Legend has it that John Lennon once asked producer George Martin how Ken Townsend’s ADT worked. Tongue planted firmly in cheek, Sir George explained that, “We take the original image and split it through a double vibrocated sploshing flange with double negative feedback”. From that point on, Lennon demanded “Ken’s flanger” at every turn. Hardly a song on Revolver escaped it.
Sir George’s nonsensical explanation wasn’t all gibberish. A flanged signal is indeed split into two, with one signal delayed by a small yet slightly varying amount. This creates peaks and troughs in the resultant frequencies much in the same way as a phaser. Flanging is in fact a type of phasing, but its peaks and troughs are harmonically related.
Eventually, mechanical trickery would give way to dedicated flangers like MXR’s 117 – the first such product, released in 1976.
1976 also brought the very first TC Electronic product, the Stereo Chorus/Flanger pedal, combining two related effects into a much-coveted pedal and kickstarting what would turn out to be a most illustrious career.
1976 was a good year for flangers. Electro-Harmonix subjected guitarists to their Electric Mistress, while Tycobrahe gave them the Pedalflanger. Even Eventide Clock Works got in on it with the FL201 Instant Flanger, a rackmountable solution for pros.