Model: Bass Big Muff
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:
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.
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.
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.
Positions for Testing (in o’clocks):
- Volume 12, Tone 3, Sustain 3, Switch: Bass Boost
- Volume 2, Tone 11, Sustain 12, Switch: Norm
- Volume 12, Tone 2, Sustain 5, Switch: Dry
Note: Headphones or good speakers required. Bass samples!
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).
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