Tsakalis AudioWorks Phonkify Review

Envelope filter and octave combine to reach realms beyond the same old jam and funk riffs.


 

Ratings

Pros:
Classic, expressive filter sounds with extra flexibility. Plays well with other effects. Cool octave effect.

Cons:
None.

Street:
$200

Tsakalis Audio Works Phonkify
tsakalisaudioworks.com


Tones:


Ease of Use:


Build/Design:


Value:

Imagine, if you will, a world in which an envelope filter didn’t immediately conjure visions of colorful dresses swaying to guitar solos in the key of Jerry Garcia, or Bootsy on a funky bass roll. For many of us, it’s hard to separate the effect from those sounds. Enter the Phonkify, an envelope filter crafted by Greek manufacturer Tsakalis AudioWorks. It’s created to deliver sounds beyond the archetypical funk and jam palettes, and has a whole lot going on in the spaces between.

A Fitter Filter
The Phonkify provides a lot of tone tailoring options. For starters, the filter can be operated in two distinct modes: smooth and nasty. These are selected by a toggle switch. The smooth setting gets tones more akin to the traditional filter effects of yore, offering a bubbly attack that is lyrical and funky. The nasty setting makes the attack edgier and provides an almost synth-like envelope. This is where I found the most inspiring Phonkify sounds.

I really enjoyed using the Phonkify to boost the front end of an amp to compound the meltdown when the filter and octave are activated.

The inclusion of an octave effect, which has a dedicated footswitch, further separates the Phonkify from the garden-variety filter-effect pack. The octave section can be placed before or after the envelope filter in the Phonkify’s signal path, which produces many different textures but also extends Phonkify’s utility when working with overdrives and fuzzes. With the octave circuit engaged, especially before the filter effect, this box of bubbles turns downright mean—blooming into a tone giant that begs for big ’70s funk riffs and burning Paisley Park leads. The octave is tweakable, too. With the octave knob turned fully counterclockwise, the Phonkify’s filter effect is melded to a suboctave, producing a dense upper octave squawk as you twist it to the right.

The Phonkify has an input gain in addition to the master volume, which means you can tailor the effect’s sensitivity and responsiveness to different guitars, pickups, and upstream effects. It has a way of lending the Phonkify extra definition in dense effects mixes. And I really enjoyed using the Phonkify to boost the front end of an amp and compound the meltdown when the filter and octave were activated. Using that Phonkify recipe with a dirty, overdriven tube amp summons even more menace. Using this same setup with the neck humbucker of my Les Paul brought out robotic analog synth sounds that are extra-killer when doused with delays and/or reverbs.

While the Phonkify is great as a sonic freak machine, it’s a remarkably flexible effect and could serve as a worthy wah replacement for many players with cramped pedalboards or those disinterested in the ballet that treadle wah work requires. Turning the Phonkify’s sensitivity knob all the way down makes the effect less bubbly and effectively turns it an auto-wah, which I also loved for adding boost, subtle movement, and colorful midrange honk to leads. That said, the Phonkify does work with any expression pedal should one want to control the filter manually.

The Verdict
With a small enclosure, top-mounted jacks, its many unique and exaggerated octave/filter combo sounds, and subtle-but-useful auto-wah and classic envelope filter tones, the Phonkify is a total winner. At about $200 street, it’s also a great way to explore vintage Mu-Tron-type sounds with extra flexibility that few conventional envelope filters offer.

Almost six decades after forming the short-lived Rising Sons, the two legends reconvene to pay tribute to the classic blues duo of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee on the warm and rootsy Get on Board.

Deep into Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder’s Get on Board: The Songs of Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, percussionist Joachim Cooder lays out, letting the two elder musicians can take a pass through “Pawn Shop Blues.” To start, they loosely play around with the song’s intro on their acoustic guitars. “Yeah, nice,” remarks Mahal off-handedly in his distinctive rasp—present since he was a young man but, at 79, he’s aged into it—and Cooder lightly chuckles. They hit the turnaround and settle into a slow, loping tempo. It’s a casual and informal affair—some notes buzz, and it sounds like one of them is stomping his foot intermittently. Except for Cooder’s slide choruses, neither guitar plays a rhythm or lead role. They simply converse.

Read More Show less

The emotional wallop of the acoustic guitar sometimes flies under the radar. Even if you mostly play electric, here are some things to consider about unplugging.

I have a love-hate relationship with acoustic guitars. My infatuation with the 6-string really blasted off with the Ventures. That’s the sound I wanted, and the way to get it was powered by electricity. Before I’d even held a guitar, I knew I wanted a Mosrite, which I was sure was made of fiberglass like the surfboards the Beach Boys, Surfaris, and the Challengers rode in their off time. Bristling with space-age switchgear and chrome-plated hardware, those solidbody hotrod guitars were the fighter jets of my musical dreams. I didn’t even know what those old-timey round-hole guitars were called. As the singing cowboys Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey strummed off into the sunset, the pace of technology pushed the look and sound of the electric guitar (and bass) into the limelight and into my heart. Imagine my disappointment when I had to begin my guitar tutelage on a rented Gibson “student” acoustic. At least it sort of looked like the ones the Beatles occasionally played. Even so, I couldn’t wait to trade it in.

Read More Show less

Need an affordable distortion pedal? Look no further.

We live in the golden age of boutique pedals that are loaded with advanced features—many of which were nearly unthinkable a decade or so ago. But there’s something that will always be valuable about a rock-solid dirt box that won’t break your wallet. Here’s a collection of old classics and newly designed stomps that cost less than an average concert ticket.

Read More Show less
x