Big Muff Versions and Tone Differences
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Posted: 17 August 2009 09:14 AM

I have a very detailed website on all the Big Muff versions, but I thought I would post simple summary of all the versions with notes about the differences in tone for each.

Version 1 - “TRIANGLE” BIG MUFF (USA 1969) - The tone of the V1 Triangle has been described as the best sounding of all the Big Muffs. It has also been described as one of the most articulate Muffs, with a clarity that many of the later Muffs seemed to lack. However, it should be clearly stated that there is no ‘one’ triangle Big Muff tone. There is more variance in Triangles than any other version due to the wide variety of component values used in the circuit from day to day, and I have never seen two Triangles with exactly the same values. That said, there are some attributes that define a “typical” V1, and I use that term loosely. The mids were very scooped, as in flat or removed, and there was usually a bit more sustain and brightness than most later versions. For that reason many V1 Big Muffs do cut through a band mix very well and are very articulate for leads, and have a nice crunch for power chords and palm muting, whereas many later versions were muddier and bassier. V1s are very similar to the later V2 Ram’s Head Big Muffs, and some will sound identical. V1s have slightly less bottom end than typical V2s based on most examples I have played. The bass and treble of the tone varies quite a bit from one Traingle to another, as does the gain, fuzziness, and clarity on notes. In the extreme ranges you may find some are very dry and fuzzy sounding, some gritty and fat, some thin and gainy, some thick but smooth, et cetera. The wide variety in sound is one reason V1 Big Muffs are so collectible.

Version 2 - “RAM’S HEAD” BIG MUFF (USA circa 1973) - As with the V1 Big Muffs, the bass, treble, gain, and fuzziness of the tone varies slightly from unit to unit due to varying component type and values used in day to day production. I am descibing some typical attributes here, based on dozens of examples I have played or own. The mids were very scooped, as in flat or removed, giving them a nice dark sound. The tone is usually large and aggressive with a nice scooped grit, though some are more smooth sounding. On many examples the sustain seems to be less than most V1 Triangle Big Muffs I have played. They typically have slightly less clarity for leads, and can be difficult to plam mute through certain amps. The the"violet” version would be an exception, as that one has a nice, smooth calrity for leads and chords, and typically less bottom and. Some V2 Big Muffs will sound identical to some V1 Big Muffs. There is more of a mids scoop on most V2s that I have played versus the V1 Muffs, and there is usually a bit more bassy bottom end than a typical V1. That bottom end creates a huge, thunderous sound through a tube amp. The scooped tone makes them easy to get lost in a band mix when playing live with certain amps. Listen to the Animals and The Wall era Pink Floyd albums for examples of solo tones using this pedal, and listen to Dinosaur Jr. for examples of the wall-of-sound use of this pedal.

Version 3 “RED AND BLACK” BIG MUFF (USA circa 1976) - As with the V1 and V2 Big Muffs, the bass, treble, gain, and fuzziness of the tone varies slightly from unit to unit due to varying component type and values used in day to day production, though V3 Muffs are much more consitent than previous versions. Please refer to the V2 description above. The V3 tones were similar to the later V2 tones, since they were essentially the same pedal with a graphics change. Some examples I have owned are bit bassier and less smooth than the V2 Muffs, but a few later V3 models I have played had even more sustain and aggressiveness than typical V2 Muffs.

Version 4 “OP-AMP” BIG MUFF (USA circa 1978) - The four transistors circuit design was radically changed to a new design that used op-amp ICs for this version. This is a great distortion pedal with a big sound and much of the same scooped mids character of the previous transistor versions. I think the transistor versions are more organic and sound better for bluesy solos, but the op-amps are great for crushing, grungier, wall of sound material, heavy distorted rhythm playing, and heavy leads. They have a very deep crunch, flat mids, and superb deep bass control. They are not very good for palm muting. They do not do fuzz quite the same as the transistor versions, nor do they have the same character and organic randomness. The scooped tone makes them easy to get lost in a band mix when playing live with certain amps. Unlike the transistor versions, the tone is very consistent from unit to unit. This is likely the Big Muff circuit heard on most of Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream album. This is the rarest of the two op-amp Big Muff versions.

