Phase 45 vs. Phase 90 – What You Need to Know

Phase 45 vs. Phase 90 – What You Need to Know

Guitarists have always been fascinated with the sound of a phaser, mainly because of the unique, swirling effect it imparts to their music. The guitar effect circuit that creates the phase shifting effect has undergone many changes over the years, but the two most famous versions are Phase 45 and Phase 90. 

Many guitarists often find themselves stuck between these iconic pedals and do not need help deciding which option is better. This article looks at the key differences between Phase 45 and Phase 90, which will suit your playing style better.

The differences in sound

The effect’s sound is the main difference between Phase 45 and Phase 90. Phase 45 has a more subtle and understated phasing effect, almost invisible at lower settings. However, once you ramp up the settings, a mild and smooth sweep starts to develop that complements clean or slightly overdriven guitar tones.

Phase 90, on the other hand, produces a stronger and more pronounced phasing effect, with the signature “swoosh” that we’ve all come to know and love. Phase 90 also has a 10-stage phasing circuit, compared to the 2-stage in Phase 45, that offers greater versatility and a more unique sound.

The Differences in Controls

The Phase 45 sports a single knob that controls the speed of the phase sea effect. This knob has a limited range of settings but is perfect for guitarists who want simplicity and less fiddling with settings. 

In contrast, the Phase 90 has 2 knobs, one for speed and the other for intensity. The speed knob lets you control the rate of the phasing effect, while the intensity knob lets you tailor the depth and strength of the phasing effect. This additional knob makes the Phase 90 more versatile than its simpler sibling.

Booming bass

One aspect often overlooked when comparing Phase 45 and Phase 90 is how they affect the guitar’s bass frequencies. Phase 45 has a gentle and warmer effect on bass frequencies, adding a certain depth to your tone without making it muddy.

Phase 90, conversely, can often cut the bass frequencies, which can thin out your tone. However, that can be perfect in a band context as it can lead to better separation between the guitar and the bass parts, allowing them to sit better in the mix.

The Price

Finally, the price is always a factor that comes into play when considering two different pedals. Phase 45 is a cheaper option and can be found in the low $100 range, making it a great budget option that still offers some novelty and essential phasing effect in your guitar sound.

Phase 90, on the other hand, is more expensive, but it’s worth the investment. Most Phase 90 pedals start at around $130, and with its extra versatility and stronger phase effect, it’s a worthy investment for any serious guitarist.

Phase 45 Overview

The MXR Phase 45 is a small, basic phaser pedal with a straightforward interface. It has one knob labelled ‘Speed’ that controls the speed of the phasing effect. Phase 45 generates a mildly swooshing sound, adding an excellent groove to your playing. 

The phasing effect is gentler than most other phaser pedals, making it perfect for musicians who need to add a touch of flavour to their sound without making it too complicated. Be it clean or distorted tones, Phase 45 provides a beautiful phasing effect that softly swirls around.

Phase 90 Overview

Regarding its phaser sound and design, the MXR Phase 90 is a step from Phase 45. The pedal features two knobs labelled ‘Speed’ and ‘Intensity.’ The Speed knob is used to control the speed of the phasing effect. 

The Intensity knob, on the other hand, increases the depth of the phasing effect as you turn it clockwise, resulting in a more prominent sweep. Phase 90 has become popular because it provides a more profound phasing effect that works great for heavier music styles like rock, blues, and djent.


Both Phase 45 and Phase 90 were initially produced by MXR, featuring their iconic round footswitch design. They have the same power supply requirements, and their compact size makes them perfect for guitarists looking to save pedalboard space. The MXR Phase 45 and Phase 90 pedals both have a hardwire bypass, which adds transparency to your guitar sound when the pedal is switched off.


The two phases’ most notable difference is the phasing effect’s depth. The MXR Phase 45 has a warmer, subtler sweep of phasing, while the MXR Phase 90 has a more profound sweep effect. The Speed control is the only variable in the Phase 45, while the Phase 90 has an added Intensity control knob that provides a broader range of phasing depth. The Phase 90’s more substantial phasing effect makes it ideal for heavier music genres like rock and metal.


Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer when choosing between Phase 45 and Phase 90. Each pedal’s sound and functionality are different and will appeal to different guitarists depending on their preferences and playing styles. 

Phase 45 offers subtle and warm phasing, while Phase 90 provides more pronounced, intense, and iconic phasing. If you value simplicity, warmer bass, and affordability, then the Phase 45 is your best bet.

On the other hand, if you want more control, a stronger phasing effect, and don’t mind paying extra, then Phase 90 is the perfect pick for you. So go ahead and try both of them out and discover which phaser pedal best suits your needs as a guitarist.


What is the difference between Phase 45 and Phase 90?

However, Phase 45 is a two-stage design, making it more subtle in practice, perhaps more similar to an amp vibrato than a phaser sound. Phase 90, meanwhile, came in two versions – block lettering on the front and script lettering. Both had different circuits internally.

Which phaser should I buy?

Our top recommendation for a phaser right now has to be the MXR Phase 95 – an updated take on the original, iconic Phase 90, beloved by Eddie Van Halen. Its simple setup of a single-speed knob is bolstered by a two-stage Phase 45 setting, plus a choice of vintage or more modern sounds.

How many phasers does an MXR Phase 95 have?

Four phases in one. The MXR Phase 95 is, strictly speaking, four phasers in one. Like the Small Stone, the original MXR Phase 90 was a fixed four-stage phaser. However, Phase 45 is a two-stage design, making it more subtle in practice, perhaps more similar to an amp vibrato than a phaser sound.

Which phaser is better, Radiohead or EHX?

The Small Stone is the phaser beloved of Radiohead (it’s all over OK Computer), with a spacey swirl that lends a more ethereal edge over the all-out rock swoosh of Phase 90. That said, EHX’s offering can get more extreme than many of its rivals, courtesy of a Color switch, which adds a more pronounced frequency shift. 3.

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