JHS Pedals recently released the Muffuletta – their version of no less than six different Big Muff models cramped into one single pedal. Itâ€™s already gotten a lot of praise and I canâ€™t remember last time that Iâ€™ve received as many requests for a review, so here it is!
I must admit that although Iâ€™m quite familiar with JHS, Iâ€™ve never actually tried any of their pedals. I donâ€™t know why but theyâ€™re hard to come by up here in the cold north. JHS offer both clones of hard to find classics and their own versions of the more well known circuits and pedals.
The Muffuletta offer five classic Big Muff tones and new, tweaked by JHS. Now, multi version pedals are nothing new. The Royal Beaver from Big Tone Music Brewery was one of the first and last year, Electro Harmonix released the Big Muff Deluxe. Both are capable of some really impressive tones and options but the exhaustive amount of knobs and controls frightens off many.
The Muffuletta feature the familiar controls for volume, tone and sustain, as well as a mode control, allowing you to choose between the six different Big Muff circuits. Itâ€™s all analog and theyâ€™ve used original Big Muff pedals as a reference for both tone and circuit design. Whatâ€™s impressive is that all this is fitted into a small MXR sized chassis, which should find room on any pedalboard.
Iâ€™ve seen a couple of reviews with A/B tests between the original Big Muff models and the Muffuletta and the result is impressive. Iâ€™ve done similar tests with my early 70s Ramâ€™s Head and green Sovtek and theyâ€™ve really done an amazing job capturing not only the tone but all the characteristics of each model.
The Civil War mode sounds fat and smooth, with a nice amount of mids and a crispy top end. David Gilmour used the early 90s Civil War for his 1994 Pulse lead tones and the Muffuletta captures that throaty character and rich sustain perfectly.
JHS hasnâ€™t specified which model theyâ€™ve used for the Russian mode, although most pictures Iâ€™ve seen show different versions of the black Sovtek. Iâ€™m guessing theyâ€™ve either used the best features of both the green and black or an early black, which is very similar to the later green. Either way, Iâ€™ve compared this mode with my bubble font green Sovtek and itâ€™s hard to tell them apart. Very similar to the Civil War, with slightly less low end and an overall darker character.
The Ramâ€™s Head mode captures the grit and brightness of the Big Muff model favoured by David Gilmour, among others. Itâ€™s got that scooped mids character, with slightly less gain and an overall more fuzz-like tone. Paired with an Electric Mistress flanger and a booster, this mode is great for early David Gilmour tones from Animals, The Wall and Final Cut and also the more recent live tones.
The Triangle is perhaps the most musical of all Big Muff circuits, with a slightly darker tone, fat low end and singing sustain. I was eager to see if the Muffuletta could match my favourite triangle clone, the BYOC Large Beaver (3-knob version), and it does so quite impressively. Perhaps a tad less gain but definitely close.
The Pi mode is based on the late 70s incarnation of the Big Muff, which most grunge guitarists embraced in the early 90s. Not one of my favourites but it has a unique tone and quality in the Big Muff family, offering a bit more gain and an overall more aggressive tone.
The Muffuletta also feature a new take on the Big Muff circuit, labelled JHS. Itâ€™s basically got more of everything – more gain, low end and a healthy amount of mids. I like this one a lot and I can see myself using it both for recording and on smaller amps in my home recording studio. Unlike other mids boosted clones, this one sounds more open and dynamic and doesnâ€™t colour your tone as much, while at the same time cutting nicely through a dense mix.
Itâ€™s hard to find anything wrong with this pedal. It sounds really good. Still, I do wish that theyâ€™d allowed more of the characteristic flaws to shine through though. Thereâ€™s no secret that the old Big Muffs, and even the Sovteks, had issues but thatâ€™s also part of their magic and mojo. The Ramâ€™s Head and Civil War modes could do with a bit more dirt and harmonics to fully capture the character and tone of these beasts.
The noise level is very low. So much that I feel it compromises some of the mojo. You donâ€™t want hiss and hum but not too much gate either. You need to keep the gain control fairly high or the sustain will die fast. This can easily be compensated for with a booster of course, which, as a Gilmour fan youâ€™re probably doing anyway.
But, these are minor issues. Iâ€™m very impressed with the Muffuletta. JHS has managed to create a pedal that offer true sounds, rather than variations over a single circuit. Dialling in the different modes allows you to instantly hear the differences between each model and their unique qualities.
Whether or not you play with a band on a loud tube amp or in your bedroom, with a smaller combo, the Muffuletta will deliver a wide range of classic Big Muff tones, with stunning authenticity. Highly recommended! Check out jhspedals.com for more details and reviews.