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This article was originally published in issue #34
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Pigtronix occupies an interesting position in the effects market, producing unique products that cross the boundaries between digital and analogue, promising massive flexibility and great tone. Pigtronix sent us two of its more complex pedals to check out - the incredibly fully featured Infinity Looper and the Envelope Phaser. Our resident independent research scientist (or 'tech nerd' as he describes himself!) Tom Quayle gives his verdict.
Pigtronix Infinity Looper
Pigtronix claims that its Infinity Looper is 'the world's most musical looping pedal' and, giving the sheer number of features and the specification on offer, it may well have a point. At its heart the unit is a dual stereo looping device offering 24bit, 48kHz recording quality and analogue pass through for the clean tone. The looper features two ins and two outs that can be used in stereo or split dual mono operation for multiple instruments and the two loops can be used in series or parallel mode allowing the user to record song 'sections' in series or to create massive sound structures with up to 256 overdubs per loop in Parallel. Looping is latency free, for an immediate response and accurate timing on pedal presses, allowing the user to create the most musical loops possible. Also included is an Aux Out and input for a remote switch to control Undo/Redo, reverse and other parameters plus an external Expression pedal input that can control various parameters including Loop Speed, Loop Volume and Loop Aging. Finally there is a MIDI in for clock sync functionality plus control mapping of any of the internal parameters and a USB port that allows loops to be downloaded or uploaded to the unit's onboard storage.
Amazingly, the Infinity Looper can play back almost any format of audio file thanks to included conversion software and we couldn't find a single audio clip to confuse it with. Less amazing is the rubber surrounding the USB port that made it pretty tough to get the included cable to sit firmly in the port and we lost connection on numerous occasions.
Operation has a moderate to steep learning curve since this is a pedal with so many features, but you can read the manual thoroughly to explore all of the options available and Pigtronix has excellent video tutorials on its website. The controls are divided into three sections with the foot switches along the bottom for recording, playback and overdubbing of each loop and a separate Stop switch that can stop loops in multiple ways depending on the chosen setting and musical scenario.
The switches are soft latching and very easy to operate but feel extremely solid and well made. Each loop can be armed before recording just like in a DAW sequencer, allowing you to easily synchronise your recordings to start at exactly the beginning of each pass. The second section features a set of more in depth controls that allow the user to split the inputs, select series or parallel operation, alter the stop mode and change the sync multi-mode between loops, allowing for a second loop to be up to six times the length of the first. There is also a small LED display that shows which preset is loaded out of the 50 available. Presets store any loops and overdubs, plus each parameter setting on the pedal for future use, and can be loaded and stored using the preset dial. The remaining dials control the Master Volume and independent loop volume controls for both loops.
Of course, all of this functionality would be redundant if the unit didn't sound great too and in this regard Pigtronix has really delivered. The Infinity Looper is completely noiseless in operation and the recording quality is superb thanks to great convertors and the 24 bit 48kHz audio quality. Your original tone is left unadulterated thanks to the analogue pass through of clean audio and every operation on the pedal is instantaneous with no lag or pops/clicks in the signal.
Once you've learnt the functions of the pedal and how each mode works, operation is completely seamless and allows for the most musical expression possible from a loop pedal. The learning curve is a little steep at first, especially compared to other loop pedals on the market with less functionality but it's nothing that a couple of hours with the unit won't cure.
The biggest criticism you can level at the Infinity Looper is its price point, which whilst fair for the features and sound quality on offer, is far more than the average person is going to be willing to spend on a loop pedal, given that they will be well served by one of the cheaper and less complicated units on the market. However, if you need the most fully featured and best sounding looper out there then the Infinity Looper will definitely get your pulse racing and your creative juices flowing.
Pigtronix Envelope Phaser
Combining a phaser with envelope controller or LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator) can create some of the funkiest sounds known to man and works superbly well with guitar and bass, where the attack of the instrument can vary so greatly. Pigtronix's take on this classic combination is its aptly titled the 'Envelope Phaser' pedal and in typical Pigtronix style it is both great sounding and very fully featured.
The pedal features two modes of operation, using an Envelope following controller or an LFO to modulate the phaser circuit or a combination of both in blend mode for the ultimate in madness! The controls are laid out sensibly with the engage (bypass) footswitch at the bottom right and a second footswitch on the left to change between envelope and LFO operation, indicated by reactive LED's with EF and LFO labels. A row of switches allows for various sound shaping tools to be applied such as a staccato mode for faster, more percussive envelope effects, changing the direction of the envelope sweep from up to down, switching blend mode on and off and smoothing the LFO for a less pronounced resonant peak. Finally an invert switch allows the phase to be switched from positive to negative as required. A top row of dials gives control over envelope Sensitivity and LFO depth, centre and speed whilst a resonance control allows the user to control the resonance of the peaks for more aggressive sounds at higher settings or softer sounds in the lower region.
The usual in and out are placed at the top of the pedal and on the sides are inputs for expression pedals controlling sweep and speed of the LFO. Pigtronix has also included a very useful EF trigger input allowing an external audio source to be connected that will be used for triggering the envelope follower, particularly useful if you want the phaser to follow a drum beat or some other rhythmic material.
The pedal is built exceptionally well with a bomb proof case and solid dials and switches. It would've been nice to see soft latching switches as featured on some of Pigtronix's other pedals as they tend to last longer and are easier to operate, but it's by no means a deal breaker. One thing to note is that the pedal requires its own 18v power supply and whilst you can power it with some of the better power bricks on the market, it's worth considering whether you want to carry another power supply around with you on purchase.
Sound quality is where the Envelope Phaser really comes into its own with an array of some of the best sounding and fattest phaser tones I've ever witnessed. The basic LFO sounds on offer are very flexible with tons of control via the depth centre and speed controls. Combined with the resonance control you can literally conjure up some of the most other worldly sounds imaginable before returning back to lush, traditional phaser sounds with slow and smooth sweeps that are perfect for those Hendrix Univibe moments.
Switching over to the envelope mode produces some obscenely funky sounds that track pick attack and dynamics beautifully and can be dialled in easily for the each guitar and pickup using the sensitivity control. This mode is super fun to play with and makes you think a lot more about dynamics and shaping every pick stroke to get just the right amount of 'quack' out of each note for maximum funky impact. Combining both modes with the blend switch creates very interesting results that have a less predictable quality with a huge range of sounds on offer. Especially interesting is using a drum loop through the EF trigger input in blend mode with the LFO for some truly unique rhythmic effects that couldn't be created any other way.
The Pigtronix Envelope Phaser is a fantastic piece of kit that is both inspiring and fun to use. If you play any groove based music it's a must but can work superbly well in all sorts of styles and does an amazing job on chordal work for that Hendrix vibe we all love. Versatile, great sounding and well made, this is a phaser pedal worthy of any pedal board out there.