So this is the first of a series of around 10 or so posts which focus on 9 great pedals within a particular category. I try to include a mix of analogue and digital, different price levels, sizes, traditional versus modern and simple versus feature-rich.
I will start this series with the classic modulation types - Flanger, Phaser and Tremolo, before moving into other slightly more esoteric areas. It becomes fairly evident quite early on that there are certain pedal makers that I’m quite keen on, but note that I have no affiliation with any, and this is just a matter of personal preference / choice. Be aware also that I don’t personally own all these pedals (unless stated explicitly), they are simply the result of intensive research work, and while some have been acquired, many more are still desired!
In terms of modulation effects, until recently I relied almost entirely on my Strymon Mobius pedal to serve all those needs. Yet in following shows like ’That Pedal Show’, ’Pedal Zone’, demo experts Andy Martin, Brett Kingman, Henning Pauly, Mike Hermans, Nick Jaffe and Pete Thorn and the like - I have been motivated to experiment with dedicated single modulation stompboxes too.
Of the 9 featured in the image above, I own just the Chase Bliss Spectre, which I love, and which despite all the dials, toggles and dip-switches is relatively straightforward to use and incredibly powerful and versatile for such a relatively small form factor. The more traditional pedals here are the EHX Electric Mistress, TCE Stereo Chorus Flanger and A/DA PBF. The Catalinbread Zero Point cleverly mimics the original ’flanging’ effect by using a footswitch to simulate tape flange manipulation - which is how all this started - with old-school studio boffins using two tape reels and slowing down one of them just a touch to get them out of phase.
Regardless of how powerful the Chase Bliss Spectre is, it’s not quite in the same category as the recently discontinued Subdecay Starlight DLX - which really is the Mac-Daddy of Flangers - with its 11 Waveform Shape options and 11 Modes. I’ve learned from my experience with the Elektron Analog Drive, that pedals really can be too big for their own good, and however much I love what the Starlight DLX can do, I am unlikely to add it to my chain. Subdecay do have a new smaller Starlight Flanger with some stripped down functionality, I’ve not made my mind up about that one yet.
In terms of my multi-layered wishlists, I am still fairly keen on the A/DA PBF, and I am also likely to acquire the diminutive Mooer ElecLady at some stage too - just for fun really.
NOTE - Pedals are pictured and listed alphabetically by brand, prices are the lowest I could find online for new.
If I wanted to buy a more straight-forward kind of traditional flanger (vs Chase Bliss), it would be between this one and the Empress Nebula, the A/DA has an obvious advantage in form factor, but the Empress comes with a few more bells and whistles. With my pedal chain being as long as it is, I would likely swing more towards the A/DA - though you never know. The range you can get with this pedal is phenomenal, and it sounds amazing whichever direction you take it in - definitely a top contender.
As per the intro, this is simplicity itself - featuring just two footswitches, one to activate the pedal, and the other to apply momentary flange ramping - familiar to tape-heads and DJ's around the world. A really simple idea brilliantly executed, and great for a live setting. Surprisingly versatile too considering its few controls.
One of Joel Korte's masterpieces - just an incredible pedal in every respect - particularly in its blue-dial variation which is an upgrade on the original purple knobs version, and features a much improved noise-floor. This really is a tone-tweaker's delight, yet many will be put off by the number of controls, particularly the long line of dip-switches. It may be slightly intimidating at first, but all of Joel's pedals have the same logic - which you pick up quickly enough. Can totally understand why it may be overkill for some. For the form-factor though, nothing else out there comes close - it took me about a day or so to get use to ModuShape and dip-switches, and even though I have still only scratched the surface of what is available - it is easy to achieve great tones, and you can serendipitously dial in something amazing (and fresh) on most days!
The original one of these - with the green writing, is one of Dan Steinhardt's favourite pedals of all time and it does indeed sound lush. The larger form factor Electric Mistress Deluxe is now discontinued, so make sure you get the XO version if you want the original analogue circuitry. There are several sound reasons to get this pedal, for my own needs I just prefer something with a little more versatility and in a more compact enclosure. In many ways though this is the classic flanger pedal.
This is sort of Empress's version of TC Electronic's Stereo Chorus Flanger with a number of added features. Empress makes incredible pedals, which are pretty compact for the feature set they contain. The Nebulus combines Chorus, Vibrato and Flanger in 3 flavours of each with lots of sound sculpting options. Had I not gone down the Chase Bliss route, I might very well have considered this as my frontrunner.
Mooer's mini 'clone' of the Electric Mistress sounds a lot better than it should for its diminutive form factor. Although not as lush as the original, it does come reasonably close enough. Will definitely be adding this one to my mini pedal collection at some stage in the near future. Yet another great Mini Mooer.
Strangely, this capable pedal has never featured on any of my wishlists, despite the high regard I hold Strymon in, how many of their pedals I have already, and how many are on my wishlists. It has the usual Strymon high quality applied, but for my taste is somewhat overshadowed by the others on this page in similar categories. I obviously went for the CBA Spectre, but will also probably acquire the A/DA PBF and Mooer ElecLady too at some stage. I would also rather have the Nebulus and Starlight DLX above the Orbit - even though the Orbit does everything you could wish for - from a flanger.
There is one of these on sale - used but in excellent condition at GuitarGuitar for £225, and I seriously toyed with the idea of getting it. But even Subdecay have decided that the pedal is a little on the large side, in deciding to discontinue it. Nevertheless this is most likely the single greatest Flanger pedal ever made in terms of textures and tonal possibilities. The smaller Starlight V2 replacement is also a strong proposition which I may revisit later. Just check the video above to see what wonderful sounds the DLX is capable of producing - this covers near enough absolutely everything flangers are capable of.
Almost as famous and well received as the EHX Electric Mistress, this classic TC Electronic pedal has a wider pallet of sounds, possibly overshadowed a little by Empress's smaller form-factor Nebulus nowadays. TC Electronic actually also do an even smaller version of the SCF in the guise John Petrucci's signature 'Dreamscape' pedal - with TonePrint capabilities, there is also the purely Flanger 'Vortex' pedal - in both regular and mini sizes.