By Lonnie NaVeau

This Article Was Originally Published On: July 1st, 2014 #Issue 14.

The Company Line

Pigtronix is one of the fastest-growing companies in the effects pedal business. Since starting in an apartment in New York in 2004, and now moving in to a new factory in Long Island, President David Koltai and his team have made an extraordinary impact on the pedal market. While keeping the design, manufacturing and distribution all under one roof, they are able to control and maintain production at a very high level, while creating jobs. The parent company to Pigtronix is also expanding into the amplifier market with its acquisition of the legendary guitar amp brand, Supro.

With the help of one of their first pedals – the Philosopher’s Tone, which has evolved into a bass-friendly pedal, the Philosopher Bass Compressor – the company has built up quite a reputation. Numerous top-notch artists use their pedals, including Victor Wooten, Marcus Miller, Tom Hamilton, Doug Whimbish, Billy Sheehan … the list goes on. These pedals are the real deal; they are compact and laced with just the right features and controls, and are built to last. They really cater to the bass player. With the success of the Disnortion pedal came the need for a version for bass players, but with a much wider dynamic range. The Bass Fat Drive has delivered that and more. Pigtronix are truly dedicated to making great pedals for bass players. Their pedals are easy to use, affordable with deep extended bass response. This effort has also inspired guitarist and President David Koltai to play much more bass than he used to, as a result.

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Philosopher Bass Compressor

Following the success of the Philosopher’s Tone pedal (selling more than 10,000 of them), the company went a few steps further and created the Philosopher Bass Compressor, which uses the Philosopher’s Tone circuit, but in an even smaller chassis. It has a very sleek look – as do the rest of their pedals – and also feels extremely tough; sturdy enough to take the abuse your boots are going to give it. This compressor has high-quality analog, optical circuitry, and the very small footprint of these pedals makes it easy to put a few of them together.

This pedal has three simple knobs controlling Volume, Compression and Sustain, and one mini- toggle switch labeled “Grit.” And grit is exactly what you get, yet it doesn’t take all of the low end out of your signal or muddy up the low mids to the point that the notes are undistinguishable. Since there is no knob to control the level of grit, you get what you get – which is a very mellow tube-like tone, similar to an old Jack Bruce tone. I wasn’t sure if I would like the preset Grit tone,
but it’s different enough from the Bass Fat Drive pedal, which makes it ideal to have both. It can also help your bass to cut through the mix a little better.

The Volume is simply the main output level, or gain, of the pedal, but what is makes this pedal stand out is the Compression knob, which is actually a blend between the clean attack of your signal and the compressed signal. It’s great to mix between the two signals and not change the level of attack in your playing, or change the level of compression. I found it useful while slapping to mix more towards the clean side, but when digging in with my fingers a little more aggressively, to go more towards the compressed signal. The Sustain knob controls the threshold at which compression begins to kick in. I found this to be one of the easier to use compressors that was actually useful in a live setting.

Pigtronix Bass Compressor

While developing the Philosopher Bass Compressor, the Pigtronix team brought in well-known Long Island bassist Danny Miranda (from Queen, Meatloaf and Blue Oyster Cult) to do some testing with a few different versions of the pedal. During this shoot-out, there were some minor changes in each pedal, and with the help of Danny playing several different basses, they made some modifications and came up with the Philosopher Bass Compressor. After using it in a live situation, I was sold, immediately. With its simple, yet flexible, controls, the Pigtronix pedal did everything you need a compressor to do. Its ease of use, combined with the option of adding in some grit, makes for a winning combination.

Bass Envelope Phaser

The first version of this pedal was unveiled at the 2004 NAMM Show as the Envelope Phase Shifter, and has since been modified into a version for bass which is considerably smaller and includes the optical isolator circuit, as well. The Bass Envelope Phaser is very reminiscent of an old Electro-Harmonix envelope filter, mixed with a bit of phase shifter. It includes the Pigtronix staccato envelope circuit, which automatically closes the envelope between notes. This circuit is, as you might expect, very helpful when playing high-speed, staccato finger techniques. The controls are simple and easy to use. It has two knobs –Sensitivity and Resonance – along with a mini-toggle switch to select up sweep or down sweep for the envelope effect. The Sensitivity knob allows you to use dial in just enough (or more than enough) effect, depending on the need. The Resonance knob controls the level of up/down sweep. The more Resonance, the more exaggerated the sweeping effect, which is more like a phase shifter on steroids.

