5 Top Phaser Pedals: Bought, Tested, and Reviewed

Didn’t make the final cut (too expensive), but still a good phaser pedal.

Recently updated on June 17, 2020: Removed the Digitech phaser (no longer made), and added the Walrus Audio Lillian, EHX Small Stone, and Whirlwind Orange Box.

Phaser pedals are a lot of fun and a great way to decorate a clean electric guitar tone.

But, if you’re new to phaser pedals, there are a lot of options spanning a wide range of pricing.

Spanning anything from $20 to $200 and higher, there’s a wide range of pricing to choose from with important features to consider. To understand how these variables might impact your decision to buy a phaser pedal, we’ll look at how pricing impacts value and how these features play out in some of the market’s best phaser pedals.

Let’s start with our top recommendations:

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Best Phaser Pedals: Top Five Picks

Boss PH-3 Phase Shifter Digital Phaser Pedal: 87.2

  • Lots of modes to work with
  • Versatile control scheme
  • Boss five-year warranty

Walrus Audio Lillian Phaser

  • Dry, phase, and vibrato mode
  • Delay-esque response
  • Analog circuits

MXR Phase 90 Analog Phaser: 81.2

  • Analog phaser circuit
  • Great price point

Whirlwind Rochester Series Orange Phaser

  • Model after original Phase 90 (older one only took battery)
  • Has power port & LED indicator

EHX Small Stone Phaser

  • Rate knob and color switch
  • Super cheap

DOD Phasor 201 Analog Phaser

  • Analog circuit
  • Great price point

TC Electronic Helix Phaser Pedal

  • Analog dry-through
  • Stereo i/o
Out with the old and in with the new. But both are good.

1. Boss PH-3 Phase Shifter Pedal

The Boss PH-3 phaser’s versatility makes it applicable to most musical styles, ideal for garage bands and professional guitarists alike. The digital tone doesn’t sound overly computerized and is perfect for adding a shimmering effect layer to a guitar track in the studio.

The additional control makes it a better companion for session guitarists than say, the MXR Phase 90, and a good choice for those who enjoy pedal tinkering. It also supports an expression pedal.

IDEAL FOR: All modulation

THE PROS

  • Expression pedal support
  • Tempo control
  • Multiple stage simulation
  • Lots of control
  • Boss five-year warranty

THE CONS

  • No true bypass

2. Walrus Audio Lillian Phaser Pedal

The Walrus Audio Lillian is an analog phaser pedal with two stages, a three-band EQ, and a Dry-Phase-Vibrato control that incorporates a lot of rhythmic elements to the phase cycle.

It’s almost delay-esque in the way it responds to your playing, so I’d recommend it for rhythm players or those who like combining effects. The analog tone is extremely warm and great for layering a clean signal.

I’m also a big fan of the Walrus Audio artwork on their pedal casings.

They all look great and the Lillian pilot design is no exception.

IDEAL FOR: Fans of analog circuits and warm modulation

THE PROS

  • Three-band modulation control
  • D-P-V knob controls dry, phase, and vibrato
  • Selectable 4 and 6 stage phasing
  • Analog circuits
  • Versatile without a ton of dials

THE CONS

  • None

3. MXR Phase 90 Analog Phaser

Your experience with the Phase 90 will be a simple one. You’ll take it out of the box, plug it in and set a speed.

If the analog tone is your thing, it’ll make ya happy. Otherwise, there isn’t much you can do about altering the tone.

This pedal is perfect for those who want an out-of-the-box and ready solution that doesn’t need fussed over and can be boiled down to an on or off play-call.

IDEAL FOR: Classic rock, simple setup, modern rock, basic modulation and analog fans

THE PROS

  • Analog tone is excellent
  • Simple setup with speed knob can be a plus
  • Popular unit with the pros
  • Great price point

THE CONS

  • Lacks control
  • No true bypass

4. Whirlwind Rochester Orange Box Phaser

The Whirlwind Rochester Orange Box is a re-issue of the original MXR Phase 90 that didn’t have a power connector and required a 9V battery all the time.

In the Orange Box you have the power input (for a power supply) and an LED indicator, both of which were absent from the original.

It produces a distinctly vintage and classic rock tone, but the single control knob does give you a decently wide range of sounds and phase styles. We were disappointed not to see any mention of analog circuits, making the $150-ish price tag a big ask.

