When Pigtronix debuted the original Philosopher’s Tone, it was a departure from standard issue guitar compressors with its Grit, Treble and Blend controls. The impressive functionality lets guitarists get all kinds of clean and dirty compressed tones, making it an excellent choice for all styles of playing. Never a company to rest on its laurels, Pigtronix now offers a smaller, stripped-down version of its game-changing compressor in the Philosopher’s Tone Micro. The wide shape of the original Philosopher’s Tone may be irksome to those without pedalboard to real estate to spare, making the Micro a welcome addition as its small size allows it to fit almost anywhere whilst still retaining the signature Pigtronix compression sound.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: compression tends to be a love-it or hate-it type of effect. I believe part of that is because of the perceived extreme nature of compression—think highly compressed, country-style chicken pickin’. That sound isn’t for everyone, and it can drive some players away from an otherwise incredibly useful tool. The strength of the Philosopher’s Tone Micro, like its fuller-featured brethren, is the Blend control. This allows you to mix your dry and compressed signals, which gives you everything from extremely subtle compression to squashed notes that sound like they’ve been wrapped up by a boa constrictor. In addition to Blend, the Treble knob offers further EQ possibilities, ensuring it will be useful in any scenario. The Micro is powered by a nine-volt power supply, but internally converts to 18 volts, allowing for maximum headroom when used with high-output pickups or line-level signals.
Setting all knobs at noon gave me useful compression without altering my core tone or boosting volume significantly. Extreme sustain settings are a lot of fun, as the notes sustain forever and blend in together, adding dramatic effect to arpeggios and single-note solo runs. I found the treble control to be a set-it-and-forget-it function, but if you use multiple guitars and amps when you play live, you can easily adjust it between songs to tame or enhance high end.
My favorite setting was Sustain at 3 o’clock, Volume and Treble at noon, and Blend around 10 o’clock. The generous amount of sustain yielded extraordinary clean chords and notes that lasted nearly forever, while the low mix ensured it wasn’t overly compressed. Though the controls are simple, there are many tones to be found that are useful for all styles of playing and musical genres.
The Micro also sounds excellent when used as a boost pedal. By dialing in a generous amount of volume and blend, a subtle amount of sustain, and adjusting treble to taste, I got a terrific clean boost that didn’t add much tonal coloration.
Pigtronix has a history of making quality stompboxes that stand out among the crowded pedal market, and the Philosopher’s Tone Micro carries that legacy forward. It’s small in stature while still packed with essential features, and most importantly, it sounds fantastic. My only complaint is that it does not have the Grit option of its bigger brothers. If it had a Grit switch like the Philosopher’s Rock, it would be the ultimate tiny compressor. But if that were the case, it would probably be bigger in size and defeat the purpose altogether. That minor concern aside, whether you’re looking for a mild touch of tone taming or some super squish, the Micro will do it for you and do it well.
What We Like: Great compression tones in a small package. Versatility thanks to the Treble and Blend controls.
Concerns: If you’re madly in love with the original Philosopher’s Tone, you’ll miss the Grit control. It would have been cool to see a Grit switch like the Philosopher’s Rock, but small is the name of the game with this one so something probably had to go.