Published On: Fri, Apr 3rd, 2009

Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi

Just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be another Big Muff, here comes one with a treble-tweaking switch and a lairy tone bypass. Review by Marcus Leadley

Big Muff, Little Big Muff, Metal Muff… now with the Big Muff Pi with Tone Wicker (dances off the tongue, that) you have nine Muff options to pick from, not including the bass version. How are you going to choose?
Well, this model’s designed to deliver the ‘classic’ Big Muff sound with a couple of extra options. There’s a tone bypass that gives you the raw, untempered higher output, and there’s the Wicker switch. What’s a wicker? Perhaps Electro-Harmonix means ‘wicca’ – and ‘tone magic’ does make a kind of sense, as this switch plays around with the top end, making it cleaner and clearer.
The Big Muff Pi WTW is very different to the big ol’ pedal that’s been around for the best part of 40 years. This version comes in the familiar compact diecast enclosure common to most boutique pedals. White paint is an odd choice, but it looks purposeful and businesslike. The layout is simple: the Volume, Tone and Sustain controls are as familiar as fish and chips, and the two mini toggles are neatly placed. Usefully, there’s a modern 9V port rather than the old-style US headphone-style socket.

Sounds
There’s nothing subtle about a Big Muff. It’s thick, fuzzy and buzzy with slightly uncontrollable sustain, and getting the best out of this rascal takes practice and skill. You have to really play it – and that’s fun, because you can make it your own.
The good news is that in basic mode with the Tone switch on, the new pedal sounds just like the classic reissue – though in a head-to-head, its output seems a little lower. If you’re after massive crunchy rock chords or singing leads, here’s the route-one solution with the Tone control giving the flexibility to sweep between soupy undercurrents and a chainsaw top end.
Engaging Wicker is a bit like turning up the Presence control on a valve amp; it works with the highest frequencies for more sparkle. It’s quite musical, so it’s not simply an ultra treble boost. The pedal sounds a bit more refined and modern with it on, so it’s a good option to have on hand. Wicker can be use with the Tone bypass too – useful, because in most circumstances the bypassed sound will need some tonal sculpting. It’s totally massive, raw and way louder than the standard Muff sound. This may find live applications especially for alt. rock, but my guess is that this pure evil will be most useful in the studio where you can effectively build your own Muff tone with some other boxes and filters. 

 

 

Verdict

If you already have a Big Muff, this pedal isnt really necessary; chances are you either love its current capabilities or have some tone shapers that can tweak its sound. If you dont have a Muff then this option is much more flexible than the classic model, and in all respects its a more modern and refined pedal but with a fall-back plan for vintage-type distortion built right in.

Build Quality Playability Sound Value Vibe Score
18 16 17 17 18 86

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