Meet My Mistresses

Attention: open in a new window. PDFPrintE-mail

Meet My Mistresses

This month, we're going to take a look at EH's third most popular product (after the Big Muff and Small Stone): The Electric Mistress.

The Electric Mistress......there's a name that invokes some erotic imagery to the uninformed. Sounds like something you could order out of the back of a "men's magazine"  .To the guitarist, it invokes the image of one of the best flangers ever made.

Flanging is a term that was first used to describe the process of putting a finger on a tape reel to slightly change its speed during mixdown. According to the original EH ad, the effect was also produced using "multiple tape machines or digital relay systems". Later, as electronics grew more sophisticated, comb filters were used to simulate the process. Probably one of the best known examples of this effect is Van Halen's "Ain't Talkin' About Love" (although I believe he used the MXR Flanger).

The Mistress first made its appearance around 1976 with a model that was slightly different from those commonly seen today. Housed in a Big Muff-style chassis, the Mistress had 3 controls: Rate, Range, and Color. These earlier models had one significant difference from the later models. In place of the familiar Filter Matrix switch, the earlier models had an On/Off switch. That, and different lettering on the top, distinguishes these earlier models from their later versions. It would seem that EH only made this version for a very short time before changing over to the now all too familiar version with the Filter Matrix switch.


The controls were somewhat self-explanatory. Rate, of course, set the speed of the flange. Range set the width of the flange from very narrow to wide. Color was used to adjust how pronounced the effect was. On the later models, the Filter Matrix switch was used to stop the sweep of the flange, but not the effect itself. Using the Range and Color controls, the flange could then be set and kept in any part of the sweep. This allows for some really interesting tones to be obtained. Both units operated from two 9 volt batteries placed in series to create 18 volts so be sure to use an 18 volt adapter when using the Mistress' AC adapter jack!!

Not content to stop there, EH released the Deluxe Electric Mistress around 1978 (Fig. 3). The Deluxe was powered by AC and featured improved noise and distortion specifications as well as greater reliability. It was designed by Howard Davis, who was interviewed here . In the early 80's, Howard also redesigned the standard Electric Mistress to operate from one 9 volt battery.



Check out these 2 Deluxe Electric Mistresses. The green one is a later model, but internally they're exactly the same thing. They even have the same boards inside. Some people think there's a difference and charge more for the green models, but we know differently, don't we?

Regarding the reliability issue, earlier versions of the Electric Mistress were prone to trouble in the voltage regulation section so EH released a sheet explaining how to change a few parts to improve reliability. I've done this mod before on many Misresses and found it to be very worthwhile. Seems the main problem I've seen is the voltage regulation circuit going bad so I just rebuild it while I'm in there.

 Electro-HArmonix reissued the Electric Mistress in the late 90's, using a different delay IC.   They also made several prototypes of a Sovtek version of the Electric Mistress, which you can see here.

EH ads stated "Electro-Harmonix President Keeps Two Mistresses!". Don't tell my wife, but I've got 3!

Coming soon: the H&H "Clockwork Concubine". A british-built Electric Mistress copy!!

Thanks to: unknown individual for later Electric Mistress, Fred Mangan for the earlier model, and Brian Wolcott for the Deluxe.