Review: Boss PH-1r Phaser (a retrospective)

As with my previous review, I thought I’d go over a pedal I have since moved on. The Boss PH-1r was produced between 1980 and 1985. It built on the success of their first phase pedal, the PH-1, by adding a resonance control to the speed and depth controls of the original. This increases the feedback of the phase circuit, and in simple terms makes the phase sound more “whooshey”. The PH-1r is a 4 stage phaser like possibly the most well known phaser of all time, the MXR phase 90. This is the simplest configuration normally used to produce phase sounds but despite this simplicity, many of the most recognisable phase recordings (and hence, the most emulated) were created using 4 stage phasers. Listen to 70’s Pink Floyd or Van Halen for the kind of phase tones I’m talking about, although I believe that both Dave Gilmour and Eddie Van Halen were advocates of the phase 90.


My old 1981 Boss PH-1r. The alignment of the text changed during production, but this one still had the original form of P under s.

I found it very easy to dial in a whole range of classic phase tones. From suble, slow sweeps to underwater wobble and everything in between, there were very few unusable sounds in this pedal. I found the classic phase sound particularly juicy and sweet sounding with both single coils and humbuckers. I will say that the pedal can be a little noisy, particularly with resonance above 12 o’clock. This becomes more of an issue with the addition of drive, although I think subtlety is the name of the game when combining those two effects. With the depth and resonance relatively low I found some nice faux-vibrato settings at high phase rates and similar chorus-y sounds at slightly lower rates, although the effect remains unmistakeably phase.

As with many older boss pedals the Boss ACA power supply or an appropriate multi-supply is required to power it. I’d certainly recommend either option over batteries, which this pedal seems to burn through. Nowadays this pedal can go for as much as £80-£100 depending on condition, which seems a little steep compared to the more reliable contemporary offerings available. Unlike analog delay pedals, all-analog phase pedals are still relatively common (and arguably the norm compared to the digital alternative) and indeed both MXR an Electro Harmonix make affordable, great models in the phase 90/ EVH phaser and small stone respectively.

A confession: I generally consider modulation pedals such as phasers, flangers, vibratos and uni-vibes to be something of a luxury. Like strange relishes and condiments that seem to fill up the back of the kitchen cupboard, they are only brought out once in a while for the meals that they perfectly suit.  I consider tremolo and chorus to be the exceptions to the rule, salt and pepper compared to the more niche condiments. Laboured metaphors aside, I mostly found myself using the phaser during prog rock renditions which I guess was my main issue with it. Unless I really wanted to sit down with the tablature for Pink Floyd’s The Wall it just went unused on the pedalboard. I’ve always taken a use it or lose it attitude with guitar effects, so I ended up selling it on gumtree. Nowadays if I want sufficiently wobbly tones I will dial in something with chorus, tremolo or even wah, which also do double duty in so many other genres. Still, if I saw another one of these (or equivalent) going cheap I’d be tempted to pick it up.

How do you all feel about phasers? An ever present on the pedalboard in constant use or a slightly cheesy throwback, best left to prog covers bands?


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