If you’ve ever listened to pop recordings from the 60’s and 70’s, you’ve more than likely heard a whooshing, swirling, sonic effect known as a Flanger take over the mix.
While this jet-like effect originally required the use of tape machines, it has been available in pedal form for nearly 50 years.
It’s been used in disco, psychedelic rock, heavy metal, funk, and just about every other genre of music for its captivating sound.
Flange commands your attention more than just about any other form of modulation out there. It can be used to pump up a guitar solo, or even to make rhythm guitar sound more interesting.
If you’re looking to add some serious dimension to your guitar sound, or to an entire track on your record, Flanger pedals are the way to go.
We’re here to help you pick out the best flanger pedal for your needs, for not all flangers are built the same.
Let’s look at our top picks for this classic modulation effect.
Snapshot: Top 6 Flanger Pedals of 2020
- Mooer Audio ElecLady – Best Budget Option
- Keely Electronics Dark Side – Best High End Option
- TC Electronics Vortex Mini – Best Mini
- Boss BF-3 – Best for Bass
- Earthquaker Devices Pyramids – Best Experimental
- MXR Micro Flanger – Best Overall
Discovering The Flanger Pedal!
Flanger is one of those effects that I have always enjoyed listening to, but it never made its way onto my own pedalboard. I’m addressing this for the first time, really, just now.
Why is it that if even though I listen to the likes of Mike Einziger, Alex Lifeson, and David Gilmour regularly that I wouldn’t use one of their most defining modulation effects for my own playing?
I think the answer for me has been that Flanger pedals are rarely a subtle effect. Whenever I think about how a Flanger sounds, I instantly go to the well-known Jet engine, doppler effect sound that causes pitch to rise and fall slowly, but dramatically. For someone who was trying to play something closer to New Wave music, this wasn’t the effect I needed.
Or so I thought…
It wasn’t until I watched That Pedal Show’s episode on Flangers that I realized Andy Summers used a Flanger on the Police’s single “Walking on the Moon”. I had always thought that the intro effect was achieved using a Chorus, but it turns out I was wrong about the origins of this lush and expansive (yet tasteful) modulation.
The fact is flanger and chorus pedals are quite similar in that both effects modulate time, and thus cause a change in pitch.
This could technically be achieved on a delay pedal if you could make microscopic changes consistently. Flanger achieves this by modulating over a shorter time frame than Chorus, therefore causing a counterintuitively (at least to my mind) deeper effect.
If you were to take the delay time on a Flanger and extend it out, the effect would sound more like a chorus, and then eventually like a slap back delay.
Many Flangers actually can be set to sound like a chorus, and sometimes like a phase, making them a versatile modulation effect.
A Flanger was also used by recording studio engineers to effect entire mixes and giving tracks a panning, swirling effect. This was achieved by recording two tapes (of the same track), slightly delayed onto a third tape machine.
If the inner workings of a Flanger throw you for a tailspin, don’t worry about it. All that matters is whether you like the way it sounds or not.
If you want to send your guitar signal into the stratosphere and beyond, then check out our top six picks for Flangers that are readily available on the market today.
The Best Flanger Pedal In 2020
1. Mooer Audio ElecLady Review – Best Budget
- Classic analog flanger sound with filter mode and oscillator effects
- Two working modes: Normal and Filter - Normal provides a light sweep whereas filter is more dramatic
For most, the pinnacle of guitar pedal Flanging is the Electric Mistress by EHX. These days an original can go for hundreds, even thousands of dollars. The reissues are fantastic, but if you are really strapped for cash then look no further than the Mooer Audio ElecLady for all your Electric Mistress needs.
Whereas the Electric Mistress is the size of at least two guitar pedals, the Mooer ElecLady comes in a mini enclosure. This makes the ElecLady not only a great option for those who need to save money, but also for those who need to save space on their pedal board. The pedal features True Bypass and runs on a normal Boss 9V adaptor, leaving no surprises in its build, just great tone.
The enclosure is 100% metal, making it a sturdy option to take out on the road.
