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12 of the Best Compact Flanger Pedals for Your Consideration

A/DA AmpsAlexander PedalsBossCatalinbreadChase Bliss AudioDigiTechElectro-HarmonixFlangerMaxonModulationMXROld Blood Noise EndeavorsSubdecay EffectsTC Electronic+-
2018GPX12BestCompactFlangers700-min.jpg

I’m one of the relatively few players who still really likes flangers. You no longer see them that often on the typical pedalboard - as mentioned in my previous ’4 Next Level Medium to Large Enclosure Flangers’ a recent casualty to popular whims is the still excellent Chase Bliss Audio Spectre - the only pedal featured here with tap-tempo. I’ve gone with the discontinued but analogue Boss BF-2 instead of the newer digital BF-3 which does have press and hold tap-tempo exactly like the PH-3 Phase Shifter.

 

So I currently have 3 excellent phasers - the aforementioned Chase Bliss Spectre (blue knob version), the A/DA PBF Flanger and the Boss BF-2 - all analogue flangers, and the Spectre has the very unusual Through-Zero type at this enclosure size. Both Boss and Electro-Harmonic are well known for their flangers, with the overall classic status probably going to EHX’s original Electric Mistress - while my preference is usually for the more compact form factor.

 

There’s an equal mix here of analogue and digital here, and while the classic analogue Ibanez FL-9 is discontinued, the OEM manufacturer’s version - Maxon is still going strong. I have had the Alexander F.13 Neo, Subdecay Starlight V2 and the DigiTech Nautila on my wishlist at one time or another - probably leaning towards the Starlight of those.

 

The Catalinbread Zero Point, EHX Neo Mistress and MXR Micro Flanger all offer simple and accessible versions of flanging, while the newest addition here - the Old Blood Noise Endeavors Flat Light takes things in a more experimental direction. That leaves the TC Electronic Vortex as the cool all-rounder here with stereo ins and outs and smart TonePrint functionality.

 

I am sort of surprised that only the Chase Bliss Audio has tap-tempo, and only the Nautila and Vortex are stereo. Otherwise, and as reported it’s a health mix of analogue and digital with the EHX Neo Mistress the most affordable and the discontinued Chase Bliss Audio Spectre the dearest - I have seen versions of that on sale for £299. Note that the earlier purple-knob version of the Spectre is a much noisier pedal and not quite as dynamic - Joel updated part of the circuit to remove undue noise and tweaked the overall output profile - some players still prefer the earlier version, but most prefer the update - so be aware.

 

All the pedals listed here are quality flangers and sound great - although much of that is down to personal preference. I still would not swap my original three for any of those others, although I might be interested in an Alexander F.13 Neo (in the Friday 13th colourway), the OBNE Flat Light or Subdecay Starlight V2.

 

In fact for those of you who have read the 4 medium flangers piece - you will know what I’ve already made up my mind to get an EarthQuaker Devices Pyramids Stereo Flanger - which is digital, but is overall the most full-featured flanger currently available, and is the same height as these, but in medium enclosure - which means around twice the width.

 

Pedals are listed alphabetically by brand as usual:


A/DA PBF Flanger - £185

This was the second flanger I acquired after the Spectre, and remains the deputy for that slot. Many see this as the industry standard for flanging - and it's pretty perfect in every regard, apart from the fact that it does not have tap-tempo. I'm kind of with Chase Bliss on the tap-tempo thing, and prefer tap-tempo on all the time-based modulations. The A/DA is a solid professional performer with great sounding output and just the right degree of variety and versatility.


Alexander Pedals F-13 Neo Flanger - £148

The standard version is in a rather drab dark olive green, I much prefer the more sanguine colourway of the rarer Friday 13th editions which only get released on a Friday 13th - you either have to be very quick on the day, or scan Reverb.com - where there is one such available at this time. All Neo pedals have alternative dial functions, between 4 & 6 modes and presets. The newer ones mostly have tap-tempo which would be nice to see on the next version. For the longest time I could not decide between this one and the Subdecay Starlight V2 - where both have now been usurped by the slightly larger but far more capable EQD Pyramids.


Boss BF-2 Flanger (discontinued) Alchemy Audio Mod - c£95 (Reverb.com)

I was always aware of the BF-2 Flanger and Andy Martin re-ignited my desire for one of these. However he has a MIJ version where the dial tops are black. The grey dial tops indicate 'Made in Taiwan' which usually means not as pristine components and build quality as the Japanese originals. I spent ages trying to find decent a decent quality MIJ version on Reverb.com - but they either weren't good enough quality or way too pricey. So plan b is get an Alchemy Audio modified Made in Taiwan version - where Johnny Balmer has swapped out the budget parts for premium alternatives - for better signal-to-noise ratio and more high fidelity - equal to or sometimes superior to the Japanese originals. I stated in the intro that I went for the BF-2 analogue over the BF-3 digital version because I think it sounds better, the newer one has a little more variety though and benefits from tap-tempo - albeit of the press and hold type.


Catalinbread Zero Point Flanger - £161

The two-footswitch Zero Point is carried over from my original Best Flangers article - I love the simplicity here - which harks back to the original flanging technique of tapping the reel-to-reel tape flange to very slightly slow down playback of the second tape real. Here one switch turns the pedal on, while the other allows you to apply the flange-smear in momentary fashion - really cool - and about as simple as it gets.


Chase Bliss Audio Spectre MKII (discontinued) - £349

Even with its quirks and foibles, I'm still very sad to see Joel Korte discontinue this - I guess the low sales of this unit just don't justify it's continued existence. It is still the most interesting flanger at this form factor, and I will never get rid of mine whatever happens - and even though the EQD Pyramids will probably bounce it from its top slot. It's combination of features - with those 16 dip-switches still makes it really unique and uniquely flavoursome!


