MXR ZW90 Wylde Phase
Don't tell him we said this, but Zakk Wylde is a signature gear slut. We've had the Les Pauls, the Marshalls, the strings, the pug-ugly coffin axe, the wah, the chorus and the overdrive.
Just when you were half-expecting the Remington ZW1000 beard trimmer, the big man drops his spin on the MXR Phase 90. Maybe we'll give him a blank cheque and see if he signs that…
"The ZW90 makes a TV remote look like a mixing desk."
MXR's classic orange stompbox is sufficiently legendary that we don't need to bang on about it here; you've heard its iconic 'swoosh' over everything from Van Halen's Eruption to Lost In The Supermarket by The Clash. Zakk's a fan too, and maybe that's why he's stuck so closely to the blueprint.
The ZW90 Wylde Phase is a little pricier (£9) than the standard version, but we suspect nothing has changed under the bonnet. Aside from the scuffed metal chassis, the format is old-school: a standalone Speed dial, basic input/output and an industry-standard footswitch.
It's a little disappointing to find this unit is hardwire (as opposed to true bypass, which doesn't weaken your guitar signal), but the presence of a stage-friendly on/off LED claws back some points.
In terms of dials, the minimalist ZW90 makes a TV remote look like a mixing desk, so let's get stuck into the tone. Zakk employs his phaser mainly for lead, and so did TG, bypassing the clean funk chords that phasers are great for and going straight for the jugular with high gain, a low speed setting and a volley of alternate-picked Zakk-style solos.
And we were seriously impressed. Unlike, say, a Rat pedal, stomping on this unit at low rates doesn't make a night- and-day difference; it's more like a sprinkle of tonal fairydust, colouring your lead with an atmospheric, slightly unsettling sweep that's edgy and interesting.
'That's pretty cool,' you'll say to yourself, 'I bet it'll be amazing when I crank it full-on.' Well, no, actually. It's interesting to note that Zakk doesn't push his own Speed dial much past the nine o'clock mark, and we can see why: the tone soon gets more wobbly than a fat lady on a cross-trainer. While it still works for other types of music, it's pretty hopeless for hard metal lead. Stick with a pinch.
So where does that leave us? The Wylde Phase ends up feeling like a bit of a luxury. Relatively expensive at £134, it's the kind of standalone unit that small-time metal bands can cope without. We'd also suggest that if you've got a simulation of the Phase 90 (or a decent phaser in general), there's no need to upgrade.
That said, credit where it's due: in small doses this stomper brings a je ne sais quoi to your lead tone that screams character, class and classic metal.
Interesting sounds. Tough build. Stage-friendly LED.
Wobbly sound at higher rates. Not much different from the regular pedal.
To use a culinary parallel, it's like adding oregano to a bolognese - it's subtle and not exactly vital, but a nice finishing touch to impress your dinner guests/bandmates. But there are an awful lot of other stompboxes on the menu…