Version 5 OP-AMP “TONE BYPASS” BIG MUFF (USA circa 1978) - Practically identical sound to the V4 op-amp Big Muff described above. This version included a ‘tone bypass’ switch. With the bypass switched on it removes the tone circuit, making a huge, peircing. The bypass also allows a flatter EQ that makes it have brighter mid tones. I think the tone in non bypass mode sounds better as the tone control is key to the Big Muff sound, but some people like the by

Version 6 BIG MUFF (USA circa 1980) - The transistor based Big Muff circuit returned. The tone is very similar to the V3 Big Muffs described above. In the examples I have played and owned the tone has more bass and can sound a bit flatter and fuzzier than typical V3 Muffs. Some have the mids slightly more scooped than the V3. All of the V6 Muffs I have played have had more sustain/gain on tap than typical V3 Muffs, but most were also much noisier, had less clarity for leads, and were more fuzzy sounding. The ‘tone bypass’ (not true bypass) switch was kept from the V5 version, which allows you to completely remove the tone section from the circuit, as described in the V5 above.

My Big Muff Page
http://bigmuffpage.com/
Swords and Stuff
http://www.kitrae.net

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Posted: 17 August 2009 09:15 AM | Link to this reply (#1)

Version 7 “CIVIL WAR” BIG MUFFS (Russia circa 1991) - Identical to the second edition Red Army Overdrive, just different graphics and colors. Sort of a mix between the V1 and V3 Muffs, but with a fatter bottom end, brighter and less scooped mids, and less gain. It was very dark and bassy, but with a smooth and clear mid range, and a very musical clarity. Those mids were still scooped out like a typical Big Muff, but the Sovteks had more mids than vintage USA models, so they stand out in a live band mix slightly better. They are noticeably smoother and have less grit than the later Green Russian and Black Russian Big Muffs, which is probably why they are the most favored and desireable of all the Sovtek Big Muffs. They are a favorite of bass players due to the low gain and huge, bass friendly bottom end they produce. The bass and treble of the tone varies slightly from unit to unit. Listen to Pink Floyd’s Pulse live album for some great examples of lead tones using this pedal. The Black Keys and Sonic Youth have other examples of this sound.

Version 7 “GREEN RUSSIAN” BIG MUFFS (Russia circa 1994) - Early ‘tall font’ Green Russians, the first edition, are identical to the Civil War version described above. The second and third edition Green Russians with the ‘bubble font’ have a bit more grit and bite, less bass, and most have more sustain than the Civil War version, but they are not as smooth sounding. Less gain, fatter bottom end, and brighter mids than most vintage USA Big Muffs. The bass and treble of the tone varies slightly from unit to unit, but the differences are usually minor. They are a favorite of bass players due to the low gain and huge, bass friendly bottom end they produce. That bottom end is also a reason some do not like the Russian Big Muffs. Listen to the Black Keys for some great examples of the Green Russian in use.

Version 7 “BLACK RUSSIAN” BIG MUFF big box (Russia circa 1998) - The tone is the same as the V7 green Russian Big Muffs. Just different box color and graphics.

Version 8 “BLACK RUSSIAN” BIG MUFF small box (Russia circa 2000) - Almost identical tone to the V7 Green Russian Muffs, but slightly less clarity and slightly less bottom end on the examples I have played. The bass and treble of the tone varies slightly from unit to unit, but the differences are usually minor. These are discontinued, but the V11 Bass Big Muff sounds very similar.

Version 9 “NYC REISSUE” BIG MUFF (USA 2000) - The tone is in the same family as the old version 6 Big Muffs from the early 1980s, though this is not actually a reissue of that version. Component values were changed, making it a bit more muffled (muffier?), and modern sounding, without the clarity of most of the early vintage USA Muffs. The first version is the most like the old early 70’s Big Muffs, with a bit more note clarity than the later revisions, asn slightly less bass. The component values were modified in 2000 (revision A), 2007 (revision B) and then again in 2008 (revision C). The later versions have a thicker and bassier sound than the Rev A and B Muffs, with less note clarity, but a thicker and heavier sound when playing chords. The bottom end is also beefier on the B and C versions than most vintage Muffs. Presumably this was done to give them a more modern, heavy and dronier sound. Mid tones are very scooped. These do not react as sharply to pinch harmonics as the V1, V2, and V3 Big Muffs and do not work as well for crisp palm muting as some early Muffs. Think Jack White of the White Stripes’ tone. The bass and treble varies slightly from unit to unit, but the differences are usually minor.

Version 10 “LITTLE” BIG MUFF NANO (USA circa 2006) - Sonically the Little Big Muff sounds very similar to the NYC reissue V9 described above, but a bit brighter and a bit less bottom end to the sound. Some units sound slightly different than others.

Version 11 “BASS” BIG MUFF (USA 2008) - This was based on the Russian Big Muff circuit. Not identical in tone to the Russians, but in most settings they are similar. This version has less gain, a fatter bottom end, and brighter mids than the USA Big Muffs, like the V9, V10, and V12. All toggle switch settings - bass boost, norm, and dry - sound very good with a bass guitar. For guitar, the normal setting sounds best, and is very close to the black V8 Russian Big Muff tone, though this version is less noisy at full sustain.

