4 Best Phaser Pedals for Bass Guitar

bass guitarist using a phaser pedal

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I can’t help but start by referencing one of my favorite nerd pickup lines of all time. In Frasier, the geeky Trekkie Noel purrs to his coworker Roz, “set phasers to stunning!”

Alright, it’s a different kind of phaser- or is it? The two phasers have some strange overlap, especially when it comes to bass guitar.

In music and audio production, a phaser is a primitive electronic effect that warps a sound with some multi-banded phase shifting that creates artificial peaks and troughs in the frequency spectrum. And here’s the vintage sci-fi connection: The result is a sound with a spacey, electronically-distorted quality. It’s been used to great effect to create a robot voice, as with C-3PO.

But we’re not trying to create complaining robots with our bass guitar- instead, you’re probably more inspired by the live performances of The Police or Eddie Van Halen’s signature tone. Heck, the phaser pedal just about defined the sounds of the 70s and 80s in much the same way that spring reverb and tube amps defined the 60s.

I get it. You want to join in on the fun and rock your own phaser pedal. We’ll cover everything you need to know about the phaser pedal for bass but if you just want to get to the point, you can check out our favorites here:

Best Overall
MXR Phase 90
9.9
  • Classic phaser pedal that's been used for half a century
  • Simple set up with one knob that's ideal for a classic rock tone
  • No loss of low end when used with a bass guitar
Runner Up
Electro-Harmonix Small Stone
9.6
  • Color switch adds an extra funk sound
  • Just as much history as the best overall phaser pedal
  • No low end loss when used with bass guitar
Best On A Budget
Joyo JF-06
9.8
  • Easy on the budget and designed to mimic the Phase 90
  • Simple design with one knob for speed
  • Not ideal for serious studio work but a great knock around pedal for gigs or budget-conscious bassists

Phaser Pedals in Music

It didn’t take long for musicians to see the power of the phase pedal.

After all, 20th-century music could essentially be summarized this way: Someone invents something that does something to sound (looking at you, talk box), and then somebody else invents a genre of music around it. Early phasers came on the scene in the late 60s, and in 1974 MXR was essentially launched on the strength of the iconic Phase 90 pedal.

The Phase 90 was soon everywhere. Eddie Van Halen crafted his guitar tone around it, but it was used to equally great effect in subtle contexts, such as the electric piano in Just The Way You Are. Phasers and the distinct-but-related flanger effect came to define the sounds of the 70s and 80s, in much the same way spring reverb and tube amps had defined the 60s.

Then Nirvana happened in the early 90s, and suddenly all effects were out except for overdrive and distortion. I’m exaggerating of course, but by that point, the phased sounds were starting to get played out, and people wanted something new.

I’m happy to report that one of the greatest contributions of the 2010s in music is the reintroduction of funky, warped sounds to throwback pop and dance hits. From mainstream acts like Bruno Mars to more artistically adventurous groups like Unknown Mortal Orchestra, it’s cool to warp your sound again and that means phase pedals are back.

But despite the popularity of phase pedals, they still didn’t that much love when it comes to the bass guitar.

Using Phaser Pedals on Bass Guitar

Pedals like phasers and flangers are more often associated with rhythm instruments- electric guitar, electric piano, and keys. Even vocals!

But you can dive deep into some funky basslines that drive grooves forward, by applying effects like phaser pedals to the bass tone. Phaser creates a bass tone that could be compared to a chorus, but funkier. Oh, check out Dancing in the Moonlight by Thin Lizzy! No relation to that excellent King Harvest one-hit-wonder, but that bassline grooves so hard that I don’t mind. Check it out:

The Police were quite flamboyant with their bass usage already, considering Sting was one of those relatively rare bassist/lead singers. While the bass phaser didn’t make it to many studio recordings, Sting can often be found rocking a phaser live performances. Police were (typically) a 3-piece band, so there’s lots of room in the sound to give the bass added depth and expressive tone. You can check out Sting and the power of the phaser pedal with a bass guitar here:

So whether your genre is some funk, disco, or dance. Or something more subtle like reggae or jazz fusion. A phaser pedal could really ramp up your bass tone.

How Do Phaser Pedals Work?

While you don’t need to know exactly how they work in order to get a funky baseline sound with them, wrapping your head around the basic function of the phaser effect is still a good idea.

