BY MICHAEl ROSS
A few years ago Stellartone sent me
a Fender Stratocaster that had been
outfitted with their ToneStyler so I could
review the new tone-shaping system. The
ToneStyler is a contour selector switch that
shifts the pickup’s resonant frequency and
adjusts the treble roll-off point in 1/3-oc-
tave steps. Remember the chickenhead Varitone switch on old Gibson 345s? The ToneStyler is a similar concept, but where the
Varitone contained only six settings, the
ToneStyler offers 16, employing rospace-grade construction and components. A
push/pull pot allows you to bypass the
system and revert to a standard tone pot if
you wish. This is all done passively, with no
preamps or batteries involved.
I was impressed by the usability of every
one of the 16 positions. My problem was
my 13 guitars: which should I install it in?
At $99 a pop—not including installation
fees—putting one in each guitar was not
an option. Apparently others had the same
issue, leading Stellartone to introduce the
Micro Pedal: a ToneStyler in a box.
Micro accurately sums it up: at approximately
2-1/16"x1-7/16"x1-1/4" this pedal is tiny.
Fortunately, its weighty construction and
full-length rubber rails on the bottom keep it
from sliding around the floor when changing
settings with your foot. An included rubber
sheath for the large plastic switching knob
helps give you traction. Stellartone is careful
to point out that the Micro Pedal requires
a strong pickup signal; you must always set
your guitar’s Volume and Tone knobs to 10.
Turning the guitar’s Volume down creates
a weak signal that will result in a much less
audible effect from the pedal. This is a drawback if you manipulate the Volume knob of
your guitar as part of your tone shaping and
dynamics, but you may find that a volume
pedal placed after the Micro Pedal will work
for those purposes.
I tested the Micro Pedal using my 1965
Fender Stratocaster with DiMarzio Virtual
Vintage pickups and a Stromberg Monterey
with DiMarzio Eric Johnson pickups into an
Egnater Rebel- 30. I either plugged it directly
into the guitars with the included double
male jack, or ran a 10’ cable into the Micro
Pedal. I then came out of the effect into a
volume pedal before the amp. I detected
no discernable difference in functionality
between jack and cable. The Micro Pedal
is essentially a ToneStyler tone control in
an external housing, producing 15 discrete
EQ contours plus true bypass (position 16).
As I recalled from my experience with the
ToneStyler-equipped Strat, the sonic differ-
ence between adjacent settings is extremely
subtle, especially when operating on the high
end—still, it is there and ultimately usable.
It takes some close listening, but the varia-
tions on settings 12–15 are akin to those you
might hear if you were able to instantly swap
similar model pickups from various manufac-
turers in your guitar. These fine gradations of
highs and upper mids were more audibly in
evidence in some areas of the neck than oth-
ers. An interesting phenomenon was that the
more I listened the more I could discern.
PREMIER GUITAR FEBRUARY 2010 159
Heading down the settings, the middle numbers, 8–12 operate more on the upper mids,