PhazeQ™ Development

You may not realise it, but we live in a world filled with phase relationships. Our ears use phase to detect where sound is coming from; phase distortion causes PA systems to sound weird; we absorb sound using acoustic panels to reduce the effect of phase and as we move towards or away from our distorted guitar amp, the distance and phase relation changes allowing us to create desirable feedback at various frequencies.

In the studio, engineers will often take hours moving microphones around in an effort to find the perfect guitar sound. A popular recipe is combining the sound of a Shure SM57 in front of a 4x12 cabinet with a distant room mic. Depending on where the room mic is positioned, some frequencies will invariably cancel out while others will reinforce each other. This is due to the complex waveforms, their fundamentals and their harmonics all colliding together - in phase, out of phase or partially in or out of phase - depending on the frequency's wavelength.

The stand-alone Radial Phazer™ is basically a tool that lets you decide where or more precisely when two of these sources will combine. The decision is not made by moving the microphone around in real space, but is actually being done by applying an analogue phase shift to one of the signals – usually the one nearest to the sound source. You can think of the Phazer like a very precise digital delay. But unlike a delay that shifts all frequencies evenly - analogue phase shift begins by first affecting the high frequencies due to their shorter wavelength, and eventually affects the lows as the phase effect is increased. In fact, you will probably only hear the phase shift when the lows become affected as human hearing does not easily discern phase shift in the upper registers. It is precisely for this reason that we added a low-pass filter. When engaged, you can cut out the highs so that when two signals are combined, the highs from the un-phased signal will be left unaffected while the lows will then be able to be more precisely tuned.

Using the Phazer on a pair of X-Y stereo microphones is like adjusting the focus on a pair of binoculars. It is truly remarkable. You can actually hear things come into focus. But where the Phazer gets really exciting is when you combine a direct feed from a guitar amp with the room mic. With a simple twist of a dial, you can go from huge to thin to weird. On a kick drum, time aligning the batter head mic to the outside front skin mic at once accentuates the transient while fattening up the fundamental. Once you start experimenting, there is no going back. The Phazer is like a single knob EQ that can dramatically alter tones like never before.

There is no denying it. Once you try a Phazer you will be hooked. This in fact spawned the PhazerBank – a 4 channel, rack-mount version and the PhazeQ, our new 500 series version. Here's what happened: We started by producing a 500 series version of the Phazer (rev-1). Then, when we got it working inside the Workhorse (rev-2) we started combining the direct feed and the out-of-phase effect. The more we messed around with the Phazer, the wilder the tones we created. We could not believe the tonal variations. This got us thinking… why not introduce a wet-dry control that would enable you to mix the original sound with the phased effect and use it as an EQ? It just seemed to make sense. Enter Rev-3: the PhazeQ.

The PhazeQ is tremendously powerful yet super easy to use. Record an acoustic guitar, listen. If it is taking too much space in the track, run it through the PhazeQ to pull out some of the mid range. Banjo too poppy? Apply some PhazeQ to bring down some of the top end. Guitar need fattening up? The PhazeQ lets you change the tone while retaining the bottom end.