Phase is one of the lesser used effects nowadays. Heard a lot throughout the ’80s and early ’90s, it brings an unusual angle to the tone of the guitar and can liven up pretty much any sound at the click of the onboard switch. Van Halen redefined the rock solo when he used it on famous instrumental track ‘Eruption’, and inspired generations of players to practice their lead chops. This latest version of the Phase 90 comes from an MXR under the wing of Dunlop, and I was very interested in testing it out for myself, after hearing a lot of mixed reviews from others, ranging all of the way from ‘loved it!’ to ‘absolutely hated it!’
The thing about this pedal which is great is the simplicity of it. One input, one output, one DC input, one knob and a footswitch. This pedal was clearly designed to do one thing and one thing only; add a little sweep to your tone.
The phase effect itself is pretty good, and exactly what you’d expect from an MXR phase 90 pedal. The speed control works well, and is particularly responsive, and the sound of the sweep effect itself is reminiscent of the classic metal songs that made this effect famous in the first place.
Now for the cons. It has A LOT of background interference. The footswitch gives a pretty loud pop when the effect is switched from bypass and there is a lot of hiss. The phase sweep is accompanied by a muddy distortion which takes away from the phase itself and makes it hard to get a consistent tone when using it with outher effects. Another negative is that the pedal acts almost like a boost; when engaged it ups your volume noticeably; something you don’t want in an effect which should be subtle and decorative.
MXR have a good reputation for building sturdy pedals, and this one is no exception. The pot feels good and the switch has just the right amopunt of resistance (although that pop when it is engaged is a serious drawback). The case is sturdy enough, and with minimal moving parts (one pot and one switch) it is likely to last a long time before any kind of mechanical failure occurs. One thing about MXR pedals which is extremely annoying is the placement of the DC input. It is on the side of the pedal, next to the input jack, instead of being on the top of the pedal. This makes it more than a little awkward to fit into a pedalboard if you want to use DC power to it and the effects around it.
While the Phase 90 is a truly legendary effect historically, this one doesn’t quite live up to the name. The phase effect itself is completely fine, and the pedal is very easy to use, but unwanted distortion, a loud switch, a significant amount of background hiss and a huge jump in volume level all bring this pedal’s score way down. There are much better phase pedals out there.