Welcome back to Analyzing the Hype, a series in which we look at some coveted pieces of old school gear and we look into why they became so damn popular, and what is out there that can get you some of that sound. Today:  The MXR Phase 90.

This little orange box has become the go-to phaser for amateurs and pros alike over the past 40 years, and it’s available new for well under $100. Try to pick up a ’70s unit though, and you’ll be looking at prices that make brand new Custom Shop Phase 90’s sweat. Why is this? Lets look!

The History

MXR was founded back in 1972. Produced in 1973, the Phase 90 was one of MXR’s first products in the original Preference series (along with the also legendary DynaComp, Phase 45, Distortion +, and Micro Amp). Over the next 11 years, these pedals went through some minor cosmetic and minor circuit changes and were thus split into three periods. The first was the Script Period (1973-1975). These were the originals with a fancy pants style script logo and the original circuits. The next was the First Block Period (1975-1981). The logo was changed in 1975 to an easier to read block letter font. The circuits were changed during this period as well (these changes were very minor and even some Script pedals had the circuit revisions, and some Block ones had original circuits). Lastly, was the Second Block Period (1981-1984), in which an AC input and a status LED were added for better functionality.

MXR went bankrupt in 1984 after some poor missteps in regards to some of their other products (2000 and Commander series pedals mainly, possibly another reverse hype article like this one?). The company was revived by Jim Dunlop in 1987 and with it, he brought back all the original pedals, including the Phase 90, and they’re still in production to this day.

So, what makes the original Phase 90 so pricey? Well…….

Why Is It So Hyped?

Eddie Van Halen.


(Seinfeld theme)

In all seriousness, you could probably chalk a lot of the Phase 90’s success to EVH’s use of it throughout VH I, and most notably on Eruption.

Another key reason is the scarcity of some of the early units and the desirability of the original script circuit (which, as I said, is not much different from the block circuit.Again, some early block logos have script circuits, and some late scripts have block circuits). Lastly, they just sounded warm and rich without going over the top like some of the other phasers at the time.

Real World Options

Normally, I would list pedals here that get you this legendary tone on a budget. But, really, the current line of Phase 90’s ARE the real world option! MXR themselves do a number of versions of it, such as the standard model, battery only, and no LED ’74 Script logo.  If you wanted maybe a similar level of simplicity, but with a slightly different tonality, you could go for a Maxon Phase tone or DOD Phasor, and get either of those for a similar price to a Phase 90. If you really like the sound of a Phase 90, just collect $100 – $200 (depending on the version you want) and buy the little orange bastard. That’s my real world advice on this legendary pedal.

Check back next week for more Analyzing The Hype!

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This article written by community contributor John Waldock.

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