DigiTech Nautila Chorus-Flange - £109

I bought a number of DigiTech pedals in quick succession - and always had an eye out for this Nautila Chorus/Flanger - it's one of only 2 stereo pedals at this size and sound pretty great too - at a reasonable price point. DigiTech pedals are beautifully made and assembled and really very keenly priced. Sure EHX is usually cheaper still, but EHX always feels a little rawer and less polished than DigiTech at this form factor. This is a great flanger option at a good price - but there are others here with possibly just a little more overall appeal.


Electro-Harmonic Neo Mistress - £76

This is the most diminutive format of the legendary original Electric Mistress - which really excelled at adding dynamics and sparkle to clean sounds in particular. The original units were all based around fairly rare BBD chips while most of the newer units are digital - like this one. I guess at the entry level for these types of flangers - it's between the this one and the MXR Micro Flanger - both being very simple twin-dial versions.


Maxon FL-9 Flanger - £195

Maxon famoulsy OEM'd both Ibanez's 808 Tube Screamer and its FL-9 flanger, and it still has those original circuits in its own livery while Ibanez's Tube Screamer has changed somewhat, and its FL-9 is discontinued. Maxon is one of the analogue originals, but seems to have fallen out of vogue a touch of late - possibly because it too rocks that slightly old fashioned switch-plate design which is along sort of similar lines to the Boss compacts too, and many consider those somewhat old-fashioned now. Maxon though still makes great sounding boxes - whether you like the aesthetics or not. It is quite obvious to me though which of these pedals look more of-the-present, and which look somewhat behind the curve. It's also cool to see Bondi Effects' forthcoming Art Van Delay pedal featuring a similar boxy old-school shape, but with modern footswitches. Not sure why Boss, Mason etc. would not want to modernise their designs - beyond the obvious re-tooling costs.


MXR Micro Flanger M152 - £91

MXR has its own flanger credentials - mostly through its association with one of the kings of the flange - one Eddie Van Halen, his 5150 line I feel is mostly somewhat over-sized - all those pedals are medium enclosure - while MXR has a somewhat simplified offering in compact enclosure. This one is really head-to-head with EHX's Neo Mistress. I feel overall EHX's profile has been somewhat old-fashioned though, and only recently with The Canyon and Oceans 11 pedals is it finally getting on a more contemporary footing - oh and the Pitchfork - those EHX pedals are all excellent. This MXR Micro Flanger is a very decent basic flanger - I personally though like a few more bell and whistles - including tap-tempo in particular.


Old Blood Noise Endeavors Flat Light - £199

My two OBNE pedal are different versions of their now classic Haunt Fuzz - in both regular and Alpha versions. And while the Haunt is probably OBNE's signature pedal - they does a rather neat line in slightly Leftfield time-based / modulation pedals - like its recent Dweller Phase Repeater, and this very slightly earlier Flat Light Flanger. OBNE always has its own take on an effect and gives you something quite different from the norm - more pitched toward 'Knobs' fans and experimental players. The second footswitch here is not a tap-tempo, but a 'Tilt' trigger to kick in momentary secondary modes for each of the 3 modes.


Subdecay Starlight Flanger V2 - £179

I've long been a fan of Subdecay too, but have not acquired as many of their pedals as I originally thought I would - there's just so much competition these days. I don't feel this flanger is quite as strong as Subdecay's equivalent Quasar Phaser offering - the latter of which has nearly twice as many modes - and the step down between DLX and regular flanger is somewhat more pronounced. In the digital flanging stakes I feel that EarthQuaker has kind of stolen a march on its competitors, although the Pyramid is really quite a price pedal. I still would really want to see a few more modes from the DLX on the V2 - and the tap-tempo carried across too.


TC Electronic Vortex Flanger - £95

As I mentioned in my 12 Phasers post - I'm not 100% happy with TCE since their acquisition by Behringer. You do generally know what you're getting for your money though with TCE - well-made and innovative digital effects typically with stereo ins and outs and of course that really smart user-definable TonePrint feature. I do though feel that TCE have dropped the ball slightly by avoiding secondary footswitches and presets. As smart digital pedals the competition - Alexander, Foxpedal and Walrus are innovating, catching up and overtaking in several ways. TCE still maintains a strong presence in Loopers and Tuners - along with its perennial classics - Flashback and Hall of Fame - I do feel though that most of its other core line pedals could do with some contemporary updates - more TonePrint mode options, tap-tempo and onboard footswitchable presets!


Final Thoughts

I still think my three ones here are the pick of the bunch - the A/DA, Boss and Chase Bliss Spectre - while I still maintain some interest in The Alexander F.13, DigiTech Nautila, OBNE Flat Light and Subdecay Starlight V2. The thing is - none of those others really add a whole deal, so I'm not sure I'd be gaining anything if I added them to the collection, especially as I have already made up my mind to acquire the EQD Pyramids.

 

I am surprised that more of these don't have tap-tempo and say onboard presets. Also the step-down from the Starlight DLX seems much more significant than Subdecay's Phaser step-down - which delivers a lot more options. If I really had to add one more, I'm not sure which one I would pick, as they all lack a certain something I would be looking for. The Alexander F.13 for instances could really do with a couple more modes and tap-tempo.

 

I feel it fairly self-evident that there is not that much interest in this particular category as there is not a whole lot of innovation happening their currently - apart from that one EQD Pyramids pedal. I feel pedal-makers should really be doing more to bring their pedals up to the current level of innovation - where Chase Bliss has show the way for a number of years now.

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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