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This article was originally published in issue #32
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Pigtronix describes itself as “...the rising star of a second generation of American boutique pedal makers.” we reckon that about sums it up.
When it comes to boutique delay pedals, there really are tons of options on the market; from the NASA-esque offerings from companies like Eventide and Strymon to the more vintage inspired items from companies like Wampler and Empress. It really does take something special for us to sit up and take notice, but when a pedal says Pigtronix on it, it's probably best you do.
Billed as a “unique marriage of analog tone shaping and DSP processing”, the Echolution 2 Deluxe is a completely different product from the original Echolution in both appearance and application. This pedal delivers everything from classic three knob pedal style digital delays to deeply complicated pitch shifting delays, bit crushers and low frequency oscillation (LFO) sweeps to name a few - and all with stereo in and out.
The first thing to mention about the pedal out of the box is that it will take a bit of time to learn. It took me the best part of an hour with the manual to confidently say I knew the ins and outs of the pedal as we've got two foot switches, six knobs and eight buttons (which both feature long and short press functions), and that's before you consider the optional E2R Remote Switch which adds “freeze” and “jump” functions too, along with more options to access the 60 inbuilt presets. You can also plug in an expression pedal to control any parameter, or even control the pedal via MIDI. If you want a simple pedal that you can set an forget, this probably isn't the one for you... but if you like a pedal that you're still finding sounds in months or even years down the road, the Pigtronix may be worth a look.
The best way to see this pedal is in three parts, you've got a basic three knob delay pedal, the deluxe features and then the LFO effect. So if we forget everything, we have a repeats (feedback), mix (level) and time (delay length) knob. That should be enough to get the most inexperienced players under way.
The deluxe features are unique to the deluxe version of the pedal. These eight buttons allow considerable crafting of your effect. So, for example, using the filer button you can switch between a pristine digital delay to a low pass filter, a tape style delay, along with various filters and sweep sounds. Personally, I found that adding the low pass filter took enough high end off my repeats to give a nice organic or vintage tone. With a long press of this button you can engage the crush destruction filter that attacks your signal the harder your input signal hits it.
The taps button gives access to instant sub division delays, from nothing to delays that repeat at dotted 8th notes, shuffles or half speed in relation to the tap tempo/time. This gives you foolproof access to the classic Albert Lee or Edge dotted 8th delay trick. With a long press you can set up multiple delays, for example, combining the ¾ delay with PHI delay which sits at the Golden Ratio of 0.382 of the delay time value.
We're even given options for how the delay turns on or off, with trails mode that trails your delay when you turn the pedal off, a listen mode that essentially keeps the pedal working but mutes it so it's always processing your tone, meaning you can turn the pedal on and you'll hear the delays of notes played before the pedal was activated. There's even a dry kill which gives you just the wet signal. This is a lot of fun when you play with the reverse or ducked delay.
Next up, you get to grips with the LFO waveforms which are controlled by a depth and speed knob along with a button to switch between eight different waveforms with options like Triangle, Square and Ramp to give you some options. These all give you endless options when using the comb or sweep filter effects.
The Echolution 2 Deluxe is a pedal that can't really be improved. It could be argued that it's not the easiest to operate but for those who struggle with the unit everything can be edited by USB on a computer where you can save and upload presets. If technology is your thing, then I can't recommend the Echolution enough: it's not cheap - but it is very comprehensive.
Pigtronix Philosopher's Tone
Compressor pedals are always a hard sell because of all the effects, compression is the one that the most people say "I can't hear what it's doing". The fact of the matter is that the best compression pedals aren't heard by the listener, they're felt by the player. This means that in the compression market you've really got to do something special to stand out. Enter the Pigtronix Philosopher's Tone.
In the grand scheme of things, this pedal fits more into the sustainer territory for me than compression, though as you crank the sustain knob it does pile on some heavy dynamic compression. You might say that it's a shame we don't have knobs for both compression and sustain, but it wasn't something I missed during the time I played with it as the sustain was so addictive.
As far as compression goes, it does the job. I never felt that it was delivering a world changing compression but it was certainly everything I'd needed when pretending to be Brent Mason or Guthrie Trapp. It does deliver a pretty incredible amount of sustain if you need it, especially with drive. I can only assume that's due to the pedal running at 18v via the supplied plug. That could be seen as both the pedal's best and worst feature. Evidently it's providing a great sound, but it does mean needing an additional plug or a power supply that provides multiple voltages.
Aside from this, we’re given a blend knob that allows you to mix the wet and dry signal, a treble knob which cuts or boosts the high frequencies and a volume knob which can either be set to cut, match or even boost your signal so the pedal will push you over a band.
Where this pedal really comes across as a curiosity is with the GRIT knob. That's not something you see on compressors and it really makes it stand out from the pack with such a unique and integrated feature. I actually fully disagree with the manual which states "Rule #1: you don't need to use the GRIT control to get great sounds from the Philosopher’s Tone. In most cases, compression tones will sound best with the GRIT turned all the way down." The pedal comes alive and is something you'll need to own solely for this knob. Essentially it mixes in a layer of smooth distortion to your dry signs. To be clear, it doesn't replace your clean tone, it's in addition. You can set it up to sound like your guitar is going through two different amps which gives you an incredibly rich tone that's criminally addictive.
The Philosopher’s Tone is a great pedal that offers some really unique sounds for creative types. The lack of battery operation or 9v power could be seen as major drawbacks for some, but if you can look past that you're going to have a lot of fun with this one.