• Vick Audio 1861 fuzz review

    Vick Audio 1861

    I’ve been following, and a great fan of, Vick Audio for some years now and I’m always excited when new they release new pedals. The latest addition to their catalog is the 1861, a fuzz based on the early 90s Sovtek Big Muff. Here’s my review.

    I’ve told the story before but my very first Big Muff was a green Sovtek bubble font that I bought new around 1995-96. There’s a never ending debate on which is better, the Civil War, the green tall font or bubble font?

    I’ve played them all but none has really come close to my old green tank. Perhaps it’s nostalgia or affection but it really doesn’t matter. Tone is subjective and based on personal preference.

    I’ve reviewed several pedals from Vick Audio over the years, including the ’73 Ram’s Head (which has often found its way to my stage board), the Overdriver and (one of my all time favourite overdrives) the Tree of Life. All of them done with great care and understanding of how the original pedals sounded like and what improvements needed to be done, without compromising tone.

    The 1861 is based on the early 90s Sovtek Big Muff, a.k.a. the Civil War (due to its blue and grey colours). This was one of the first Big Muff made by Electro Harmonix founder Mike Mathews after he moved to Russia.

    David Gilmour famously used a Civil War Big Muff during the recording of Divison Bell and on the 1994 tour, which was recorded for the PULSE live album and DVD. The pedal was once again added in late 2015 for the last leg of the Rattle That Lock tour.

    While those early 70s ram’s head and triangle Muffs comes off as fairly bright and uncompressed, the early 90s Sovteks and the Vick Audio 1861 has a smooth and warm tone, with great sounding harmonics. With a moderate gain setting and the guitar volume rolled back slightly, you start to hear these subtle nuances and that fat, woody tone.

    The 1861 has plenty of sustain and despite the fairly high amount of gain and low end, the pedal has very little noise so it’s easy to achieve those sustained notes without everything breaking into messy feedback and low frequency rumble.

    As with all of the Big Muffs from Vick Audio, the 1861 features the 3-way toggle switch for different mid range modes. Flat is the stock mode, with a slightly scooped curve. This brings out those sweet harmonics but you might find it a tad too thin on low output pickups. Flat equals a slight mid range boost compared to stock. It’s fairly moderate but enough to add a bit more smoothness and presence.

    Boost provides a noticeable mid range hump, with lots of presence and an overall smoother and fatter tone. This is excellent for bedroom setups and amps that has less mid range but be careful with this on amps like Marshall and Hiwatt and humbucker pickups, that already has a lot of mid range and compression.

    Where the 1861 surprised me the most was when I set the gain to about 9 o’clock and the mid range switch to flat and used my Les Paul with P90s. I got a super fat overdrive tone, with an amazing sustain and these harmonics that responded incredibly well to my playing.

    The 1861 is perhaps not as huge sounding as some of the clones out there or the original models. But that’s not a negative thing in my opinion. Some of the Sovek models can be a bit hard to tame and the low end especially can be a bit overwhelming. The 1861 seems more balanced and again, it’s easy to get some really nice overdrive tones on lower gain settings.

    My only (minor) concern is that there isn’t a lot of volume available. You really need to crank it to reach unity or a slight boost. As most of my gain pedals are set up for a slight volume boost, I would have to pair the 1861 with a booster pedal or EQ to get the same result, which I think is a bit redundant. The pedal should be able to produce enough volume on its own.

    Still, the 1861 is an excellent addition to the already huge Big Muff family. The 3-way mid range switch and moderate gain, makes it ideal for achieving those huge fuzz tones on smaller amps and bedroom setups. Pair it up with a transparent booster and a loud tube amp and you’re very close to David Gilmour’s epic 1994 tones.

    Visit vickaudio.com for more details.

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9 Responsesso far.

  1. Nick Love says:

    Glad to see this reviewed. I’ve played dozens of muff clones and I keep coming back to the Vick Audio. His muffs are no-frills but some of the best on the market. I’ve had the 1861 since it came out as a limited run as the Civil Muff early last year. I agree about the balanced tone. I found it to be less big sounding than most Sovteks, but also sweeter and with better sustain. In fact, if I wanted a Sovtek that could also handle the brighter early muff tones this would probably come closest of all of them I’ve played.

  2. Phil says:

    Nice review! Mike is doing a great job with his pedals.

    I have the Ram’s Head and also noticed it doesn’t really boost the volume that much, so I have to crank it up a bit.
    Bjorn, do you or anyone else here, who owns the pedal, feel the same way about the Ram’s head?

    Cheers,
    Phil

    • Bjorn says:

      The ram’s head has more volume but it’s not the loudest Muff on the market.

      • Phil says:

        Ok thanks Bjorn! Figured at like noon I get the same volume as playing clean so I’ve been trying different volume settings lately up to 3 o’clock and I actually like that to boost the solo a bit ;)

  3. Charlie says:

    Would u recommend this of the ’73 for an all around bedroom pedal?

    • Bjorn says:

      Depends on the amp but the 1861 is warmer and smoother, which often goes better with low volume and smaller amps.

  4. Alexis says:

    Hi Bjorn!

    After viewing your nice demo, I still can’t decide on which CW Big Muff to buy.
    I’m torn between the 1861, the Buffalo FX Patriot and the JHS Muffuletta. I own a Vick Audio 73 Ram’s Head, but I would like a CW Big Muf to nail David’s modern tones and PULSE in particular.

    Which one of the three I mentioned would you recommend? And would you recommend a TD-X or Overdriver/Power Booster as a booster for this Muff?

    And thanks again for recommending the Lionheart L5 amp, I have great times with it and my Ram’s Head now really shines through it! ;)

    Cheers!

    Alexis

    • Bjorn says:

      My fav is the Buffalo but for the Lionheart I’m not sure. It can sound a bit too boomy and dark on that amp but it depends on your amp settings. The Vick is brighter and has less low end, which is easier to tame. The JHS is OK but I prefer the other two.

Hey! How about a comment on this post?