• A tribute to the Big Muff

    The Big Muff. Anyone who’s stomped one knows its power and tone and when you hear one you nod and go “yeah, that’s a Big Muff”. The larger than life tone is as mythical as the pedal it self. Let’s dip into the wonderful world of the coolest sounding pedal of all time!

    

I got my first Big Muff in 1996. I had played guitar for some time but never really cared much for effects. Well, I did care for tone but this was before the internet revolution, or at least at the very beginning of it, and the local guitar stores only offered Boss and Ibanez pedals. I remember asking if they had Big Muffs, never really knowing what it was, but they just waved me off. Anyway, by 1996 the whole grunge era was almost gone. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden etc was past their peak but they left a legacy – the music and their guitar tone. The grunge guitarist didn’t care for DS1 or chorus. They wanted an old school nasty tone and the Muff saw its comeback. Electro Harmonix founder Mike Matthews had just moved to Russia and started Sovtek. The timing couldn’t have been better as a new generation was eager to buy their first Big Muff.

    Sovtek green Big Muff

    Finally, my local store had gotten a green Sovtek Big Muff Pi. I remember trying the pedal in the store and thinking “what the fuck…” It sounded like shit. Of course, now I know that a Music Man Wolfgang into a Marshall stack is hardly the best combo for a Muff and certainly not for replicating David’s tones. Luckily, I was so determined to get this pedal that I bought it. I never figured out the settings so the first year or so I hardly used it.

    One day, probably around 1998, I found some settings on the net. A guy recommended something that would fit David’s PULSE tones. I plugged the Muff into my old Sound City 50w stack, maxed the volume as usual, stomped the green beast and “whoa!” I felt like Marty McFly almost being thrown to the other side of the room. The tone was so powerful that I almost fainted. After some tweaking around and adding a delay I was soon fooling around with Sorrow, Echoes, Comfortably Numb etc. I’m sure it sounded horrible but I never forget that day and I still have the pedal.

    I’m sure David didn’t feel the same when Phil Taylor presented the Big Muff to him around 1975. After all, he was used to standing in front of a wall of speakers and the sound of his Hiwatts being violated by a screaming Fuzz Face. Apparently, David didn’t care much for the Big Muff at first but he did end up using it for most of his lead tones on Animals and the pedal has been with him ever since.

    Electro Harmonix ram's head Big Muff

    It’s hard to say just why David settled with the Big Muff. I mean, no matter how much we love the pedal we must admit that it’s quite… unique… in lack of a better word. It’s a perfect match for Floyd, Santana, grunge or Sabbath but hardly for Bon Jovi or a mellow jazz improv. The Big Muff is a nasty beast that can sound quite out of place if you don’t appreciate its limits. But, this was 1975-76 and still a couple of years before the classic distortion appeared, like the Boss DS1, ProCo RAT and MXR Distortion +. Guitarist didn’t have that much to chose from so a Big Muff must have sounded quite sophisticated compared with the fuzz they’d been struggling with for some years.

    David’s first Big Muff was a so-called ram’s head model (named after the ram head logo on the pedal). The pedal has the unmistakable saturated gain, scooped mid range and thunderous lows. The pedal became his main distortion for well over three decades. He also got Pete Cornish to make him a clone that would fit his new pedal boards – the P1.

    But all this praise and admiration doesn’t mean shit when you sit at home with your little amp while trying to get your newly purchased Big Muff to sound like David’s guitar on PULSE. How can this be? Have I been fooled? You toss the pedal out the window while you demand to know what NASA shit he’s put into his amps to get that tone. Well, this isn’t really about gear or how much money you spend but about physics.

    To get that silky smooth sustain and growling bite you need power. Lots of power. And with power I mean volume. People often ask me why David’s Muff tones almost sound as if he’s playing with a clean tone. That’s the essence of a Big Muff. It was designed to boost the clean tone for a smooth sustain. The “bonus” was that to achieve this it needed to clip or distort. That’s why a Muff is often referred to as a booster or sustainer. All you need is a guitar a loud tube amp and a Big Muff. David’s 100w Hiwatts and 200w WEM cabinets are furiously loud and he can set these almost as loud as he wants without them distorting. What he gets is this incredibly powerful clean tone that’s just on the very edge of tube breakup. This is the perfect combo for the Muff. The louder you’re able to play the smoother the Muff gets and the more it opens up.

    A little snippet of the wonderful On the Turning Away solo from Delicate Sound of Thunder. The tone is inspired by David’s tone at the 1994 Modena, Italy gig. I’m using a Fender CIJ ’65 reissue with EMG DG20 pickups into a Laney CUB12 stack, Sovtek green Big Muff, Boss RT20 and digital delay and reverb.

