Roland AP-7 Jet Phaser
Hi! Thanks for stopping by . . . this place. Ah, my corner! Before we kickstart this little segment, allow me to tell you why it holds any legitimacy whatsoever.
My name is Nicholas, pedal geek, part-time stompbox historian and begrudging polymath. I’ve been working in various parts of the “industry” for 15 years (if you count playing music for very little money, add many more years), from being an amp tech, pedal builder, writer, supply-side retailer and many things in between. One such stop in this chain was at a store specializing in vintage gear, and I absorbed everything I could get my hands on. Couple that with everything else, and I’m pretty sure I know about almost every pedal ever created (though I am occasionally and greatly surprised, more on that in future installments).
We have a pretty extensive collection of vintage pedals here at Catalinbread, and I’d like to begin by talking about one of my favorites. Most people know Roland Corporation for one of two reasons: One; for its amazing synthesizers and drum machines spanning several decades. Two; as the parent company of Boss, the biggest effects brand on the planet. Some pedal enthusiasts are unaware that Roland itself made pedals—good ones!
For a time in the ‘70s, Boss and Roland intermingled with one another, with Roland choosing to slap the Boss name on certain effects (CE-1, DM-1, DB-5) and its own name on the rest, even though some of this gear shared similar enclosures, and even though some pedals were branded as one company, but as the evolution of the other company’s innovations (such as the Boss CE-1 being a standalone Roland Jazz Chorus effect). I’m here to talk about perhaps the most unsung vintage Roland piece; the AP-7 Jet Phaser.
For reasons unbeknownst, Roland excelled at ensconcing a stellar (oftentimes dirt) circuit within the confines of another, larger pedal and releasing the non-dirt part as a standalone model. One such example is the AD-50 Double Beat fuzz wah, containing an absolutely disgusting fuzz circuit yet releasing the AW-10 Wah Beat.
The Jet Phaser is just such a circuit, combining phaser with, well . . . “Jet.” Much like the fuzz section from the Double Beat is—by virtue of naming conventions—a form of “beat,” “Jet” refers to an absolutely screaming distortion effect that sits in front of a juicy phaser circuit—the same one found within the AP-2 Phaser.
This highly-adapable Jet circuit transforms the mild mannered phaser into a pulverizing throb, jumping out of the mix with some serious propulsion. Larry Graham of Sly and the Family Stone famously used one, as did Ernie Isley of the famous brothers, on “Who’s That Lady?.” In fact, that thick, viscous fuzz you hear on that cut’s leads is the characteristic Jet sound, and has been one of the most quietly sought-after lead tones in history.
The Jet side of the circuit has no analog in today’s pedal market, it’s a curious piece of circuit, featuring equal parts discrete semiconductors and monolithic op-amps. A rotary switch on the face of the unit selects between four forms of Jet and two of Phase. Switching between the Jet settings yields different tonal compounds, cycling between gain stages, a notch filter and more. All of this is controlled by one master Jet knob, which offers varying intensity rather than a simple volume. On all Jet settings, the phaser is integrated; no configuration offers an isolated Jet section.
On the phaser side, we have an eight-stage FET-based phaser with a Resonance control. As far as vintage offerings are concerned, eight stages—the MXR phaser line of the 45, 90 and 100 offers two, four and six stages respectively—is quite a feat. With the added Resonance control, the phaser section can actually give your amp a little bit of a nudge at the peaks.
Much like the Maestro PS-1A (and B), the Jet Phaser offers a Fast/Slow footswitch that comes in the form of . . . an actual footswitch instead of clunky organ rockers. Maestro’s model offers ramping between speeds if you switch it on the fly; difficult if you’re not wearing pointy heels or cowboy boots, so the ramping feature wasn’t a tactfully expressive performance tool. The Jet Phaser solves all this by offering a Fast/Slow switch and letting you set your slow speed with a knob (the “Fast” setting is just this same knob turned all the way up). When switching between the two speeds, the rate gradually descends to the desired level.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t include my all-time favorite effects-adjacent video—Larry Graham absolutely shredding on a Jet Phaser. In this clip from an old instructional VHS called Super Slapping Bass, the funketeer steps out from the pocket and lays down a Sabbath-esque monolith of sound using only the Jet Phaser, complete with howling feedback and Larry’s seeming inability to harness the beast on longer sustained notes. Enjoy!