*may not actually be the biggest phaser shootout on the internet 😉
Introduction: Phasers come in all shapes and forms – tiny, big, digital, analog, with or without some big names attached to them.
Here I will try out a few of them.
Part 1: About the difference between MXR and Electro Harmonix-style phasers
Both MXR and Electro Harmonix (short: EH) are established companies, whose phasers were and are played throughout the world by popular artists.
Both have a distinct sound to them which the video below tries to explore
The test subjects here are the MXR Phase 90 (Block), the Mooer Ninety Orange (which is a MXR clone), the EH Small Stone and the EH Bad Stone.
As you can hear in the video the MXR Phase 90 (at least in the Block version) boosts the signal a bit, which makes it great for solos, but adds a tiny bit of distortion.
The Mooer Ninety Orange is advertised as a clone of the MXR Phase 90 with a toggle that let’s you switch between the Block and the more subtle Script version – it’s called „Vintage“ and „Modern“ on the pedal. However, if you listen closely you can tell that the MXR’s phase is a little deeper.
The Electro Harmonix phasers on the other hand sound completely different. The MXR (and it’s Mooer clone) seem to be focused on the mids and almost leave the bass and highs untouched, whereas the EH phasers also phase the bass and highs. It makes for a „more colored“ sound, but looses focus – when the sweep is in the low-mid area you suddenly lose volume, which I imagine could make the EH phasers problematic in a band context.
On the other hand the EH phasers sound fuller and rounder, and if you happen to like that colorful sound, I would strongly suggest trying out the Bad Stone. The Small Stone is kind of a more subtle phaser (…unless you switch the –in my humble opinion useless – color toggle up. Useless because it completely changes the tone of your guitar, gives you a deep, bass-y phase and not much else), whereas the Bad Stone sounds almost the same on low „Rate“-settings as the Small Stone but gets thicker as the rate goes up. They are roughly the same price, but the Bad Stone has a feedback knob, that acts as sort of a wet-knob, plus a manual shift function (think: a cocked wah), that gives a nice option for intros or instrumentals.
Between the Mooer and the MXR things are not so clear. As it often is with these things, the copy just can’t quite reach the original. Both the MXR Phase 90 Block and the Mooer Ninety Orange (in it’s „modern“ setting) sound roughly the same (they both push and focus on the mids), but the sweep of the Phase 90 just sounds a bit sweeter and deeper, not quite as „shriek-y“ as the Mooer (you can hear that best when soloing). That may be because the Mooer tends to add highs which the MXR doesn’t.
Still, the Mooer is a great phaser, it’s a fraction of the size of the MXR, a fraction of the price and furthermore comes with True Bypass (which the MXR lacks). If you play mainly distortion guitar and want to spice things up, I’d say try the basic MXR Phase 90 or – if money or room on your pedalboard is an issue-the Mooer, for clean players who don’t want that boost I would suggest trying out the Mooer Ninety Orange… OR investing in the MXR EVH Phase 90, which I will be discussing in part 3 of this shootout.
Part 2: Six phasers in direct comparison
Here are direct comparisons between the 4 aforementioned phasers, plus newcomers Movall VanGolem Phase and XVive V6 Phaser king.
All you really need to know is in the video, let me just quickly add that I was shocked how bad the Movall VanGolem Phase sounded, and exited how good the XVive. Unfortunately the XVive produces quite some hum, which makes it unusable for me.
Part 3: MXR Eddie Van Halen Phase 90 vs. Mooer Phase Ninety (with a special appearance by the Boss PH-3)
In the course of this shootout I found out that personally, I really like the MXR-style of mid-focused phasing sound. The MXR Phase 90 (block) from the first video sounded a tiny little bit better than then Mooer Ninety Orange, but unfortunately produced some unwanted distortion due to it’s mid-boost. The Mooer on the other hand was cheaper, smaller and had true bypass, plus, it also had two 2 different modes, called “modern” and “vintage” that are supposed to recreate the sounds of MXR BLOCK and SCRIPT Phase 90s.
I then stumbled upon the MXR EVH Phase 90, an Eddie Van Halen signature pedal that features both the Block and Script Phase circuits. Some reviewers wrote that the volume boost got better on the that one, but of course, it still hasn’t got true bypass, is bigger and costs almost 3 times as much as the Mooer (EVH Phase 90 is 170€, Mooer Ninety Orange is 70€)…off topic: the guys at Mooer should have advertised their product as a EVH Phase 90 clone! Both have 2 curcuits on board! “Mooer Halen’s Ninety” anyone…?
Still, I have spent way more than that on single pedals in my life, so I decided to give the EVH a shot. This test was supposed to find out if the MXR EVH Phase 90 is worth it’s money, or if it maybe can’t hold a candle to it’s tinier, cheaper Chinese clone! (Oh yes and by the way, a friend of mine lent me his Boss PH-3, it doesn’t really fit this video, but it’s a phaser after all, so I thought I might just as well give that a try here 🙂
Also, please not that the rates/speed knobs of the Mooer and the EVH Phase 90 don’t work the same (the EVH goes waaay faster), but in case you are wondering, I always tried to match the rates.
Conclusion: Soooo, in my humble opinion the EVH Phase 90 is worth the money. It’s buffered bypass works good enough for me (there seems to be a tiiiny bit of less treble with the disengaged pedal in line, but that’s something I can live with), but I really like that it has both Script and Block versions onboard, (almost) none of that volume boost, and yes…the sound!
The Mooer Ninety Orange however is a great pedal as well, not as sweet sounding as it’s bigger brother, but small, cheap and very durable. Definitely recommended as well!