    To understand how a pedal works and how to get the tones you want, you need to understand how the pedal was designed and how it was intended to be used. The Big Muff was designed at a time when guitarists used loud amp stacks on stage as their only source of monitoring. These amps could distort to some point but for most this wasn’t enough. Treble boosters and fuzz pedals were designed to take these amps over the edge. The Big Muff was designed to offer something more. Something louder and nastier. Now guitarists could make their overdriven Marshalls and even their clean Hiwatts sound like some beast from hell. The louder you played the more the pedal reacted with the tubes and the more compressed the tone got but equally important, the speakers reached their limit and sent out sound waves that would get your ears to cut the high frequencies. This loudness, the bass, the compression and clipping is the secret of David’s Big Muff tones. Sadly, this is almost impossible to recreate on a smaller amp in your bedroom.

    So what do you do? Well most of you I guess, have already gotten a clone that’s tweaked for smaller amps or perhaps found ways to combine the Muff with other pedals to simulate a cranked tube amp. The distortions that started to appear in the late 70s were designed to capture the tone of a cranked Marshall and a fuzz. This meant that you could use a RAT or Tube Screamer to make your small solid state amp sound like a huge stack. Of course these won’t recreate the sonics and physics of an amp that’s about to blow but it will be a far better option than forcing a Big Muff to be something which it ain’t.

    But why is David always using a Big Muff with a booster or overdrive? well, he’s using the booster just like an EQ. It’s not needed to get that smooth tone but it allows you to emphasise some frequencies depending on the nature of the booster and you can also make the amp slightly hotter by adding more volume and gain. This is important to understand and not just go ahead and crank both pedals for an insane amount of gain. That will only add noise. We’ll look at ways to combine the Big Muff with booster later.

    The first Pink Floyd album I got was Animals. It must have been in the late 80’s. It forever changed my life and after hearing Dogs for the millionth time I realised that David Gilmour was the greatest guitarist in the world. Tonewise I didn’t have a clue. It was until I heard Delicate Sound of Thunder some years later that I knew that I wanted THE tone. The soaring, thunderous opening on Sorrow and the silky smooth sustain on Time and Comfortably numb had me completely mesmerised. Now I prefer David’s 70s tones but I still get goosebupms when I put on Delicate and I still can’t quite believe how he managed to get that tone. The Big Muff operates in mysterious ways.

    Check out Big Muff guru Kit Rae’s Big Muff site for details on just about every Muff ever existed.

    Please feel free to share your favorite Big Muff moments!

    



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44 Responsesso far.

  1. Tony says:

    Hi Bjorn,

    In your professional opinion, what is THE best boutique Muff on the market today that nails those, woody, hallow The Wall tones that doesn’t necessarily need a booster?

    Sincere thanks,
    Tony

    [Hmmm… Since you ask me, I would say the Electronic Orange Pig Hoof MkI. To my ears it has THE Animals/Wall tone with all the right characteristics. The boring answer is that there is no ultimate Muff – or any other pedal for that matter – on the market. The reason is that it depends entirely on what tones you want and how that pedal works with your rig. I could tell you that a Sovtek or a clone would probably be the best choice for nailing David’s Pulse tones but if your guitar and amp isn’t up for it, then the pedal might sound like shit. – Bjorn]

  2. Roger Sartori says:

    I just love that sustain and high end on the solo of this song (DSOT version). How did you set your Boss RT20 for your video?

    [Everything at noon, overdrive off and the mix at about 9:00. – Bjorn]

  3. Benjamin says:

    Excellent article, gives me food for thought regarding my bass rig. The first pedal I purchased was exactly that green Sovtek Muff. I particularly like to use it with a volume pedal to get almost cello swells, just on the edge of feedback. Otherwise it makes for great fat basslines. Doesn’t really like my Turbo RAT, but I rarely use the two together, or I haven’t found the right combination Muff>T-RAT or T-RAT>Muff. Which would you suggest?

    By the way, we are about the same age. My parents raised me on Pink Floyd, especially DSOTM and The Wall, but the first Pink Floyd album I purchased for myself and subsequently thrashed… Animals!

    I don’t own a Fender P Bass, but I am tempted to one day try a Roger Waters sig model.

    [Hi Benjamin! Never tried a RAT on a bass and certainly not a RAT and Muff together but try placing the Muff first. That way it will drive the lower frequiencies through the RAT. Cheers! – Bjorn]

  4. Yoel says:

    Whoops! Forgot to mention I’m playing through a BD-2 (Non-keeley) and a Fender Champ 600. So I should still build the Triangle?

