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9 of the Best Medium Enclosure Flanger Pedals

Buffalo FXEarthQuaker DevicesElectro-HarmonixEmpress EffectsEVH ElectronicsFlangerFoxrox ElectronicsModulationMXRSolidGoldFXStrymonThropyFX+-
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I originally prepared this article ahead of the arrival of my own supposed unit of Buffalo FX Reticon Flanger back in July of this year. Everyone now knows the story of how all but 20 or so failed to materialise of that 100 unit limited series run. The long and the short of it being that Mr Buffalo - one Steven Painter suddenly took sick right in the midst of the production run - and supposedly from the resulting impact was unable to do any physical activity once he contracted said condition.

 

I was already convinced that the ThorpyFX Camoflange was the best of the best of all flangers - and I had had one of those in my chain since its original launch. The idea had really been to see how well the Reticon Flanger stacked up agains that, and what else was around as a suitable alternative.

 

For a brief moment there was a somewhat amateurish customer demo of the Reticon Flanger up on YouTube - but understandably it was taken down. There’s also a couple of demos on the relevant The Gear Page Thread - which actually gives a fairly decent account of the pedal - albeit I still feel that it might not quite have had the magic and sparkle of Thorpy’s version - while there are very limited resources available for proper comparison.

 

Interestingly also the #001 Reticon unit actually ended up back on sale on Reverb.com with a not too lofty $599/£465 price tag. While the remaining Buffalo FX units of all varieties are in dwindling supply around the world - just handful remaining on Reverb.com currently, and a similar amount on Ebay - mostly located in Japan!

 

SolidGoldFX also launched their rather remarkable Oblivion Quad Flanger this year - and while not exactly my favourite enclosure format, it is nonetheless and excellent evolution of the flanger circuit.

 

Over the years I’ve been in line to get an EarthQuaker Devices Pyramids, EHX Electric Mistress XO, Empress Effects Nebulus, MXR EVH Flanger, SolidGoldFX Oblivion and Strymon Orbit. In fact the only one I was never that close to landing is the Foxrox Paradox - because of its slightly over-sized enclosure - and you know how sensitive I am about format practicalities!

 

In any case I believe this sort of size is where the real Flanger action is at mostly - versus the compact enclosure alternatives, and felt I it was a worthwhile exercise to see through to fruition - despite there being no proper sound-samples / demos for the never-quite-arrived Reticon Flanger.

 

Pedals are arranged alphabetically by brand as usual :


Buffalo FX Reticon Analog BBD Flanger 100 Limited Edition Run - sold out and aborted! - €269

So this is the one that literally got away - I was harbouring some hopes for several months, but now it even looks unlikely that Steve Painter will ever return to the fold - and if he does some years hence, I very much doubt it will be onboard the same Buffalo FX brand / venture - I reckon he would need to come back with a whole new brand and company structure.

 

The rumour mill here has been at full stretch - and even started off that way with some intrigue about which Reticon chip was going to be used - not the ultra-rare SAD1024 or SA512, but the very marginally slightly less rare RS5106 - which some enthusiasts were slightly disappointed with following on from the initial hype.

 

The Reticon has/had 6 knobs - Rate, Range, Color, Treble, Blend and Level, with that Matrix Filter switch too - like on the early EHX Vintage Electric Mistresses it was based on. So the topology here was slightly closer to the original inspiration than Thorpy's particular take - while I feel the Thorpy Camoflange captures that high frequency sparkle very slightly better, and has a lower noise floor overall. This could also be somewhat to do with the fact that the Reticon runs at 18V vs the standard 9V supply of the Camoflange.

 

The Reticon nevertheless was a suitably highly detailed and textured flange in its own right - and for many players would be roughly equivalent to Thorpy's lofty standard. I personally feel that my Reticon would have been in the chain for a reasonable rotation, but I would then defer back to my Camoflange as the favourite of that type.

 

I intended to do a full blow-by-blow comparison between the two, so it's a little disappointing that my unit never showed up! Seems certain that these are plenty decent enough - as there has only been one so far re-sold on Reverb.com - the #001 unit, while everyone else who was fortunate enough to get one, seems to be holding on to their unit for now. I personally did not reclaim the Reticon money - in the hope that it might materialise eventually.

While I'm not really willing to throw even more cash at it, and even if a relatively reasonably priced example eventually turned up on Reverb.com - I would probably let that slide by! I still feel there is a Reticon Flanger out there is some state - with my name on it!

 

As mentioned, there are no proper public demos or sound samples for this pedal - if anything half decent ever materialises, then I will surely append that here. Certainly one that got away, while I'm not sure it's worth chasing or following up any further!