Phasers change the phase of various frequencies between the original and copied signals. This is sometimes called a phase shift and has applications way beyond music. The phase shifted version of the sound and the original sound mix together to create a new output that usually sounds swirly and spacey compared to the original.

However, the phase pedal doesn’t produce the same kind of ethereal and spacey sound that you’d expect when using a reverb pedal with your bass guitar and phasers have their own unique sound.

That’s a very brief overview but as with most things in music, experimentation is the key to getting it right and you shouldn’t be afraid to explore your sound options.

Best Phaser Pedals for Bass Guitar

Now that you know your history and some of the basic facts, let’s get into our favorite phasers for building the perfect bassline.

Best Overall: MXR Phase 90

Best Overall
MXR Phase 90
  • Classic phaser pedal that's been used for half a century
  • Simple set up with one knob that's ideal for a classic rock tone
  • No loss of low end when used with a bass guitar

It’s kind of surprising how many companies have phased out some of their most popular phaser pedals (pun intended). You have the Electro-Harmonix and the Mu-Tron III which the company quickly resuscitated after they realized their mistake. Then you have the Klon Centuar which has a supply-demand ratio that’s so messed up that the now discontinued phaser pedals can guarantee four-digit prices.

But I’m happy to say that MXR hasn’t made the same mistake and they’ve been pumping out the Phase 90 since the early 80s. In fact, they’ve only expanded their range of variations on this iconic pedal.

Even though it was originally made for the guitar, the Phase 90 is still my go-to recommendation for a bass phaser pedal.

First and foremost, its tone is not a classic for nothing. It’s a great-sounding pedal that has only become more desirable as its tone infiltrated the zeitgeist. This pedal is so elegantly simple that it can’t be argued with.

The only control is a knob to set the speed. Yep, that’s it. But honestly, you can do a lot with that little knob. As with all other phaser pedals, the speed knob controls how quickly the frequencies are shifted. Increase the speed and the modulation happens fast, decrease the speed and you may not even notice the phaser effect until a note is held. And really, that’s all you need.

I mean, this thing slaps. If you want to see what I’m talking about, you can check out this video for a great demo of the MXR 90 with a bass guitar:

When it comes to using a guitar pedal on bass, one of your biggest concerns is going to be the loss of low end because guitarists are more likely to tolerate a diminished fundamental frequency in the name of tone. However, that’s not a problem here and you can expect absolutely no loss of the low end.

The MXR Phase 90 also gets bonus points for being an outright classic and it gives you the chance to use the same phaser pedal that bass legends would have used during the heyday of the phaser effect.

It also helps that the price is pretty reasonable. You can read more reviews, check out the specs, and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Runner Up: Electro-Harmonix Small Stone

Runner Up
Electro-Harmonix Small Stone
  • Color switch adds an extra funk sound
  • Just as much history as the best overall phaser pedal
  • No low end loss when used with bass guitar

Electro-Harmonix and MXR are stiff competition when it comes to pedal pedigree.

Electro-Harmonix has some of its own smashes in terms of historical pedals, particularly the Big Muff Pi fuzz pedal from the late 60s and the world’s first flanger stomp.

But when it comes to the bass, we’re looking at the Small Stone which is a worthy competitor to the Phase 90. The original Small Stone predates the Phase 90, introduced in 1970.

The Small Stone has the rate control (called speed on the Phase 90 but it’s the same thing) along with a color switch. The color switch adds an extra layer of texture to the phaser by adjusting the amount of feedback in the phaser circuit. Simply put, it turns on the funk feel and you can see an example of this early on in this video:

You have the option to toggle the color switch a bit to mess around with the sound even further. Like the Phase 90, you’re not going to have a problem with the low end here which is a key consideration any time you’re using a guitar phase pedal with your bass guitar.

So how do you choose between the Phase 90 and Small Stone?

Honestly, both are good but I picked the Phase 90 because it’s just so darn simple. One knob to rule them all sort of thing. But for bassists that want more options, you’ll probably dig the Small Stone, and it’s especially good for folks that want to bring the funk. At the end of the day, your decision will come down to your own sound preferences more than anything else so check out the videos for each to find the vibe you like.

