David Gilmour’s tones on the 1994 Division Bell tour are many fans’ favourite and not least the huge, smooth sounding distortion on songs like Sorrow and Comfortably Numb. Many have tried to create a pedal that’ll produce the same wall of sound and the latest addition is the Patriot from Buffalo FX. Here’s my review.
Of course, the pedal we’re talking about, the one David used back in ’94, is the so-called Civil War Big Muff. The pedal was the first generation of the Sovtek Big Muffs. A company started by Electro Harmonix founder and Big Muff inventor Mike Matthews after he’d started the production in Russia in the early 90s. The Civil War Muff is known for its huge tone, with lots of gain, a hint of mid range and silky smooth sustain.
I did a review of Buffalo’s Ram’s Head NOS BC239c about a year ago and I’ve been hooked on their pedals ever since. They seem to have figured out how to make good sounding clones and what it takes to make them fit modern gear, without compromising the original tone and mojo. The Patriot is no exception and there’s really no other word than “huge” that comes to mind when I’m trying to describe the pedal.
The Patriot is available as both a standard model (TRex sized) and tall box (MXR but taller). Both circuits are identical. The pedal feature controls for gain, tone and volume as well as an internal trimpot for rolling off some of the low end (not that it needs it). It runs on 9V battery or (Boss-style adapter) and there’s true bypass switching.
Big Muffs comes in all variations. Some are mild and balanced, while others are aggressive and bright. Some are boomy, while others tends towards harsh. The Patriot fills the entire room. It’s not boomy but the low end is perfectly balanced. The top is smooth and the mid range adds a nice presence. Over all, the pedal is on the darker side of the spectrum but not as dark as the Colossus or Box of War. Alone, in your bedroom, the Patriot maintains its tone even on the lower volume levels and in a band setup, the pedal cuts through effortlessly.
I had great fun making this review. I plugged the pedal and a Boss DD2 straight into my Reeves Custom 50 and cranked the hell out of the amp. I expected an uncontrollable screaming feedback but once engaged, the Buffalo started to rumble. It started way down below and the guitar and amp started shaking. Then I heard a feedback that slowly grew into a sweet singing sustain. Without even thinking, I was already half way into Sorrow.
Now, is it really all that good? Well, personally I prefer the ram’s head. It’s closer to the tones I like and use in my own music. Still, the very first Big Muff I got was a green Sovtek and these early models has always been very special and great fun to go back to and play around with.
I can’t really put my finger on anything other than if you’re desperately seeking David’s Animals and Wall tones, then the Buffalo probably ain’t your best choice. However, in my very subjective opinion, this is as close as you’ll ever get to the Civil War Big Muff and David’s lead tones on PULSE. See Buffalo-FX.com for more details and check out Brett Kingman’s review too for more on the different settings and tones.