EarthQuaker Devices Pyramids Stereo Flanger - £329

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I've always felt this to be rather a touch too pricey - despite its extended feature set. It is after all a digital modulation as far as I understand and has none of those rare and precious analog BBD Chips. I nonetheless heavily considered adding this for a while as I so love the Flanger modulation, and really rate the different functional modes available here - which give you a lot more voicing possibilities.

 

This dual-footswitch format, with tap-tempo is really a very clever take on the format - with its 9 interactive controls - Manual, Rate, Width, Mix, Presets, Feedback, Modify, Mode, and Rate & Tap switch - Slow | Normal | Fast.

Presets allows you to save 5 sets of settings, or play via the 'Live' panel settings. While there are 8 individual Modes onboard :

  1. Classic : EHX Mistress
  2. TZ : Through Zero
  3. BPU : Barber Pole Up
  4. BPD : Barber Pole Down
  5. Trig U : Trigger Up / Ramping
  6. Trig D : Trigger Down / Descending
  7. Step : Stepped Flange, almost Arpeggiator
  8. Randm : Sweep Up and Down at Random Intervals

As mentioned - there are some rather unusual textures to be found here - and I may consider this is a secondary alternative if the price comes down somewhat - it's also a relative big unit though - so not really that practical for my own highly and tightly congested pedal-chain!


Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Electric Mistress XO Flanger - £140

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This is the official re-do as such for those original Vintage Electric Mistresses. For some not quite the same degree of magic and sparkle, while for others still plenty close enough. EHX could probably do with a proper authentic sort of re-issue of the originals in this format - as it's not really competitive versus the Thorpy Camoflange and the best of what's on offer her.

 

Just 4 simple controls - Color, Range, Rate, and that Filter Matrix switch - which seem to be plenty for most. While us dedicated Flanger fans - really need Blend and Treble, and Level too ideally!

 

I still feel this is a decent proposition - particularly for its very modest price. While it cannot really compete with the extended range and evolved abilities of most of these others.


Empress Effects Nebulus - £294

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This is obviously a little more than a Flanger, in fact being rather a multi-modulator with 9 modes, 3 each for essential Chorus, Vibrato and Flanger algorithms or namely :

  1. Basi Chorus [a]
  2. Multi-Chorus [b]
  3. Chorus w/ Trem [c]
  4. Uni-Vibe [a]
  5. Vibrato [b]
  6. Rotary [c]
  7. 60s Tape Flange [a]
  8. 70s Negative Feedback [b]
  9. Thru0 through-zero [c]

You get 8 controls :

  • Mode : chorus | vibe | flanger
  • Submode : a | b | c
  • Tone : bright | clean | warm
  • Special : little | none | lots
  • Mix
  • Rate
  • Depth
  • Output

So on basic principles, and within this category - a 3-Mode Flanger essentially - with extras. I'm a big fan of Empress, which I consider to be the Strymon of Canada, as posted many times on this site. This is an excellent digital modulator with plenty of voicing options and tone-shaping onboard. I would of course prefer a BB-Vertical enclosure - but considering its coverage then this is a decent proposition all-round.


Foxrox Electronics Paradox TZF2 Flanger - $335 / £335 - discontinued for now

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An excellent sort of full-size Through-Zero style flanger. Has a decent extended range, but sort of hits my enclosure-size OCD threshold too. You have 8 controls here:

  • Volume
  • Flange Mix
  • Envelope
  • Ramp Control : Speed | Manual
  • Mix Polarity : Positive | Negative
  • Depth
  • Manual
  • Speed

And this is truly one of the greats of its type if you can put up with the slightly larger enclosure, and can in fact get your hands on one! There's various forces at work here though which means this is the most unlikely of these to end up in my collection - but don't let that dissuade you!


MXR EVH 117-SE Flanger - limited edition - £189 when new

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I recently featured the more standard White and Black Stripes version of this - the red one pictured above is a limited edition. But for its horizontal BB enclosure - this is the perfect EVH Flanger - for applying during 'Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love' and 'Unchained' and similar.

 

There are just 5 basic controls here - Manual, Width, Speed and Regen - with a push-button for EVH 'Unchained' mode. This is a great sounding flanger and if you're an Eddy Van Halen fan - this delivers everything you need. I of course would prefer this in a vertical BB enclosure with a second tap-tempo footswitch. While this model is obviously very authentic to EVH's own needs and usage.

 

For his pedals he was largely a set and forget type - utilising Flanger, Chorus, Phaser, Delay and Reverb - all pretty much consistently with the same settings. This is nice to have for me - particularly in the red, and particularly as a collector's item now. Bu there are for sure several more practical and more extended range examples available.

 

I still want one - but will hold out for a more suitable time to get one at a suitable price!


