The origin of the Small Stone dates back to 1974, when Electro Harmonix president Mike Matthews hired former EMS engineer David Cockerell, whos first design for EH was the Small Stone phaser. The design was based on Davids previous work on the EMS...
“I used a lot of pedals like the Electro–Harmonix Small Stone phase shifter to create the modulations and delays, and for the remake I had a pair of Revox B77s for tape delays. Actually, I would say that 40 or 50 percent of the music is coming from the Revox machines, because I was quite extreme, by having a signal direct on one side and delay on the other, almost at the same percentage.”more
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The origin of the Small Stone dates back to 1974, when Electro Harmonix president Mike Matthews hired former EMS engineer David Cockerell, whos first design for EH was the Small Stone phaser. The design was based on Davids previous work on the EMS Synthi Hi-Fli from 1971 - it is a rather unique design in that it uses Operational Transconductance Amplifiers (OTA) instead of operational amplifiers with variable resistors. It is a 4 stage phase shifter with one additional stage for feedback, which can be activated using the "Color" switch. The strongest rival of the Small Stone, the MXR Phase 90, uses FETs (Field Effect Transistor), which suffer from the fact that the FETs have to be matched in production. This made the Phase 90 more expensive and gave the Small Stone an edge in the market share. Soundwise the OTA based phaser will give it's unique flavour with rather strong third harmonic distortion, whereas the FET based phaser has a pronounced second harmonic distortion - the matter of which one is better is simply a matter of taste.
Throughout its history the Small Stone has had numerous revisions and modifications - all versions are OTA based, but the changes will affect the sound of the unit. Here's a short overview and comparison of the different versions of the EH Small Stone. The controls of the Small Stone have remained unchanged troughout its history - a SPEED-control, a switch labelled COLOR, which adds feedback to the circuit resulting in a deeper and stronger sounding phasing effect with many more notches added to the spectrum, an finally - the footswitch to toggle the effect on and off.
The Small Stone is a great fet-based phaser design with the MXR phase90 'like it or lumb it' single knob that controls rate as well as depth. There is also a switch that changes the voicing, I believe by changing the number of stages of phasing. I am not 100%.
Mine was a 2nd issue from the 70s. It was not true bypass or well buffered and was a real tonesucker when not engaged, so I modded it for true bypass. When I did so I found that the smalls tone suffered the classic 70s modulation stompbox volume drop. It was easily remedied with a few a tweaks that also improved the way the smalls tone interacted with the amp so that the upper harmonics at the top of its sweep would REALLY pop. I don't know if the current issue Small Stones are built this way, but if not they should be. All the right parts were in mine other than a DPDT footswitch.
The Small Stone is just great and has an instantly recognizable sound that is totally different than a Phase 90. Its hard to dial a bad sound in with the Small Stone with its 2 lousy controls. I just can't say enough good things about this pedal. Everyone should try a Small Stone against a phase 90 and a decent univibe clone. All 3 iconic tones and all so different.
With synths it produces the well known Jean Michel Jarre pad sound as he used the small stone to process his synths. There are many versions available with small improvements. The newest version even got a smaller footprint.