Tsakalis AudioWorks Phonkify Review
Envelope filter and octave combine to reach realms beyond the same old jam and funk riffs.
Classic, expressive filter sounds with extra flexibility. Plays well with other effects. Cool octave effect.
Tsakalis Audio Works Phonkify
Ease of Use:
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.
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.
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.