I can’t recall exactly what the catalyst was to this article, but I’ve been considering versatile medium enclosure Big Muff style fuzzes a lot of late. I have 3 of the best of these already in constant rotation (Update 4 now actually!) - i.e. one momentarily replacing the other on the #19 slot of my pedal-chain - and alternating a whole lot with the PLL style fuzzes right at this moment.
In any case during the process of cycling the Demon Pedals Parvati, Toneczar Vault and Wren and Cuff De La Riva (and Lone Wolf Iron Fist 2) - I think I got to pondering about what other ’multi-voice’ Muffs would be suitable alternatives here. Turns out that there are quite a number actually - and in my usual way - I have selected the top 9 which have the most appeal for me, and then the remainder as honourable mentions.
To make a Muff style pedal more versatile usually involves a combination of additional tone and clipping controls - while occasionally it’s just one or the other. The best loved Muff varieties tend to be the Russian variants, Ram’s Head and Triangle - with the OpAmp version a touch of an outlier.
All these pedals take you well beyond the stock versions - some quite significantly so. All of my trio quartet here have been acquired this year and as mentioned, have been in fairly steady rotation alongside quite a number of my other fuzzes on that busiest of pedal-chain slots - the number #19.
Some of these are more obvious specific varietals Ram’s Head or Russian - while others are more specifically ’Multi-Muff’. Pretty much all of these have been involved in significant consideration and bar the Pharaoh Supreme as I will explain - all are on my wishlist. For the Pharaoh I feel that the smaller Son of Pharaoh Fuzz that I already have from the same family - gives me everything I need in that variety - so buying its bigger brother with slightly more tweakability would be rather unnecessary duplication to a degree - even though it does of course have slightly more range to it.
For the others here - most of these have been featured before on this site and no doubt some or several will make it into the collection / Tone Library eventually. Probably the simplest to use here is the Expresso FX Tup Fuzz with its dual toggle-switches for Bass and Mids Boost - while the KMA Dead Stage and Stone Deaf Fig Fumb over a little more with their Parametric-Mids controls.
Interestingly and for no particular reason the Top 9 consists of 4 American, 3 British and 2 German pedals! With the 3 British ones all elegantly in the same column.
Pedals are listed alphabetically by brand as usual:
As stated in the intro - I already have the smaller Son of Pharaoh edition which has mostly the same functionality - Tone, High, Fuzz, Volume, dials and Ge/Si/Off Clipping Switch, Lo/Hi Gain Voicing switch. What the Pharaoh Supreme does is change the 2-way Gain Voicing switch to a Pre-Gain dial - with far more tweakability, while the 3-way Ge/Si Clipping switch becomes a 6-position rotary Clipping dial with Germanium, Asymmetrical Germanium, Silicon, Mosfet, LED and Open/Clipping Bypass options. Obviously the standard medium and compact Pharaoh editions are pretty versatile - but this ups the stakes somewhat further. For whatever reason - and often these things are just subjective and personal - I am very happy with my Son of Pharaoh - and that seems to give me everything I need in this variety, so I am not really looking at this Supreme version as any sort of imminent acquisition. Despite my best intentions here I am also unable to ascertain which is the specific Muff type this variant is based on - although the graphics seem to indicate 'Triangle' to some degree - it sounds closer to Ram's Head at its core!
If you read my recent Demon Pedals overview you will be aware how much I like this Parvati Russian Muff-style Fuzz. As is always the case with Demon - you need to get used to their knob labelling - Karma = Gain, and Sleep = Volume, otherwise it's all fairly obvious - Mids and Tone - Ge/Off/Si clipping and OM/Off/Silcon clipping. The OM clipping option is a sort of 'chaos' mode which loads the signal with harmonic content and saturation. Currently I play this pedal mostly with the left clipping dial 'off', and the right one in OM mode. What is special about this pedal though is how many different tones there are on-tap - from fairly smooth overdrive to a rather saturated quite aggressive harmonic distortion. This pedal has had a lot of play-time recently in my pedal-chain, although it is currently on hiatus for the various PLL types! Highly recommended! Note that I have the custom version of this in Deep Devil's Heart Red with white knobs - which is the best looking version in my opinion - but does add a €20 premium to the price (€229).
