Right here we have a recreation of what, according to a decent section of the internet’s book of judgments, is the BEST Big Muff, the 1973 V2 Violet Ram’s Head, AND it’s backed by Gen X’s bastion of credibility, the humorous dry, J Mascis, soft-spoken yet loudly loud.
History is riddled with Big Muff opinions. Go to any guitar forum and you’ll find a jumble of guesswork to hack away at a consensus on which Muff is the ONE, the true noodle bowl of the tone-bearing messiah. Maybe even personal preference factors into the equation somewhere too. Maybe.
The funny thing is, once you find the properly detailed vintage model and cabinet, you need to check what the internal components are; you see these things swung wildly throughout the production runs, and Electro-Harmonix It seemed like a super cool and loose operation back in the day, and it was the 70s maaaaaaan after all.
So yes, this new box has the signature of the owner of possibly the world’s largest collection of Big Muffs, who also happens to be the guy from Dinosaur Jr, printed directly on the cardboard box AND on the enclosure. He’s THE Big Muff guy now. And you’d let down an already disillusioned generation if Mascis You attributed your name to some shit, didn’t you? Suspicion aside: Your Squire-exclusive Jazzmaster is actually surprisingly good for the price.
So let’s plug it in and see if it sounds like the ’90s/00s Muff I used to borrow, but a little older, better, and more useful.
Alright, first impressions of this thing add up. It has the three classic knobs you’d expect (Volume, Tone, and Sustain) and actually DOES sound like a better version of the Muffs I came up with. The mid-frequency roll-off that is pervasive in the Muff models doesn’t seem to be as brutal, and there is what is fancifully known as “warmth” (or horrible lack of treble) in every setting of the Tone knob. Now, like any Muff, it’s definitely not going to scorch your paint. psychotic reaction, human fly sizzle of a 60’s fuzz unitbut that’s not why you buy a Muff in the first place (although you can start approaching this with the Tone all the way up and the Sustain near the bottom).
There’s a clarity through the chords, and the lead lines come off brash and miserably fierce. That’s a compliment, by the way. Using this version actually shows what the hype was through the ’70s, and then again through the ’90s, and why an entire industry dedicated to Muff clones sprang up in the mid-’80s after that EHX got out of the pedal business, and then back into the 2000s boutique pedal boom bubble that’s still perpetually inflating. The bass is well defined, the mids contain just the right amount of sludge, and the highs pop with a vintage edge that sits like a nice wood veneer stereo system.
Opening this pedalboard real estate friendly 1590B style cabinet, you’ll see a singular circuit board and a small daughter board for the DPDT switch connected with a neat ribbon cable setup. To think this thing would be a whole OG-style brown traced circuit board with thru-hole parts was a bit too nostalgic, I guess, especially given the size of the case.
Instead, about half of the circuit is SMD components with the most important parts that handle tone living as through-hole parts; BC547 transistors, diodes, and many 0.1 uF “right sized” polypropylene film caps. I guess these are the parts where the magic lives. As a cool bonus, you’ll also see the EHX-branded battery with a photo of Mike Matthews, the company’s founder, lurking inside the unit of him.
Going through the thick phone book tomes of Big Muff’s online review, I can’t find any use of the BC547 in any original circuitry, but I’m not here to complain or trash a new pedal that just arrived. several old transistors when this already sounds great as is.
For a pedal that was supposedly bought by Hendrix in its early form, there’s quite a story to be had. And damn, I think this little number could reach that apex. And with a smirk-shaped frequency drop, it punishes you for previously believing that a new, out-of-the-box Big Muff might sound like shit next to its aging grandparents.
The J Mascis Ram’s Head Big Muff π retails for around AU$299 and is available online and anywhere else you can walk off the street to smell the pedals. For more details go to ehx.com