REVIEW: MXR Micro Flanger

The flanger is an odd little effect. It’s not the kind of thing you can leave on all the time, like a chorus or delay pedal, but used in the right place – a fill, a solo, an intro. MXRflangers have helped shape the sound of rock since the 70s. Their original M117 Flanger was used by Eddie Van Halen for such classic tracks as Unchained, (these days you can buy the EVH Flanger, which contains the same tone as the original pedal but with an ‘EVH’ switch that instantly reconfigures the circuit for the exact Unchained settings). Flangers are notoriously fiddly though, and it can take a while to dial in your sound. The Micro Flanger, a reissue of an 80s unit, is designed with a similar circuit to its M117 and EVH big brothers, but two of the control pots (Manual and Depth) are left out in favour of the two most useful: Rate and Regeneration.

The Micro Flanger isn’t an exact reproduction of its 80s forefather. The circuit remains 100% analog via bucket brigade technology but it has been updated with a true bypass switch. Housed in the Phase 90-sized box, you still have to unscrew the bottom to access the battery compartment, and the 9v power supply jack is still below the input jack.MXR includes two little covers which fit over the control knobs so you can turn the knobs with the edge of your shoe. This works especially well for single-knob pedals such as the Phase 90, Micro Chorus and Micro Amp, but it’s still pretty useful on twin-knob boxes like the Micro Flanger, Distortion + and Blue Box.

The best way to initially test the Micro Flanger is to set both controls to halfway, play for a while, then experiment with each to see what they do. At this ‘both at 12 o’clock’ setting the Micro Flanger has a musical, shimmery chorus effect with a bit more movement and swoosh. This works especially well with clean and lightly overdriven settings where it adds a kind of indefinable sparkle. Increasing the Regeneration control brings out a rich harmonic atmosphere which almost sounds like some kind of wah/chorus combination in which a wah wah pedal emphasising certain frequencies while a chorus fattens everything up. Come to think of it, it’s almost like an automated version of that bizarre pitch-shifted Surfing With The Alien lead tone, without the weird high octave sound. Turning the Rate control all the way down gives you that classic jet plane doppler effect (which you can reduce or emphasise via the Regen pot), while turning it all the way up creates an organ-like, tremulous warble.

The Micro Flanger sounds equally good whether you place it before or after distortion-generating devices. If you place it after a distortion pedal or in your amp’s effects loop you’ll get a more synthetic, synth-like feel which works especially well if you really want to emphasise the effect. If you’re more into subtlety and vintage vibe, try it before your distortion or amp.

The Micro Flanger may not be the perfect flanger for every player – some might really miss those extra two knobs and the additional range of control they give – but others will dig how set-and-forget it is. It’s virtually impossible to find a bad sound in this box.

Here’s an audio clip I recorded of the Micro Flanger in action. This is  just random noodling on my Strat through the Micro Flanger into Eleven Rack. You’ll hear a bit of flanger-less playing first, then a few minutes of riffage at various settings. Enjoy!

MXR Micro Flanger review reference noodling by I Heart Guitar