Short Take ­ Maxon PH350 Rotary Phaser Stompbox

Pros: Vintage sound, solid construction. Separate left and right outputs.
Cons: Expensive. Can't be powered from a battery.
Bottom Line: A great way to add retro phasing flavor on stage or in the studio.

Back in the day, it took more work to get your sound. For synthesists this meant patching cords among various modules. For players who favored more organic instruments such as Rhodes and Clav, the use of amps and outboard effects offered the most tone-sculpting possibilities. Experimentation was key.

Thanks to our guitar-playing brethren, keyboard players from the 70's learned to distort, phase-shift, and funkify their tones through the use of stompboxes. Maxon's PH-350 Rotary Phaser, with its straight-up simple interface and retro look, seems to come straight out of the golden age of effects pedals.

Judging from its name you might think the Rotary Phaser does double duty as a rotary speaker (Leslie) effect and a phase shifter, but phasing is the RP's only trick. I'm not complaining, though. This pedal imbues sweet, swirly, and sometimes strange vibes. Used on my Rhodes suitcase, the RP gave me a spot-on Richard Tee tone reminiscent of his Paul Simon era.

The tone fest didn't stop there. I was able to coax slow, throbbing, Univibe and Mutron-like phasing from the RP. Then, with a few knob tweaks, I was in squirrelly sci-fi sound effect territory. Maybe not musically useful, but fun nonetheless.

During my time with the RP, I never noticed any of the problems common with truly vintage stompboxes. Signal levels didn't jump or drop when I bypassed or engaged the effect, and the noise level wasn't an issue.

The Rotary Phaser features switchable four-, six-, and ten-stage phase shifting, and controls for rate, modulation depth, and feedback. You can have positive or negative feedback; the latter produces a more scooped and dramatic effect. The RP sports separate left and right outputs for wide-spread panning of the phasing effect between two amps or mixer channels.

My complaints are few. The PH350 can only be powered from a wall-wart, which isn't as convenient for live use as being able to use a 9-volt battery. Also, at $350 the Maxon pedal isn't exactly cheap. For that kind of money you could almost buy a tabletop modeling synth. To be fair, affordability isn't exactly what this pedal is about. With the PH350 you get all the right vintage vibe, without the hassles sometimes encountered with time-worn gear.
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46 Marlboro Rd., Clifton, NJ 07012
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