I found that down sweep with the Sensitivity and Resonance at 10 o’clock worked great to get a nice, funky phaser sound. In down sweep mode, the sound seemed to be colored slightly darker than the sound of the up sweep, which gives a little more clarity. Both sweep settings offer a unique sound, but in down sweep, it gives it that funky, Bootsie Collins feel and sound. It worked fantastic on the gig for a couple of songs where I needed that slightly phased funky wah-wah sound, and the band thought it sounded phenomenal. From just out of the box to the stage, this pedal did not disappoint. The Bass Envelope Phaser should be a part of every bass player’s pedal board.

Bass Fat Drive

Following the success of the Disnortion pedal, the team at Pigtronix had to once again modify the circuitry to favor the bass player. While the Disnortion pedal had been used for years by bass players, including Tony Levin, it was time to take that technology and put it in a smaller chassis with a wider dynamic range to give it plenty of low end for bass. Using parallel fuzz and overdrive with different filters, they were able to achieve a great-sounding distorted low end.

The Bass Fat Drive is an analog, tube-emulated overdrive, featuring knobs for Volume, Gain and Tone, along with a mini-toggle switch that says “More” – which actually doubles the gain of the distortion. Volume controls the overall output level, Gain is the level of distortion, and the Tone control does more than you’d think. Rolling it fully clockwise takes the low-pass filter completely out of the circuit, for a more transparent tone and robust low end. Moving counter- clockwise, the Tone control gradually attenuates the top end.

Using this pedal live, I quickly discovered that it wasn’t just for distortion. With Gain turned down and Tone set at 12 o’clock, it produced a very big Ampeg-style warm tube sound that I used on several songs to get that old Black Sabbath bass tone. I wasn’t sure how useful this pedal could actually be until I used it onstage. Of course, as you turn up the Gain, you can get moderate to massive distortion, but with a flick of the More switch, you’ll have the guitar player reaching for his volume knob. This pedal has more versatility than the average distortion pedal, and it looks like I’ll be adding this one to my personal arsenal.

Conclusion

All in all, I was very impressed with these new Pigtronix bass pedals. They look good and will take a beating, but more importantly, they sound incredible, both individually and together. The team at Pigtronix has done an outstanding job in their development. All three pedals will accept 9-18VDC, and are supplied with a 300mA 18VDC adapter. They do not have a battery power option. My favorite of the three is the compressor, which I felt was the most consistently useful of these pedals; it could be used all of the time, at every gig. If you are into bass pedals, you are going to love these Pigtronix offerings. And if you’re not a fan of using pedals, you will be after you give these three a go.

Philosopher Bass Compressor

Manufacture:Pigtronix
Website:https://pigtronix.com/
Model:Philosopher Bass Compressor
Made in:USA
Input:1⁄4” input, 9-18V adapter input (neg. tip)
Output:1⁄4” output
Controls:Volume, Compression (blend), Sustain, Grit switch
Additional Features:True bypass switching
Dimensions:4.4" L x 2.4" W x 1" H
Warranty:1 year
Price:$209 list, $169, street

Bass Envelope Phaser

Manufacture:Pigtronix
Website:https://pigtronix.com/
Model:Bass Envelope Phaser
Made in:USA
Input:1⁄4” input, 9-18V adapter input (neg. tip)
Output:1⁄4” output
Controls:Sensitivity, Resonance, Up/Down switch
Additional Features:True bypass switching
Dimensions:4.4" L x 2.4" W x 1" H
Warranty:1 year
Price:$249 list, $199, street

Bass Fat Drive

Manufacture:Pigtronix
Website:https://pigtronix.com/
Model:Bass Fat Drive
Made in:USA
Input:1⁄4” input, 9-18V adapter input (neg. tip)
Output:1⁄4” output
Controls:Volume, Gain, Tone, More switch
Additional Features:True bypass switching
Dimensions:4.4" L x 2.4" W x 1" H
Warranty:1 year
Price:$189 list, $149, street
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