Chorus, Flanger and Phaser Effect Pedal Buyers Guide

Chorus, Flange, and Phaser effects are built on the principals of the Delay effect, but add modulation to the delayed sound.  

Phase Shifter Effects:

In a Phaser (also known as a Phase Shifter) the sound wave of the delayed sound is out of phase with the original sound.

Figure 1 illustrates from the top two sound waves in phase, two sound waves that are 180 degrees out of phase, and at the bottom 2 sound waves that are 90 degrees out of phase.  If the sounds are 180 degrees off, in other words, if the peaks of the original sound wave come at the same time as the troughs of the delayed sound, the waves cancel each other out leaving a notch (no sound). When the peaks and troughs of the waves coincide the signal is at full strength.  In a Phaser, the delayed sound sweeps through different degrees of shift from the original sound giving a characteristic “swooshing” effect to the sound similar to the rotating “Leslie” speaker effect characteristic of the Hammond organ sound. Shifters are built in stages, with each stage providing up to 180 degrees of shift.  Therefore, a typical 4 stage unit is capable of three peaks and two notches in a sweep.  The Stones song “Shattered” has a great example of the use of Phase Shifting.

Flanger Effects:

Flangers use a similar technique as a Phase Shifter, but instead of a uniform sweep through the peaks and notches of the combined original and delayed signal, the Flangers varies the sweep and use hundreds of stages. Before digital effects, flanging effects were made in the studio by playing two identical tracks in unison on two different “tape machines” and putting a finger on the flange of the tape of one machine. Of course carrying two huge tape machines to a live show was impractical so the effect really became practical with digital pedals. The sound of a Flanger varies as you hold a note or chord and can be heard as a whooshing or revving up sound. Some songs using the Flanger effect include "Don’t Panic," by Coldplay, the last line of "(Just Like) Starting Over," by John Lennon, and the intro to "Barracuda," by Heart.

Chorus Effects:

When people play or sing in unison, there are always subtle differences in timing and modulation.  The Chorus effect pedal uses that principal to make a single performer sound like an ensemble.  Chorus Pedals work on the same principal as the Flanger, but keeps the delays very short to create harmonically spaced notches so that the delayed signal is very close to the original.  This sounds particularly good in stereo giving the sound a three dimensional quality as well as an ensemble effect.  Familiar uses of the Chorus effect can be found in The Police’s "Message in a Bottle" and Nirvana’s "Smells Like Teen Spirit."  No particular skill is required to use a Chorus effect, and it brings a tonal color that should definitely be in your arsenal.

Here are some of the Flangers, Phasers, and Chorus pedals you should consider:

Select Chorus Pedals:

The Boss CE-5 Chorus Ensemble Pedal is one of the most popular Chorus effects available. Rugged and well designed as all Boss pedals, the CE-5 features dual stereo outputs for connection to dual amps or for recording. The Boss CE-5 produces effects that range from a natural ensemble sound to an outstanding stereo chorus effect.

MXR’s Black Label Chorus Pedal is the analog pedal that Zakk Wylde uses to thicken up his wall of distortion.  The Black Label Chorus has the warm analog sound plus all the features you need in a quality chorus effect, including stereo outputs, High and Low Cut Filters, and Level, Rate, and Depth Controls.

With specs like the best boutique pedals, the DigiTech HardWire CR-7 Stereo Chorus Pedal is an extremely versatile and well-designed Chorus Effect.  In addition to all the features you would expect, the CR-7 provides settings for Analog, Jazz, Studio, Vintage, Multi, Modern and Boutique Chorus effects.  Like any good boutique pedal, the Hardwire CR-7, features a true bypass circuit to get the pedal completely out of your signal path when you want it.

Select Phaser Pedals

The Phase Shifter most in demand is the MXR Phase 90 , which has been in Eddie Van Halen’s set up for years. The Phase 90 comes in 4 flavors, the basic MXR Phase 90, the MXR Zakk Wylde ZW90, the MXR 74 Vintage Phase 90, and the Van Halen EVH Phase 90.  All are solidly built and simple to use with a single control knob.

The DigiTech HardWire SP-7 Stereo Phaser is the pedal for those who want to truly explore the possibilities of phase shifting.  With 7 different phaser types based on vintage and modern effects, tap tempo speed control, and true stereo inputs and outputs, you can get exactly the sound your music needs.  The technical specs are truly high end, with high voltage operation for a clean sound and true bypass circuitry to allow the purest signal to flow through unimpeded.  This is one of the most advanced phasers on the market.

No listing of top Phase Shifters would be complete without the Boss PH3 Phase Shifter Pedal.  This is another extremely versatile Phaser in a very compact stomp box. The Boss PH3 include loads of vintage and modern phase effects and tap tempo to sync easily with your performance.  There are also new “Rise” and “Fall” modes to give you phasing effects in a vertical dimension.

Select Flanger Pedals

The Boss BF-3 Flanger Pedal Ultra is the number one flanger on the market.  As with all Boss pedals, this one is a real workhorse.  It has stereo outputs and independent inputs for guitar and bass.  The effects include gate and panning. Controls include resolution, depth, rate, and tap tempo for synching the effect to your playing.  What more could you need in a flanger effect?

The Ibanez Paul Gilbert Signature AF2 Airplane Flanger is actually two pedals in one.  There is the traditional chorus flanger and then there is the radical “Take Off” flanger, which gives you a sound resembling an airplane taking off – the sound made famous by Paul Gilbert.  The Crazy Flange sound also give you the ability to shift pitch.
Chorus, Flanger & Phaser Pedals At