Reading guitar magazines and hearing all about a new piece of gear from an admired guitarist can be dangerous. In an attempt to satisfy our curiosity and nail that elusive tone we hear in our heads, we run the risk of falling victim to Gear Acquisition Syndrome, or GAS. In the category of distortion pedals, the subjective nature of the sounds they produce can lead to Empty Wallet Syndrome, or EWS. One player’s smooth distortion is another player’s sonic nightmare, and it ain’t cheap.
The Pigtronix PolySaturator is a multi-stage distortion pedal with a wide gain control and adjustable low, mid and high band graphic EQ. The Pigtronix catalog states that it’s based on the overdrive tones found in their Disnortion pedal, but it takes the idea further by adding four vintage JRC4558D chips, a Class A J-FET booster stage and a secret “special little chip” to the front-end. The gain structure has also been re-voiced to get everything from a clean volume boost to over the top fuzz. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s also true bypass.
When I took the PolySaturator out of the box I couldn’t believe how small it was. It is smaller than a Boss pedal and fit perfectly on my pedalboard. The first edition of the pedals have been hand-painted by Jason Myrold, of Zvex fame, and are perfect for adding some eye candy to your floor setup. While some might question the placement of the Input and Output jacks – both situated on the right side of the unit – it wasn’t a problem in the vertical position. It comes with a 15VDC adapter and the layout of the controls are very straightforward, with plenty of room for tweaking.
I was surprised to discover that the PolySaturator sounds more like a cousin to the fuzz family than you might expect, at least by judging from its name. Instead of a wall of saturated distortion, I was getting gritty, old school, organic rock tones with freakish lowend. This pedal loves single coil pickups and was begging me to play “Foxey Lady” the entire time it was plugged in. As I switched between a Marshall JCM800, a Fender Pro Reverb and a Fender Deluxe Reverb, I was particularly impressed with its articulation and definition. Even with the gain maxed, I could hear the clarity beneath its monstrous growl. The adjustable, active EQ provides 12dB of cut or boost at the 180Hz, 420Hz and 1KHz frequencies, giving this little unit a lot of tonal possibilities. I could dial in tones capable of slicing through a heavy mix or beef up the mids for a sweeter sound. With the gain set at noon, I was getting classic Marshall-esque breakup for rhythm parts and cutting lead tones for traditional blues soloing.
A fair word of warning: the PolySaturator bites and has some hair on it. It’s more suited to players who prefer fuzz over a saturated distortion sound. It’s great for dialing in your favorite fuzz tone or the sweet sound of an amp breaking up during chunky rhythms. Shredders should look elsewhere.
The Final Mojo
For the guitarist looking for a flexible alternative to your garden-variety fuzz and distortion pedals, the Pigtronix PolySaturator offers up cool, dirty sounds and vibe for days. Its small size will open up valuable real estate on your pedalboard and add sumptuous grit and ballsy low-end to your sound. […]