    [I think that would do fine yes. The Champ 600 might not be the best suited for Muffs but you should be able to get some nice tones :) – Bjorn]

  5. Yoel says:

    Hey Bjorn,

    Great article as always! I just had a few questions for you regarding my first Muff. I decided I’m going to sink my teeth into building a BYOC Large Beaver, but I’m kinda at a loss as to which version to make, the Triangle or Ram’s Head version. The Ram’s Head is David’s main Muff and has been for many years, but you said that the Triangle version is also good. Which one would be the best choice for a Les Paul with Seymour Duncan Phat Cat (P-90) pickups for an all inclusive Gilmour tone? And I also wanted to know, did you build your BYOC? And if you did how hard was it? I’m a complete soldering newbie but I have almost all of the parts necessary.

    [No I got mine pre-soldered. I’m all thumbs with the iron :) The triangle is considerably milder, warmer and darker sounding that the ram’s head, which has more gain and top. Depends on your amp too but I think the triangle sounds great on the Phat Cats. I use that combo all the time. A booster, like the TC Spark Booster or BD2, can give you a bit more gain and top if that’s what you want. – Bjorn]

  6. Chris says:

    Just yesterday, I plugged my EQD Hoof (boosted by Timmy OD + Fulltone Fat Boost 3) into my Fender Twin and cranked it up to 5, which is VERY LOUD. I did notice that the Hoof did sound smoother (FUZZ @ 75%) at loud volumes. I was shooting for a GRM sound and the sustain was such that I could feel the vibration of the strings under my fretting hand intensify. All these different stages of feedback slowly unfolded and I was in awe. First, I played through my ’56 Strat RI, which sounded beefy with those pronounced mids. I switched to my ’62 Gibson SG and I was yielding that live early Sabbath sound (like the debut album). It really startled me how much girth I was getting from that Muff circuit in the Hoof. Just absolute POWER! Now, I’m GASn for that Mojo Hand Colossus, but it seems to be very similar to the Hoof but with more low mids. But, then again I’m not of that either. I want that Civil War tone and I’m hoping the Colossus delivers.

    [I really recommend the Colossus. It’s considerably darker than the Hoof with lots more lower end but the power and sustain is perhaps greater. I’d say that the Colossus is closer to the Sovteks, the green and CW especially. – Bjorn]

  7. David McDade says:

    Finally got that musket, dialed in the recomended settings(tweaked for my sey up) and wham just smashed out In The Flesh? and when your right your right, volume is the key with these, the second try with alot more vol and some more tweaking, and that first chord shook the house( accually shook.a framed live in gdansk poster off and broke the glass) and after about 30mins of playing some wall tunes, it took the start of tje sorrow solo for my now ex to walk in and yell something n leave. You told us all that a Musket is better for smaller set ups, and is after some playing arround, but it being a muff really sounds amazing with volume, and a shit ton of it makes it sing. Now im scrounging up the $ for a dr103 clone and we will see how much better it gets. Thanks a ton for all the advice Bjorn, I truly appriciate yor imput. One question though, im having a little trouble with the Is there anybody out there? Live wall sound, the solo on C.numb sounds like the mistress is just.domimating, or is that just after the fact eq/comp/editing trickery?

    [Glad to hear to the Musket works out for you! David’s live tones for the Wall was very basic – guitar > ram’s head Muff > Cornish ST2 booster (similar to the Colorsound) > Mistress > delay and a a split between the Yamaha rotating speakers and the Hiwatts. Again, volume is the key. The Mistress and Yamahas are very dominating but when you play that loud they seem to change character from liquidy jet tones to a more shimmery, glassy tone, which isn’t that dominating. – Bjorn]

  8. Tony says:

    Hi Bjorn, Out of all the Big Muff clone variations out there, which one do you recommend for his distinct The Wall tones, which are very clear, smooth, woody and dynamic?? Thank you, Tony

    [Depends on your guitar, amp and the overall setup. Unfortunately there aren’t ONE Big Muff that works for everything. My personal favourite is teh Pig Hoof. It has Animals and Wall written all over it but again, what works for me might not work for you. – Bjorn]

  9. james says:

    “grunge guitarist didn’t care for DS1 or chorus”

    not so sure there, kurt cobain who pretty much only used a DS1 (later DS2) and a small clone chorus pedal.

    [Yeah, well I was hinting towards the classic Marshall+DS1+chorus setup of the power bands in the late 80s. Curt used a lot of chorus. – Bjorn]

  10. Oscar says:

    Thats what i thought hehe, Yea a clone should be better then. like that Pig hoof it sound so good! And it was made to sound like the rams head right? U think i can get close to the gilmour tone with that Hoof and a flanger delux? Ty so much for the info and the lick!!!! :)

    [That’s my set up… so yeah :) – Bjorn]

  11. Oscar says:

    Hi Bjorn, love the article! I just have 2 questions. Do u know where i can buy A Big muff Rams head? I know that i can find one on ebay but u know somewere else?, And i love the lick at 1:49-1:51 could you please give me the notes for that? :D Ty, keep up the good work!! :)

    [The original ram’s heads are only available on Ebay, classifieds or a retired guitarist’s attic :) They’re very expensive and you need a good portion of luck for coming across an item that hasn’t lost all its mojo over the years – a common problem with most of the vintage Electro Harmonix pedals. I recommend a clone that’ll give you the classic tones for a lot less. See the new Buyer’s Guide – Big Muff feature for some tips.

