This article will talk about some of the common questions about phaser pedals: probably you were just searching for a quick answer to a common question, so let’s dive in (and hope that you’ll find your answers here!).
WHERE TO PLACE A PHASER PEDAL IN THE PEDALBOARD (HOW TO CHOOSE WHERE TO PLACE IT IN THE SIGNAL CHAIN)
This effect pedal is usually and “traditionally” placed at the end of the signal chain (after distortions and eventually together with other modulation pedals, so with flangers, chorus and phase shifters), influencing the sound as a whole after being modified with distortions, EQ and other ones.
After the modulations, at the very end of the chain, there usually are ambient effects, such as delays and reverbs (time-based effects), that modify the “timing” of the notes that you hear.
It’s also common, though, to have modulations and this pedal placed in the effects loop (also called FX-Loop) of the amps that have that: this means that the phasing will only affect the clean version of the signal, and won’t mix with the other effects as this in some cases may result in muddy and not very clear sounds, especially near distortions (so placing the phasing effect before and not after distortions, overdrives and fuzz).
As usual, there’s not a perfect answer: I’ve used a lot of “usually” and talked in a bit of a general way because circuits and models can be very different between them and you may also want a muddy sound, so it really depends on tastes!
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ANALOG AND DIGITAL MODELS?
The difference is mainly about the possibilites of solid state components of an analog and its affordability: the phasing that happen in analog versions requires components, and more stages require more components.
For this reason, they usually have less stages compared to a digital one.
Digital models, in fact, can easily reach 10 or 12 stages because they just need a tweak to their algorithm and adding stages doesn’t require more hardware, so they usually are more versatile and can add more variety (obviously if you like their sound and prefer them to the old vintage sounds of models you already love and know).
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PHASER AND CHORUS/FLANGERS?
The main difference is that in a phase pedal doesn’t use a delay: basically all modulation pedals double the signal of the electric guitar and then “rotate” it (think about the soundwave and the direction of that) someway, but chorus and flangers also delay the signal of some milliseconds and of a timeframe that is barely recognisable, but still gives that different sound.
Phasers, instead, simply rotate and change the orientation of the soundwave without delaying it, without modulating delay time.
CAN THEY SOUND LIKE A FLANGER/CHORUS?
Basically yes, it’s easy to be confused by their sounds as they works in different ways but actually, only using your ears, it’s often difficult to recognise them, especially when you put crazy settings in them or mix them with a handful of other effects!
CAN THEY BE USED FOR OTHER INSTRUMENTS AS WELL BEYOND THE ELECTRIC GUITAR ITSELF?
In fact, phasers can be used for electric pianos, keyboards and synths as well as for the vocals, and it gives an electronic sound and a synth-like feeling to that instruments (in fact the voice of C-3PO from Star Wars was made using this effect on its voice actor’s voice, as stated on Wikipedia here!