Version 12 - “TONE WICKER” BIG MUFF (USA 2009) - The tone range of the V12 Big Muff is quite broad. It can match the tones of the V10 Little Big Muff somewhat in standard mode, but with the Wicker switched on it becomes a much sharper and brighter sound, but not too harsh. The “buzzy-fizzy” sound that many Big Muff users complain about with the V9 NYC reissue and V10 Big Muffs can be smoothed out with the Tone Wicker. The “fuzz” tones it produces have much more range than the V9 and V10. Many Muff users use boosters to color or boost the gain and mids of their Big Muffs for added clarity, but this version does not require that. The boost is built in, and cuts through a band mix very well.

My Big Muff Page
http://bigmuffpage.com/
Swords and Stuff
http://www.kitrae.net

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Posted: 29 August 2009 09:22 PM | Link to this reply (#2)

Wow that’s a lot of info.

Thanks!

I had the 2000 re-issue Big Muff and I liked the low-end of it but it didn’t cut trough the mix.

Now with the Tone Wicker version, it’s perfect.

If I ever get a graphic fuzz, I would turn off the tone on the wicker and eq my tone to perfection.

But for now I keep the tone on and set it pretty much like before but with the Wicker on, it gives the little edge that the older big muff lack.

It’s a bit more in the mid-high but I use the Bass Big Muff for the low-end part…they complete each other really good.

http://www.myspace.com/chevfromhell
Epiphone LesPaul Baritone Drop A and 3 Sunn0))) Amps
Voodoo Lab PP2+, Pedaltrain Pro Soft Case
Morley ABC switch
A > Catalinbread SCOD >
LS-2(loop A) >POG2 > Flanger Hoax (blend out) > XO Deluxe Memory Man
LS-2 (output) > Stereo Cathedral Reverb (Left/Right) > 2 Sunn Solarus (Left/Right)
B > Catalinbread SFT > Sunn Sonaro (mono center)
C > Boss TU-2

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Posted: 18 November 2009 02:48 PM | Link to this reply (#3)

Added a few updates.

My Big Muff Page
http://bigmuffpage.com/
Swords and Stuff
http://www.kitrae.net

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Posted: 24 November 2009 12:54 PM | Link to this reply (#4)
friedjesseradio - 24 November 2009 04:52 PM

im feelin like im not gettin the right tone (treble/bass) out of my bmptw, but of course maybe its the 1 amp im very limited to.

I don’t want to go off-topic but

try to set your amp at the sound you like 1st and then the BMPi…

I start to have the same feeling, I’m looking for a used XO graphic fuzz to try with the BMPi TW (tone off)...to get the best out of it.

Or I might go with an Fuzz/Overdrive or Dist/Overdrive later…I’ve heard so many good OD lately that complements a tube amp a bit better…anyways. for the price it’s still good because the one I’m looking for are twice the price…

http://www.myspace.com/chevfromhell
Epiphone LesPaul Baritone Drop A and 3 Sunn0))) Amps
Voodoo Lab PP2+, Pedaltrain Pro Soft Case
Morley ABC switch
A > Catalinbread SCOD >
LS-2(loop A) >POG2 > Flanger Hoax (blend out) > XO Deluxe Memory Man
LS-2 (output) > Stereo Cathedral Reverb (Left/Right) > 2 Sunn Solarus (Left/Right)
B > Catalinbread SFT > Sunn Sonaro (mono center)
C > Boss TU-2

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Posted: 24 November 2009 01:07 PM | Link to this reply (#5)

They will sound different from amp to amp, and with different guitars. My BMTW sounds its best with my strat through my Fender Twin, not so much in my Marshall. My Les Paul with P90s sound good with the BMPTW in either amp. I have a little Marshall practice amp that does not sound good with either guitar and the BMPTW.

My Big Muff Page
http://bigmuffpage.com/
Swords and Stuff
http://www.kitrae.net

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Posted: 21 February 2010 03:27 PM | Link to this reply (#6)

Sorry to reply to an old thread but it seems like an appropriate place.  I recently ordered a Green Muff clone and am awaiting it’s completion and arrival.  I’ve also looked in to the Tone Wicker Big Muff as well as I’ve seen a few floating around used in great condition for 60$.  Would these two compliment each other well or would they be more of the same type of pedal?  The Green seems more low endy where the TW is brighter.  I’d like to cover the full muff spectrum, would this get me here?

