Pigtronix Moon Pool Review
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.