Custom Pearl

PH-44 Phaser
PH-44 Phaser

This month, our “Little Known Wonder” is the Pearl PH-44 Phaser. The Pearl Instrument Company made a series of effects in the early ’80s called Sound Spice effects pedals. Although the company only manufactured them for a brief period, it produced some of the best-sounding units one can find at a reasonable price. Not many people have heard of them and they are often overlooked.

The company released several popular models including chorus, compressor, overdrive, flanger, and octave units. There were also three larger deluxe pedals with two footswitches – one for turning the effect on and off, and the other for switching between two modes.

The Ph-44 is one such unit.

And it’s one of the most unique and best phasers we’ve heard. It offers six controls, including an input level, manual (for the frequency range), feedback (to adjust resonance and volume of the effect), depth (to control how low the sweep of the phase goes), and two speed controls. With this phaser, a player can dial in a slow speed setting with one knob, and a fast speed setting with another, and switch between them with the footswitch. It’s a blast. A variety of phase sounds is possible with all the controls on this device – you can make it sound weak and thin or strong and exaggerated.

While it was originally designed to help organ players create Leslie-like sounds (the manual gives recommended organ settings), it also sounds incredible with the guitar. Another interesting feature is stereo outputs for two amps. The slow, swirly sweep offers a widespread range, from the subtle to extreme peaky vowel sounds. It’s also very quiet.

Ruggedly built of die-cast aluminum, the pedal should last years. The on/off switches are shaped like a metal horseshoe and are silent when in operation. Some of the other features include LED lights for a battery life warning indicator, a speed indicator, and a peak level indicator. As we said, the unit has a stereo output to offer common phase-shifting sounds out of one amplifier, and 180-degree reverse phase shifting sound coming out of amplifier number two.

Along with the tremolo bar and shifting between speeds, I was able to create several spaceship type effects with the guitar.

Another feature on the back of the unit is an external footswitch jack for an expression-type pedal where you control the speed of the phase with the sweep of your foot. The jack can also be used for a remote footswitch to control on/off and speed functions.

Of course, as with so many things, there is a downside; the PH-44 does require two 9-volt batteries, and it loves to use them. You can, however, obtain an 18-volt power supply and settle that problem. The pedal is also a little bigger than most people like for a pedalboard, but it’s not monstrous. The benefits of the sound far outweigh the battery and size factors.

Used with a combination of other effects, the PH-44 can create controlled insanity. Combine it with an envelope filter and reverb and produces sounds so funky even Shaft can’t comprehend. With distortion, it roars on a slow sweep. If you like vibrato or Leslie sounds, it definitely delivers. For some of the most natural-sounding effects in phasing, the PH-44 is a solid bargain. You may also want to check the other deluxe models like the chorus or the analog delay. These pedals are out there, but it may take some searching.

This article originally appeared in VG‘s Aug. ’99 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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