You can read more reviews, take a closer look at the specs and check today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Best On A Budget: Joyo JF-06

JF 06 Vintage Phase Guitar Pedal

Best On A Budget
Joyo JF-06
  • Easy on the budget and designed to mimic the Phase 90
  • Simple design with one knob for speed
  • Not ideal for serious studio work but a great knock around pedal for gigs or budget-conscious bassists

I always try to include something for those on a budget. Usually, I’ll link to a relevant Mooer or Donner offering, with the boilerplate warning that you get what you pay for (though those two brands are solid for their prices, generally.)

But when it comes to phasers, I can’t help but recommend the Joyo JF-06. It’s a budget-friendly clone of the Phase 90, and it’s honestly a pretty darn accurate clone. It may not give you the perfection of the Phase 90 but you’re still going to be able to avoid low-end distortion (for the most part) which is exactly what you want when it comes to the bass.

Just like the Phase 90, there’s just one knob and that’s speed. Again, it’s all you need.

You’re going to see a lot of mixed reviews for this phaser pedal but I think that those who know what they’re getting into are quite happy with it. As I’ve already mentioned, it sounds really good- even more so when you consider the price point. You can hear this little phase pedal in action with the bass here:

Is this the pedal you should use to record your debut album?

Probably not.

But if you want to get close to the classic phaser effect while keeping a tight budget, this is your best option. You can read more reviews, take a closer look at the size of this pedal and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Most Effect Options: Source Audio Soundblox 2 Orbital ModulatorSoundblox 2 Orbital Modulator

Most Effect Options
Source Audio Soundblox 2 Orbital Modulator
  • 4 knobs with more than a dozen effect options between them
  • Almost endless tone explorations to help you create those extra dirty basslines
  • Still small enough to fit on your pedal board and all the extra options actually end up saving space

So far, I’ve recommended options with a fairly classic approach.

But now, it’s time for a powerhouse and this mushroom-looking phaser pedal can do a whole heck of a lot.

Source Audio’s Soundblox 2 Orbital Modulator lives up to its wordy name. This expansive pedal will keep you busy with 3 chorus, 3 flanger, 2 resonator flanger, 5 phaser, and tremolo modes. Yeah, it’s a lot and a great option for bass players that want way more than just the speed knob when it comes to their phaser pedal.

The customization and tone sculpting runs deep here. You can select the shape of your low-frequency oscillator or use a MIDI input for LFO. You can even marry this beast to the separate dual expression pedal and use it as an external input. It’s hard to think of phaser territory that this pedal doesn’t cover- and a lot more.

If you want to dive into some truly funky bass tone exploration, the Orbital Modulator is worth considering. You may even end up saving space on your pedal board by going with something like this since there is some overlap between this phase pedal and the effects of other pedals you might be using with your bass guitar.

You can read more reviews and check today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Honorable Mentions

There are a lot of phaser pedals out there and while not all of them are a good fit for the bass guitar there are a ton that are.

In fact, there are too many to really dive into in one article so I wanted to share some quick mentions for you to check out.

MXR Phaser Pedals

I’ve already mentioned the Phase 90 for bass but MXR has gone further and introduced many variations, which are worth your consideration.

The Phase 100 introduces, gasp, a second knob, allowing a few phase type presets. On bass, the Phase 100 is good for a deeper and more dramatic phase effect, while the 90 is better for a basic classic rock tone.

Then you have the Phase 95 which allows switching between 45 and 90 phase shift modes, and the Phase 99 has dual outputs, each with a dedicated rate. By varying the two and sending the output stereo, you could dive into some truly deep and spacy environments!

Elector Harmonix Phaser Pedals

I also mentioned the Small Stone above but I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the Bad Stone. If you want more drama than the simple Small Stone has to offer, check out the modded Bad Stone with more warp features. Experiment with the Manual Shift and Feedback knobs to really send your bass tone to the stars.

Conclusion

I found myself contemplating the music of the 2010s recently, and I realized it’s been a very good decade for throwbacks.

Many of my favorite hits have different flavors of vintage, from the Motown of Shake it Off to the smooth disco of Can’t Stop The Feeling, it’s a great time to dive into retro approaches to music. So grab your bass and pick up a phaser pedal- lay down some warped groove and you could be on the way to the latest throwback hit.

Keep working, and feel the joy of the music!