Speaking in liquid tongues
It is hard to put into words just how interactive, haunting and dimensional the Howard Davis-designed Wave Phaser sounds. The ability to wallow in the purgatorial sine wave-states of LFO and envelope triggered tides of modulation is a truly psychedelic experience. With faster LFO speeds and a hair-trigger sensitivity setting, one can open the envelope with a pluck and unleash a fluttering of color into the room—as if releasing new hatchlings into a butterfly atrium. Slower settings extend cool liquid tongues of tone that turn dry thirsty licks into lush lappings of tidal transfixion.
Not since I was bedeviled and tanned in the luminescence of the Red Witch Moon Phaser have I heard a phase pedal with this kind of liquidity. Like the old Red Witch, The Wave Phaser resides in a more spiritual, incandescent realm than the sinewy, meat and bone tones of say, the classic Phase 90. In fact, with a resonance control and the ability to set the sweep up or down, it is hard to pin this unit down as simply a phaser, because it can speak in many different tongues.
Sighing bridges over higher ground
Besides the previously mentioned Red Witch and obviously glorious Mu-Tron Phasor, my favorite pedal in this category has to be the vintage MXR Phase 45. I had a battered old original on my board for years and loved the Uni-Vibe-like subtle throb and faux optical tremolo tones it had on tap. With the Wave Phaser’s lower feedback resonance settings and full LFO section dialed in, I can mimic my old phaser perfectly and get rid of the perceived volume drop thanks to the onboard output level control. Of course, old school issues of bypass tone sucking and status LED absence are addressed here as well.
As the envelope section of the phaser is dialed in, the experience becomes more interactive and the vibe, chorus, trem, and phaser movements become a touch funkier. At full envelope whack, the Wave Phaser starts to jive talk like its tri-colored brethren and dish out high-headroom, goose necking funkadelic phase-wah vowels. The 18-volt power supply provides a wide dynamic range for all types of guitar pickups and the space-age companding noise reduction circuit ensures that when you are not playing it doesn’t sound like your amp is chewing on steam.
What we like: The Wave Phaser sports robust build quality, intelligent envelope control and super addictive soundscaping capabilities. These analog design chops make for pure chewing satisfaction thanks to the master tone chef Howard Davis and his USA design team. This is a chameleon of many colors and a truly unique wave shaper in the world of phasers. If you don’t want to go vintage, this is a modern marvel of phase-tone generation and can mimic some of the most illusive and expensive units out there, while offering so much more.
Concerns: Yes, there is a separate power supply, but the tonal benefits of 18-volt outweigh the wall wart plug pouting. It may seem expensive for an overseas production pedal but the rugged housing, metal knobs, tonal flexibility and genius design cannot be discounted. In fact, pedals of this quality and design complexity can be up to twice as expensive in the analog realm. I just wish it were stereo.