Hey guys it’s Brian from World Music Supply again, here to bring you the your usual dose of guitar and gear reviews, and today I get to serve up a personal favorite, the Electro Harmonix Big Muff. Why the Big Muff? Well that is a simple answer, it is iconic. Possibly one of the most famous, and most widely used stomp boxes in the world, it has graced the stage in one form or another with artists like Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour, Carlos Santana, to bands like Dinosaur Jr., Smashing Pumpkins, and Mudhoney. The list goes on and on, because the sound of this simple circuit, is so powerful, and clear, that a majority of distortion pedals in today’s market are modeled on it or one of its decedents.
Today I’m going to review a few of these decedents, as well as the one that started it all, the Big Muff Pi. The Pi was produced both here in the U.S as well as a factory in Russia, and both pedals are distinct from one another, with the USA model having that raunchy high end grit, and the Russian variant having a warmer, more mid range aimed bite. The pedal produced by EHX nowadays is very reminiscent of the original USA version. The controls are simple, with just a volume a tone and a “sustain” knob, which is like a gain control. The sound has a very bold, and in your face quality to it, with a lot of that vintage, late 60’s style fuzz style grind to it, which is fantastic at taking your lead lines and really letting them fly out of the mix over top of everything else.
I also love the not so subtle glitching it can do, thanks to its hyper compressed signal path. This translates into grainy static like sounds that get kicked out when your strings start to ring out sympathetically. When used right, this pedal can provide you with long, harmonically rich, violin like sustain. For its lifetime of service to the music world, its definitively legendary sound, and its road worthy construction, the original Big Muff Pi earns itself a solid 10 out of 10.
Next up is the Big Muff Pi with Tone Wicker, which is a sort of super modded version of the Big Muff. The differences include a tone switch, and a wicker switch, which might sound strange, but just follow along. The sound without either of the switches engaged is a lot like the standard Pi, with a little bit more saturation, and a slightly warmer sound. The tone switch, when engaged, actually bypasses the tone control in the pedal, which results in a shorter signal path, slightly more volume, and a more transparent overall sound.
This meant that you could play bigger chords, without your guitar sounding harmonically muddy, or glitchy. The addition of the tone switch meant that I could use the Pi as a type of slightly over the top overdrive, or a full on distortion pedal, with far less of that characteristic glitching that was present in the standard Pi. The Wicker switch is a type of top boost control, which accentuates the upper harmonics of the signal, which helps to kick your tone way out of the mix, without sacrificing your low end.
The Big Muff Pi with Tone Wicker is certainly a amazing pedal, taking everything we loved about the standard box, and adding two very useful, and very cool mods to the overall package, and for that the Big Muff Pi with Tone Wicker earns itself a 10 out of 10. Last up for the day, is the Micro Metal Muff, which is a little bit more Pedal board friendly version of EHX’s Metal Muff.
The Metal Muff was designed to be a straight ahead metal machine, with tons of gain and saturation on tap. The sound of this thing can only be described as monstrous! Using this pedal with a down tuned guitar, I was able to get some serious girth, even from a bone dry amp, this pedal transformed even a crystal clear Fender, into a roaring metal stack. The controls are as simple as ever, and the Micro size really helps to to take up less of your board, without sacrificing any control. For what it is, which is a little, Metal crazed version of the Big Muff, the Micro Metal Muff does its job fantastically, and it definitely deserves a 10 out of 10 rating.
The Big Muff Pi, might have a funny name, and a unique sound, but it has definitely cemented its place in the pantheon of guitar effects. Because even if the standard model isn’t really your thing, there are so many variants and mods of it, that there is definitely one to suit anyone’s tastes. while most distortion pedals will do the job, and some may even sound almost as good as the Muff, most of them don’t have the history of service behind them quite like that funny named pedal from Electro Harmonix.