Pigtronix "Germanium Gold" Philosopher's Tone: This is a variation on the "regular" Philosopher, with a germanium (instead of silicon) diode for the "Grit" (distortion) stage. Germanium diodes and transistors tend to have a smoother, creamier "vintage" tone when they distort, and that is true in this pedal as well.
The clipping of the Grit stage is very pleasing, from the lowest setting to the highest, though any setting above 12:00 is really for screaming guitar sounds. The "blend" knob on this one is actually a mix between compressed and uncompressed signals, unlike on the regular version where "blend" is a ratio control. The one other thing that's different is they changed the treble-rolloff control to a more useful and pleasing range than in the original. The one I'm reviewing has a gold paint job; I've seen some black-painted ones advertised as being the germanium version, but I have no idea if that's correct or if there is any internal difference between the two colors--and Dave at Pigtronix refused to answer when I asked him about that, twice.
Aside from those bits, it's the same as the regular one, so you can read the rest of my thoughts in that review. It's still a super heavy squasher and sustainer, and I still think it would be brilliant if the threshold (controlled by the Sustain knob) could be set much higher, for less intense squash. If you use a light touch on the controls and on your playing, then this pedal is a beautiful all-in-one tone machine. With heavier settings and heavier playing, it can easily be way too much. My favorite setting, for an articulate, edgy, and punchy tone/effect that still has some dynamics, is: Grit 8:00, Sustain 6:30 (minimum), Blend 12:00, and Treble 3:00.
After writing the initial review, I sent this pedal in to Pigtronix for a mod to raise the threshold. The first time they sent it back to me, I could just about swear they had lowered the threshold instead--it seemed to squash even harder. They had me send it back for a fix, and this time it came back terrific! It's still a strong effect, I still wouldn't recommend it to somebody who wanted transparent, clean compression; but it sounds great, especially "amplike" with very touch-sensitive grit. I might not want it as my only compressor, but it's a really great tone tool to have around. A couple years later, Pigtronix has incorporated my threshold mod into the stock design of their newer Phil. Bass and Phil. Rock pedals.
Price in USD: new $179, used $100 to $150
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