Eventide have recently released two major updates of some of their most iconic emulation plugins, Instant Phaser MkII (in January) and Instant Flanger MkII (just today!). I’ve spent a bit of time with these MkII versions to give you my thoughts.
FYI: if you’re wondering about the timing of this review, I had a chance to test a pre-release version of the Instant Flanger MkII.
Instant Phaser MkII
The Instant Phaser is arguably the worlds first electronic effects box. It was certainly the first product made by Eventide, and its legacy is so strong its still residing in many big studios worldwide. Loads of famous artists and tracks used it. Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir was awash in it, for example. It was created using (in Eventide’s case) 8 all-pass filters working on a specific range of frequencies, to recreate the sound of tape flanging.
The GUI is very representative of the look of the original hardware. Fairly sparse, Black paint with some brightly coloured lamps representing the different sections.l
There are 3 modes representing the original different configurations of the original hardware out and aux outputs. The original outputs were out of phases with each other, so the outputs chosen had an affect on the stereo width, amongst other things. So each mode has a slightly different vibe about it – and they’re fairly well described; ‘deep’ being deeper in freq range and ‘wide’ having some stereo width to it, for example.
The output signal is a combination of the input signal and the phase shifted signal. You can alter the depth of the phased signal, so when it’s at zero %, the affect on the audio is a nice warming and slight detune. It’s worth noting that the audio is always going to be fairly coloured when the plugin is on. There’s no wet/dry to truly blend the signal: This plugin is definitely designed to give the erratic warmth of a phaser box.
wow, there’s so much character to these plugins
There are 4 different ways of phasing the signal. The obvious one is the oscillator, which is a fixed triangle wave? moving the signal about. This can be fixed rate in Hz, or sync to the DAW clock. You can retrigger the signal also. There’s also a basic envelope follower, with threshold and release based off the incoming amplitude. The cool thing about the envelope follower is that it has a side chain input – enabling you to trigger the phase on a signal with a different audio signal. This can give really cool rhythmic movement to the phased signal. The setting that I liked the most, however, was manual. This is a fresh take on the phaser to me. You control the movement of the phase signal by moving the knob. This gives you the chance to accent phrases, or create weird phase movement. You can automate it all in the DAW. Finally, the remote option gives you the means to move the phase via midi. You can link the mod wheel of your keyboard (or whatever you assign to CC1) to the phase, for example. This has great potential application for live performance.
At the top of the GUI is a menu for presets, denoted by intensity and also by artist. These are a great starting point for jumping off, and show just how flexible the phaser is at affecting sound. I guess that’s why it’s stuck around in the producers toolbox! Here’s a demo of some of the presets on the phaser. I like these because they can be fairly subtle, and as well as adding character and timbre to boring sounds, they are also useful mix tools – adding width and depth to sounds.
Ageing and feeding
Eventide have added an ageing parameter to the phaser, emulating the breakdown of the original hardware components (all pass filters). 0% used is still smelling of factory. 1/4 turn is right now. Full turn is a looooong time from now, and it sounds truly dirty. Everything is broken in the box!
Feedback – This is sort of like a resonance filter on the sound. It feeds the phased signal back into the input, emphasising the tones that are already phased.
And if you want to dork out on the tech behind how they emulated the original hardware, watch this!
Instant Flanger MkII
This is based on the original Instant Flanger hardware released in 1975. The Flanger was created to emulate the same thing as a phaser; tape Flanging, which was a pain in the arse (and expensive) to do, back in the day. But while a phaser uses all-pass filters to work its magic, the flanger uses a delay line that’s applied equally to the entire signal, giving a comb filtered effect that you can manipulate up and down the frequency range.
Famous users? Well, among many others, Tony Visconti used the original Instant Flanger to magically transform an ordinary piano into an otherworldly harpsichord on David Bowie’s ‘Ashes To Ashes’!
The GUI is very similar to the Phaser and representative of the original hardware; a simple black with coloured lights detailing each section. Sadly not quite as colourful as the lights are predominantly red. Oh well.
Bounce and Depth are interesting settings. The depth is how much affected signal you’re adding to the input signal. Fully CW or CCW you’re getting 50/50 mix. When you’re right in the middle (doppler) the direct signal is cancelled out, and you’re getting entirely flanged signal. Hence the ‘doppler’ title, as the pitch shifts up and down. The Bounce signal is cool, as it emulates the ‘wobble’ of the servo changing speed. It adds more real-world feel to the signal. Fully CCW, and it’s off. As with the Phaser, there’s no true wet/dry mix knob – the depth knob represents that.
There are 4 modulation sources for the Flanger – the LFO, Manual control, an envelope and ‘remote’ or midi operation. The totally cool thing about this plugin is that it follows with the original hardware in allowing the selection of more than one simultaneous modulation source. So you can have the oscillator whizzing away, but also have the envelope filter on. So the envelope opens the gate and whizzes the flanger up to max, then as it releases, the oscillator adds a tremolo ending to the sound. All the while you can be moving the flanger manually to shift the timbre on the fly. It presents some awesome options for manipulating the source sound.
As with the Phaser, there are some awesome presets ranging from subtle to intense, with some added artist presets, all of which give a rounded impression of what the flanger can do, and are great jumping off points for exploring the possibilities of the instant Flanger mkII
There’s a low cut filter to counteract the energy that flanging can add to the lower frequencies, sync and retrigger for the oscillator, feedback, to give that flanged sound extra resonance and power, and a sidechain to add to the envelope, giving more sound shaping input possibilities.
Here’s a detailed overview of the Instant Flanger emulation:
These MkII plugins are definitely colour tools. You can get ‘cleaner’ flangers and phasers, but wow, there’s so much character to these plugins. I cannot speak to the authenticity of the emulations compared with the original hardware, as I don’t have any of those boxes lying around currently, but ya know, If anyone’s feeling generous…
However these plugins are simple, to the point, and built to make the sound the priority, as opposed to providing endless twiddling options. Even just running sound through the plugins with the depth at zero gives warbly analog vibe.
Perhaps the highlight about these plugins are the happy accidents from just messing with random parameters. Much like with hardware, as you play, you sometimes come across a sweet spot for a certain source. To me, those moments just seem harder to achieve with plugins. However, I feel like these plugins come a lot closer with their attention to the slight randomness of the original machines helping you suddenly land somewhere blissful when you weren’t expecting it. Highly recommend for some thick analog sound shaping potential!
The Instant Flanger MkII is currently on introductory sale for $37, while the Instant Phaser MkII can be purchased for approx. $129. Both are free for Anthology bundle owners (now, if you are serious about your music production career, that would be a serious investment!).
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