Aguilar Grape Phaser
Ease of Use:
Who would use a phaser on bass, you might ask? Well, when I think of bass guitar with a phaser effect, Anthony Jackson’s amazing performance on the O’Jays’ “For the Love of Money” always comes to mind. The swirling phaser combined with his super-funky muted picking absolutely defines that great track. Roger Waters also used phaser with great results on several Pink Floyd tracks, such as “Have a Cigar” from Wish You Were Here. In the past, bassists often had to rely on pedals designed for our guitarist friends, but thanks to the folks at Aguilar, there’s a new phaser option designed just for low-enders called the Grape Phaser.
Power to the Purple
The 4-stage analog Grape Phaser is a fairly simple pedal with just two dials: rate and color. It’s a solid, high-quality stompbox with a sturdy bypass switch and nice rubber control knobs. The pedal’s rate knob can take the speed of the modulation from a long and luxurious slow sweep all the way up to super-fast alien helicopter sounds. The color control feeds a portion of the signal back through the phase-shifting circuit. The Grape runs on 9V DC from your favorite universal power supply, but accepts a battery, too. The battery is accessed through a clever metal drawer that’s conveniently released with one Phillips screw. The pedal also features what Aguilar calls “gig-saver” bypass, which means if/when power to the pedal is lost, the signal is still passed through the bypassed pedal. I think that feature could really live up to its name! And, of course, the pedal is grape colored.
I was immediately struck by how well the tone and body of the bass stayed unchanged when the effect was engaged.
In Your Phase
To really hear the pedal, I went direct by plugging my ’65 P into a BA 312 mic pre feeding an Apogee interface. I was immediately struck by how well the tone and body of the bass stayed unchanged when the effect was engaged. When I use effects, I’m always concerned about making sure the bass tone doesn’t lose low end or get washy and unfocused. I found the sound of the Grape Phaser very warm and sweet. Though I haven’t been that drawn towards phase on bass in the past, playing with Aguilar’s new stomp was both fun and inspiring.
I initially found the color control to be a bit of an enigma, but it seems to make the sound of the phaser more prominent, noticeable, and perhaps a bit brighter on the upper end of the phase sweep. I suppose it makes sense that sending a portion of the phased signal back into the effect again—which is what it does—would make the resulting sound more, well, phaser-y. While fairly subtle, it’s a useful control to adjust the sound and texture of the effect. It should be mentioned that if I dimed the color control and really attacked the bass, the pedal seemed to distort a bit. But to be fair, just about every piece of wonderful gear I own doesn’t react well by setting every control at 10 and bashing a bass through it.
It was super fun descending into ’70s-FM-radio-inspired, funky, swirling, psychedelic riffs with the Grape Phaser. Its lush, warm sound made for some tones you could play through all day long. Notably, Aguilar did an excellent job of designing the Grape Phaser to preserve the all-important foundation and tone of the original bass signal, while the pedal’s color knob provided nice control over how featured you want the phaser effect to be.
Watch the Review Demo: