By Craig Anderton
Phase shifters work by creating frequency response peaks and notches with all-pass filter cicuits, then sweeping those notches across the frequency spectrum. The sweeping action creates that characteristic “whoosing” sound associated with phasers.
However, you don’t always need a phase shifter, as it’s possible to emulate these effects through parametric equalization, grouping, and automation. In this example, we’ll show how to apply this technique using Cakewalk Sonar, and record the “phase shifter” sweeps as automation.
Enable the ProChannel EQ’s two middle bands, then turn Q to around 8.0 and Level to minimum to create notches. If you’re using an older, pre-ProChannel version of Sonar, the Sonitus:fx Equalizer can create the same effects; similarly, if you’re using a different DAW, most will include parametric equalization that’s suitable for this application.
Also note that you’re not limited to two notches. Three or four notches give a more intense phasing effect, but also, experiment with different Q settings. Also, some phase shifters used positive feedback to create a sharper, more “whistling” sound. To emulate this sound, use three or four narrow peaks instead of notches. You can even combine peaks and notches (e.g., peak, notch, peak, notch, each set an octave higher than the previous) to create novel, but “phase shifter-like,” effects.
Set the Freq controls so they’re about two octaves apart, like 500Hz and 2kHz.
Right-click on each Freq control and assign it to a group (e.g., group X). When grouped, moving one control causes other grouped controls to track each other.
Right-click on each Freq control and select Automation Write Enable.
Start playback. Move the Frequency controls for the desired phaser “motion,” and Sonar will write automation data to the track. Note that Sonar, as well as Cubase, let you draw periodic modulation envelopes (triangle, sine, sawtooth, etc.) which make periodic sweeping effects very easy to implement.
Craig Anderton is Editor Emeritus of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.