    The lick has a lot of repeated pull offs but it’s fairly simple:
    —15-p12——15—p13———
    ———-12————–12—–
    ———————————-
    ———————————-
    ———————————-
    ———————————-

    – Bjorn]

  12. Mante says:

    Thanks a lot. The effect 8:00 is nearly without effect. That’s right?
    What setup you use for the delay? And what kind of delay?

    Can you tell me the equipment and setup for the solo part of “shine on you crazy diamond”?

    [Yes, the RT20 is set for a very mild effect. I’m using digital delay featured in Logic Pro for all the clips. On my stage board I have a Boss DD2 and a TRex Replica. The DD2 set for about 440ms and the Replica for 310ms. Check out this in depth feature for Shine On. – Bjorn]

  13. Mante says:

    Can you give me the settings ot the RT 20 for the sound of the solo – On the turning away?

    [Mode 1, effect 8:00, direct 12:00, balance 12:00, overdrive off, slow 2:00. – Bjorn]

  14. Josh says:

    A familiar origin story to many of us, I think – great to hear where it all began for you, Bjorn! I had an experience which was similar: The Big Muff was the first pedal I bought when I began playing in 1999. My guitar teacher had told me to get one, so I went down to the store and bought it. A nice big old green Sovtek. I also bought the matching Sovtek Small Stone. But, like many people I bet, I found the Muff to be a bit of a handful. I just didn’t know how to get a good tone out of it one way or the other, and eventually gave it to a friend of mine.

    Of course, now that I am into the Floyd and play in a tribute act professionally, I do wish I had it back. Don’t get me wrong: the various Skreddy versions, BYOCs, and my Cornish pedals do a fine job… But there was something about the Sovtek Muff I wish I still had. Now that I have the amps and the experience for it… The Muff is something everyone should try at least once at pants-flapping volume through a stack of Hiwatts.

    [Thanks for sharing Josh! You’re right, there’s something about these early Sovteks that no clone has quite managed to capture… possibly due to the fact that they were not perfect… :) – Bjorn]

  15. Ed says:

    Nice, really nice. I’ve just made my decision about big muff. I’m gonna buy my first one right now :))
    Thanks for the site!!!!

    [Thanks Ed! – Bjorn]

  16. Kit Rae says:

    Bjorn,

    Thanks for that article. Very fun to read your recollections of your first “Marty McFly moment when you plugged that Sovtek into your Sound City. I’ll link to this article The Big Muff Page.

    I may have told you my story before, but my first experience with a Big Muff was when I was 8 or 9 years old. I was at a friend’s house and his older brother had guitar and amp, and this huge red and black pedal on the floor with the words “Big Muff” on it. I did not know what it was, but I knew it was cool. I remember him plugging it in, playing some Black Sabbath riffs or something. I was in awe. Years later, around 1985, I started learning to play guitar and tried my first Big Muff. It was a V6, and I was playing a Strat into a Yamaha solid state amp. Naturally it sounded like shit, and I was extremely disappointed. I tried and tried, but it just was not working for me. I learned guitar because of David Gilmour. Knowing he used a Big Muff on Animals and The Wall just made it worse for me. It was like trying to ride a wild horse and getting thrown off every time. I knew that horse was special, I just could not tame it.

    I plugged the Muff in once or twice every year and slowly got to liking it. I was never able to get that Gilmour lead tone, but I could play other things with it. It was growing on me. I got to play other BMP versions over the years, but I never attempted to get that Gilmourish sound again. I just assumed it was not possible for mere mortals like me, although I kept digging into the history of that pedal and found all these different versions existed, and soon got addicted.

    Then came the Division Bell tour and Pulse. And that Sovtek on David’s board brought it all back. I had figured out most of Gilmour other sounds by then, but not the BMP tones. In the late 90’s I tried a new green Sovtek in a music store. Playing some shredder guitar off the wall into another crappy amp, it naturally sounded bad, so I did not buy one. Years went by, then I discovered John’s The Tone from Heaven site, then Gilmourish.com. And right there was that Big Muff article you wrote – hey, someone else knows about all these other version of the BMP! Cool! I had found the treasure trove of Gilmour gear information, the key information I needed to harness The Wall and Pulse lead tones. Long story short, I bought a green Sovtek, plugged it into my Twin with some chorus and delay, turned that reverb OFF, and I had the sound. That horse was broken and tamed. That of course got me into finding out all there was to know about Sovtek Big Muffs.