The ElecLady has controls similar to that of the pedal it is emulating, including knobs for Color, Rate, and Range. Color controls the tone and can be used to dial in a slightly more metallic flange voicing. Rate adjusts the speed of modulation and Range adjusts the length of the sweep.
There is also a toggle switch for Normal or Filtered flanging modes. These controls are quite intuitive once you get to hear the pedal in action and will easily allow you to dial in your preferred flanger sound.
The real question:
Does the Mooer ElecLady perfectly emulate the Electric Mistress in a smaller enclosure and at a fraction of the price? Well, yes and no.
One thing that the ElecLady does differently is that it preserves more of your low end frequencies. This could be a good or bad thing depending on what your band situation is looking like. If you are in a large prog-rock band with eight other instruments, the added bass frequencies won’t help you cut through the mix.
However, if you’re playing in a two or three piece outfit, I think the added low end with be welcome. The Filter mode adds some really unique high frequency overtones that almost emulate a ring mod to my ear. The pedal also can be set to be subtle and gives you pretty chorus tones.
Overall, I’m really impressed with the sound quality here.
- Type: Flanger
- Signal: Analog
- Power: 9V
- Dimensions: 1.75 x 4.25 x 2.25
- Features: True Bypass
Final Thoughts on the Mooer Audio ElecLady
Often guitarists can be guilty of getting hung up on a very particular sound for an effect and flanger is no exception.
If you must have the Electric Mistress flanger sound, but can’t afford the original, vintage pedal, then I recommend this one. Yes, I even recommend it over the reissues (which are also quite good). Its small size is also sure to prove useful compared to the oversized pedal it emulates.
Overall, just a great Mistress style pedal that won’t harm your wallet.
2. Keeley Electronics Dark Side Review – Best High End Option
- Epic Big Fuzz Multi Head Tape Delay Rotary/Flanger U-Vibe/Phaser
- We should all be so lucky as to be identified by the sound of a single note
Many go after the EHX Electric Mistress because it arguably defined the sound of David Gilmour during his career with Pink Floyd. If the Gilmour sound (specifically the Dark Side of the Moon record) is what you are after, the Robert Keeley has you covered with the Dark Side multi effects pedal.
For this review, I will be focusing primarily on the Flanger effect found in the Dark Side.
I try to stay away from multi-effects pedals when creating lists for specific effects, but I had to make an exception for the Dark Side. Flanger is so often associated with David Gilmour that when a pedal so obviously is dedicated to him, I have to check it out. In addition to a fantastic sounding flanger, the Dark Side also has a Rotary, Phase, and U-Vibe modulation effects.
These, as well as a multi-head delay, are all found on a 24-Bit DSP engine on the left side of the pedal. The right side of the pedal houses a fully analog fuzz modeled after a ’77 Op-Amp Big Muff Pi.
The Modulation side of the pedal has a toggle switch that allows you to choose between Delay (Center), Flange/Rotary (Left), and Phase/U-Vibe (Left). To access the Flange effect, switch the toggle to the left and then use the blend control between 6 and Noon. Once you go past Noon, you begin to access the Rotary effect. There are then controls for both the Rate and Depth of the effect.
The Rate can be further controlled using a Moog expression pedal. One extra feature of the Dark Side that is really cool is that the pedal can be set up to have the modulation going into the fuzz using the included Y-Cable.
Simply put, the Dark Side is a Pink Floyd tribute’s dream pedal and can get Gilmour flange sounds with ease. The ability to place the modulation before the fuzz tames the high end and smooths out the effect overall.
This causes the “swish” effect to be less prominent, while letting the fuzz voice sing through with a resonant midrange. To my ear, the phase is noiseless and very usable for any genre.
- Type: Multi-Effect
- Signal: Digital/Analog Hybrid
- Power Source: 9V
- Dimensions: 6.75 x 4.37 x 3.25
- Features: Multi-Modulation, Analog Big Muff style Fuzz, Expression pedal functionality
Final Thoughts on the Keeley Electronics Dark Side
While the Dark Side is a tribute to Mr. Gilmour, it can be used for much more than just Pink Floyd tunes. I think this is the hidden intension of the pedal – to draw you in with precious promises of the “Gilmour in a Box” pedal, and then you find out that the effect can help you find your own new sounds.