Thanks,
Matt

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Posted: 25 June 2010 12:34 AM | Link to this reply (#7)

that’s an awesome thread, great info on the muffs! congrats for the website aswell. the only question that remained with me is why do electro-h say “it’s the same big muff”? cause that’s obvious false advertising.. i checked in a store the sounds of the little big muff in comparison to the nyc big muff, and they are very different. the first is much more wild and strong, the second being a little mild as if a compressor had been turned on. truth is, i hate the little BM, while i love the nyc one. i’m in doubt about buying the tone wicker.. but my question is: can anyone tell the difference technically, that is, regarding the circuits and some more objective differences?
thanks in advance for any tries
best

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Posted: 25 June 2010 09:51 AM | Link to this reply (#8)

i think the info you’re looking for is on Generalguitargadget’s big muff page- it’s just a couple different components between different versions, but it makes all the difference.
regards,
Crybeetus

Unofficial 2880 troubleshooter. Not ehx staff, just an effects enthusiast.

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Posted: 08 July 2010 12:07 AM | Link to this reply (#9)
Cryabetes - 25 June 2010 02:51 PM

i think the info you’re looking for is on Generalguitargadget’s big muff page- it’s just a couple different components between different versions, but it makes all the difference.
regards,
Crybeetus

many thanks for the hint, i took a look at their page and seems like good stuff, the only problem is they don’t have the new issues, only the first ones. i think i’ll buy the tone wicker anyway and give it a go, everybody is saying wonderful things about it here, and to tell the truth, i’m lazy and the tone wicker is more friendly to power supplies than the NYC, plus smaller. although if it’s like the little muff i’ll hate myself for buying it
cheers, and thanks again for the site!
f

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Posted: 04 November 2010 10:29 PM | Link to this reply (#10)

I thought I should add the G4 Big Muff to this thread and make it up to date.

Version 13 - “GERMANIUM 4” BIG MUFF (2010) - This is not a traditional silicon based Big Muff circuit at all, but as the name implies this is a new BM class - the GERMANIUM Big Muff. No deep, scooped mids, or huge Big Muff tones here. The other Big Muffs have that covered. This is a whole new range of muffled fuzz tones. Essentially this is two pedals in one - a fuzz type Distortion and an Overdrive. This is a knob twiddler pedal, and for anyone familiar with the wide range of pedals Electro-Harmonix has made throughout the years, this is very much in the style of classic EHX, almost an experimental fuzz unit. The Overdrive side dials in a nice light to moderate drive sound. Good for light drive lead tones, and for boosting a Big Muff.

The Distortion side is really a very tweakable Germanium fuzz type pedal. It does similar fuzz tones as a Fuzz Face pedal, though the G4BM has it’s own unique tone. The volts knob lets you get into the dying battery sound of a traditional fuzz, and playing with the bias and gain knobs gives a wide variance of the G4BM fuzz tones. Switch on the Overdrive side, which runs in series with the Distortion side, and depending on the settings, you can get a nice warm boost to the fuzz, or can kick it into screaming overdriven fuzz territory. It smooths out the fuzz while still keeping the over the top splat at high gain.

My Big Muff Page
http://bigmuffpage.com/
Swords and Stuff
http://www.kitrae.net

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Posted: 19 March 2011 10:37 PM | Link to this reply (#11)

Apologies for openening such an old thread… but I would appreciate suggestions for a newbie. I have a V7 version 1 in rough cosmetic shape, and was wondering if I should repaint it? This is probably asked all the time, and forgive me if I haven’t found the correct thread. Also, I am missing my battery cover as I assume most owners of this model are. Is it actually possible to locate one these days?

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Posted: 02 April 2011 12:01 AM | Link to this reply (#12)

I think Russian Muff look best when they appear to have gone through a war smile

If you repaint, sand the case down and put some primer on it before you paint. It does not appear the St. Petersburg factory primed at all. By V7 version 1, I assume you mean one of the early ones with the plastic door cover? If so, there are really no replacements available. You can get a sheet of stainless steel from hardware store and cut a new one with metal snips, and a bit of folding to get it to stay in place. There are pix on my Big Muff site of the original plastic doors for reference.

My Big Muff Page
http://bigmuffpage.com/
Swords and Stuff
http://www.kitrae.net

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Posted: 01 April 2016 09:22 AM | Link to this reply (#13)

nice

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Posted: 22 November 2018 10:45 PM | Link to this reply (#14)

Awesome thread. Love the website. Has done so much for me. Looking to talk more about smashing pumpkins tone. So if you’re still around I’d love to.

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