With the advent of the transistor, and other new solid-state electronic devices, such as FETs, opamps, TTL and CMOS logic chips, there dawned a new age: The age of the effects pedal. The transistor was cheap, compact, and its low current consumption meant it was possible to house the audio signal processing electronics for phase-shifting vibrato inside a small box and power it from a PP3 battery. So, given this, what form did the first transistorised phase-shifter take?
Well, in 1971, Eventide released a budget-busting, bank-breaking, 19″ rackmount phaser, the “Instant Phaser” Model 101, priced at $575, which is about $3000 bucks in today’s money. So, not compact, and certainly not cheap. This kind of price was well beyond the means of most guitarists, however the 101 wasn’t really aimed at them. It was designed for studio use, to simulate tape “flanging” effects. In this context, the 101 is not such a bad deal; for a studio engineer experimenting with two reel-to-reel tape machines, variable speed oscillator and patch cables to create Doppler pitch-shifting and phase effects it as a real time saver.
Eventide’s Model 101 employed eight cascaded FET/opamp phase-shift sections to deliver a staggering 1440° of phase-shift—the sound was lush, to say the least. Such extreme pitch change is really too much for vibrato though, and manufacturers began drawing their lines at four sections—720° was enough to create useful phasing and vibrato that satisfied the frequency modulation needs of most musicians.
As the 70s progressed a dazzling array of phase-shift Doppler vibrato, a.k.a. “phaser”, pedals flourished and proliferated—the MXR Phase 90, Maestro PS-1 Phase Shifter, Colorsound Phazex, Electro-Harmonix Bad Stone Phase Shifter, Boss PH-1, the list goes on, and on… the growth was exponential. The numbers grew as manufacturers eagerly embraced the new solid-state technology. But not all. Some crazy pedal manufacturers stubbornly clung on to using vintage, high voltage, vacuum technology. Some even attempted to shoe-horn eight triode phase-shift sections and a tube low frequency triangle wave oscillator into a small box, but that’s another story…
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