The flange effect is particularly beautiful, resonant, and tasteful, but if you don’t like flange then there is still plenty worth exploring with this pedal.
3. TC Electronic Vortex Mini Review – Best Mini
- Tone Print-enabled - load Vortex Mini Flanger with your favorite artist's tone
- Through-zero-flanger - get the authentic psychedelic flanger sound of the sixties.
Next up on my list of best flangers is another mini pedal that packs some serious punch: the Vortex Mini from TC Electronic. If you are tired of the same of flange sounds and want to design your own unique effect, then this is a great option for you.
Whether you go for your own design or opt for custom flangers that professional musicians have created, this miniature flange has more to it than meets the eye.
The mini pedals from TC Electronic are almost always the best mini pedals on the market because they pack so much potential into unbelievably small pedals. The Vortex Mini takes the original TC Electronic Vortex as its platform, but in addition to an already flexible flange circuit you get TC Electronic’s Tone Print app for even more flexibility.
This digital flange can get you anything from Though-Zero flanging, to chorus-blended flange, and much more. The pedal has a built in micro-USB so you can connect it to your phone or computer.
You don’t have to utilize Tone Print to get great sounds out of the Vortex. The onboard controls are simple to use and can help you achieve classic flange tones. Knobs for Speed, Feedback, and Depth are common amongst most flangers and let you emulate many of your favorites from the sixties and seventies.
If you’re looking for more, check out the Tone Print app and choose your favorite artists’ premade flangers that go beyond the norm.
Unlike many flangers the Vortex is based off of TC’s own original circuit from 1976, so it has its own unique sound to it. I find that this is especially well voiced for high gain playing, whether it be riff based stuff like you hear in Rage Against the Machine, or even high gain solos like Eddie Van Halen would do. I attribute this to the analog dry tone that is preserved by the pedal.
That being said, the pedal can do clean flange tones well too. My favorite was a setting from John Petrucci that offered a subtle blend of chorus and flange. Whatever sound you’re going for this pedal can help you achieve it.
- Type: Flanger
- Signal: Digital
- Power Source: 9V
- Dimensions: 3 x 3 x 1
- Features: Tone Print, True Bypass
Final Thoughts on the TC Electronic Vortex Mini
The Vortex Mini is undoubtedly one of the most versatile and usable flange effects on the market today. The fact that it comes in a mini enclosure and normally under $100 makes me not surprised to find out it has had the Amazon Choice award.
Whether you’re a beginner with flange or a connoisseur looking to create your own version of the effect, the Vortex Mini has you covered.
4. Boss BF-3 Flanger Review – Best for Bass
As I continue to write these Best Pedal articles, I’ve come to realize that Boss has bassists backs (say that five times fast). Flange is an effect that often cuts out low end, but not so with the BF-3.
This pedal has an input specifically built for bassists to let you keep your low end while flanging. However, it is also a fantastic, robust option for guitarists as well.
The Boss BF-3 builds off its long standing predecessor, the BF-2. It is a stereo flanger with independent inputs for both guitar and bass signals. While the BF-2 was an analog flanger pedal, the BF-3 utilized digital technology to give it some added features the BF-2 simply couldn’t do.
This includes tap tempo, as well as two extra modes: Ultra and Gate/Pan. I’m always amazed that Boss is able to cram so many features into their standard sized chassis, but they’ve done it again with this one.
If you’re familiar with the BF-2, you’ll notice that the BF-3 has some additional controls added to it. Starting on the left you’ll see a double pot, with the bottom pot controlling Manual (controls delay time) and the top controlling Resonance (think of this like a feedback control).
Depth controls the severity of the effect, and Rate controls the speed. Things start to get a bit more interesting on the right, with a rotary knob that lets you choose between one of four flanger modes: Ultra, Standard, Gate/Pan, and Momentary.
