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Pigtronix Philosopher's Tone Micro

Can this compressor / sustainer turn tones of lead into gold?

by Phil O'Keefe


 
In their quest to turn base metals like lead and mercury into gold, alchemists sought the philosopher's stone - a mythical substance that supposedly could make those magical transformations. Not only that, but the philosopher's stone was also thought to exemplify perfection, enlightenment and bliss and could provide immortality to the person who possessed it. Pigtronix's Philosopher's Tone compressor pedal has been quite successful, but some people weren't crazy about its "wide" physical format. So, Pigtronix has now released a new micro-sized version. Can this new pedal turn otherwise boring tones into something magical like its name would imply?





What You Need To Know

  • Based on the original Philosopher's Tone, the micro keeps many of the features and the basic sound of the original but packs everything into a smaller (and much narrower) micro pedal housing. It measures only 3.75" L x 1.5" W x 1.75" H, making it compact enough to fit on just about any pedalboard.

  • The color scheme is basic black with gold graphic accents; the labeling is high contrast white.

  • The input and output jacks mount on the box's sides.  

  • The Philosopher's Tone Micro is too small to hold a 9V battery, and can be powered only by an external 9VDC adapter. The industry-standard 2.1mm center-negative power jack mounts on the top of the pedal.  Current draw is 35mA.

  • While only 9VDC adapters are suitable (you risk frying the pedal otherwise!), the pedal uses an internal charge pump to goose the internal power rails voltage up to 18V. This provides excellent headroom.



  • The switching is true bypass. A white LED indicator centered between the knobs illuminates to show when the effect is active.

  • The Philosopher's Tone Micro is made in China. As you might suspect with a pedal this small, the clean internal construction uses surface mount components.  




  • The four metal knobs have a unique shape - slightly rounded, with side indentations that make them really easy to grab. There are also big, high-contrast indicators on them, making it really easy to see where they're set.  

  • The Sustain knob sets the Philosopher's Tone Micro's threshold level. Turning up this knob compresses your signal more, giving increased sustain and dynamic consistency from note to note. There's a lot of compression available at higher knob settings, so the Philosopher's Tone Micro can increase your rig's sustain dramatically.  

  • There's also a Blend knob. Many compressors lack a blend control, but having one lets you do parallel compression, i.e., you can  mix the unprocessed and processed signals in whatever ratio you desire. This lets you squash the signal heavily while blending in some uncompressed signal.

  • The Treble knob is flat in its center position and boosts or cuts (at 2 kHz) when turned up or down from there. There is up to 6 dB of cut (or boost) available, which is plenty to compensate for the slight treble loss that often accompanies compression, as well as to make general tonal adjustments.

  • Volume lets you make up any signal level lost due to the compression and sets the pedal's overall output level. There is ample gain available, and you can easily crank it up and use this pedal as a solo boost.



Limitations

  • The Grit control of the original Philosopher's Tone is missing from the micro version.

 



Conclusions

It's probably not going to make you famous (and give you the immortality that often goes along with fame) all by itself, but it can't hurt, and you do have a better chance at that sort of thing if your tone doesn't suck. This pedal will help you sound better by giving you better note consistency, drastically increased sustain, and improved control without adding gobs of noise or sludge.

Noiseless compression and sustain is difficult to achieve. The very nature of compression brings up any noise from elsewhere in your signal chain, but the Philosopher's Tone Micro adds no appreciable noise of its own, and is exceptionally quiet by compressor pedal standards. In short, this is, by far, the best-sounding micro-sized compressor pedal I've ever tried. If you want a compressor but have little room for one on your board, you really need to try this pedal  for yourself.  -HC-


Resources

Pigtronix Philosopher's Tone Micro compressor pedal ($159.00 MSRP, $119.00 "street")


Pigtronix's product web page    

Philosopher's Tone Micro user manual (PDF file)    


You can purchase the Pigtronix Philosopher's Tone Micro compressor pedal from:

Musician's Friend    

Sweetwater  

Guitar Center    

Pigtronix demo video









__________________________________________________

 




Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.  

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