Still, for fans of vintage effects it’s a great phaser pedal that does a good job of capturing the originality of the ’70s rock and funk sound.

IDEAL FOR: Fans of the original Phase 90 and warm, vintage phaser tones

THE PROS

  • Slow rate sounds great over top of a clean tone
  • True Bypass
  • Lots of variety from the single knob
  • True bypass
  • Can connect to a power supply or battery (original Phase 90 only took a 9V battery)

THE CONS

  • No word on analog circuits

5. EHX Small Stone Phaser

The Small Stone by EHX has been around for a long time at a budget-friendly price tag.

Around $70 will get you one brand new.

We like the simple control scheme and the surprising amount of versatility you get from the color switch. For a small pedal, it could use a softer bypass switch, but that’s a relatively small complaint.

IDEAL FOR: Classic rock, simplicity, and fans of warm “organic” sounding ’70s tones

THE PROS

  • Easy to use
  • Surprising amount of versatility from the Color switch
  • Popular unit with the pros
  • Price point is amazing

THE CONS

  • No word on analog or true bypass
  • Somewhat limited control scheme

6. TC Electronic Helix Phaser Effect

While the Helix is capable of subtlety, it’s a more dynamic phaser.

There are no stages listed, but you do have three modes to choose from: Vintage, TonePrint, and Smooth.

Vintage mode is the most nuanced, which reminds me of the analog sounds of the Phase 90 and the Phasor 201. Bumping up the mix and feedback knobs creates a deeper and more intense effect. The feedback knob in particular is more sensitive than what you typically see on other phaser pedals.

Overall, it sounds great and has a wide range of application from beginner to advanced, and bedroom to studio.

IDEAL FOR: Modern rock, rhythm, lead and most basic modulation

THE PROS

  • Toneprint is a cool feature
  • A wide range of intensity
  • True bypass
  • Has the warmth of an analog circuit, despite being digital
  • Stereo I/O

THE CONS

  • No analog circuits

7. DOD Phasor 201 Analog Phaser Pedal

I’ve always appreciated the old DOD pedals, like the envelope filter and EQ boxes they used to make.

The Phasor 201 is a newer generation model from DOD (now a DigiTech-affiliated brand) and a handsome alternative to the more expensive options on this list. It’s similar to the Phase 90 in setup with a single speed knob.

Again, if you’re after simplicity and tone quality, the Phasor 201 is a great choice.

IDEAL FOR: Classic rock, set-it-and-forget-it fans, Christian worship, lead, rhythm and basic modulation

THE PROS

  • Fully analog
  • True bypass
  • Simple control scheme (speed only) can be a plus

THE CONS

  • Less control won’t satisfy the tinkering pedalist

Vintage or Modern Phaser Pedals

In this section we’ve taken all of the most popular phaser pedals on the market and pulled from a data set that measures the number of controls and the style of the phaser tone between vintage and modern on a scale of -10 to 10.

Phaser pedals that rate higher on the tone and style scale will lean towards the vintage side of the tone spectrum, while more modern-voiced phaser pedals will move towards the bottom.

Based on the above graph, here’s how we’d break down each category:

Versatile and Modern Phasers

  • Boss Phase Shifter
  • Seymour Duncan Polaron
  • Walrus Audio Lillian

Simple and Modern

  • J. Rockett Audio Phaser/Vibe
  • Keeley Bubble Tron

Versatile and Vintage

  • Fender Lost Highway
  • Source Audio Lunar

Simple and Vintage

  • MXR Phase 90 Script
  • Behringer VP1
  • EHX Small Stone
  • MXR Phase 95
  • MXR Phase 90
  • MXR Phase 100
  • Whirlwind Rochester Orange Box
  • Mad Professor Tiny Orange
  • TC Electronic Helix

Bargain or Overpriced

Our second graph measures the price of the pedal and the quality of the manufacturer, or the balance of boutique builders and mass producers.

This helps to determine whether a phaser pedal is just cheap and low quality or actually a good bargain with high value. Given the limited number of phaser pedals on the market, this graph yielded no pedals in the “bargain” section of the graph.

The Whirlwind Rochester Orange Box and EHX Small Stone come the closest.

Let’s break down each pedal again by the graph. Keep in mind, the line between overpriced and cheap is linear and shouldn’t be viewed as an on/off switch.

