Electro-Harmonix Electro-Harmonix Flanger Hoax

Flangers have come a long way since the days when two tape machines were needed to create the effect. Most of the flanging sounds of the ’60s and ’70s were made by touching the flange of the tape reel on one machine to slow it down relative to the other—hence, the term “flanging.” The character of this effect is unique when compared to that of electronic flangers, because not only is the original signal time-delayed, but the frequency response of the magnetic tape—as well as the alignment of the tape heads—inevitably introduces some phase shifts into the signals for added coloration. And while solid-state flangers have been available in more convenient packages for decades, few of these units have ventured much beyond delivering the classic swirling sounds we know and love.
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The Flanger Hoax is a different beast all together. As with other boxes that seek to replicate tape flanging, each of the Flanger Hoax’s two separate analog delay lines are preceded by a phase shifter, and the signals are routed to a combined output. That’s where the similarities end. From the beginning, the Hoax was designed to provide extreme control ranges on every knob (note the 1/14Hz to 220Hz range of the LFO control), and even the tiniest knob movements can often cause crazy things to happen. This characteristic is both a blessing and a curse, because although the massive control ranges make the box capable of sounds that are a radical resynthesis of the guitar signal, repeatability of those sounds is difficult if not impossible.

No Hoax

At first glance, the inscrutably named Hoax is equipped with more controls and signal-patching options than many rack effects. But, interestingly, there’s almost nothing you’ll recognize from standard flangers. The four-page “manual” is no help in illuminating the device’s controls, so many players will have to rely on their ears to navigate the logic-eluding interface. After confirming that the Hoax can indeed provide as many beautiful variations of swirl, jet roar, and sparkle as one could ever want, I delved into the sonic fringes to uncover a nearly endless array of barks, shimmers, buzzes, howls, screeches, and sputters.

Once you start to comprehend the full power of the Flanger Hoax, the mad genius of it becomes ever clearer as the sounds get wilder. Especially cool were the super-slow 1/14Hz modulated comb sounds, the fixed phaser setting where it sounds like you’re in a tunnel, and the mesmerizing, otherworldly zone I entered by adjusting the Feedback and Modulator Rate knobs toward the tops of their ranges to coax a part bagpipe/part EBow drone. It’s unclear why the Hoax is mono, but with separate dry, mixed, and effect-only output jacks, you can concoct your own massively wide effects with some creative mixer panning and/or signal routing to a stereo rig. Just remember that if you decide to go dry on one side and modulated on the other, you must tolerate what can sometimes be extreme amplitude changes on the LFO side of your setup.

Subtle it Ain’t

According to EH, the Hoax was designed to deliver smack-you-in-the-face sound, and most of my attempts at dialing in anything less were met with the difficulty of trying to de-emphasize the excessively deep, pitchy tails of the LFO travel.

And every time I got close to “normal” flanging, I found myself hunting for a non-existent depth knob or intensity control to reel in those tails. The Flanger Hoax definitely lacks subtlety to complement its great power.

The Hoax can also be very noisy. However, the audible hiss can often be minimized once you understand the nuances of the controls—and that takes time, of course. Nevertheless, anyone looking for sounds that are way beyond the ordinary will find the Flanger Hoax in a class by itself. The panoply of effects one can wreak on unsuspecting ears with this thing is truly mindblowing, and considering this studly special-effector’s under-$200 street price, it’s a magnificent deal.