by: Shane V of associatedcontent.com
A pedal with just one knob and a simple, some would say primitive circuit shouldn't be very difficult to recreate- and yet MXR's original "script logo" phase 90 remains one of the most elusive effects for boutique companies and digital modelers alike. Often hinted at but seldom duplicated precisely, the original Phase 90 is like a bigfoot of the guitar world. But now, a new contender with a very legitimate claim to Phase 90 fame has entered the arena.
For anyone who doesn't know, the Whirlwind company (while most famous for D.I. boxes, signal splitters and other behind the scenes "utility" devices) was actually founded by some of the very same people who original founded MXR (now owned by the Jim Dunlop company) and invented many of the most popular effects of the stompbox's golden age- including the Phase 90. With this classic pedigree in mind, it's easy to see why Whirlwind's new Rochester series of effects (which features Distortion+ and Dynacomp style boxes as well) strikes so close to the mark in recreating that classic old-school MXR magic.
So how does the Orange Box sound? Just like a Phase 90 should. As someone who owns all of MXR/ Dunlop's current takes on the Phase 90 (the standard model, script reissue and custom shop '74 script reissue) I feel that this pedal does a much better job of capturing the idiosyncratic qualities of an original script- that instantly identifiable chewiness and transparent but present emphasis the effect seems to add to the tone. Compared to my personal pick of MXR's current offerings (the custom shop '74 reissue) this pedal also boasts the advantage of featuring a bright blue indicator LED (which runs off a separate internal board to keep the main effect board as close to '70s specs as possible), a 9v DC in jack, and true bypass switching. Compared to all of my MXR units, the Whirlwind is also substantially less noisy and hissy, thanks to higher grade, tighter tolerance parts. The Orange Box and its siblings in Whirlwind's Rochester series are the type of effect that is seldom seen today; made in the USA but at a very fair price (roughly the same as MXR's Phase 90s, depending on where you shop) and crafted by some of the very people who made the devices and designed the circuits that would help to shape the sound of a million songs to follow. They say that they don't build them like they used to, but in the case of the Orange Box, I'm glad to say that that is simply not the case.