A cornucopia of rich vintage chorus, flange, and vibrato tones live on in a reissue of TC's very first stomp—at a very affordable price.
Note: The previous version of this video was accidentally published with mono audio rather than stereo. The error has been corrected in this version.
Phase and tremolo mix in a marvelous modulation mélange.
Many unexpected modulation textures. Effective dynamic control. Clever control layout for a mini pedal.
No independent depth controls for trem and phase.
Pigtronix Moon Pool
Pedalboards assembled entirely from mini stomps are awesome. They're perfect for travel and informal sessions. Many builders have achieved the quality and tones of full-size pedals in these small enclosures, too. The only drawback (for some players, anyway) is that some mini pedals streamline their functionality to a bare minimum. The Pigtronix Moon Pool phaser/tremolo, however, proves that clever builders can pack a mini stomp with practical options, and even multiple effects, space constraints be damned. There are a lot of trippy sounds and unconventional playing techniques to discover in this little unit.
Mix ‘n’ Morph
Compound modulation textures are a source of rich and unique undulating sounds. They can spark creativity and recast the purpose and potential of an otherwise predictable effect. Tremolo-and-phase has always been one of my favorite modulation mixes. And nothing makes me happier on a lazy, rainy day than routing a hard-chopping tremolo through a slow phaser, playing a few chords, and letting my musical mind wander.
With dual LFO phaser and tremolo circuits, Pigtronix' Moon Pool dishes these lazy, watery combined tones, as well as tasty traditional tremolo and many stranger effects. The Moon Pool's flexibility is attributable, in part, to an economical, well-executed control set that's easy to use and readily serves up surprises. The tremolo and phase effects each have dedicated rate controls. There's also a depth control for tremolo and phase intensity. A small toggle enables selection of tremolo, phase, or both simultaneously. But much of the real weirdness comes via two toggles that enable fast-to-slow or slow-to-fast dynamic control of rate, and an envelope sensitivity knob that regulates picking intensity's effect on that rate. On balance, that may not sound like tons more functionality than a more rudimentary modulator. But the Moon Pool is more than the sum of its parts, and the recombination of these controls yields exponentially stranger outcomes as you blend them.
Goin’ Through Phases
Unlike a lot of vintage phasers, many of which feature just a rate knob, the Moon Pool has a useful depth control. It has nice range and enables relatively subtle washes—particularly at slower phase rates. Sometimes the subdued modulation that you hear at low-depth settings leaves me wishing for a few even-dryer blends. (Near-subliminal phase can add crucial but unobtrusive movement to spare arrangements.) Still, the Moon Pool offers many tasteful paths to mild phase coloration. Faster phase rates make subtle animation trickier, but still leave plenty of room to let melodic nuance and rhythmic picking elements shine through.
Many polyrhythmic textures that can take a simple arpeggio or chord melody out of the doldrums are possible.
At its deepest phase-depth settings, the Moon Pool approximates the sticky, bubble-gum elasticity of a good MXR Phase 90. Though, to my ear, the Pigtronix exhibits less of the high-frequency peakiness that, depending on your tastes, can make a Phase 90 feel thrilling or fatiguing in certain situations. I missed some of that peakiness in intermittent phaser doses, but the ability to dial the depth back with such precision will be worth the tradeoff for many players.
The Moon Pool's tremolo sounds are warm and rich with audible attributes of optical and bias tremolo. The tremolo shares a depth control with the phaser, which can be a mild bummer when you mix the two effects. But the same range of depth that makes the phaser more versatile works wonders with the tremolo, too. The slowest speeds are as slow as a snail stuck in maple syrup, and are a great fit for hypnotic drones. The fastest settings are super fluttery, evoking a sonic gatling gun when you situate a fuzz out front. But in between these extremes, the Moon Pool is rich with practical and pleasing modulations that are easy to fit into traditional tremolo contexts.
Duality and Dynamism
Blending Moon Pool's tremolo and phase is more than just trippy fun. Many polyrhythmic textures are possible that can take a simple arpeggio or chord melody out of the doldrums. The dynamic controls transform compound phase/trem tones even more profoundly—fostering a give-and-take relationship between player and pedal that encourages fluid, rubbery leads, hooky verse-to-chorus transitions, and off-kilter rhythm-based riffs—to name just a few possibilities. My favorite setup marries slow, deep phase, medium-fast tremolo, moderate sensitivity, and opposing dynamic settings for the phase and tremolo, where heavy attack activates fast-to-slow tremolo rates and slow-to-fast phase. Configure this setup just right and you can move between chirpy alien-voice chatter and molasses-creeping phase by touch dynamics alone. It's intoxicating—both in terms of how it sounds and feels to play.
Tremolo and phase are beautiful together in just about any incarnation. But the Moon Pool's dynamic functions stretch the tremolo/phase performance envelope considerably. Punctuating a solo or phrase with decelerating tremolo—without ever touching an expression pedal—is fun and sparks a sense of spontaneity and possibilities. In fact, a lot of things about the Moon Pool feel inspirational. That it delivers so much creative promise in such a small and fairly priced effect makes it that much more intriguing.
Pigtronix Moon Pool Tremvelope Phaser Demo - First Look
Two of the most influential pedal builders ever conspire to clone a classic.
Authentic Tone Bender sounds at the friendliest side of the Tone Bender performance envelope. Lots of range and color in level and attack controls. Excellent dynamic response.
