Fuzz Review: Electro-Harmonix – Bass Big Muff Pi

Manufacturer: Electro-Harmonix
Model: Bass Big Muff
MSRP/Paid: ?/$76.50
New/Used/Loan: New
Battery: Yes
Power Supply: Yes 9V Center Neg (Boss Style)
Size: Aprox. 4” wide, 4.5” tall, 2.25” deep (jacks/knobs etc included)
Available from:Dealers Everywhere

From the maker:

description:
The Bass Big Muff draws its roots from the legendary Sovtek battle-tank green Big Muff Pi, from the late 90′s as well as from the original Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi from the early 70′s. These Big Muff Pi’s are often employed by bass players to thicken up their sound or to give them over-the-top low end growl. The Bass Big Muff takes the best elements from both of these classics and employs sonic elements that were specifically designed for your bass.

controls:
Sustain Knob: As in the original Big Muff Pi, adjust the amount of sustain and distortion.

Tone Knob: provides a range of sound from high treble to deep bass. The overall tone filter frequencies were chosen to enhance your bass guitar.

Volume Knob: The volume knob sets the output level of the distortion. When the toggle switch is set to DRY, the volume knob has no effect on the output level of your original bass.

Bass Boost/ Norm/ Dry Toggle Switch: This is a 3 position toggle switch that allows you to choose three distinctly different sounds. In Bass Boost mode, the top position, a bass frequency boost is added to the distortion. It is most effective when the Tone knob is set to the upper or treble have of its rotation. In Norm mode, the middle position, you have the pure tone of the classic Big Muff Pi. In Dry mode, the bottom position, the original dry signal from your instrument is mixed with the output of the distortion circuit. The level of Dry signal is constant and will not change as you turn the Volume knob up or down. This allows you to set the level of distortion effect against your dry signal.


Initial thoughts:

The history, lineage, and impact of the EHX Big Muff can’t be understated in any conversation about fuzz. With it’s roots in the early 70′s it was the first big hit for the company and is at the core of many essential recordings over the years. Bass players have used the various permutations of this pedal over the decades and found plenty to like, but for many it has been surpassed in recent times by pedals with a more bass friendly low end and without the presence removing mid-scoop that can make even the loudest player disappear in a live setting.

EHX not to be left behind in the growing niche market that is bass pedals has been introducing a large line of bass specific pedals, a lineup that would have been incomplete with out Big Muff! I was a bit fearful of some of the design decisions when reading the initial documentation, and while not perfect, is indeed quite good.

Things to note upfront:

  • NORM mode doesn’t sound exactly like a normal big muff, there I said it.
  • The ‘Norm’ mode is significantly more compressed sounding than either ‘Bass Boost’ or ‘Dry’ and is at a lower volume when just flicking the switch.
  • The ‘Dry Out’ and the ‘Dry’ setting are UNRELATED. ‘Dry Out’ is always a dry bass signal regardless of the switch setting, this could work great with either a biamp situation, sending both effected and un-effected signals to the board for live shows, or one take (multi-layer) recording. The ‘Dry’ setting on the switch introduces a fixed amount of dry signal to the effect.
  • When the switch is in the ‘Dry’ position there is be a fixed amount of dry signal added in, this amount seems to be a percentage of total volume or something, because it maintains relationship as you tweak the volume knob. You can emphasize or de-emphasize this dry signal based on your use of the tone and sustain knobs.
  • Video Overview

    Overview Video:

    Samples

    Positions for Testing (in o’clocks):

    1. Volume 12, Tone 3, Sustain 3, Switch: Bass Boost
    2. Volume 2, Tone 11, Sustain 12, Switch: Norm
    3. Volume 12, Tone 2, Sustain 5, Switch: Dry

    Note: Headphones or good speakers required. Bass samples!

    P Bass

    Position Sample
    1 1
    2
    3
    1 2
    2
    3
    1 3
    2
    3
    Mix

    Active J

    Position Sample
    3 1
    2
    3

    Fretless

    Position Sample
    3 1
    2
    3

    Short 5

    Position Sample
    3 1
    1.5
    2
    3

    Picture Gallery

    Construction and cosmetic concerns:

    The “shake test” presents dead silence, as this pedal is packed in extremely well, feels solid, and has a thick in metal enclosure in the (now standard) EHX XO line packaging. Jacks and switch are direct mounted to the printed circuit board. This all looks very tight, professional, and manufactured (which of course it is). I’ve not heard of anyone having problems with these XO pedals, but I always find direct mounted jacks a little frightening (perhaps because I’ve had bad luck with other pedals using this style in the past). There is no clip for the battery, but it is well sandwiched in the case between the true bypass switch and a couple of pieces of foam. EHX was nice enough to include a battery, which always makes me happy.

    Side layout of jacks with a top power connector is my preferred configuration, so nothing for me to bitch about there.

    <repeating rant> Battery access is the standard (dumb) 4 screw system.</repeating>

    Power is disengaged when there is a battery present and a guitar cable is not inserted in the in jack. If you are using a power supply the pedal will power up even if the guitar cable is no present.