This is actually the simplest pedal listed here - using the medieval English word 'Tup' to signal its Ram's Head influence. You get just 2 additional controls to the standard Volume, Tone and Sustain knobs - namely a 2-way Bass frequency boost toggle-switch and a 2-way Mid frequency boost toggle-switch - i.e. flat down, boost up. You would not think that those two switches would not make a whole lot of difference - but they really transform the tonality of the pedal - and match up well to the ranges of the Tone and Sustain dials in particular. This is listed as a high gain fuzz, and while not quite as aggressively doomy as some of the variants out there and listed here - this definitely gets you nicely into those territories and maintains its musicality throughout. I think this one's just gone on the wishlist! Sof just has a wonderful ear for tone - and his tuning of the circuit is right on the money here.
This is a non-specific Big Muff -influenced pedal with a superb degree of versatility. 3-Band Active EQ with Parametric-Mids control alongside dual 2-way voicing switches - Smooth/Sharp and High/Low Gain - note that Mud = Gain, and Growl = Volume, otherwise fully self-explanatory. KMA really has 2 great distortion pedals in its range with this and its HM-2 style clone 'Wurm'. I've had the Dead Stag under consideration for a while - and I will likely get this and the Wurm eventually - I may have a few more priorities to round off first. Great sounding Muff-style variant with huge degree of variety and versatility.
I featured this pedal just recently on the site in an article about desirable medium-to-large enclosure fuzz boxes - a really impressive 2-gain stage Ram's Head Muff clone with additional clipping and chaos/feedback footswitch. Controls are Volume, Tone, Fuzz, Mids, Feedback and Depth with pre- and post-gain clipping courtesy of Silicon/LED and Silicon/Germanium clipping diodes. This is a really aggressive version of this type - and one properly intended for the Metal-head faction of high-gain players. It's obviously another pedal I have been mulling over for a while - these seem to be in fairly short supply at the moment, as this model may have been discontinued already - so I will likely snap this one up relatively swiftly or else chance it on Reverb.com! Update! - I could find only two of these pedals currently available and of course snapped up the remaining one sold by Joe's Pedals. Note that the V2 differs from the one in the above demo video by having dual footswitches with accompanying Feedback control knob too in the middle of the second row.
Yet another one of my perennial favourite Muff type variants - this one is specifically billed as a Multi-Muff variant as such because of its handy Parametric Mids controls. This pedal obviously packs a punch - to the degree that it has its own Noise Gate with respective activation footswtich. I have been at the point of pulling the trigger on this one several times - before getting slightly annoyed by (to me) it's somewhat over-sized dimensions. I already have and love the Stone Deaf FX Tremotron Tremolo - whose dimensions, alongside the newer Syncopy Delay are perfectly acceptable as they lie somewhere between a compact and medium vertical enclosure format. The Fig Fumb though is somewhat oversized beyond that, and I am really waiting for Luke Hilton and his team to bring down their over-sized pedals to the newer more compact format - when that happens - I will quite possibly add one of these to the collection too. It's obviously been featured on this site numerous times.
The Vault is not specifically referenced as a Muff type (the new Toneczar OTP is the proper Muff variant) , but as a High Gain Fuzz it most definitely gets you within that ballpark and will give you those sorts of tones and more. The Vault has 3 different modes - Extreme Fuzz plus Octave Up, Extreme Fuzz only, Extreme Fuzz plus 2nd Harmonic Distortion - the Content dial corresponds to those 3 modes applying Octave-Up, Fuzz and 2nd Harmonic Levels. You then have a main Voice Tone control which is enhanced at either end by separate Treble and Bass Controls - the latter of which has its range defined by the Deep toggle-switch - Up for standard Guitar, Down for Baritone or Bass; finally you have the usual Gain and Volume knobs as expected. This is another hugely versatile fuzz which I kind of did not expect to acquire - but one came up in New Zealand of all places at the start of the year - in pristine condition and at the right sort of price - so I of course had to have it. I have long wanted both the Toneczar Vault Fuzz and Openhaus Distortion pedals - so I'm half-way there now! Ed Rembold or Mr Toneczar himself commented on facebook that his Big Muff variant is actually the new for 2019 - OTP Fuzz. I still contend that even though typically more spiky and strident than a typical Muff - the Vault does not sound so different to some of my tunings of the LWA Iron Fist!
