If you’re into psychedelic or spacey music, chances are you’re keen on warping the sound of your guitar in all kinds of ways. You probably use delay pedals for echo-ey weirdness, wah pedals for Hendrix-esque cry-baby sounds, and maybe a fuzz pedal for an authentic, 60s garage vibe. But now you want some whooshing, wobbly noises like spaceships taking off, to the tune of your guitar. You want a flanger pedal then.
As a modulation effect, they work by splitting your guitar’s sound into two identical signals, one of which is delayed. This creates the warped, whooshing effect which is popular amongst psychedelic guitarists. They’ve been popular since the 1960s, with notable uses coming from artists including Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, and John Squire.
At a Glance: Our Choice of the Best Flanger Pedals on the Market
- MXR EVH117
- TC Electronic Vortex
- Donner Jet Convolution
- Electro-Harmonix Stereo Electric Mistress
- Boss BF-3
- MXR M152 Micro
- Joyo JF-07 Classic
- Source Audio SA240 Mercury
Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.
- What is a Flanger?
- Buyer’s Guide – Key Considerations
- Product Round-up & Mini Reviews – Best Flanger Pedals
- So, Which Should I Buy?
What is a Flanger?
Flangers are an incredibly unique guitar effect. Their specific tone is produced by adding a little delay to the pickup’s input signal and varying the delay time as you strum. The result is a cool sounding wavy, swirling, warbling sort of noise.
Flanging was created in the ’60s by desyncing tapes. A song would be recorded using two tape recorders at the same time; then you’d place your finger on the tape flange to slow the speed down on one of the tracks – hence why the effect is called “flanging.” Of course, modern flangers don’t work this way, as tape flanging is time-consuming and pretty inefficient. New technology instead relies on digital circuitry to mimic the original analog effect. I should point out though, that modern flange units can also be attuned to produce phaser or chorus type effects. So, for your money, you get three or four pedals in one.
Pretty much every flange pedal you find will have a standard set of commands called Rate, Depth, Resonance, and Manual.
Rate controls the frequency of swells in the flange wave. Therefore, increasing this will lead to a faster set of wave sweeps. Just remember that these sweeps aren’t symmetrical, so the sound produced is deliberately inconsistent. Rate control allows you to have either intense flange, bordering on phaser-esque vibes, or a subtle flange, more like a chorus.
Depth controls the flanger intensity in your tone. At a low depth setting, your flanger will sound warmer and more natural, whereas as you increase the depth, it will become more prominent and alien, with a metallic shine. Ultimately, the amount of depth you need depends on what style of music you’re going to be playing.
Resonance determines how high the sound wave sweep goes, so you can alter the intensity of the warbling you get. Some flange pedals can produce pretty extreme waves under a high resonance, whereas others are tamer. If you want to make music that’s experimental or spacey sounding, it may, therefore, be wise to invest in a pedal that has plenty of resonance.
The manual knob sometimes isn’t even a knob, but rather a functional resonance switch that controls the flange’s sweep center. A low manual value produces a far more subtle tone, whereas, at a higher level, the pedal will create a more unnatural sound.
Buyer’s Guide – Key Considerations
This means that the effects unit won’t drain any of your natural guitar tone when it’s not in use. Pedals that don’t include true bypass often lead to a weaker output signal and an overall flat sound. If you go for a flanger that doesn’t have true bypass built-in, it’s not the end of the world, you could add a buffer or just use it without. Some guitarists don’t feel missing true bypass makes much difference in a short cable setup.
This refers to the type of flange effect you get. Some pedals offer vintage tape flange, whereas others provide a wilder, more synthetic tone. Perhaps if you play 60’s or 70’s rock a vintage flanger would be best, on the other hand, if you’re into psychedelic or experimental guitar, a synthetic version would be best for your tone. There isn’t really a correct choice here, it depends on what you need as a musician.
Many flanger pedals can be stereo and mono. Mono is the standard set up most guitarists use and means you run a single signal into the effects unit, then a single signal into one amplifier. A stereo output means you can use two amps at once, using two signal paths, for a louder sound and interesting effects.
Some flange pedals will let you tap in the tempo you need, which is a lot easier than trying to dial it in using a small control knob. This will be very worthwhile if you’re going be vary the tempo of your flange regularly, especially in a live setting.
Product Round-up & Mini Reviews – Best Flanger Pedals
At a glance, MXR’s EVH117 looks pretty edgy, with it’s cutting black and white design and irregularly shaped metal casing, but there’s much more on offer here than looks alone.
The best thing about this device has to be its authentic bucket-brigade technology, which is specially designed to mimic the original MXR Flanger used by Van Halen. There’s even an extra EVH (Eddie Van Halen) Switch, to instantly recreate his specific Manual, Width, Speed and Regeneration settings live.
Another bonus here is that the 4-way tone control is pretty simple to use, consisting of the standard options we discussed earlier, so most players should be able to this thing easily enough. That said, it’s worth investing in an 18V power supply for the EVH117; otherwise, you’re going to be eating up two 9V batteries at a time.