There are only 3,000!
Boss Waza Craft TB-2W Tone Bender
Other fuzzes may have been first. Others more famous. Some more ferocious (maybe). But none better embody the primal appeal of '60s fuzz better than the Sola Sound Tone Bender MKII.
In the unlikely event you didn't know, the Tone Bender MKII was the fuzz voice of Jimmy Page in the late-period-original-Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin eras—and about a gazillion other garage and psychedelic bands around the world (especially in its Vox-licensed guise). But as popular as the MKII was and remains, it was never the easiest fuzz to wrangle. It sounds and feels explosive and piping hot. It produces hopping-mad treble peaks that love to feed back. And the low-mid and bass output usually fracture, crumble, and blur thrillingly under the weight of high gain.
Yet these facets of the Tone Bender's performance, in aggregate, are also its strengths. And when you have a great one in your chain, you have a seriously expressive tool at your disposal. Which brings us to the Boss Waza Craft TB-2W Tone Bender, a collaboration between Boss and original Tone Bender manufacturer Sola Sound. The TB-2W is a great MKII. And one of its great strengths is the way it consistently operates at the user-friendliest end of the MKII performance envelope. It's one of the most balanced and controlled Tone Benders I've ever played. And it doesn't seem to sacrifice an ounce of attitude to get there.
A Meeting of Fuzz-Melted Minds
In an age of co-branding efforts gone bonkers, it's easy to imagine a project like this gestating in a board room and emerging as more style than substance. But the TB-2W was born from a serendipitous meeting between two bona-fide pedal maniacs: Boss president Yoshi Ikegami and Sola Sound chief Ant Macari. As meetings between circuit fiends tend to do, it led to an intriguing idea: Could Boss build a MKII that honors a MKII's many quirks and idiosyncrasies, and lives up to their own manufacturing standards?
The effort hinged on a reliable source of germanium transistors. (While it's true that some vintage pedals built with a certain transistor type may sound fantastic, most dedicated pedal builders agree that consistent, matched values—rather than brand and vintage—determine a transistor's suitability for a fuzz circuit.) That quest slowed the project. But ultimately, Ikegami and his crew sourced enough to reliably build 3,000 TB-2Ws. They selected a template: Sola Sound MKII No. 500—picked from Ant's own trove of vintage treasures for its smooth-but-nasty essence—and got to work.
It can be tempting to think of '60s fuzz as thin, but the TB-2W is most certainly not.
Turn It Up! Bring the Buzz
The end product satisfies in all the ways a MKII should. For a classic three-germanium-transistor fuzz, it generates copious gain—particularly at the maximum-volume/maximum-gain settings many germanium fuzz users favor. Bridge single-coils sound punky, primal, and substantial. That's ideal for supercharging Stooges riffs or ripping Yardbirds, freakbeat, and proto-metal riffs. (A Telecaster, as Pagey proved, makes a particularly lethal pairing.) Precision in fleet-fingered, high-gain leads yields searing, detailed, even complex individual notes.
It can be tempting to think of '60s fuzz as thin, but the TB-2W is most certainly not. Humbuckers bring out its burlier side. To my ear, they strip some of the air and clarity you hear in the single-coil/TB-2W relationship—especially when playing chords, which is another TB-2W strong suit. But humbuckers also produce smoother, thicker glam and proto-doom tones. They sound massive in detuned settings, or luxurious and sophisticated if you dial back guitar tone and explore wooly David Hidalgo and Cream-era Clapton zones.
Tone Benders aren't as renowned as Fuzz Faces for responsiveness to guitar volume dynamics. But the TB-2W could smash that barrier. The key to getting the best medium-gain, guitar-volume-attenuated tones from the Tone Bender is to reduce the pedal gain a notch along with your guitar volume. At these pedal gain levels, the TB-2W's fuzz is still savage with a capital "S." But nudge back the guitar volume, too, and the TB-2W produces bristling, toppy overdrive tones that add a live-wire edge to Dave Davies-style power-jangle arpeggios and chords. Humbuckers in this environment tend to sound less sparkly and clear, but can still yield exciting, thick mid-gain overdrive and lead tones.
In general, the TB-2W's dynamic range is superb, and I'd venture better than the average MKII. Even more dynamic range comes via the 3-position voltage switch—a Waza Craft series touch that helps emulate the tone variations that come via fading batteries (7V mode), a standard 9V setting, and the higher headroom of a 12-volt setting. The differences can be subtle and often take the form of less- or more-cohesive low-end tones. But at some particularly saturated amp and pedal settings, the 7V level sounds distinctly more chaotic, while the 12V sounds full and better suited to smooth, singing passages.
Boss makes consistently excellent pedals. And there's great reassurance in knowing that such a personal, obsessive quest shared between two tone-fixated pedal freaks was backed by Boss's considerable R&D resources. But none of that would matter much if Boss hadn't so ably nailed the sound, feel, and visceral thrill of a great Tone Bender.The TB-2W is a very well behaved version of a fuzz that's hard to keep on a leash. That Boss executed it without sacrificing the Tone Bender's feral nature is no small achievement. It's dynamic, responsive, and offers uncommon and varied colors through the range of its controls—even compared to originals and well-built clones. There's no shortage of competition for good Tone Bender clones at $349. And you'll be lucky just to get one of the 3,000 that exist. But for those of you charmed enough, you can rest assured that this Boss homage can hang with some of the best—and then some.