Pigtronix Philosopher Bass and Rock: These two pedals (one labeled "Bass" and the other "Rock") are recent children of the "Philosopher's Tone" line. It is an optical design that has been optimized for extra sustain with low noise. These new versions offer those results with fewer knobs for ease of use, a lower price, and a better range of threshold control.
The threshold knob (labeled "Sustain") really is the big deal here, as my main complaint about the earlier two versions was their very low threshold range, resulting in too much squashing for my taste. In my review of the Germanium Gold one I describe sending that pedal in to be modded with a wider threshold range, and how much I liked the results. Dave at Pigtronix told me he got the message, and included that same mod in these two new pedals. They have a wide useful range of response.
There are two differences between the Bass and Rock. The Bass one has a blend knob, for mixing your compressed and uncompressed signals, while the Rock does not; and each has a different voicing of "Grit" (distortion). The blend knob on the Bass one is labeled "Compression", in order to confuse you. The Grit just has an on/off switch, instead of a knob, so you get 100% dirt or none. Though the Grits are voiced differently, they are both strong fuzzy distortions, best suited to lead guitar soloing and bright power chords. The "Rock" grit is the same as in the Germanium Gold, very smooth; while the "Bass" grit is more spitty and raw. Dave says the Bass grit is "tuned for bass", but honestly I think he must have meant "tuned for Lemmy Kilmister".
Both pedals have the exact same frequency range, so do not imagine that the "Rock" one is less suited for bass. In fact they both boost the low end some, to make up for the way that strong compression can typically cause lows to seem weaker. There's a little rolloff up above 10 KHz--just enough to reduce noise, not enough to sound like the highs are affected. The tone overall (without Grit) is warm but clean; not totally transparent, but not especially colored either.
The noise level is very low, even at extreme Sustain settings. The action is strong and squashy, as you'd expect from a comp designed for increasing sustain. The lower you set the threshold, the more squashy it sounds, including a significant "dip" at the first big peak you play. But with the new wider range of threshold control you can also get away from the squashing, into a light unobtrusive smoothing action. Try the Sustain knob near its minimum (counterclockwise) position. The blending control of the Bass version also allows a much more natural sound, retaining some dynamics along with the sustain. The heavier settings are good for funky effects and touchstyle/tap playing. It's very effective as a peak limiter, but slappers may find the envelope shape a bit strange.
The construction quality is very good, and the boxes are a standard small MXR size. They run on DC from 12V to 18V, and they come with a 15V wall wart supply. At 12V they still function and sound pretty much the same, but higher voltage gets higher headroom, meaning a lower chance of distortion. The footswitch is "true bypass". There is no LED to indicate signal over the threshold.
Price in USD: new $169 (Bass) and $149 (Rock); they haven't hit the used market yet.
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