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Hi there, welcome to my blog - La Revolution Deux. It's an odd name - but I like it! Here you will find all the info on my various DIY Guitar effects builds, amplifiers and guitars. Everything from a humble Ibanez tubescreamer to the holiest KLON Overdrive.

You may also find a few effects builds that I am looking to move on - usually in exchange for other effects/gear/cash. You can always check my ebay account to see what I've got up for grabs.

Have fun, enjoy the blog - Fred Briggs :-)


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Tuesday 19 June 2012

Pigtronix - Philosophers Tone Compressor (Germanium Gold)

I love compressors. I love them more than any other guitar effect - and there's a reason; they are the glue that sticks a great performance together. Unless you're Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton a compressor *will* improve your tone and help you sit in a band mix much better.

The Pigtronix Philosophers Tone has been making waves for a while now and I thought it was time to get it placed up on the blog.

Here's the description from the Pigtronix website regarding the regular version of the Philosophers Tone;

"The Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone is a state-of-the-art analog compressor / sustainer, providing endless clean sustain. With variable Sustain, Blend and Treble controls, the Philosopher’s Tone offers a huge range of compression sounds for the discerning musician. The Philosopher’s Tone also contains a harmonic distortion for clean or dirty compression sounds and any mixture of the two. While the Philosopher’s Tone rocks on its own, it is designed to play well with other dirt pedals in order to create your ultimate distortion tone that sustains forever.

Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone is unlike the common compressor. This pedal has more sustain and less noise. The dynamic range, touch sensitivity, overall transparency and outright sustain of the Philosopher’s Tone is un-paralleled in the crowded world of compressor pedals.

Practitioners of the mystical and ancient art of alchemy long sought an element called the Philosopher’s Stone, believing that, if found, it could turn lead into gold and bestow immortality upon the man who wielded it. For such a tiny pedal to create so much sustain, this device represents a musical equivalent to this mythical substance in the world of guitar pedals."

And to get an idea of how the Philosophers Tone sounds here's the ProGuitarShop demo video for you;

Now, onto the guts of this thing. Thanks for these photos goes to jwpartain1 of the freestompboxes.org forum;

From these gutshots and the attached information Mystic Whiskey managed to draw up a schematic and verify a build against an original Philosophers Tone Gold Germanium. Here's the scheme for you;

Let's have a look at a few of the different sections - the "Grit" control blends in either a clipped or clean version of the compressed signal. The "Blend" control blends between the unaffected signal and the compressed/clipped signal. The "Treble" control is nothing special and is set up as a simple treble cut. It's a decent design and really works for a nice overdriven yet compressed tone.

For those of you brave enough to take it on - here's a vero layout for the Philosophers Tone Gold;

For reference here's the freestompboxes.org forum topic; http://freestompboxes.org/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=11954


  1. Hey Mr Briggs..... Can you help me with a pcb layout for this comp?? I have read through the thread at DIY but all I can find is a vero layout and I don't know how to do vero.
    Much thanks from Oz if ya can!!

  2. 1 comment. I thought there would be more intrest. the endless sustain is exciting. ive been looking for a compressor that has more sustain than a ross or dyna. but man this layout dosent look easy. can the optocoupler be replaced with maybe a vtl5c1 or nsl-32??

  3. its hard for me too read. does the opto say vtl6c6?? what kind of opto is it?? im thinking about attempting this

  4. Hey, I know it's a year late but I'm the guy who originally traced this circuit. The part number is VTL5C6, and the circuit is highly dependent on the particular characteristics of the LDR (light-dependent resistor) in that part. I doubt you would be able to substitute another Vactrol without having to modify the existing circuit. You *might* be able to roll your own LDR + LED combination using an LDR that has similar characteristics, but I have not looked further into possible replacements.

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  6. I bought one of these a decade ago. I actually was planning on a Univibe, but saw this and remembered an article I had read, so I decided to give it a whirl.
    I grabbed a Squire classic Vibe Tele and plugged into a used Blues Junior. I hit an open A chord, then dropped my pick. After a minute of fumbling around feeling for the pick under my seat, I found it. When I came back up I noticed the chord was still sustaining with no noticeable loss of volume. I looked to the side and 3 different guys looking at the guitars had stopped and turned around to see what I was using. I didn't go home with the Univibe.
    At that point I still couldn't afford to just buy a new pedal and add it to the collection, after a couple I usually had to sell one to clear up funds and board real estate. As great as this was for sustain (I haven't found anything since short of digital delays with sustain functions), but it didn't work as well for the type of compression that I used my Keeley or Dyna Comp for. I sold it and bought a reissue 76 Dyna Comp.
    My biggest gripe is the pedal design in regards to the layout and enclosure. It is, without a doubt, to this day the worst design I've ever used. It's the width of 2 normal pedals, but not as long. They put all the controls at the top and the switch on the bottom which is like ⅛" from the knobs, dead center.
    If they put it in the corner you could at least turn the pedal sideways, but this way it's all but Impossible to do that and not change the knobs with your toe when you switch it. To make it worse they put the jacks on the side, so even with 90°jacks, it adds over an inch to the space it takes up. I see they've gone more with the micro, which is probably the way to go. It's a MUCH better layout, and while the GRIT can get you an interesting Eric Johnson like tone, it's not very versatile. But you can get these use for $70-80, and the full size for less, I've seen one for $60.
    Definitely a great pedal to own when you need clean sustain


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