SolidGoldFX Oblivion Quad Flanger - £245

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This quadruple Flanger can deliver some fantastic rare and unusual sounds courtesy of its 10 controls - 6-knobs and 4 switches. The 6 knobs control Speed, Range, Ramp, Regeneration, Blend, and Level. While each of the 4 switches offers a number of options :

  • Wave : Waveform - Bell Curve, Sine Wave, Downward Sawtooth
  • 1/4-1/2-1 : Tap Divisions - Whole Note, Quarted Note, Half Note
  • Flange : Flange Modes - Through-Zero, Bi-Flange, Quad-Flange
  • Degrade : Lo-Fi Off/On

The Left Footswitch controls Tap and Hold for Ramp, while the Right one controls Bypass and Hold for Brake. The Bi-Flange and Quad-Flange deliver exceptionally layered and textures sounds and take flanging into a slightly more syrupy direction - which with those different option switches elevates this significantly above a typical flanger in generating an almost new style of effect.

 

This is recommended for the more adventurous flange enthusiast, and even for those who typically don't like the warble of a classic flanger. I really like this one - but as usual have slightly issues with the form factor - I just don't currently have space to accommodate this size of enclosure in my chain - the maximum I can fit in is a vertical BB-size format.


Strymon Orbit Stereo dBucket Flanger - $299/£249

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I don't know why, but this digital BBD emulating Flanger seems to fly under the radar more than it should. Like all of Strymon's output though this is another really decent take on the format with its 7 neat controls. You get 5 knobs - Speed, Width, Mix, Regen and Manual, with 2 x 3-way options switches - first Feedback - Positive / Postive + Negative / Negative, and then LFO type - Logarithmic / Linear / Through-Zero.

 

This is just a classic workhorse flanger with actually not too many frills to it compared to some of these others. I feel that those who are really serious about flanging will always try to go for a BBD style analog variety with as good sounding a chip as possible.

 

Strymon does really well head-to-head for digital effects generally, but when up agains more analog formats it can struggle a little - as is the case here. The Digital varieties typically make more of a virtue of their differences and extended feature sets, and try to deliver something a little more evolved and more unusual - while Strymon here are rather aiming to be as classical as possible - but within the digital domain - which will surely appeal to some players, but doesn't necessarily have the nuanced texture of some of the really great analog varieties.


Thorpy FX Camoflange Analog BBDFlanger - £250

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And so we've left the best to last! I knew this was the Flanger for me as soon as I heard Dan Steinhardt demo it on That Pedal Show - it pretty much exactly captured that glorious high frequency sparkle of the original vintage Electric Mistresses - while delivering a much lower noise-floor, and more range and versatility besides.

 

I can't think of any Flanger fan who would be disappointed with this take on the classic - it just sounds glorious whichever way to dial it in. It's Thorpy's best pedal to date in my opinion, and I feel every Flanger fan should have one.

 

I initially just wanted the Buffalo FX Reticon Flanger to run a sort of head to head with this - just to see how they compared. As it was a limited 100 unit run - there was no way of my getting a 'loaner' as such and thus I had to spring for one myself.

 

I felt a little treasonous in pursuing that avenue - but it was all done with the best intentions. In some ways I'm glad in that I don't have to disrupt the Camoflange's ruling hegemony - I can just let that continue to reign.

 

Whenever anyone asks me about a Flanger - this is the one that I recommend. In some way the Buffalo FX exercise was great for Thorpy as it built up a pent-up demand for high fidelity flangers - which then only the Camoflange could properly satisfy, particularly with the eventual no-show of that Buffalo FX Reticon Flanger.

 

I'm sure the Camoflange has a lot to do with this being may favourite modulation - where Harmonic Tremolo used to reign supreme for me!


Final Thoughts

There is a roughly even split between digital and proper analog BBD Flangers here. I always feel there is something extra special about the texture and nuance of those BBD Flangers - which is why the Digital varieties typically add several extra bells and whistles to be competitive.

 

As mentioned in this article - I have considered each of these carefully before with the exception of the slightly over-sized Foxrox Paradox - which is now discontinued in any case. The EVH fan in me still would quite like to track down one of those limited red versions - but the timing and therefore pricing is definitely not right for that currently.

 

In fact I find it hard here to look beyond the Camoflange really - for me only the Buffalo FX Reticon Flanger comes close to what that offers - and only around 20 units of that were actually completed.

 

Flanger is still something of a minority sport as far as I gather - but if you're at all interested in this modulation type - I would recommend you start off your exploration with the Thorpy FX Camoflange - it is already rightfully lauded as one of the very best of its type of all time - and it truly does sound stellar!

 

I will make a slight footnote here on the discontinued Subdecay Starlight DLX Flanger (c£270) - which like the Paradox and Pyramids is slightly oversized for me - I'm also waiting for Subdecay to start adding in second footswitches on their compact edition pedals - which would make those a lot more appealing. The big box Subdecays are pretty cool - but they are slightly over-sized too!

 

Are you a fan of Flanging? If so - what's your favourite?

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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