    I have told you this before, but that old Big Muff article on your site inspired me to create The Big Muff Page. It’s nice to see you are still passionate about this pedal and explaining it to people.

    It made be a hard one to tackle at first, but for anyone reading, don’t give up. It is well worth the effort to master this beast.

    Cheers Bjorn.

    [Thanks for sharing Kit! Great post! – Bjorn]

  17. Mark says:

    Hi Bjorn

    Great article and love the demo! You really have got those tones to perfection! Just curious to know if you have had any opportunity to check out the Stomp Underfoot (SUF) civil war or rams head? The YT demos sound pretty good but I’d be really keen to get your respected opinion of them, and maybe even an exploration of the differences between the two models!

    Cheers, best wishes and thanks for the great site!

    M

    [Thanks Mark! I haven’t had the chance to try the SUF yet. – Bjorn]

  18. Nick says:

    Hi Bjorn,
    What an awesome post! Your playing really blew me away here, perhaps the best Ive heard!
    As for sharing my favourite big Muff moments, well, there was this girl I knew back in high school… (it’s just the best named pedal of all time isnt it!) Seriously tho, how about these three?
    1: Fletcher Memorial – The first time I cranked this out of my stereo I almost fell out of my chair, the power in David’s playing as his solo kicks in – following Masons rapid fire on the drums – came out of nowhere and sent massive shivers down my spine!
    2: Hey You – Love the way this solo starts off as a low rumble and builds it to just insane heights! 3: Sorrow – it’s just huge isnt it! Bjorn, how can I match this tone in my bedroom with my 5 watt solid state amp? (Ha ha just kidding).
    Of course Comfortably numb is also the greatest solo of all time. I also picked up a Musket following your review, it puts a huge smile on my face. Great article Bjorn.
    Cheers
    Nick

    [Thanks for your kind words and for sharing, Nick! – Bjorn]

  19. Alan says:

    I’m still enjoying the Absolutely Analog Green Russian I had purchased long ago, and I have you to thank for reviewing it! On another note, I have come across a website that sells kits for pedals quite cheaply (we’re talking under 25 euros) and I was curious as to if they were good kits. The link to the website is this: http://www.musikding.de/index.php/cat/c122_Musikding-Kits.html

    [I haven’t seen these before. I’ll check it out :) – Bjorn]

  20. Pau says:

    Hello Bjorn! great Muff article. I recently bought the Musket thanks to your review. I like your articles because you try to be objective and realistic in terms of sound while explaining the feeling of the gear you use in the test. I think I was right following your recommendations about Muskett. I use: ENGL Screamer + BD2 Keeley + Musket and I like the cocktail.Thank you again. (Sorry with my English)
    Greetings from Spain

    [Glad you liked the pedal :) – Bjorn]

  21. Daniele says:

    So, we are in DSOT theme, have you ever seen this great vid?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_N-fg_KTx4

    :)

    [Yep. I did a little presentation a couple of years ago :) – Bjorn]

  22. Daniele says:

    Never find a clone that really match a Civil War or a Ram’s Head, and it’s incredible because were both economic padals…

  23. Nic says:

    Bjorn,

    As much as I love the reviews and pointers you give on the site, sometimes your “soapbox moments” ( I mean that in the best way possible) are the most entertaining and insighful to read! Loved this Muff-inspired love story!

    I think most anyone who has used a muff for an extended period of time and taken time to get to know it has their own memory of the first time they really got it. I can still remember the day I was messing around with my muff and finally hit a string of notes that sounded… Gilmourish :) That first day where you actually “get it” is like getting the password to a secrete club!

    I think I “got it” once I realized you have to “play the muff.” It’s not like an auto-wah, but you can’t expect to kick the muff on and not give in to the pedal’s wishes somewhat. Everytime I go to play the muff, I either just make a lot, A LOT, of noise or I man-up and and I tame it and own it like a bull fighter.

    I can get “that sound” most times, but sometimes, the muff wins and all I get is ringing ears. I’ve never owner/played another pedal that can kick your ass like a muff, but once tamed, “mastered,” and understood, it can be so rewarding.

    [Spot on Nic! – Bjorn]

  24. Huub says:

    Hi Bjorn,
    Great article, I really dig the Big Muff tones, but actually I prefer the Fuzz Face with the Powerboost. Still it’s a great pedal. BTW, is Macari’s reissue of the Powerboost the best clone?
    Please keep up the site!
    Huub

    [The Macaris is the one that’s closest to the old 70s models. The ThroBak is very similar with a couple of additional features. – Bjorn]

  25. Daniel says:

    Great article, thanks for this. I have a Big Muff reissue from a year ago. When the first time I connected it to my Super Champ XD I felt a little disappointed because I expected that powerfull violin tone, but reading your articles, I understood what was happening and now I hope to use it someday with an amp and a volume that truly remove that Big Muff has inside. But I have to say that with a small tube ampliffier the Muff can also bring good saturations.

