There’s nothing like a good old phaser pedal for adding some spacy ambience to your sound. Want to know what it sounds like? Listen to Van Halen’s first album. It’s everywhere. And what did Eddie Van Halen use for those classic phased tones? The MXR Phase 90. After all these years, does it still live up to the hype? Let’s dive into our MXR M-101 Phase 90 review and see if it’s the best guitar phaser pedal you can buy.
While some modern phaser pedals offer you a slew of functions for crafting your phasing guitar sound, the Phase 90 is famous for just keeping it simple. Instead of a complex layout of knobs and functions, you get one knob to rule them all: Speed.
The Speed knob simply controls the rate of phasing oscillation from a nice slow sweeping phasing effect to all out wobbling insanity. This little guitar pedal is already fine-tuned to provide the perfect amount of depth for an effect meant to envelope your sound in that characteristic Phase 90 modulation.
Sound & Performance:
For this test I went back in time to revisit my woodshedding days of holing myself up in my bedroom and practicing all day, learning the licks and songs of my guitar heroes. And what was I doing at the age of 16 that I wish I had an MXR Phase 90 for back then? Listening to Eruption, the world famous guitar performance by Eddie Van Halen that solidified the Phase 90 as an all-time classic guitar effect.
Setting the Phase 90’s Speed control to a low churning rate well under 9 o’clock, I gave it a stomp and blasted into that opening sequence of notes from Eruption. Yeah, this it. This is the sound right here.
Playing an ad-lib version (haven’t ripped this solo in years; forgot some details), I made my way to the famous tapping section at the end. Seriously, the Phase 90 sounds good. I didn’t have an Echoplex on hand, but I found a nice substitute in using the MXR M-169 Carbon Copy Analog Delay to achieve a massive delay sound for recreating my take on this classic solo.
Now I know the reason why guitarists sometimes try other phaser pedals, but they soon come back to the MXR Phase 90. The MXR Phase 90 is the sound of guitar phasing.
Pushing the Speed over 9 o’clock increases the pulsing effect, useful for creative interludes. Taking it even higher quickly enters extreme territory as your guitar transforms into a wobbling weapon of sonic insanity. High Speed settings are not for the faint of heart, useful for waking up your audience with some special effect excursions.
It sounds great on clean tones, too, perfect for atmospheric rhythm progressions where the gentle phasing will create a cascading ambiance. Gotta love that mild ear-to-a-seashell ocean sound.
It seems that overall, the Phase 90 is better suited to mild Speed settings to achieve the classic sound of phasing. This pedal doesn’t do much, but what it does do is at the top of its class, especially for the price. Of course you can achieve superior phasing sounds with the Chase Bliss Audio Wombtone MKII, a premium feature-packed phaser that costs over 4 times the price of this humble little pedal, but guitarists on a budget will appreciate what the Phase 90 offers more value for its cost and size than any other pedals in its class.
Let’s have the final result.
The MXR M-101 Phase 90 is still THE sound of phasing in a guitar effects pedal. It is the one that started it all and is the one to get if you have a few extra bucks to spare and want to add some affordable phasing to your pedalboard. The Phase 90 is responsible for more famous phased guitar sounds than any other pedal, and I’m betting countless more guitarists will continue making this pedal their go-to choice for classic phasing effects. More professional guitarists agree that the MXR Phase 90 is one of the best guitar phaser pedals out there. After all these years, it’s still the same little orange box of magic. And it’s priced right for any guitarist who wants that priceless Phase 90 sound. Get one and become a part of the family of legendary Phase 90 users.
That concludes our MXR M-101 Phase 90 Review. Thanks for reading.
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