Price paid: $ 99
Purchased from: Guitar Center
Sound — 10
I currently use a Godin LG SP90 guitar and a Fender Mustang I amp set to imitate the sound of a '65 Fender Twin Reverb. I use a lot of effects, but not all of them with the P-Tone. Here are the combinations that I find work well: 1) Crystal clean tone: Godin neck pickup > ISP Decimator Noise Reduction pedal > Dunlop Original Crybaby on or off > Philosopher's Tone (grit off, sustain at 1:30, blend at 1:30, treble at 3:00, volume at about 1:00) > amp; 2) Sweet distortion: Godin blended pickups > Decimator > Philosopher's Tone (grit 1:30, sustain 1:30, blend 1:30, treble on full, volume 1:00) > amp; 3) Sustained overdrive: Godin bridge pickup > Decimator > Philosopher's Tone (set same as per 1, but with the blend lowered to noon or so) > Ibanez TS9/808 mod Tube Screamer > amp, maybe with some flanger dialed in; 4) Fingerstyle country blues: Godin blended pickups > Decimator > Philosopher's Tone (grit off, sustain & blend at 10:30, treble at 3:00, volume at 1:00) > Boss OC-3 Octave pedal on a slight, subtle polyphonic setting (to imitate a washtub bass!). Some slap delay might sound good here too. The reason I use the Decimator is that my guitar's P90 pickups are very noisy, and the P-Tone accentuates this noise unbearably at volumes high enough for jamming. Thus, if your guitar has single coil pickups, I highly recommend the use of the ISP Decimator Noise Reduction pedal (expensive but well worth it) at the front of your signal chain in combination with the P-Tone. If your guitar has humbuckers instead, this should not be necessary. Alternatively, you could try a different Compressor for a single coil guitar, one with a more selective set of parameters, but I don't know if that would work and I can't imagine any other Compressor pedal working as well for me anyway. I love it. I don't try to sound like anybody else, but I imagine the high-sustain screams of Carlos Santana, Trey Anastasio or Jon Trafton would be easy to approach with this device.
Overall Impression — 10
I play spacey, jazzy, multi-ethnic jam rock with a strong blues influence, and the Philosopher's Tone is my central, main pedal. I don't always have it on, but I frequently use it for soloing. I have been playing about 20 years, and this is my favorite pedal. However, if I lost it I would probably upgrade to the Pigtronix Philosopher King if I could afford it, simply because the P-King does everything the P-Tone can do and a lot more. My other choice when shopping for a comp pedal was the Keeley Compressor, an obviously excellent piece of equipment at any price. I judged the Keeley to be out of my price range at the time, and now I'm glad I thought so, because I love the Pig! I suppose it could benefit from the Keeley's sensitivity and more tweakable parameters, but I doubt I would need any of that. It is the perfect addition to my guitar's tone.
Reliability & Durability — 10
I have not tried to gig with it yet, but it seems very sturdy so I doubt I would need a backup. It's all metal and there is no battery compartment to open. You'll need a 12-18 V power source. My suspicion is that I will want to continually tweak the parameters according to the room I'm in or the song I'm playing, so I would mount it on a rack at about eye level rather than have it on the floor.
Ease of Use — 10
Although the control knobs are simple, I ended up playing around with it a lot as it provides a lot of subtle nuances to choose between. The manual is simple and provides some suggested presets, but the P-Tone is the kind of pedal you just have to fool around with and listen to yourself play through to develop your own sound, and it is thus aptly named. It has a "grit" knob that mixes in a layer of very unusual, creamy-smooth distortion that I like much better than most modern distortion pedals I've heard (I think it sounds a little like the old script-logo MXR Distortion Plus); a "sustain" knob that really lets my guitar's tone Shine and sing; a "blend" knob to mix the wet & dry signal; a "treble" knob to boost or roll back the high end; and a "volume" knob. My guitar has P90 pickups, and the neck sound through the P-Tone clean is one of the nicest sounds I've ever heard.