    Best regards

    [Yeah, you really need volume to get that violin tone. In your case I’d consider a RAT, AnalogMan modified Boss DS1 or a TC Electronics Nova Drive. Cheers! – Bjorn]

  26. Mike says:

    I own a identical green muff and it is a awesome pedal. I will admit it can be difficult to dial in sometimes. The knobs are not acurate so you have to make little marks on it. You are also right that it really loves volume. I use a 50watt tube amp and it is a glorious sound when cranked. This might be my favorite video that you have done. Great playing as usual. Would also like to try a suf civil war. I also own the EMG set like yours and switch them in and out of my Strat. Sometimes I use the emg’s and sometimes the vintage noiseless set that came on it. Easy to change out,10 minutes or so. One of these days I will get some good ssl5’s. Thanks for all the great articles.

    [Thanks Mike! – Bjorn]

  27. Stan says:

    Great article as usual and what tone. I can’t believe that’s a Laney Cub you are getting all of that sound out of.

    Thanks for the tips you pass on to all of us.

    [Thanks Stan! – Bjorn]

  28. Marcus says:

    Good job as always, Bjorn! The penny didn’t really drop for me until Pulse was released…I was a teenager at the time and very much a metalhead with a point to prove and had never given Pink Floyd a decent chance. Of course I was head-over-heels in love with this girl who liked Pink Floyd a lot and so I picked up the Pulse album as a gift for her. Figured I’d better listen to it a bit first to see what all the fuzz was about (terrible pun, I know) and accidently put in disc 2 with dsotm. Didn’t think too much of it at first, but as soon as David kicked off his Time solo I just stopped whatever I was doing and instantly knew my shredding days were over. By the time I’d finished listening to the Comfortably Numb solo for the tenth time straight and picked my jaw up from the floor there was no way I was ever giving that album away and I couldn’t afford a second one so I kept it for myself :) Got my first big muff a few weeks after that and am still trying to find “the one”. Big muff that is, not girlfriend. So yeah, it works in mysterious ways indeed!

    [Ha ha! That’s the right way of prioritizing :) Cheers! – Bjorn]

  29. Euan says:

    EMGs! Do you guys that have them buy the set with the crappy pearloid pick guard or buy them separate? Is the pick guard easy to change?

    Great article! Wish I didn’t live in an apartment!

    [You mean with the EMGs? I don’t think you can buy them without the pick guard but you’ll replace that in 2 mins. It’s just some screws :) – Bjorn]

  30. Chris says:

    Another great article Bjorn, thank you! Do you remember the settings you found on the net for the PULSE tones?

    [More or less the same as what I’m using in this clip. – Bjorn]

  31. Robert Farrer says:

    Great article again Bjorn, I love how Volume always comes up with the big muff. Its also the biggest problem i have. What strikes me is how smooth the tone is from yours. The laney cub must be pretty maxed out on volume ( literally before breakup ). I have a VC15 Laney amp so same 15w output really and if i was to use a big muff at 60% volume with the amp volume about 7 ( edge of breakup i would say for vintage single coils ) i think the room would come down.

    Do the EMG breakup earlier than the CS69s and what room size do you need to reasonable cope with that kind of volume from an amp. ( hoping my new 5m x 4m livingroom may help )

    [The EMGs are a little hotter than the 69s so the amp will break up sooner. I’m playing pretty loud and I’m sure my neighbors we’re pissed but it also helps using a chorus or rotary sim like I did on this clip. It helps smooth out the tone a bit. – Bjorn]

  32. Jae says:

    I enjoyed the article Bjorn. The truth is I never knew that the Muff was such a big part of David’s tone until I found this site. I went out and bought one of the new black Russians. It sounded like mud, no matter what I did. In fact, I was able to get a better tone with my Tube Screamer. I stuck with that until I got my hands on a Civil War Muff. I turned the Bassman up to 10 kicked in the muff and shook all the pictures off the walls. The Mrs was not pleased, but she knew I played before we married so, it’s all good. I still play the Civil War as often as I can. Just not when my wife’s around.

