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User Review

A "traditional" distortion pedal. - Reviews Electro-Harmonix Big Muff v4

Value For Money : Excellent Audience: Anyone
A "traditional" distortion pedal.
It differs from other Big Muffs as it doesn’t have the usual solid state circuit but two op amps : a JRC4558 – the same the Tubescreamer has – and a µA741, making it the first AOp ever built.

While some claim these components are rare so as to sell their pedal, they lie: they’re still being manufactured now and they’re easy to get for 30 to 40 cents – or even less if you buy them by 1000, 10000 or 100000.

Connectors include a 6.35 jack input and output, as well as a 3.5 jack for external supply.

Of course, no computer editor, digital i/o, midi or anything of the kind.
This version was sold for approximately 2 years in the late 70s, approximately 1977-78 or 78-79.


USE

Couldn’t be simpler:
A volume, a tone (that can be switched off using a switch behind the pedal) and a sustain knob which actually commands the distortion rate which is generally left full on: you don’t take a Big Muff for a slight crunch or OD, do you? ;)


SOUND QUALITY

# Are the effects effective, adapted and realistic?
You don’t ask a Muff to sound realistic: you choose it to get a filthily, heavily distorted sound that keeps playing when you’ve already stopped.

The Muff AOp or V4 has a slightly more defined sound compared with its old, solid state sister models – still it remains a real Muff sound, hence terribly dirty : after all, it was designed by a guy who was all about psychedelism, and I’m not only speaking music here. ;)

I’m still wondering how they managed to keep the same signature sound while changing technology (inversely i don’t find the recent BigMuff Tone-Wicker to have the same sort of sound at allanymore, and the BM Ge4 has nothing in common with it either, even though it’s another really great 60s-style vintage-y fuzz).
As for this version, the Smashing Pumpkins’ own Billy Corgan uses one, I believe one of Iggy Pop’s guitarist does too but don’t ask me on which record.

OVERALL

# How long have you used it ?
I’ve had this one for a year and a half, but I already owned one in the late 80s until the second half of the 90s.

# Have you tried many other models before this one ?
Which guitar player hasn’t tried an infinite number of distortion boxes???

# Quelle est la particularité que vous aimez le moins ?
L'encombrement! Surtout que le boitier est surtout plein de vide et le circuit imprimé inutilement gros pour le peu qu'il y a dessus!!! En fait, ça pourrait sans problème tenir dans un boitier de petite pédale MXR : y'a + de composants dans un Phase90 que dans une Muff AOp, c'est dire! En même temps, ces bons gros boitiers ont quand même un certain charme, mais là, c'est peut être aussi un peu de nostalgie d'une époque où on se marrait quand même bien plus que de nos jours!

# What are the pros and cons of this effect pedal?
It’s a real, dirty-sounding Big Muff, but in the same time you get a little more control and playing dynamics than with solid state-equipped models.

# How would you judge its value-for-money ?
I got it for 354 bucks one and a half year ago !

I had just made a printed circuit board to make myself one when this offer popped up only 2 miles away from my home.
Still, I also saw some offered for indecent prices eg 150+, which is just crazy, especially as most involve replacement parts less effective sonically, such as RC4558 instead of JRC, Indonesian-made UA741 instead of a real µA741, MKT orange condo (plain sh*t!) instead of greenies. Hard to expect a pedal that age to have never been restored, but doing it properly is just the least thing to do, especially as EHX doesn’t use high-end components. By the way, I’d definitely NOT recommend to use high-end components in a Muff, at risk of making it sound Mr. Clean-style which is definitely NOT what it’s expected to do! I can even easily reproduce this model’s circuit , and there’s even a website which sells printed circuit boards designed in a way, way more compact format!
The only reason I bought it is so as to not waste time assembling it – plus, yeah, granted, this old, vintage box definitely DOES look good.

# Would you do the same choice again ?
I’ve already done it again: I’d owned an original for 6 to 7 years, then a homemade clone, but as I needed money I had to sell both. I then went with digital stuff as I only played my guitar very rarely (so no need to keep all that stuff), then when I took back music I wanted another good old Muff AOp.
Now, such a device isn’t for just anyone: if you like psychedelic, space-rock, grunge or punk, then the Muff is bound to suit you. If you expect a clean, defined distortion, well… wrong direction here: feedback comes quickly, gain has to be at 200, the sound destroys everything around and it all sounds like getting stoned – legally or not. It’s not a hobo, pop-rock distortion, but for anyone fancying Pink Floyd, King Crimson or looking after a really filthy sound: yeah! Actually I suspect the AOp version will even better suit fans of Gilmour or Fripp compared with their solid state counterparts : you really get a better touch control and it sounds more airy and acid while remaining just as dirty.
Otherwise, it’s also very good as a bass distortion, but you’d better have an all-tube bass amp as I only find it so-so on a solid state bass amp.