For example, the Boss Phase Shifter, while technically falling on the “overpriced” side of the graph, is quite close to the median, and therefore still a good value.

Boutique Phaser Pedals

  • Keeley Bubble Tron
  • Seymour Duncan Polaron
  • Mad Professor Tiny Orange
  • J. Rockett Audio Phase/Vibe
  • Walrus Audio Lillian
  • Source Audio Lunar
  • Whirlwind Rochester Orange Box

Overpriced

  • Fender Lost Highway
  • Boss PH-3 Phase Shifter
  • TC Electronic Helix
  • MXR Phase 90 Script

Cheap

  • EHX Small Stone
  • MXR Phase 90
  • MXR Phase 95
  • MXR Phase 100
  • Behringer VP1

What makes a phaser pedal good or great?

Phaser pedals are primarily characterized by their control, tone quality, circuit type, and price.

When assessing phaser pedals, these are the categories we look to in order to determine the “best” or the highest-value options.

The tone quality and price are fairly self-explanatory, but let’s talk a bit more about controls and circuit type.

Phaser Pedal Controls

By changing the mix or the ratio of in-phase signal to out-of-phase signal, you can alter the speed of the phasing cycle. Speed or “Rate” is the primary control involved with any phaser pedal, which you might notice is the only control on the MXR Phase 90 and the DOD 201.

Other controls might include a level, wet/dry mix or a depth knob. These are common characteristics of other modulation effects as well.

Generally speaking, the more control you have, the better your phaser pedal.

However, we also need to understand the quality difference between analog and digital phasers.

Analog VS Digital (circuit type)

Differences between analog and digital phaser pedals.

When comparing phaser pedals the distinction between analog and digital is a significant consideration. Here’s an easy summary of the differences between the two:

  • Analog: Effect is processed through a physical analog circuit (with actual stages and filters)
  • Digital: Effect is processed through a digital signal processor (DSP)

Often times the difference between the two — in terms of sound — is subtle, though some might argue that analog phaser pedals (and analog pedals in general) sound better. While that might have been true 20–30 years ago, digital technology has gotten really good at replicating analog circuits.

Today, the difference between an analog and digital phaser pedal is usually quite small. Many digital phaser pedals will have a lot more customization options and versatility in their control system.

For example:

  • MXR Phase 90 (analog): Single speed control knob
  • Boss PH-3 Phaser Shifter (digital): 7 different modes and a three-band EQ
Digital phaser pedals often have more control options.

The trade off is that analog phaser pedals tend to be more expensive with less flexibility, while digital phasers don’t sound quite as good but offer a lot more control. My advice for most players, especially beginners, would be to go with the phaser pedal that offers you more control. Yet, per our recommendations in the above table, there are plenty of good options on both the analog and digital side of the fence. Otherwise, you could break preferences down like this:

  • If you value control and variety, go with a digital phaser pedal
  • If you value a warmer tone and more organic, vintage-sounding effects, go with an analog phaser pedal

How Much to Spend

Because the phaser pedal is such a common and standardized effect, those who would consider themselves “casual” users, should avoid going too much over the $100 mark. On the other hand, someone who expects to use their phaser pedal a lot, making it an integral part of their sound, would be justified in spending $200 and beyond.

For most, a phaser will only be useful in certain situations. While it’s a great effect to own, it’s not worth over-spending if you aren’t planning on using it a lot. Aim for the $50 to $150 price range.

Things to Consider When Buying

In a lot of situations, your use for a phaser pedal will be limited unless you just really like the phaser sound. As I’ve explained, a lot of modern guitar players use it as a subtle additive, particularly when the note-count of a lick is low. Having an effect makes simpler melodies more full.

Before you decide how much money you want to spend, it would be wise to think about how and when you might actually use a phaser. If it’s the typical, here and there, you’re better off to avoid spending too much. Go with one of the phaser pedals under (or near) $100.

If you plan to use it all the time, a heftier investment like the Empress or Red Witch offering might be in the cards. Just plan ahead so you don’t end up with a $300 investment that, for the most part, collects dust on your pedalboard.

Your Thoughts

Do you have thoughts about our best phaser pedal list? How about inclusions or exclusions? Let us know about it in the comments section or if there were other phaser pedal reviews you were hoping to see.

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