    [He he! Yeah, you better hide that Russian when others are around. It can cause a lot of damage :) – Bjorn]

  33. Vadim says:

    Hi Bjorn!
    Great article, it has lyrical digression and physics! It’s amazing, but I’ve always had a feeling that when I’m practicing David’s solo guitar is not connected to the amp, where the distance is the right sound echoes. But it is necessary to engage in power and effect as to include all the nuances of the clean signal is not scaled and lost.
    I recently wiped the dust from my Muff (p USA) and included it among the booster and equalizer. It is amazing but it’s characteristic hum disappeared, sound was much better, even at moderate volume. But of course this is a rubber overtone of transistor amp. However, without booster infront muff there are no hint of the David’s tone.
    Of my favorite guitarists, David is the only muff user. I think that muff revealed just in Animals live performances and not on the album. I’ll probably trivial, but my favorite moments of this pedals is Sorrow (intro), Pigs (Live), and On An Island song, Echoes (RTN).

    With best wishes
    Vadim.

  34. Hugo Martinez says:

    Hi Bjorn.. Great article as always.

    You walked the same path that I as far as I can tell. DSOT change my mind, mi view and open my world of music..I mean, for me is still THE TONE.

    Never knew how to get it, being without www, with stores only selling Boss and Yamaha pedals and with an old Yamaha semi-hollow guitar, all I could do back then was to follow TIME, Comfortably numb or On the turning away at my home-stereo with the guitar “clean”

    Then, I bought a NYC reissue BMP… “what the h…l??” Didn’t learn to work with it until your site came up… I follow this site since the times when you reviewed effects like the BD-2 and the SD-1.. I remember the site.. black and white, still miss those articles from time to time.

    This article is nostalgic.. or perhaps is the day here in a winter rainy day..anyway I enjoy it.

    pd.- Recent listening makes me be pretty sure that the distortion in TIme in DSOT is an HM-2 actually.. I’m not so sure but I think David used this unit too in the intro of Sorrow from the same album, you can clearly hear the different sounds between the intro and the fill-ins and solos of the song..

    Cheers!

    [Thanks for sharing Hugo. Yeah, I remember that old site… time flies fast doesn’t it :) – Bjorn]

  35. lukas says:

    Well, great playing, as usual. I bought my first muff 2 years ago, and i still dont know how to make him sing, its shame but i changed my amp for laney cub, i bought a delay… when i first time pluged my muff to a new amp i thought this is not gonna work but then a listen to the stuff i was playing with my old marshall and i have to say the difference is huge. The loud tube amp makes magics, and the louder you play the better the muff sonds, its not perfect but way better then it was,:))))
    Two weeks ago i saw in Bratislava (Slovakia) The Australian Pink Floyd Show, they played On the turning away and it sounded fantastic, and the Sorrow omg:))) The secret i guess is loud playing, i mean really loud.
    Btw what do you thing about aussie floyd and their tone,:))
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZlqTDy9Uno
    on 24min26sec the gear show starts

    [I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing them live but judging by the clips they sound great and the show is overwhelming! Cheers! – Bjorn]

  36. Gabriel says:

    Yeah, I know, I´ve seen your reviews on the Pig Hoof and the Large Beaver and they both sound great. But again, customs here are a pain in the a** to deal with, and you end up paying twice the real price of anything because of taxes and “taxes” (a.k.a. “bribe” ). But then again, if I ever get in a band again I might give it a shot on it, meanwhile I´ll stay with my USA RI hehe.

    Thanks for the reply!

    Cheers!

    [Ouch… yeah, well that’s too bad. The US should do the job though :) – Bjorn]

  37. Gabriel says:

    Hi Bjorn! Another great article!

    The Big Muff is a love it or hate it, and thank god I’m on the lovers side. Though now I play with the crappy US RI (well, it´s not crap, but sounds quite different from the classic Muffs) I have played with a green russian one, lovely tone.
    My fave David tone is the Animals one, Dogs sounds amazing. I´d love to have a classic Muff, but since I´m kind of retired and just play guitar at home I cant´t afford to pay the money they ask for them here (about u$s 400 for a green one!! )

    Cheers!

    [But there are lots of great sounding cheaper clones. Check out the SUF Civil War, Jam Pedals red Muck or Blackout Effectors Musket for that Sovtek tone. I also recommend the BYOC Large Beaver and the excellent Electronic Orange Pig Hoof for classic 70s tones. – Bjorn]

  38. Toni says:

    Sorry Bjorn, only two more things: first, when I mentioned that I used the warm channel I meant the CLEAN warm channel, and secondly, I’m looking forward to reading about the ways to combine the Big Muff with the Color Sound Power Boost. you’ve already scaterred several clues here and there but it will be of great help to read a concrete post about it.
    Once again, thanks for such a great web!

    [There’s some info in this feature but I’ll explain it in detail in the next Muff article. – Bjorn]

  39. guitatronik says:

    “The Big Muff operates in mysterious ways.”

