, rate, and intensity and cut/boost lows and highs as needed. Five knobs may seem complicated, but the Analog Chorus is very responsive and super easy to dial in. To fatten up chords and solos, set the Rate low. Try bringing the Depth control into play when using any kind of overdrive, distortion, or fuzz—the more pronounced effect will give those pedals some extra harmonics to grab hold of. If you’re looking to add some extra energy to a passage, it’s time to start playing with the Analog Chorus’ Rate control. With the Rate and Depth controls set around 12 o’clock, you’ll get the famously liquid, underwater dreamland sound that the chorus effect is most famous for. The Level, Low, and High controls will always be set to taste.
One, two, or all three?
Should you use a phaser, a flanger, or a chorus? Should you have all three? At the end of the day, it depends on your taste and how many shades you want your palette of tones to have. These effects are similar enough that many players will be just fine with only one on hand. That is to say, with clever use of control settings, you can use one to mimic the others reasonably well. But each is different enough from the others that tonechasers, soundscapers, and other connoisseurs will want one of each on their pedal board to maximize the creative potential of their signal chain.