This was one of my stand-outs at this year's Winter NAMM, and the kind of pedal I just had to have. With its 20 external dip-switches and combination of twin Germanium and twin Silicon Transistors - this can near enough give you almost any fuzz variant you desire. Even though the core circuit is a Muff circuit as such - you choose which elements of the circuit you apply with the dip switches and what you bypass - meaning that you get a beatiful Germanium Fuzz-Face style Fuzz and a pretty aggressive Silicon Big Muff all in the same enclosure. You control the circuit essentially right to left with the dip-switches - activating gain stage and tone components along the way - and the results are really quite magnificent, although the pedal itself can be rather fiddly to use and it takes a while to get your head around all those switches too - as some of the Manual descriptions/explanations are slightly obtuse - particularly about the final 5 Tone Section dip-switches. Weirdly for a while I was playing this mostly as a Germanium Fuzz Face type just for the novelty of it. Besides the 20 dip-switches you get Volume, Tone and Distortion dials, and Tone Bypass and Transistor Select dip-switches. The latter two allow you to select Germanium to the Left or Silicon to the Right - or one of each! This is a really good idea and a pretty great execution based on that original idea. It is very fiddly to use though and could really have done with presets here. Also I feel that it might make more sense to break out key tonalities into a single rotor selector switch and then offer some further fine-tuning toggles and dials - as having 20 'interactive' dip-switches is a little much at times. Nonetheless a very unique pedal and well worth the admission fee!
This is yet another one I have had under consideration for a while - since the Birmingham Guitar Show really - and is marked for pretty imminent acquisition. I find it to be one of the stars in Alex Millar's growing range of medium enclosure pedals alongside the SiClone - probably my two favourites of his currently. It has 4-Band EQ by way of Filter 1-4 controls, then Level and Gain dials, and the usual core Zander 6-way clipping rotary switch - Germanium, Silicon, Red LEDs, MOSFET, Transistor and None/Open. You also get 2 footswitches here with the second engaging 'Maximum Gain'. These pedals are very reasonably priced - and one at the very least should be in the collection pretty soon.
My Top 9 is obviously a personal affair, and there are a number of other great candidates for the list. The ones I rate and rank though are the ones I am typically after for myself. Others for whatever reason are not quite as appealing to me (apart from the Hail Satan), but may still be preferred by other readers / players - hence I will have a list here of honourable mentions - which will be periodically updated as and when my readers notify me of worthy additions!:
Of the ones in my list I feel the Iron Fist is the most imminent acquisition (Done!) as there are so few of those still around - and if I don't snap one up soon I will likely miss out. The only one I'm not really itching to add to the collection is the Pharaoh Supreme - as I obviously have its more compact sibling. For the others it's a matter of whatever triggers me off at the time and what is appealing when I'm in the mood to add another Muff type. I have a soft spot in particular for the Expresso FX Tup Fuzz - just something about its core tonality really appeals, and I rather like the look of the KMA Audio Dead Stag with its Parametric Mids. While I hope the Fig Fumb Fuzz gets reduced a little in size - and I mustn't forget the Zander American Geek - which has also been on the wishlist for a while. Those will all likely get added eventually over time - some quicker than others.
I'm sure I've probably overlooked a few essentials here - as there seem to be so many of this type around - please don't hesitate to let me know if I'm missing any particular mid-size versatile Muff variety. The criteria here mean that it needs to offer additional clipping and or tone-controls over and above the default stock variants.
Update! - I obviously overlooked the Abominable Electronics Hail Satan Fuzz which has been on my Muff wishlist at various stages - and is back on there now.