After writing ’4 Next Level Medium Enclosure Phasers’ I thought it was time to revisit the compact format phasers to see if my take on those had changed since I last considered them. As mentioned, I currently have 3 phasers, the Chase Bliss Wombtone II, the Alexander Pedals La Calavera, and the Mini MXR Phase 95. As far as I’m concerned for quality mini phasers you’ve pretty much got MXR and Mooer - but the real competition is in the compact enclosure category as we shall see.
Last time I did this exercise - with my ’9 of the Best Phasers’ piece I included 3 compacts, 3 medium, 2 large and 1 mini. Of those I’ve kept two of the compacts - the Chase Bliss Wombtone and TCE Helix, and this time I’ve gone for the EHX Bad Stone in place of the simpler and more vintage-voiced Small Stone pedal.
I had only a couple of rules in compiling this list - the pedal had to be a dedicated phaser - so multi-modulators like the new Alexander Wavelength are excluded, also - all these pedals had to appeal to me personally - in that I could see myself potentially acquiring them at some stage. Obviously I cannot buy 12 phasers, so I will naturally have favourites - based on my own criteria and needs - but I am generally delighted with this selection.
There’s a couple of new ones I discovered in my research, and a few that have grown in appeal for me in the intervening period. At this size, I still feel that the Chase Bliss Wombtone is the most feature-rich and versatile overall, although it does have competition from the Red House Midnight and Subdecay Quasar V4. The Quasar V4 has the most modes as such (11), but lacks the really useful tap-tempo function. In fact just 3 pedals here have tap-tempo - the Boss PH-3, the Chase Bliss Wombtone and Red House Midnight.
At the other end of the scale you have the much simpler pedals - the EHX Bad Stone and single-dial Skreddy Swirl - the latter of which sounds just fantastic even with just the one control. There’s a couple of pedals here which are stereo, but only the TCE Helix is full stereo in and out. The boutique Darth Fazer is here mostly because it’s kind of cool, even though it does get mostly outplayed by others at a similar price point. The Alexander La Calavera really makes the most of its 3 modes - in particular the ’Loco’ setting. And along with the new OBNE Dweller Phase Repeater these lend themselves more towards experimental players. Of all these brands MXR is probably the most synonymous with the phaser effect - in particular because of its classic Phase 45 and Phase 90 pedals. I like the Mini Phase 95 because it combines both of MXR’s best loved flavours in both their standard and script variations. The Phase 99 is actually 2 Phase 90’s which you can deploy in series or parallel, in or out of sync and in regular or vintage voicing - and in stereo.
Note also that with these sorts of swirly modulations you can suffer a volume drop - which means that often a volume / level dial is essential - and a couple of pedals don’t have those which may make them incompatible within your setup. Of all those that I don’t have yet, the ones that most appeal to me are the OBNE Dweller, Red House Midnight, Skreddy Swirl, Subdecay Quasar and Zvex Vibrophase.
Pedals are listed in alphabetical order by brand:
This was the 3rd Phaser I acquired - each of its 3 modes is superb - those digital algorithms are just all killer, and it's really easy to set up and run - could still do with a NEO update with separate tap-tempo footswitch as well as presets. This is currently my deputy phaser after the Chase Bliss Wombtone, and in fact after the excellent phasers on the Boss MD-500. I had thought to switch out my MD-500 for the forthcoming Empress Effects Zoia, but I so love its Choruses, Filters, Flangers and Phasers in particular, that I may keep it and just add the Zoia as the final 40th slot option!
There really does seem to be a weird backlash against Boss these days, when it still produces some exceptional pedal, and this Phase pedal is no exception really - featuring a Press & Hold tap-tempo function on the single switch plate and 7 different modes - be in no doubt that this is a really handy phase pedal:
Upon further review - I may prefer the earlier PH-1R analogue phaser - a slight update to one of Boss's original 3 pedals. I need to find a suitable MIJ version of the right quality and at the right price. So as with the flanger - you have the option of getting an earlier Boss analogue style pedal which often sounds slightly richer versus the more modern digital pedal - which has more bells and whistles. Do note though that there are offend volume-drop issues with older modulation style pedals - so due care and attention is required!
I still feel that overall this is the one to beat - it really is the most unique one here with that combination of dials, toggle switches, dip-switches and twin-footswitces and it really works for my needs. It is easily the most expensive on this page, but its unique engineering goes some way towards justifying it. The Red House Midnight does a much simplified version of the Chase Bliss - with tap-tempo, wave shapes and a clever ramp feature, and the Quasar V4 offers the most individual modes (11) but could still do with tap-tempo really for my liking. I still feel that the Wombtone is pretty peerless...
Last time I included the more vintage-inspired Small Stone phaser with its one dial and one toggle, while here I go for the slightly more modern and more versatile more recent version - their Bad Stone - both are priced the same - it just depends what sort of core sound you are going for, and how much flexibility you want. This is the second-simplest pedal here after the Skreddy Swirl, and EHX also has a great pedigree in phasers.
