Is there a more timeless distortion pedal than the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff? Starting out as an upgraded version of the late ‘60s Muff fuzzbox, the EHX Big Muff Pi has rocked the world for almost 50 years. Jimi Hendrix was an early adopter, and since then, you’ve heard it on countless songs by bands spanning many genres.
Although the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi gained popularity in the ‘70s, manufacturing stopped in 1982. Sister company Sovtek continued Big Muff production in Russia, giving rise to the popular “Green Russian” Big Muff pedals and their contemporary replicas. The real EHX Big Muff came back in the ‘90s and became a staple of the era’s rock sound.
Big Muff Sound
As the name implies, the Big Muff is a fuzzy distortion with a thick sound. The creamy, versatile sound has kept it popular over the decades, whereas regular fuzz fell out of style as more than a specialty effect. It’s a sweet effect, but you get lots of it, so you can turn it from smooth to monstrous. Moderate amounts give you that harmonically enhanced, long-sustain tone, much like a bowed instrument. Crank it up, and you get a crunchy grunge tone that rings for days. Whether you’re laying face-melting solos or strumming in the back, a Big Muff lets you sculpt an amazing sound.
A wild distortion pedal like this responds best to humbuckers in general, although lower settings work well with a single coil. In short, it’s a powerful and fairly neutral distortion that sounds good with any guitar.
Prominent early users of the EHX Big Muff Pi include Carlos Santana and bands like Kiss and Thin Lizzy. Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour is an avid Big Muff user since the time of Animals and The Wall.
Furthermore, the versatile Big Muff Pi is the sound of ‘90s rock. Grunge, indie, nu metal, and alternative rock all feature Big Muffs galore. Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins and Jack White of The White Stripes are famous Big Muff users. Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. fame both use Big Muffs too. Even U2 guitarist The Edge is a Big Muff player. Muse’s Chris Wolstenholme shows what the pedal can do in creative ways, and so does Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante.
Big Muff Features
The Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi has a simple three-knob design with durable components. Its volume and tone knobs are self-explanatory, and the latter lets you go from a dark, muffled tone to a very bright one. Although the name may be somewhat confusing, the sustain knob is where you set the distortion. Learn the settings here. It’s responsive with a vast range and allows for fine adjustments anywhere between buttery smooth overdrive and crunchy carnage. In essence, the Little Big Muff and Nano Big Muff have the same design in a smaller package. The tone wicker edition lets you boost the treble and bypass the filter with two toggles.
It’s a true bypass pedal with a sturdy footswitch, making it ideal for songs with clean passages and heavily distorted choruses. The circuitry uses four stages of distortion transistors, using the first to drive the twin clipping stages, while the last stage restores volume and tonal balance.
- Size: 5.5 x 2.95 x 6.87 inches
- Weight: 1.55 pounds
- Inputs and outputs: 1 x 1/4”
- Power requirements: 1 x 9-volt battery or 96DC-200BI power supply (not included)
Electro-Harmonix Big Muff – To Buy or Not to Buy?
If you’re looking for a well-rounded, fuzz-like distortion without excess bells and whistles, an EHX Big Muff Pi is an ideal choice. It works well with virtually all genres and guitar types. It’s a timeless classic for a reason. If that’s what you’re going for, have a slice of the Pi while it’s still hot.