Monday, September 29, 2014

BOSS BF-3 Flanger Effect Pedal Review


Poke around on the internet for 5 minutes and you will find that you can pay anything you want for guitar effect pedals. Prices for these pedals range from $20 for unusable junk, all the way up to hundreds of dollars for boutique pedals that have been blessed by the pope and marketed by Diddy. Somewhere in between are the BOSS pedals from Roland, who has wisely chosen to target working musicians. Some folks sniff at their products, but I like them as they are reasonably priced, good quality, and they usually do what they are supposed to do. Today we are going to take a closer look at the BOSS BF-3 Flanger pedal.

What exactly is a flanger pedal? Well, it is like a phase shifter in that it splits the signal and delays one of them a little bit, which is adjustable by the user. This delay time varies at a constant rate (also adjustable), to give a really neat and complex sound. Do you want to sound like Eddie Van Halen, David Gilmour or Jimmy Page? Get a flanger.

The BF-3 is a standard single-space sized pedal, measuring 2-7/8 inches wide by 2-3/8 inches tall by 5-1/8 inches long, and it weighs in at around 15 ounces. Its most notable characteristic is that it is a terrifying shade of purple!

This pedal runs on a single 9-volt battery or it takes the optional BOSS PSA adapter. It draws 40 mA at 9 volts (that is pretty huge for a pedal), in case you are thinking of hooking it up to a pedal board power system. By the way, if you run the unit on battery, make sure you unplug the input when you are not using it, as the input jack acts as the power switch.

It has the same general style and appearance as other BOSS pedals, but this one comes in aforementioned terrifying purple. The outside of the sturdy metal case has a separate guitar and bass 1/4-inch inputs, dual 1/4-inch outputs and a jack for the highly recommended AC adapter. The expected BOSS high quality is to be found here, with a smooth finish, clean wiring, and knobs that have a nice feel. These knobs include Manual and Resonance (stacked), Depth, Rate and Mode, so it is not too complicated. Here is what they do:

MANUAL: sets the center frequency to which the effect is applied.

RESONANCE: adjusts the amount of feedback

DEPTH: adjusts the sweep depth – when turned all the way to the right the Manual knob is disabled

RATE: adjusts flange effect speed (0.3 mS to 14.4 ms for guitar and 0.3 ms to 6.3 ms for bass)

MODE: selects the flanger effect and pedal mode.

The following modes are available:

ULTRA: provides a stronger flanger effect

STANDARD: is standard. Duh.

GATE/PAN: in mono, this creates changes in output volume. In stereo, it alternately pans the output to the left and right, resulting in a Leslie-like effect that is pretty trippy

MOMENTARY: flanger is only applied while the pedal is depressed. STANDARD tone is applied, and flanging starts from the low end. Tap tempo is not active in MOMENTARY mode.

Tap Tempo, you say? Yep – if you press and hold the pedal for two seconds, it will enter tap tempo mode so you can set the tempo of the effect to your music by banging it out with you foot. I love this feature!

So, there is plenty going on here, and the big question is does it work? It does, and I tested it out with my active and passive P and J basses, as well as with my Telecaster, Stratocaster and Les Paul. The BF-3 provides a very good flange effect, and though it is digital it has a very warm timbre to it. I am not the world’s bigger flanger fan, so I use it in MOMENTARY mode for additional color as needed. I am not the next Van Halen, obviously…

In a nutshell, the BF-3 is a pretty good pedal for a reasonable price, which is what BOSS is all about. This pedal would be good for classic hard rock and more progressive music. If you are playing jazz, country or blues just stay away from it because it is impossible to get a clean sound out of it.

Unfortunately, there are a few downside to this unit. For starters, it does not have true bypass, which is something that everybody and their brother wants. In truth, there is some color added to the straight tone when bypassing the pedal, and gear nuts are fanatical about this. Also this pedal can be a bit noisy (but not too bad). And lastly, this thing goes through batteries like red Solo cups at a kegger. Buy an AC adapter.

The BOSS BF-3 Flanger does the job well and is reasonably priced with a list price of $217.50 and a street price of $139. They are way cheaper on the used market, but you will be giving up the 5-year warranty if you go that route. Check one out before you buy to make sure it is really what you want, and let me know what you think.


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