    Nicely said. I think that’s why I would never exchange it for anything else. Yes, you can have all these modern professional distortions and they will sound good with every setup, as you mentioned. But it also means that they’re so predictable. Muff and face always give me a thrill of unknown. :)

    [Exactly! You never quite know how these pedals will sound and they have so many nuances you can work with :) – Bjorn]

  40. Toni says:

    You read my mind! Yesterday I sent you an email with pictures of my pedalboard and asked you about your forthcoming Big Muff’s review and… here it is! Great article!
    Just one question: what do you mean when you say “…I plugged the Muff into my old Sound City 50w stack, maxed the volume as usual…”? Did you max the master volume or the channel volume? “Max” means 1/3 of the master volume? My Blackstar Series One 45 amp has master volume and individual volume and gain for each channel, I use the warm channel and place the main volume around 12:00h and the channel volume around 09:00h. Is that what you mean or should it be the opposite?
    Sorry for so many questions!
    Now I’ll check out the page you recommend to look for some info about the Big Muff with Tone Wicker (that’s the one which has GASed me…).

    [By maxed I meant that I played loud :) I set the master to about 1/3 of the channel volume. This allows the tubes to heat without distorting. Cheers! – Bjorn]

  41. Brian says:

    I’m a relatively recent convert to the Big Muff. My first was a Russian one (later version with black casing and yellow lettering). I sold it when I found myself between jobs, and as soon as I had a paycheck again I bought a USA RI on the advice of the clerk in the store (who was so confident I’d love it he took a few bucks off the price). He was right.

    I kind of kick myself now though, as green Russian Big Muffs were practically a dime a dozen in my area the early/mid-nineties, at the height of my love affair with grunge. J. Mascis was my main introduction to the Big Muff phenomenon, with Mudhoney and their landmark album “Superfuzz Bigmuff” following close behind. :D

    My knowledge of Big Muff clones and variations is pretty new but I love investigating and researching them, and this site has been a huge help, which leads me to thanking you for a great site in general. While I count David Gilmour as a major influence, that’s not what keeps me coming back…it’s great posts and discussions and gear reviews. Thanks!

    [Thank you Brian! – Bjorn]

  42. Edouard says:

    Awesome little article!

    Delicate Sound of Thunder…. I remember being just a kid and listening to David’s tone… I also didn’t have a clue on how to get such a tone. But I certainly noticed it! I was a tone freak since I started playing, but had no idea… which lead me to heaps of tweaking and experimenting!!!

    At the time I had a cheap guitar with a HB on the bridge, a crappy solid state amp and a DS-1. I had no idea why people would want vacuum tubes on their amps!!! Sounded like lunacy!!!! I had an old vacumm tube based TV and it was horrible! Why would someone want something like that on their amps!!! (Silly young man I was)

    Today I not only have a small tube amp (Vox AC4-TVH + 1×12″ cab) but also a tube pre-amp (Ibanez TK-999 MIJ), which I place IN FRONT of the muff (Yes you read it right… IN FRONT, pushing the muff).

    I keep the gain on the muff pretty low and the TK-999 together with an MXR Microamp give me the juice. This allows me to use the same set up for riffing tipical classic rock (Bachman Turner Overdrive, Cream, Santana, etc)

    The results are really good. But because the amp has virtually no clean headroom, I need to maintain the tone control on the muff pretty much opened all the way, just cutting a tiny bit of treble and the tube preamp (TK-999) with a bit of a mid boost. Otherwise the tone turns to mush!

    The other thing I do with my setup is placing my MXR Phase-90 In front of the distortion/gain section of my pedalboard. It makes it sound like some sort of filter instead of a plain phaser. And it being in fron of the TK-999 I get pretty good Gilmour tones (for that warbly, phasy, drippy tones). To my ears this is perfect for playing “Time”.

    Chorus (EHX Small Stone) comes after all the dist/gain pedals.

    [Thanks for sharing Edouard! A great example of how different stuff works for different rigs. I too like to keep the phaser in front of the gains. Makes it blend better with the overall tone. Cheers! – Bjorn]

  43. Eric says:

    Amazing, very good article and… tone!

    [Thanks Eric! – Bjorn]

  44. Chris says:

    Hi Bjorn!

    Another excellent article and gave nice insight into a pedal which has been an integral part of David’s sound for so long. I really loved his sound on The Wall which was my first Floyd record but on DSOT, it just blew me away. The solo on On The Turning Away being one moment which made me say “I want to play the guitar!”

    Loved hearing the demo video you posted and your playing is fantastic. Same with both Airbag albums which I absolutely love. Must tell you that I actually met David Gilmour when I was in Brighton at the end of November 2011. He was walking up the street and I said “Hello David, how are you?” He said he was well and asked how I was and I said I was OK. Told him that I’d really enjoyed his music and he smiled very broadly and said “Thank you”. I could not stop smiling on the way back to work :)

    Best Wishes
    Chris

    [Wow! Thanks for sharing! – Bjorn]

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