This two mode fairly vanilla phaser is lifted enormously in appeal by its naming, graphics and colour-way - it will certainly look cool on your pedalboard, but I feel it falls more into the second tier of phaser pedals here rather than the upper echelon of performance and high-fidelity. It's also relatively pricey for what you get, but then again it is pretty rare too. Question marks remain as to whether it will ever be challenged by the Disney Corporation - so you'd better get one soon if you like the look of it.
This twin Phase 90's is pretty much a double dose of that classic phase sound - in regular or vintage voicing, in serial and parallel and output in stereo - for truly thick and lush phasey vibes. I still sort of prefer the Mini Phase 95, but would go for this one of all the MXR compact phasers - and particularly for its stereo output.
I think this is the most recently launched of all the phasers featured here and is more of a left-field 'Knobs' crowd style phaser - almost a more compact version of the Dwarfcraft Phase Computer - I mean on that sort of vibe, not necessarily matching it like-for-like with features. OBNE like to do things differently, and you should look elsewhere if you are after a more vanilla sort of phaser - with 2 voicings and 3 wave shape modes - particularly the cool random step - this is a delightful pedal for ambient noodlers! It actually combines phasing here with time-stretching / delay - giving you weird other-worldly flavours particularly at slower rates.
I came across this one when specifically looking for tap-tempo phasers in this form factor - only Chase Bliss and Red House do this fully properly as far as I am concerned. The Boss has a Press, hold and set feature on its single foot-plate-switch - which is a touch clunky and not particularly helpful to making quick fine-adjustments. I think it is one of the things Joel Korte gets exactly right on his pedals - and I presume Red House took some degree of inspiration from him. They have streamlined much of what makes the Chase Bliss pedals great - into quite a bit more of a straightforward pedal - which is one of 4 of these I have on my current wishlist.
I always found the price point on this single dial pedal a touch high, but boy does it sound great - a lovely syrupy vintage-style swirl. I really like how this one sounds - it cannot really compete with my Wombtone or La Calavera as it offers just a fraction of what they do, but for what it does it sounds immense! It's on my wishlist, but I would have to get it at a considerable discount for proper consideration, which means it's unlikely to ever happen. I also think the the Zvex Vibrophase covers pretty similar territory with quite a bit more variety and versatility.
On my original list I had its big-brother - the Quasar DLX which has one additional dial and a separate footswitch for tap-tempo. And while I don't miss the additional dial, I kind of miss the tap-tempo. I know the La Calavera does not have one either, but I kind of feel I should hold out for the Quasar V5 - in the hope that it gets that very useful secondary tap-tempo footswitch. I think there is definitely a gap in the market for more compact phasers with tap-tempo! That said - this pedal is hugely versatile and is the simplest way to get this amount of versatility.
This pedal was in my original listing, and I know that I could do so much with the Stereo ins and outs, and the TonePrint option - I just feel that this pedal could be a lot better now and could also benefit from a separate tap-tempo footswitch. At one stage this was in wishlist consideration, but I'm a touch conflicted about TCE at the moment with their Behringer connection, and current lower quality website versus what it used to be. Tore is still there, so there is still some soul to TCE, but I can't help feel it's been a touch tainted?
The 4th of the Zvex Vertical Series - this was earmarked for acquisition when it first came out, and still sits fairly high on my wishlist. Has that lovely swirly vintage sound - along similar lines to the Skreddy Swirl, but with more options. I somehow feel that those two pedals don't really need tap-tempo, as I would be using them more for ethereal ambient effect rather than actual rhythmic 'texture' - so the timing is not as critical. Zachary has done an amazing job with this pedal - and I still pretty much want all the 5 Vertical pedals now in that range, including the newest Silicon Fuzz Factory. Priorities keep shifting though - and I'm still on my Fuzz and Spaceman missions, with a little Hudson Electronics and ThorpyFX thrown in. So Zvex is a little further down the pecking order right now - but that can all change - so we shall wait and see...
There were 4 pedals that did not quite make my top 12 cut - as follows, I also considered the Keeley Bubble Tron at one stage, but disqualified that for the same reason as the Alexander Wavelength as those are multi- rather than single-effect pedals.
I was at one stage considering getting a medium enclosure phaser - which is why I compiled that article at the time, and decided then that I kind of sort of wanted the Spaceman Explorer. But on this follow-up review, I think I really would be better off with another of these compact format ones - which means that the Red House Midnight and Zvex Vibrophase are uppermost on those lists, even though I still have a soft spot for the OBNE Dweller, Skreddy Swirl and Subdecay Quasar V4.
I already have 3 pedals in my chain which produce excellent phaser effects - the aforementioned Wombtone, the Boss MD-500, and Eventide H9 Max. So all said and done - possibly the most likely next acquisition is the vintage-inspired Zvex Vibrophase, but I'm not in any great hurry right at this moment.