Boss PH3 & Out of the Guitar Center Loop

I know, I know, another Guitar Center post. But seriously, folks, you walk into Guitar Center and it’s just a blog waiting to happen. It’s like walking into a used car dealership if all the car salesman thought they were famous Indy 500 drivers. And if they played 6 bad versions of Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’ in 6 different keys over the dealership’s loudspeakers. Ah, well…… the story begins….

So I sold my Moog phaser. Again. I’ve had two, and sold them both. And it’s my all-time favorite phaser. There are issues here (with me, not the pedal). But it’s big and expensive, and I always think I can find a smaller and less expensive phaser that sounds just as good and then I can use the extra money and extra board space for another pedal. And then I always end up just buying another Moog. It’s like a game I play when I’m bored or something. 

Moog2.jpg picture by rypdal95
(One of my old Moog’s. And if things keep going the way they are going, not my last.)

So I’ve been trying out a bunch of phasers, and my latest is the Subdecay Quasar. But on Tuesday, it still hadn’t come in the mail yet, and I just shipped off my current phaser, and the worship leader playing with that night sends me the songs and they all have ambient guitar parts. Of course. Sometimes I go weeks without using a phaser. And the one day I don’t have one, I need one. That will always happen in my life. No matter what. If I’m ever in a band that gets to open for Coldplay or The Editors, the whole band will get sick or die, or what’s even worse….lose their instruments, that night. (And it might be because I stole their instruments. Not planning on it, just sayin’…… if that kind of temptation ever arose…… I know myself too well.)

quasar.jpg picture by rypdal95
(The one in the mail….. unfortunately….. still in the mail)

So I take the plunge. Guitar Center phaser. Just for tonight, to get by, and then I can return it to them with their 30 day rental…..I mean, return policy. hehe But seriously, they encourage you to try their stuff out, and if you don’t like it, they have their 30 day ‘no questions asked’ policy. So I don’t feel bad….. because if I buy something from them and I play it and it actually doesn’t sound like grossness, I’ll gladly keep it. But usually it does sound like grossness, so I usually return these things.

The local Guitar Center had a grand total of three phasers: 
Electro-Harmonix Small Stone reissue, MXR Phase 90 resissue, and Boss PH3. 

So I go with the Boss PH3 because that’s the only one the kid at the counter can find that also has a box. He tells me it’s the best phaser ever. I thank him for his vote of confidence in my tonal selection skills (meaning, deciding on the only one Guitar Center has in stock.)

And here’s the thing…. I’ve had a black label Japanese Boss PH-1r from the ’80’s before. And I sold it for just over a hundred bucks. My handmade Subdecay Quasar that’s in the mail only set me back 130 bucks. And both of those are worth a lot more, and sound a lot better, than Boss’ current phaser incarnation (PH3). And I’ve seen the Boss ones go on   e-bay for like $40, so I figure this one will cost $60. Oh, no. It cost $118.31. $118.31! I almost passed out, but then an out of tune AC/DC riff coming from the direction of some kid on a Marshall half stack brought me back. I thought the whole draw of these mass produced pedals was their cheap prices. Obviously not! Now I could have talked him down a bit, but it always feels awkward to do that when it’s possible that I’ll return it the next day. But almost $120 bucks is the street price on this pedal?! I have clearly been out of the Guitar Center buying loop for quite some time.

PH-3.jpg picture by rypdal95
(It is green. I like green pedals. Give me a green pedal with a blue led, and the tone goes up like 50%. But it’s $118.31!)

So I buy it, amongst more promises from the sales kid that this phaser will change my life, and it’s a new secret circuit that only Boss, he, and the Argentinian mafia know, and how he has used it in the songs of all 8 of his touring bands. 

And, of course….. it did not change my life. In fact, it sounded like I expected. The good things about Boss pedals have always been for me that they are inexpensive and they are durable. And lately Boss has been getting smart and adding versatility to them. Well, obviously ‘inexpensive’ is not one of the strong suits for them anymore. But it is durable…you probably couldn’t break it if you tried, and they did put a lot of versatility into it. I was actually impressed that you could select phaser settings from 4 to 12 stages, and that there were also settings to make the phase shift downwards and upwards. And then there is a setting that gives computer-type sounds ala the Moog Murf or Zvex Seek Wah. Cool.

But the sound was disappointing. Just thin. I don’t know how else to describe it. It sounds like, ‘Okay, effect is on’. No subtleness, the effect just takes over your whole tone and makes it tinny. I mean, not unbearably, but definitely noticeably. And that’s just your actual tone. The phase tone itself was fairly tinny and digital sounding. Not hi-fi, just tinny and lifeless. The 4 stage setting was the only usable one for me. And it still wasn’t very warm or earthy sounding. I ended up using the pedal only when I had to, for the Tuesday night church service, when the song absolutely called for it.

So, if you play the PH3 and love it……. wow, more power to you. Like I’ve said before, I like to joke about Guitar Center because there is a ton of junk there…. but if you look in the right places you can find some good stuff. And if you’re a good enough player, you can get a good sound out of virtually anything. Or maybe my ears are just different from yours. But if you’re looking to buy the PH3, I’d say stay away. For the price it’s at, you could get a nice boutique or vintage Ross phaser that sounds way better.

So…. bad review from me on the Boss PH3. It seems so cliche to give a good review to a boutique pedal like the Zendrive (see previous post) and then give a bad review to a ‘non-boutique’ pedal. But, unfortunately, that’s how my ears heard it. And I really wanted to like it, too….. it would have been really cool for the ‘mass-produced’ pedal to sound better than my ‘handmade’ ones. But it didn’t. Not even a little.

In need of a good phaser,

24 thoughts on “Boss PH3 & Out of the Guitar Center Loop

  1. If you ever need anything in the future just let me know. I can let my phaser go for a few days…but then we would miss out on the classic guitar center posts 🙂

  2. Wow. Thanks a ton, Jason. Same goes for me…if you ever need something. But I think you’re pretty set. 🙂

    I might just have to take you up on that sometime in the future…but I know what’s going to happen…I’ve heard your Halophaze and it sounds crazy good. I’m going to play it, and then all will be lost, and I’ll have to go into debt and buy one. hehe

  3. Good to hear a rant about GC. I have never been to one (don’t live in the USA), but it would be great to go to a guitar store where you can try out gear without the staff rolling their eyes at you. It sounds like a fun place to be.

    It would also be good to be able to swap gear just because you don’t like it. It mostly has to be faulty here. I guess the drawback is that you’d never know if what you were buying new was a return item.

    The PH3 is too full-on. It’s good for SKA though.

    I’d rather an MXR script logo for most music, but I won’t sell the PH-3 because sometimes compressed over-the-topness is what I want. Totally agree that the 4step is the only worthwhile mode, too. It reminds me of a phaser and a CS-3 in one in the way it colours your tone.

    Thanks for the review. Good fun!

  4. Cunchy–awesome stuff! That’s a good point that sometimes you need the over-the-top sound. And yes…it’s so difficult to try gear at Guitar Center sometimes. It’s like, ‘Hey, if you just leave me alone for 2 minutes to try this amp, I might actually get you a $1200 sale today.’ lol 🙂 Cheers!

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