So, thanks to its simple set of controls and great tone production, this flanger will suit 80’s rock fans or anyone looking for a great sound – remember, you’ll need a fair chunk of cash saved up to afford it.
- Tone – Recreates Van Halen’s flanger sound authentically.
- Looks – The EVH117 is one of the coolest looking devices I’ve seen.
- Price – Pretty expensive, so make sure you can’t find a cheaper alternative before you buy.
- Power drainer – The EVH117 guzzles up so much current that it requires an extra powerful 18V supply or two batteries.
TC Electronic Vortex
At a slightly lower price than MXR’s EVH117, the Vortex by TC Electronic offers some pretty unique features.
The best thing about most TC pedals is that they use something called TonePrint Technology, meaning you get access to custom flanger effects that have been designed by famous guitarists, or that you can customize your sounds via a computer program or smartphone app.
There’s also the option to create either synthetic or realistic tape flange, thanks to its analog-dry-through signaling so that you can create warm rhythm sections or experimental solos. So, as you can see, all this plus the four standard tone controls gives you loads of versatility in sound production.
Overall, the technology on offer here will require you to have some prior experience with flange, chorus or phasers and you’ll need to be somewhat computer literate. We’d, therefore, recommend the Vortex to intermediate players, looking to get creative.
- Versatile – The software here allows you to beam in hundreds of different flange settings.
- Creative – You can design your own flange effects for maximum control.
- Complex – You’ll need to understand the concepts surrounding guitar effects, to make the most of what’s on offer here.
- Price – The Vortex is still rather expensive, so make sure you need all the extra features before you buy it.
Donner Jet Convolution
At first glance Donner’s Jet Convolution looks pretty plain and small; however, it’s size at least works as an advantage. I’d say portability is one of it’s best features, allowing its owner to travel light to gigs.
Another cool aspect of the Jet Convolution is it’s tone, especially considering the price, which is extremely affordable. There are two modes to choose from here; one is an analog classic rock flanger, the other is a filtered option, which creates a swirling, jet engine type sound – hence the name.
All this technology is housed in a sturdy and safe aluminum-alloy shell, so it’ll withstand heavy use. That said, the dials are all pretty close together, so watch that you don’t accidentally stomp one when engaging the footswitch. So, overall, the Jet Convolution is an excellent option for anyone looking for simple controls, great tone, and portability while shopping on a budget.
- Portable – Mini size won’t weigh you down when you’re on the move.
- Low Cost – The Jet Convolution is one of the most affordable products we review today.
- Doesn’t take batteries – So make sure you remember your power supply.
- Distracting Light – The LED is so bright it’s a little distracting when using other pedals.
Electro-Harmonix Stereo Electric Mistress
The Electric Mistress is one glamorous looking pedal, and you can tell it’s come straight out of the ’80s to deliver some serious synth to your ears. But don’t worry, as well as it’s aesthetic, the Electric Mistress offers some amazing technology too.
The best aspect here has to be the pedal’s independent flanger and chorus dials – yes you get two pedals in one – which can be combined, for genuinely unique sonic creations. Better still, when you find the perfect flange point, you can manually freeze it and use it throughout the entire set.
But wait, there’s even more good news. All this tone can be sent through the stereo output jacks into a wall of amplifiers, or pinged between separate stacks, for an out of this world live performance.
So as you can see, the Electric Mistress is best suited to guitarists serious about particular tones and having the maximum functionality live. The controls are also relatively easy to handle, so even a novice will be able to use this device productively.
- Two pedals in one – The Electric Mistress is both a flanger and a chorus pedal in one shell.
- Great flange tone – The effect this flanger produces is among the best we’ve ever heard.
- Large – Slightly larger than your average effects pedal so that you may need some extra space in your gig bag.
- Price – One of the more expensive models out there, but you do get great tone for your dollar.
At a glance, the BF-3 by Boss may look pretty bog-standard or even plain, but the variety for tone shaping here is incredibly impressive.
The best thing about its technology has to be the two extra modes named ‘Ultra’ and ‘Gate’ that are included on top of a set of standard controls. The ‘Ultra’ setting produces a super intense flange sound, while ‘Gate’ creates a slicer type effect, both of which seem to vortex the listener into another dimension.
As well as all this, there’s also a Momentary Mode, which allows you to use a set flange frequency, and a Tap Tempo, which means you can stomp in the wave timing with your feet – this is always handy when you’re playing live.
The BF-3 can even be used with a bass guitar and comes with a whopping 5-year warranty for your peace of mind. Overall, this pedal is best suited to bassists or multi-instrumentalists looking for a high-quality flanger, with plenty of versatility. Remember this is a fair bit cheaper than the Electric Mistress and offers some pretty similar features, minus the extra chorus.
- Tap tempo – You can use the BF-3’s footswitch to input the flange rate; this is extra convenient for changing settings live.
