Last week I picked up the new effect pedal from Pigtronix called the Philosopher’s Tone. It’s an analog compressor/sustainer that gives you the ability to sustain your held notes for a very, very long time. I had the opportunity to use it in my live band at a gig this past weekend and figured I’d let you all know how the Philosopher’s Tone performed.
I picked up my Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone from a webstore called GuitarX. I worked with Gary and the customer service was excellent. E-mails were responded to very quickly, shipping was super fast and the pedal arrived in perfect condition. It was a very good buying experience.
I pulled the Philosopher’s Tone out of the box once it arrived and was surprised at how compact it was. This could be because it doesn’t run on an internal battery. It actually runs from an external 15V DC power supply. Setup was as simple as any guitar effect pedal. Just plug the guitar into the guitar jack and run a cord from the output to your amplifier.
The Philosopher’s Tone has 4 control knobs labeled Grit, Sustain, Blend, Treble and Volume. The Grit knob dials in some light distortion that was a bit too trebly for my tastes. It’s supposed to be used in advance of your distortion pedal or your amplifier to give your amp distortion an extra dose of Grit. I can say that the Grit control didn’t do much for my Fender Cyber-Twin SE amplifier and I’m pretty sure I won’t be using the Grit control. I personally didn’t like the sound of the Grit control.
The real place the Philosopher’s Tone shines is in it’s ability to sustain without adding additional noise to the signal. The Sustain and Blend knobs control control how much sustain you can get using the pedal. The Sustain knob is basically the compressor Threshold and the higher you turn the knob the lower the threshold. So if you crank it all the way up, the Philosopher’s Tone will amplify any signal it gets up to it’s set volume level. The Blend knob simply blends your original signal with the effected signal and on many compressors is called the “Ratio” control.
With the Sustain and Blend knobs turned all the way up I was able to hold notes pretty much as long as I wanted. With the amplifier turned up to a decent level the guitar fed back perfectly on the sustained notes which results in the ability to sustain infinitely. The true test for me is how well a compressor will sustain harmonics. The Philosopher’s Tone did very well sustaining harmonics beyond what my amp could do on its own.
The Treble control gives you the ability to boost or cut treble frequencies on the Philosopher’s Tone. I used it to restore some of the lost highs when cranking the compression all the way up. It’s nice to have but the pedal is well balanced tonally and I didn’t use the Treble control very much at all.
The Volume control sets the volume output level of the Philosopher’s Tone. With the volume set at about 1:00 I was able to match my guitars output volume. This gives plenty of room to turn the volume control up higher if you want to use the pedal to give yourself a clean volume boost for solo’s.
The Philosopher’s Tone is a very clean sounding pedal and it didn’t introduce any unwanted signal noise on its own. By the very nature of Compressor/Sustainers they will compress and raise the level of any exisiting signal noise from your guitar. The club I played in last weekend has very noisy RF interference which my guitars pick up and obviously, the Philosopher’s Tone raised the noise level when I employed it set to maximum. So even though the Philosopher’s Tone is fairly noiseless, it will kick up the noise level when you turn it on just like any other compressor/sustainer will.
I found that if I set the Sustain and Blend controls to between 2:00 and 3:00 positions that the signal noise increase was very acceptable. This also provided a very significant increase in the amount of sustain I could draw out of my guitar. It really sounded great on the clean settings as well as my extreme distortion settings that I use live. I was well pleased with how well the Philosopher’s Tone increased the sustain of my guitar.
Do you need this pedal to make your Fender Cyber-Twin SE sound great? No you don’t, the amp is plenty capable on it’s own but it did help the clean sounds a great deal. I really only used the pedal to give me some added sustain on distorted solos and kicked it in for some of the clean setting songs we play. It sounded great when we played “Wonderful Tonight” and “Wicked Game”. The Philosopher’s Tone really enhanced the sound of the tube compression on those two songs. I’m sure the Philosopher’s Tone would sound great on any tube amplifier.
Because the pedal is so affordable I do give it a high recommendation. You can use it on all your sounds if you want to and it can radically change your sound or just subtly enhance it. It’s this kind of control that I really appreciate in a pedal and the Philospher’s Tone by Pigtronix delivers what it advertises.