My first Big Muff was a green Sovtek with the unmistakable bubble font. I bought it new in 1996 and was instantly blown away, quite literally, by its huge tone. It’s still one of my all time favourite pedals so when Electro Harmonix announced a new reissue, I had to check it out. Here’s my review of the Green Russian Big Muff.
David Gilmour has been using Big Muffs since 1976 and the recording of Pink Floyd’s Animals. The ram’s head model defined his tones in the late 70s and early 80s. By 1994 and the Pulse tour, David had swapped the old ram’s head for an early 90s Sovtek “Civil War”.
The so-called Civil War Big Muff was soon followed by slightly different versions in green and black boxes. What defined these Sovtek Big Muffs, apart from their cold-war Russian appearance, was their massive low end, smooth overdrive-like gain and noticeably more mid range than the 70s models.
The Sovtek Big Muffs hit the market just as the grunge bands started to appear. Most of these band wanted those old analog and vintage pedals and not the digital stuff of the 80s. In a way, although perhaps a bit simplified, the Sovtek Big Muffs started the whole reissue and clone boom.
The Green Russian Big Muff is a brand new circuit based on the tall font (design of the original logo) green Sovtek, which is very close to a Civil War model. It’s got that tight low end and a hint of mid range. The tone is unmistakable and probably as close as you can get to the originals.
I guess you can say it’s about time that Electro Harmonix did a proper reissue of their old Big Muffs. They have a wast range of different models available but none of them really sound like the ones from the 70s nor the 90s.
Still, I can appreciate the fact that they want to evolve and maybe offer new and modern versions to new generations of guitarists. But, the Big Muff belong with Electro Harmonix and I think it’s very cool to see that they now properly embrace their own Big Muff legacy.
What I like about the Green Russian, apart from the small foot print, true bypass and led, which are all considerable upgrades, is the fact that like the original, there are no bad tones. You can pretty much set the controls randomly and you get something great.
Crank the tone control all the way up and the low end is nicely retained. Roll the tone back past noon and the mid range gets more present. With the gain all the way up you’re instantly in Gilmour territory. Roll the gain back to noon or even lower and you got a nice and warm overdrive pedal, with impressive clarity and response.
I think the pedal sound best with the volume control around noon or slightly above but try boosting it to around 75% and you get a nice smooth tone, with a bit of boost for your amp as well. Roll back the volume slightly below unity for even more of those creamy fuzz harmonics.
Paired with a Hiwatt or similar mid range oriented amps, I did the review on my Reeves Custom 50, the Green Russian sound smooth and cuts through any band mix. It doesn’t really need to be paired with anything else, although slight clean boost or transparent overdrive will bring out even more of its character.
Big Muffs can be a challenge on the more scooped amps and bedroom setups, but the Green Russian fits pretty much anything with its slightly boosted mid range and fat low end.
So what’s the verdict? I’m honestly impressed and both surprised and glad. As much as I love many of the clones out there it’s good to see the classic Big Muff back home where it belong and for the affordable price you really can’t beat the value and tone you’re getting. Definitely worth checking out!