In the Momentary mode, the effect is engaged for as long as your foot is placed on the pedal. To access the Tap-tempo feature, simply hold the pedal down for two seconds and then tap out your tempo.
The BF-3 does a fantastic job of preserving the character of the BF-2 with its Standard setting. If you’re looking for a more intense flange effect, the Ultra setting adds some extra body to your signal and makes a more intense swirling effect.
The Gate/Pan setting changes its effect based on whether you play Mono or Stereo. In a Mono setting the output volume changes radically, causing a tremolo effect. In stereo, on the other hand, the output is panned to the left and right, causing a fourth dimension of flanging goodness.
I consider this to be the best flange for Bass because of the bass input, which is designed to take on a bass input better, thus preserving your dry low end better.
- Type: Flanger
- Signal: Digital
- Power Source: 9V
- Dimensions: 2.88 x 5.13 x 2.38”
- Features: Buffered Bypass, Tap Tempo, Momentary switching, Bass input
Final Thoughts on the Boss BF-3 Flanger
The Boss BF-3 updates a classic Flanger with some serious style. It gives you multiple parameters to control your effect without becoming overwhelming. This is great for guitarists and bassists alike who need to modify the flange to fit their specific instrument, and the fact that it has both momentary switching AND tap tempo is a huge benefit.
Boss makes reliable pedals with classic sounds (as well as some hidden surprises) and this pedal is no exception. You really can’t go wrong with Boss modulation effects.
5. Earthquaker Devices Pyramids Review – Best for Experimentation
- 24-bit 96kHz A/D & D/A converters
- All analog dry signal path
Even the classic Flangers can be cranked up for some fun experimentation, but none come even close to the kind of parameters made possible by the folks at EQD.
This Flanger can get you anywhere from Chorus, to Ring Mod, to futuristic robot heartbeat sounds. In short, it’s a wild pedal that pushes the envelope for what Flangers can do.
The Pyramids is a big pedal, with dimensions measuring at 4.65 x 4.15 x 2.25”. All that space is needed to house the same DSP architecture of the Avalanche Run Delay pedal by the same company. If you’re familiar with the power of the Avalanche Run, then you know you’re in for something special with the Pyramids.
This is a stereo Flanger with eight different flanger modes, as well as five different presets to get you started. It features Tap/Trigger tempo switching, as well as a jack for an expression pedal to really open things up.
One of the most underrated features on this complex flange is the Mix knob. Sure, many other effects include Mix knobs, but for some reason Flangers rarely have them. This is the easiest way to dial in more subtle effects, but this pedal is not about subtly.
There are a lot of controls on this pedal to help you make a lot of noise. Starting with the Manual knob, which controls the delay time of the effect. Rate controls speed of the LFO, while Width determines the LFO frequency sweep. As with most flangers, Feedback controls the regeneration. The presets include 1.) Classic 2.) Barber Pole Up 3.) Trigger Up 4.) Step and 5.) Random. These presets are a good place to start when it comes to experimenting with the pedal.
The modes offer you every type of flange that anyone has ever wanted and they can be modified using, you guessed it, the Modify switch.
Where do we begin?
The Pyramids is fantastic in that it can get you all the classic flange sounds if that is what you are after. Just use the presets. However, this pedal is meant to push the limits of flanging and can get you anything from laser zapping noises, to Sci-Fi soundtrack notes, to ethereal voice overs. To understand what I mean, check out the product page on Earthquaker Devices’ site here.
- Type: Stereo Flanging Device
- Signal: Digital
- Power Source: 9V
- Dimensions: 4.65 x 4.15 x 2.25”.
- Features: Expression Input, Mix, Stereo In/Out, and much, much more
Final Thoughts on the Earthquaker Devices Pyramids
There’s honestly too much to cover on this pedal to fit it into this short review. What you need to know is that this pedal is a force to be reckoned with. If you’re new to flangers and are just wanting a simple jet swoosh sound, save yourself the learning curve (and the money) by getting a simpler pedal from this list.
