Joe Satriani is one of those guitar players who uses a lot of different effects pedals but makes each and every one of them count. The way he handles modulation is refreshing and often times just impressive. After all, this is the man who is very meticulous about his signal chain and his tone in general. Flanger is an effect that you can hear in a number of his performances and songs. It may not be his main thing, but he definitely appreciated the potential of this modulation effect. One of his favorite pedals of this type is the Boss BF-3 Flanger and today we are going to walk you through what this thing has to offer.
Boss BF-3 Flanger Review
Flangers are often times considered to be among the more aggressive types of modulation. The truth is that you can either use them to the extreme or just treat them like a very exotic spice. If you take on the latter approach, you will discover the world of sound that pushes the limits of what your rig can do. Boss BF-3 is neither the most expensive nor is it the most complex flanger pedal on the market. On the contrary, it is relatively simple. However, the performance this little box delivers puts it ahead of the pack.
Whenever someone mentions a Boss pedal, in 99.9% of the cases the pedal will come in their already legendary enclosure. Same goes for the BF-3. You get that same old, indestructible casing that you know won’t give up on you. The amount of beating these things can take is pretty awesome considering who uses them and how badly some guitar players treat their pedals. Since Boss classifies their pedals with colors, this one comes in purple.
If you are familiar with previous Boss flangers, you will probably notice that this one is an evolution of a preexisting model. There are few differences, each of them pretty significant on their own. One of the reasons why this pedal is so popular comes from the fact that it has a dedicated guitar and bass guitar input. In other words, Boss designed it with both of these applications in mind. Truthfully, it works great when hooked up to a bass guitar. Across from these inputs, you will find a set of true stereo outputs. That’s right, you can hook this bad boy to two different cabs and experience the ultimate flanging.
Looking at the control panel, we see some standard and some not so standard knobs there. The first knob has two functions. The outer part is what you use to set the core frequency to which the effect is being applied. Resonance, or the inner knob, controls the amount of feedback you get. Next knob to the right is Depth, which is pretty self-explanatory. Clockwise for more depth in your sweeps, while the opposite reduces this value. Rate regulates the speed of the flange effect.
Now, the mode knob is where things get interesting. There are four modes available. You have the Ultra mode that pushes the flanger effect to the extreme, while the next setting is Standard. Up next comes Gate/Pan, which is capable of giving you a Leslie-style effect. When you select the Momentary mode, the pedal effect will kick in only when you press the switch and hold it. The cool thing about the Boss BF-3 is the fact that it comes with a tap tempo, which definitely makes life easier.
Overall, Boss BF-3 is one of the most elaborate compact flangers that fit in the standard Boss body. If you really think about it, this configuration of features is what most of the users need. Anything more and you are already entering the boutique territory.
Here’s a schematic of the Boss BF-3 Flanger for you gear nuts…
While having extra features is cool, the real question is just how good this thing actually is? To answer that, BF-3 is pretty sweet in all aspects of performance. Having the stereo output is great on its own, and that quasi Leslie emulation is definitely a plus, but the true quality of this flanger comes from its range. It allows you to dial in just about any kind of flanger you can think of. Aggressive and fast? Sure, a couple of turns of the knobs and you got it. On the other hand, when it is time to be very subtle, it gets the job done as well. While its performance may not be on the level of some top tier boutique flangers, this purple Boss can easily take on anything from the commercial sector.
On top of all that, it actually does work well with bass guitars. It doesn’t discriminate against passive nor active electronics. What kind of music is this pedal best used for? In all honesty, anything from rock to more aggressive stuff is covered. The issue with more gentle genres and BF-3 arises due to its lack of the true bypass. As long as you have this pedal in your signal chain, you will get some discoloration of the core signal. However, that side effect is barely noticeable unless you are going for a very niche and very defined tone.
At the end of the day, you will hardly find a flanger that fits the standard pedal format, that can also do what BF-3 can. Boss simply knows how to make them right. While you can’t really call this pedal affordable, the pricing is very reasonable from the performance stand point alone. Let alone all the features Boss BF-3 brings to the table.
Those who really need a good flanger effect but are unsure about going into the boutique segment will undoubtedly appreciate the simplicity of this design. On top of all that, we have solid proof that this pedal works flawlessly on stage. After all, Satriani himself has used it a number of times both as a stage pedal and as a tool in the recording studio. Overall, this pedal offers a great bang for the buck value.
Watch this demo review video of the BF-3 to get a closer look at this pedal in action and hear what it can do.