    The bare metal enclosure is a little austere for my liking, but it gets the job done. The image on the front looks like a sticker at first glance, but scrapping at it with my thumb nail a little leads me to believe that it is actually painted on (either that or it’s the best sticker ever). Labeling the one port ‘Dry Out’ and the low position on the toggle switch ‘Dry’ was not the best decision either, because it makes on assume that the two are in some way linked (which in fact they are not).

    Conclusion:

    So bass specific fuzzes are starting to go mainstream, and EHX decided it was time to jump on the ride with a new take on a classic fuzz. This pedal sounds like a muff, and if don’t like muff sounds there is nothing extremely new here. They have done a nice job migrating the frequency range down a bit to better accommodate basses and make the tone and sustain knobs much more usable than on the current American Big Muff PI, or the Little Big Muff. The pedal sounds very good, but the question I ask is… does it sound great? No, I don’t think it does. There is definitely a lot this pedal offers, but high order harmonics and sizzling gain that can be had from earlier models and some boutique clones just aren’t there. This makes the pedal a bit more subtle then my personal taste, but I can see where many will find it extremely useful (especially in the ‘Dry’ switch position) because it thickens up the sound very well, adding a sizzling girth without compromising the low end at all.

    At this price point, there is nothing that I’ve tried that competes with it and it is a much better choice than many pedals costing twice as much. If you’ve got a LBM or American Big Muff PI and it loses a little too much low end for you, upgrade now… but if you love the harmonics and the wilder feel those pedals have you might think twice before moving over.

    As always, if you have any questions, leave a comment or let me know

    Note: A rating of 5 = acceptable and should considered a ‘good’ basic score

    Sound Category: Clean, Fizzy, Blend, Muffish
    Versatility: 5
    Sound: 7
    Value: 9
    Overall: 7

14 thoughts on “Fuzz Review: Electro-Harmonix – Bass Big Muff Pi

  1. I’m wondering if maybe some of the features you found were missing here might be found in the EHX Bass Blogger?

    I think it would be interesting to hear them in tandem. After seeing this site, I no longer have a problem with having more than one fuzz box!

  2. Yo!
    awsome review man! im am now looking for buying this pedal.
    but as i said in youtube, i dont understand what is the use of the dry output…
    Where should i plug in if my config would be like this:
    Bass > Muff > tech 21 vt bass (ampeg emulation) > power amp
    i mean, wich one of those outputs should i use?

    Swe

  3. I was wondering how this pedal would compare to the standard Muff Pi combined with the Knock Out (with the Knock Out used to boost low freq.)

  4. I’ve not used the knockout, but it’s it an attack equalizer rather than an eq?

    Either way, not sure it would work… the same way EQ pedals don’t really work in this scenario.

    Muff – > EQ = Muff kills lows, eq tries to boost non-existent lows
    EQ – > Muff = EQ Boosts lows, Muff kills them.

  5. I have had some 2 months and is a great pedal, it not big fuzz or gain as the others but it has a lot of low end (not like the other), it was just what I was looking for …. I read somewhere that the bassist Muse uses two AMP , one clean and one Muffed, you can do the same with this pedal in the dry mode the difference is you can do that with a single AMP … I have mixed with everything I have been crossed on my way in this mode (Delay, BassBalls, octave, overdrive, phaser chorus) and sounds great whit all…
    alone is not worth it
    but whit something else it’s great
    I have all the others muffs it’s not the best but work better whit bass

  6. I agree that the Dry setting works really well; one thing I did find (opposite to some comments and the review), is that the volume does seem to effect the prominence of the Muff sound. Unless you are looking for serious gain and buzz-saw break-up, I think this pedal does a great job in Dry mode when you need some clarity or the detail of what you’re playing matters. I’m impressed with this pedal in Normal mode too, btw. Another thing, sustain and break-up are a lot different with almost all fuzz, overdrive, and bass distortion pedals depending on if you’re using a tube amp (or amp with a full tube pre-amp section) vs. a solid state amp. Gain and break-up, etc. (from a pedal) tends to come off “bad” with solid state and dynamic, organic, and “awesome” with tubes. All respect to solid state amp players!

  7. I was just wondering how this works with active pickups. I have a schecter with emg’s and i was thinking about getting this. If this one doest work to well with active pickups do you have some advice on one that does possibly in the same price range?

  8. I have a Boss ODB – 3 which is the boss bass equivalent of the standard distortion pedal. They’re about the same price, do you think it’s worth a swap, bearing in mind this probably wouldn’t fit into my pedal case so it would be awkward to take around.

  9. i like this pedal. i don’t love it though. there’s just not enough gain for me. i guess if i had to describe it, it’s a “pretty” or “polite” fuzz. i’m gonna have to go back to my little big muff methinks.

  10. I was wondering i really like the bass player cliff burton i no he used a fuzz box and a wha pedal now i am wondering with this fuzz box will i be able to get his sound for song like for whom the bell tolls

  11. ^^ to the guy with the odb-3 question I say make the switch. I had an odb-3 and hated it so much it pushed me off bass effects for a year. While this might not be the situation I must say I am MUCH more impressed by the bass muff than I was with the odb-3.

    On the dry switch i think the usability of it depends on your speaker configuration. I have a 1×15 and it sounds muddy when in I put it in dry/bass boost. So I think your speakers is something to think about when buying the pedal, (but you can work around it)

    Overall this was a great review and instrumental in my purchase. THANKS BASSFUZZ.COM

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