However, if you are one for experimenting, or if flanging is your favorite effect, this pedal with have plenty of surprises in store for you.
6. MXR Micro Flanger Review – Best Overall
- True bypass with LED
- Rate knob
Picking the best flanger always comes down to two camps: an Electric Mistress style flange, or an MXR M117 style flange. To my ear, there is plenty of overlap between these two classics, but when it comes to determining the most readily available, easy to use, and best sounding flange out there, the MXR Micro Flanger takes the cake.
The MXR Micro Flanger is a slimmed down version of the MXR M117 that was famously used by Eddie Van Halen. While the name says “micro”, that is only compared to the original pedal, which was quite enormous. This pedal is the size of a standard effects box. It is an all analog effect and utilizes bucket brigade technology to achieve its iconic sound. Last, but not least, the Micro Flanger uses True Bypass switching.
The Micro Flanger drops the controls from four (compared to the M117) down to just two: Rate and Regeneration. The Rate controls the speed of the effect, while the Regeneration modifies the intensity of the flanging effect. This means that you don’t have controls for Width or Manual, but for most these two controls won’t be missed. One update that this pedal has is tap tempo, which is accessed by holding down the footswitch for two seconds.
For all intents and purposes, the Micro Flanger is a dead ringer for the M117. Compared to the Electric Mistress, I find that this style of flanger has a more solid sound to it, like the mix is turned up. It also has a noticeable amount of compression.
For this reason, I think the pedal is better used with overdrive tones and for the Jet swoosh effect that so many go after in a flanger. The pedal can also play for a convincing Leslie effect with the controls fully maked out. This is a warm, even EQ flanger that won’t let you down, no matter what the application. If it worked for Eddie, it’ll work for you!
- Type: Flanger
- Signal: Analog (Bucket Brigade)
- Power Source: 9V
- Dimensions: 8 x 3 x 3”
- Features: True Bypass, Tap Tempo
Final Thoughts on the MXR Micro Flanger
Call me dumb, but I find flanging to be a complex effect.
The parameters can be difficult to understand. I like the MXR Micro Flanger because it is super simple to understand, making it a great pedal for the beginner or the seasoned veteran alike. It’s a classic sound that has been featured on countless records, and it is readily available at a reasonable price.
Sometimes it doesn’t take much to be the best, other than to do the simplest things excellently. This is probably the pedal I’m going to be picking up next.
More Unique Than I Thought
One of the best parts about my job is diving into effects that I am not familiar with. Case and point: flangers.
I knew that there are guitarists that prefer flangers over any other type of modulation effect, but to me they mostly sounded the same. That is, until I really submerged myself into the world of flange. Now I have a much different perspective on the effect.
I will say, if you’re going for the classic Jet engine effect, its best to keep things simple. Go for the MXR Micro Flange or the Mooer Elec Lady. Save some money and some space on your board with these pedals. You’ll be able to get incredibly satisfying effects from these simple pedals.
However, there is much in the world of Flanger to be discovered. Most of the pedals on this list offer some kind of experimentation or hidden surprise for the player. This is what I think Flanger has done since its creation for both guitarists and studio engineers alike. It is a truly unique effect that catches our ear. I attribute this to the fact that flanger suggests movement, and therefore it suggests change.
It’s like when you hear an ambulance coming and the siren passes by with the all familiar doppler effect. You look because there is an emergency, but the change in pitch commands your attention until the vehicle is beyond your hearing.
Your guitar can attain this same kind of command of attention with flange. Whether you are using a flanger with a clean or dirty tone, it is guaranteed to make the listener wonder just what it is that you are doing.
If you would like to hear the masters of flanger at work, simply listen to any David Gilmour/Pink Floyd record (especially Dark Side of the Moon) or just about any Van Halen record. You’ll be glad you checked it out. And then you can go buy your own pedal and discover your own unique flavor of flange for your next record.
Keep experimenting and enjoy your flanger pedal!
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Davis Wilton Bader is a professional guitarist/writer based out of St. Louis, MO. He plays in the bands Lumet and The Outskirts.