I think it’s fairly self-evident on this blog that I’m a fan of the Big Muff style of fuzz pedals - having 40+ in my collection to-date and including all the JHS-Modded versions of each of the previous EHX reissues. In fact I’m still waiting to see if Josh will do anything with EHX’s Flatiron Fuzz - what is certain sure is that there will be a JHS Mod of this Violet Ram’s Head in the not too distant future - likely with an added Mids knob and a couple of clipping options.
Thus far probably my favourite variety is the Triangle edition - I just love those smooth tones, but Ram’s Head is rarely that far behind so I look forward to getting my hands on one of these - probably early next year now according to the schedule.
As demonstrated by Josh Scott and various others luminaries, EHX has done a fantastic engineering job of recreating those Big Muff originals - and to most ears there is indiscernible difference between the new and old - just an infinitely better form factor. I am of the view though that newer editions should have some added extras - and the ability to better shape and balance the tone of these pedals is highly desirable (and hence the Mods). It’s for that reason the Basic Audio Tri/Ram is my current favourite Muff clone as in its 5-knob edition it has Tone, Mids and Fat controls to perfectly shape the tone anyway you want it, and to overcome some of the inherent weaknesses of those earlier models - adding a little more body, punch and attack, and better balancing the EQ curve / frequency profile.
For many though these little Big Muffs are perfect in their stock format - wholly unadulterated. As a tone-tweaker I personally always like a little bit extra - which is why I hold out for the JHS modded editions.
I have decided to list these in chronological original release order - as per the above image!:
The original Big Muff version is still probably my favourite variety and I have several favourites of this type - including the Basic Audio Tri/Ram mentioned. It has the beautiful smooth sustaining Gilmourish tone that so many of us like. The JHS Modded Version I have of this is no slouch either with a Gain structure toggle on the left giving you further levels of gain beyond the up stock position and also and additional 'Intensity' knob on the right-hand side of the pedal. To date this is still my favourite of these reissues - but we'll see how well I acclimatise to the new Ram's Head too.
Brand new edition of this 1973 variety of Big Muff - this has a slightly more mids tone profile and can sound slightly thinner than the above Triangle edition. Some players particularly like the reduced low end and increased frequency focus of this Big Muff, but I would prefer some additional tone-shaping elements which allow you to balance the profile somewhat better - which is hopefully what the forthcoming JHS modded edition will bring.
Most obviously connected to Billy Corgan and that Smashing Pumpkins core sound - this is a slightly more aggressive style of Muff which also happens to be many players favourite version. I still like this of course, I actually don't believe I have any further alternatives of this OpAmp style - so this has served my pretty well. Certainly a little more aggressive and raspy than the two aforementioned editions. The JHS Modded version gives you Gating options with its additional left-hand 3-way toggle switch, and Mids control with its additional right-hand knob.
The Green Russian is more aggressive than the Triangle and Ram's Head typically, but not as raspy as the OpAmp. This is another variety which several claim as their favourite. It has a wonderful richness of tone to it, and it is distinctly different to the Triangle and Ram's Head - sort of in between those two in some ways, on the frequency spectrum but with more gain typically. I actually like each of these Big Muffs in their own way, and find each encourages a slightly different style of playing and brings different signature songs to mind. As mentioned the Triangle is definitely my own favourite variety, and sometimes the Ram's Head is the runner-up and sometimes the Russian varieties. The JHS Mod gives you two 3-way toggle-switches on the left-hand-side - Synth Fuzz Modes and Intensity, while the right-hand knob controls Gain Feedback.
This latest of the actual original editions, but first of the reissues is undoubtedly the least popular version of these, but not a bad Big Muff in anyway - it's just that the others have significant more appeal that makes them stand out - which this is kind of the baseline version without any of those specific characteristics that make the other versions so appealing. Compared to the others you would say this was kind of an everyman intermediary - which kind of can translate to average. The JHS Modded version significantly perks up the stock edition with additional gain level / structure available on the left-hand 3-way toggle-switch, while the right-hand knob controls the Gating effect - which allows you to generate a texturally satisfying spitty gated fuzz. Somehow though this edition just isn't quite as satisfactory as these others, so one for the completists only really!
Everyone should have at least one Big Muff variety in their arsenal, and for most that means Triangle, Ram's Head or Green Russian varieties and probably in that order of popularity / appeal. The OpAmp version is slightly more raspy and specialist and does of course have its own backers too, while not as many would rate the NYC style Nano Pi as their favourite.
You have the choice to get the stock EHX versions with just their standard 3-dial layout - Volume | Tone | Sustain. Or the usually +£60 JHS Modded version with additional clipping, gating and or tone-shaping features. The beauty of the JHS Mods is that they fully maintain all the stock options while giving you more versatility - I can't see how anyone would be dissatisfied with either variety.
I find all these are excellent versions of the original pedals and just as good in most ways. That doesn't necessarily mean they will be your best or favourite Muff type pedals for that variety. And while I really like all my EHX varieties (In JHS Modded editions) I still have other Big Muff circuit replicas of each of the key types that I probably prefer more.
If you're new to Big Muff - I would say start with Triangle and Ram's Head, then try the Russian and OpAmp varieties - if you find yourself liking a particular variety more than the others you can then explore that avenue further. I personally have near enough every major Big Muff variety in my collection and the Triangle, Ram's Head and Russian varieties are my own favourites exactly in that order of appeal.