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Long Island-based Pigtronix is barely a decade old, but their growing family of stompboxes has already garnered multiple accolades and a long list of notable bassists and guitarists using their wares. The company released a trio of bass-specific pedals this year and the new Bass Envelope Phaser reviewed here may be the most exciting of the pack. It’s smaller than Pigtronix’s older cousin, the Envelope Phaser, and is now tuned specifically for bass. We wanted to find out if the new Bass Envelope Phaser is able to bring the funk that has made its predecessor a favorite with those who favor the low.
Down and Dirty Even though it’s less than half the width of the original Envelope Phaser, this sturdy pedal seemed surprisingly light when first pulling it out of the box. There are no batteries permitted here: The Bass Envelope Phaser runs on an included 18-volt power supply. The outside of the box has a cool, retro aesthetic, but forward thinking is a pride point with Pigtronix and this pedal’s interior houses some clever engineering twists.
The first is the company’s staccato circuit, which reacts to even the smallest drops in level, and is meant to ensure that fast fingerpicking and slap techniques work well in tandem with the effect.
The Bass Envelope Phaser uses a 2-notch comb filter for producing its one-of-a-kind vocabulary. Pedals in this category traditionally employ a low- or high-pass filter, which in turn will, yes, block highs or lows. But this can be especially problematic for bassists because of the wide, harmonic landscape we have to fill. We depend on full, deep lows to create body, as well as rich highs to emphasize harmonics and articulate notes. With its 2-notch comb filter, the Bass Envelope Phaser was designed to blend the best of both without taking anything away from your sound.
In the Pen I started by placing the pedal between a passive Fender Jazz and a Hartke 3500 head pushing a Hartke VX410 cab. The Bass Envelope Phaser is simple to use with just a pair of control knobs and an up/down mini-toggle switch that controls the direction of the sweep. The left-side sensitivity knob controls how much signal is needed to initiate the effect. Depending on whether you’re playing an active or passive instrument and the intensity of your attack, the sensitivity knob does require a touch of tinkering to really dial in the right level.
With my passive J at the helm, I found that pushing the sensitivity up to about 12 o’clock was just right to consistently trigger the effect.
The resonance knob controls the amount of feedback in the circuit and it has the most dramatic impact on the sound. Part of what made this pedal so much fun was the number of variations I could achieve by adjusting this dial. With it set at about 9 o’clock, nothing is really in your face, but there is a noticeable fluidity in the lower end that lends itself well to drawn-out passages. Boosting the resonance up to a notch below noon produced a downright beautiful tone, getting me to an almost chorus-like effect when combining a melody in the upper register with open strings and simple chords.
Pushing the resonance knob up past noon is the gateway to serious funk territory. At this level, the Bass Envelope Phaser adds such an expressive element to up-tempo funk lines that it just might make you feel like a better bassist. One of my favorite combinations was setting the pedal’s resonance to about 3 o’clock and boosting the mids on my amp while soloing the bridge pickup on the Jazz. This produced a pronounced, nasal phase attack that was great for soloing and certain to turn some heads. It should be said that even with the resonance maxed, I detected no deterioration in the low end.
The Verdict It’s not exactly inexpensive, but for such an expressive and fun stompbox from a respected company, $199 is rightfully tempting. The Bass Envelope Phaser delivers a classic, funky sound with a uniquely customizable solo voice and no loss of bottom end. If you need a device that offers more controls or you don’t play funk, you may want to move on. But if you are looking for a solid, phasing effect pedal that won’t sacrifice your sound or totally break the bank, you may have a new companion.