In 1972, Eventide Audio released the PS101 Instant Phaser. One of the first dedicated electronic effects units ever (see below), it immediately caught the attention of forward-thinking studio engineers (that had previously been creating these effects manually), and such legendary artists as Jefferson Airplane, Todd Rungren and even Led Zeppelin. Still used in many iconic recording studios around the world, Eventide Audio is proud to release the Instant Phaser MK II plugin, for those of us that can’t find the “real thing.”
Bringing Analog into Digital
The thing about analog is that nothing is “precise.” Any component you use will have a certain value associated with that. However, there IS some wiggle room; a .033 value capacitor can be anywhere from .031-.035 and still considered within spec. And, when you use multiples of these components, the variations of that is where the magic happens. This is why analog stompboxes, while they’re the same model, can sound slightly different. With digital, you will get razor-sharp precision and consistency. Replicating the nuances of analog into digital was the mindset that was used when tackling this project.
While staying true to the nuance and feel of the original, analog unit, the folk at Eventide Audio looked to update it with some modern options that would enhance the experience. The first was to allow you to sidechain the effect, to allow your sound to be effected by another signal. You can now control which output (either the main or the aux) with a mode switch. The “Age” knob also allows you to control how you want to hear the phaser; brand new from the factory, or with 40+ year old analog parts. All of these options help enhance the overall usability and experience with the Instant Phaser MK II.
But, How’s It Sound?
In a word? Fantastic. One of the features I was really intrigued by was the “age” function, where you could emulate a brand new, straight from the factory unit or one that had been in a studio for decades. Both of these models, while identical, would sound different in the real world. But how different? What I noticed is that with the dial closer to the “new” unit, it was a cleaner, more precise phaser effect. As you moved that dial clockwise to the “old” unit, the effect got a little looser, not as precise from note to note, and even the timbre was slightly warmer, and not as crisp. Dial in some feedback as well, and you have a killer analog phaser tone in a digital work environment.
The other features work just as well as you’d think. The shape knob really works great in navigating between a sharp triangle wave, and one that is much more circular, and not as precise. This attention to detail is apparent as you’re mixing a track with the effect; it’s not just a plugin but an accurate representation of the actual hardware.
Replicating the nuance and magic of the analog world into a precise digital world is no small feat. The Instant Phaser MK II from Eventide Audio was painstakingly recreated to bring the landmark effects unit to the digital studio, keeping the original analog sound and updating it with modern features. The result is the bridge between two audio worlds that is going to inspire a lot of recording engineers, producers and artists. This is one to check out.
Appendix: Eventide Innovation
The creation of the PS101 Instant Phaser wasn’t the only thing that the owners/founders of Eventide Audio – Tony Agnello and Richard Factor – were the first to create. In fact, their combined efforts were recognized this past year at the 2018 Grammys, when they received the Lifetime for Technical Achievement award, for their contributions to pro audio.
A Timeline of Firsts
- 1972 – Instant Phaser World’s first studio electronic effects box. Analog simulation of tape phasing/flanging. For example, Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” and Itchycoo Park’s “Small Faces.”
- 1973 – DDL 1745 World’s first digital audio box. Used on hundreds of records for ADT (automatic double tracking) and predelay for plate reverb.
- 1974 – Omnipressor World’s first dynamics effects box. Introduced the innovative concept of the “side chain.”
- 1975 – Instant Flanger World’s first studio variable delay box. First realistic emulation of tape flanging. Used to create the strange piano sound on David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes. Used to enhance stereo image on Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.”
- 1976 – H910 Harmonizer World’s first digital effects box. Combined delay and pitch change. Used on hundreds of records. Famously used by Tony Visconti on David Bowie’s Berlin trilogy.
- 1978 – H949 Harmonizer World’s first de-glitched pitch change device. Introduced micro pitch change and digitally reversed audio.
- 1982- SP2016 World’s first digital multi-effects processor. Reverb used on countless hit records. Introduced the concept of the effects “plug-in.”