Phase shifters are rarely regarded as subtle effects. But if you count yourself
among the phase averse because of the heavy handed, all-or-nothing
textures some of them generate, MXR’s ’75 Vintage Phase 45 could
change your mind.
MXR’s phasers are rightly regarded as classics. But while the Phase 100
became legendary at the feet of players like David Gilmour, and the
Phase 90 colored Eddie Van Halen’s early work, their more sedate cousin
the Phase 45 was something of a wallflower at the dance. With this
beautiful reissue of the 45, MXR may coax this sweet-sounding pedal
into the limelight yet.
As Simple as It Gets
The burnt-orange Phase 45 with its MXR script logo is the very picture of
stompbox elegance. It has a single knob—Speed—that adjusts the rate of
phase. And true to the original, the 45 is strictly battery powered, so there’s
no AC jack. In other words, this is as clean and uncluttered an effect case as
you’ll ever see.
MXR paid just as much attention to authenticity under the hood. The circuit
board, which is padded by thin foam on either side, is handwired. The pedal
also uses the Switchcraft jacks and Carling bypass switch that were used on
the original. Period correct details cost you in one respect—there’s no light
to tell you if the pedal is on or off. Thankfully, the audible clues to the operational
state of the Phase 45 are unmistakable.
Because of its simplicity and warm, toneful character, the Phase 45 is a
pleasure to use from the second you plug it in. Setting the Speed to 9
o’clock colored simple arpeggios (played through a clean blackface Fender
Tremolux) with a clear, sleepy psychedelic swirl that was rich with high-end
Setting the Speed to midway gives you a deeper, slightly faster sonic
swish that’s perfect for Stax-flavored, suspended chord-based ballads,
as well as my own pass at the Rolling Stone’s slow burner from Tattoo
Move the knob clockwise between 4 and 5 o’ clock, and the Phase 45
takes on an even stronger personality. Here the phase has more push
and stronger pulses—taking on a character somewhere between a pulsing
amplifier tremolo and a Uni-Vibe, but also inhabiting an ideal space
between a phaser and a rotary speaker. It’s a beautiful and natural-sounding
effect that can be worked in and out of a mix with crafty use
of your guitar’s volume knob.
Interestingly, the Phase 45 is also very responsive to tweaks of a guitar’s
tone knobs. And rolling off the bass and treble tone knobs on the
Rickenbacker 330 used to test, the 45 was a quick way to reduce the
amount and depth of the phase in the mix.
The Phase 45 is one of those pedals that can get you out of a rut. It’s
warm, organic, and rarely harsh. And while you could wile hours away
enjoying the lush and sometimes surreal textures it can lend to the
simplest chords, the Phase 45 can also enliven funk grooves and add a
tipsy swagger to Keith Richards-style leads.
The Phase 45 is certainly subtler and less capable of heavy interstellar warpage
than a Small Stone or a cranked Phase 90. But if the stale riffs in your
repertoire are crying for the kind of modulation that can flavor your playing
without melting the minds of bandmates and your audience, you’ll dig what
Phase 45 has to offer.
you’re on the hunt for colorful, lush, but
not overbearing phase modulation.
full-on phase freaks you out, man.