Pigtronix Keymaster Review

Pigtronix is a relatively new company when it comes to the world of pedals. They’ve been around for roughly seven years now but they’re catching on quick for a couple of reason. First, their pedals sound Awesome. In case you missed it, that’s Awesome with a capital A! The second reason is that their pedals are original. They make unique designs, and are chasing after new sounds, rather than regurgitating everything from the past.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen enough tube screamer rip offs and Hendrix era fuzz pedals to last a lifetime. It seems like everyone is trying improve on the past, or pay homage to the past, or outright copy it, but Pigtronix really seems to be trying to do something new. I’m hoping to do some more in depth reviews on more of their pedals in the future, but until I win the lottery or cash my $18 million check from Avid, I can’t afford to buy all of their pedals right now. For now we’re going to stick with the Pigtronix Keymaster.

This is one of those pedals that marketing people would say “Everyone should own!” The thing is, in this case, they would be quite right. If you’re a musician who plugs something in, or if you’re an engineer, buy this pedal. Right now. I’ll wait…go add it to your cart. Now checkout. Done? Good. Now that that’s done, let’s move on to why you just spent $250.

The first and most important function of the Keymaster is to interface line level gear with effects pedals, and back again. This is not a new concept in and of itself. Radial has been making boxes capable of this for a while, and even came out with a 500-series module that does it as well. There are some other manufacturers playing with this as well but none of them do everything that the Keymaster does. For example, on the Radial Xtc module, you have 1 send, and 1 receive and then basic level controls on each. That’s it. The Keymaster can do this as well, but they actually double it. What I mean is that they give you two separate effects loops out of the same pedal so you can route your input to either chain, or both, but we’ll dive into that more in a minute.

The main application that I have for a box like this is taking already tracked signals out of my DAW and bringing them through effects pedals. Running vocals through overdrives, kick drums through delays or wahs, piano through a reverse delay, into a ring mod, then through a fuzz/octave. Hey, why not? Once you have something like this, it’s all about experimentation in the analog realm! The Keymaster will also allow you to just plug a guitar straight into it though. It’s got instrument, or line level inputs, and then can run instrument or line level out of it.

You could run your guitar into this box, send an XLR out dry to your DAW, then run unbalanced out to your guitar signal chain and use this as a high quality splitter. You could run your guitar into it, use the two effects loop which are footswitchable, and then have two totally separate effects chains that you’re switching between going into your amp. Additionally you’ve got the ability to run those effects loops in parallel and blend between the two of them. You could have an overdrive, wah, and reverb on chain one, and a crazy delayed, modded, and compressed signal on the other, then blend between them dynamically using an external expression pedal on the fly.

Are you starting to see the endless possibilities of this beast? It is so many tools in one box, and the routing is so flexible that the limits are hard to find. An effects loop switcher, an effects loop mixer controllable by a pedal, a reamping device, a completely clean boost, a splitter, a guitar effects/line level interface, and a DI all in one. Any single pedal that has 7 cables running into has got to be cool, right?

The most intriguing part, knowing just how well made this box is, is that it’s as cheap as it is. The Radial Xtc that I mentioned before, which performs only one of the functions that I mentioned above, costs the same amount as this pedal. If you haven’t thought of a dozen things you want to do with one of these already, I’d be worried. This is one of those boxes that produces no sound whatsoever, yet will break open creative barriers and open up new sounds to you like you wouldn’t believe. EVERYBODY, in all caps, who’s playing guitar, bass, keys, recording, running live sound, or is just board on a weekend needs this.

Until next time

The Bearded Man


~ by beardsandgear on November 17, 2011.

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