- Extreme tones – The ‘Ultra’ and ‘Gate’ settings here will let you produce some pretty alien sounds.
- Not true bypass – May drain your guitar tone slightly when not in use.
- Very synthetic sounding – The overall sonic experience here seems to focus on extremes, rather than warm, vintage analog versions
MXR M152 Micro
The M152 by MXR is one of the cutest looking effects pedals I have ever seen. This thing is seriously diddy and simplistic but still packs a punch.
So, of course, convenience is the best aspect here. The M152 only has two control dials ‘Rate’ and ‘Regen’ which manage the flanger’s frequency and intensity – so, absolutely nobody can get it wrong! It’s minuscule weight and size will also allow you to take it with you without even noticing it’s packed away, which is great news if you’re touring regularly.
The second-best thing about the M152 is that it uses bucket-brigade technology to produce an authentic analog flanger sound. So if you’re a fan of less extreme, but more vintage flangers, you will not be disappointed here.
Overall, this is a pedal built for simplicity and an ear-pleasing sonic experience, and at this mid-range price, I’d say it’s an excellent option for any guitarist that travels a lot.
- Analog circuitry – Bucket-brigade technology means that the sound quality the M152 produces is fantastic.
- Simple controls – With just two dials, nobody can get confused here.
- Not so versatile – If you like to define your effect tone, two control dials will probably not be enough.
- No stereo output – The M152 is only mono out, so you won’t be able to use multiple amps as easily.
Joyo JF-07 Classic
The JF-07 by Joyo is currently being sold at pretty much the same price as Donner’s flanger we mentioned earlier but offers some different features for the price.
This effects unit includes a bucket brigade simulation circuit, which helps it produce a warm, rich analog sound as if you’re playing through a 70’s tube amplifier. And of course, there’s the full set of standard controls that you’d expect to find on a flanger, so it’s pretty simple to use.
The JF-07 also features true bypass wiring, so you can be sure it’s not going to suck away your guitar tone. Additionally, this thing can be powered by both a 9v battery and a power supply, so if you forget one or the other, you don’t need to worry.
Overall, the JF-07 is simple enough for most guitarists to grasp and would be ideal for anyone shopping on a very tight budget. Saying that, the tone it produces isn’t quite as pleasing to listen to as the Electric Mistress or MXR’s M152, so may be best used at home as a practice model.
- Affordable – You won’t find a flanger much cheaper than this.
- Simple – The JF-07 features just four control dials, so it’s easy enough to figure out.
- Out of control – When the Regen dial is turned up high, the pedal starts to feedback heavily, this is cool to mess around with, but annoying when you’re trying to use the effect live.
Source Audio SA240 Mercury
The SA240 Mercury by Source Audio may look pretty basic or average at first glance, but believe me, there is a lot of cool technology inside its shell.
The best aspect here really has to be the SA240’s ability to download extra phaser and chorus algorithms, and that you can edit them via the Neuro Mobile Smartphone App. Impressively, you can save up to 128 presets and conveniently recall them using an external MIDI foot controller.
The actual flanger sound the SA240 produces is also really nice. This pedal features a vintage sounding ‘Classic Flange,’ ‘Thru-Zero Flange,’ which is an extremely modulated type of effect, and a ‘Shadow Flange,’ which provides extra resonance. You can even add one of Sound Audio’s expression pedals into the mix, for ultimate swoosh control while you play live!
Overall, the SA240 would suit any guitarist looking to dive into the realms of flanger tone and explore its realms in great detail. Here you could create some out of this world sounds and use them live. You’ll need to be pretty computer literate or at least willing to learn how this process works, which could be time-consuming.
- Endless Possibilities – Thanks to the software, there’s pretty much unlimited creative potential here tone-wise.
- High Quality – Usually when you use a different pedal like this, you have some lack of tone.
- A lot to Learn – There’s so much technology on offer here, you’ll need to be prepared to spend a bit of time picking up the basics.
- Doesn’t take batteries – Don’t forget your 9v power supply.
So, Which Should I Buy?
So, as you can see, there’s loads of choice out there when it comes to flangers. There’s also no particular right option either; it’s all down to what you need as a musician.
For example, if you want to explore the outer realms of the flanger world, then Source Audio’s Mercury and TC Electronic’s Vortex would be great options, as both of these pedals are incredibly versatile. If on the other hand, you prefer simplicity when it comes to pedal controls, then Donner’s Jet Convulsion or Joyo’s J7-07 won’t leave you scratching your head and are both very affordable.
If you need something tiny and portable then go for MXR’s Micro Flanger, this thing still packs a punch for its size. If you’re a classic rock fiend, then Electro Harmonix’s Electric Mistress or MXR’s EVH117 are your best option in regards to flanger tone. And for all you bassists out there, go for the Boss BF-3, this thing’s built like a beast and will last a lifetime.
What did you end up choosing in the end? Let me know in the comments below…