The month would not be complete without a review of some sort of BOSS effect pedal, so today we are looking at the P-3 Phase Shifter. This is probably the main competition for the venerable MXR Phase 90.
Roland’s BOSS division makes effect pedals for the everyday working musician. These are folks that cannot afford the boutique pedals, or more realistically, they realize that good is good enough (sort of a Voltaire attitude). You have seen that you pay whatever you want can pay anything you want for guitar effect pedals, with the choices include crummy junk for twenty bucks all the way up to hundreds of dollars for stuff that was put together by people in first-world countries. BOSS pedals fall in the middle, as they are reasonably priced and good quality, making them a good value.
What exactly does a phase shifter do? It performs comb filtering by splitting the input signal, introducing a very short delay on one of the signals, and then recombining them. That delay is also modulated (varied), and so the phase of one of the signal (relative to the other) is shifted. Remember the bass part on Nugent’s “Stranglehold” – that is a phase shifter. Do not confuse it with a flanger, which works in a similar manner but with a longer delay.
The PH-3 is a standard single-space sized pedal, measuring 2.9 inches wide by 2.4 inches tall by 5.1 inches long, and it weigh in at a touch under one pound. See? The metric system will never catch on as long as I am on watch! This pedal runs on a single 9-volt battery or it takes the optional BOSS PSA adapter (which is a good idea as it burns through batteries like crazy). It draws 50 mA at 9 volts, 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 either input jack acts as the power switch.
It has the same general style as other BOSS pedals, but this one comes in a shocking shade of chartreuse. The outside of the sturdy metal case has a ¼’ input and output jacks, an input jack for hooking up an external footswitch or expression pedal, and a jack for the aforementioned 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 RATE, DEPTH, RES (Resonance), and STAGE. Here is what they do:
- RATE: adjusts the speed at which the filter changes. It you crank it all the way to the left (MIN) the filter is OFF.
- DEPTH: adjusts the depth of the filter change. The filter effect turns OFF when turned all the way to the left unless the STAGE knob is in the RISE of FALL positions.
- RES: adjusts the strength of the filter effect. The more it is turned towards MAX, the more distortion will be heard.
- STAGE: selects the number of phase steps and the phase type. The 4, 8, 10 and 12 steps increase in depth the higher the number goes. RISE, FALL and STEP do exactly what they say: the sound will emulate rising, falling and non-consecutive tone effects.
A little more info about the external switch input is probably in order here. This jack allows the user to control some of the PH-3 functions in a hands-free mode with the EV-5 expression pedal. RATE can be changed with an EV-5 pedal expression, which sounds like a great idea – but I did not have one to try out the feature. Tap tempo can be controlled from a regular FS-5U external footswitch, which I do have, and it worked very well. You can do tap tempo without the footswitch, but it is way easier with one, so spend a couple of extra bucks to pick one up if you do not already have one.
The PH-3 works really well when you put it to work, and it does not take very long to get a good tone out of it. It has the ability to get classic tones (Step 4) and modern tones, and the unique rise and fall modes give a great unidirectional phase effect that is more modern and very usable. The ability to match it to tempo is a godsend, and there is not a lot of noise or hiss added to the signal chain. Pretty much it is a winner no matter how you look at it.
If you are searching for a good quality and effective phase shifter pedal, the BOSS PH-3 fits the bill. It will get the job done and is certainly reasonably priced with a list price of $208.50 and a street price of $129. They hold their value well on the used market, so you are better off buying new and getting the BOSS 5-year warranty.