Electro Harmonix recently released the last of their Big Muff reissues and probably the most anticipated. The Ram’s Head. The original pedal defined David Gilmour’s late 70s and early tones. Here’s my review.
It’s exciting to see how Electro Harmonix is embracing their legacy with these reissues. The Big Muff has been cloned in every way possible by countless brands – and yes, I have many favourites among them – but to me, the Big Muff is synonymous Electro Harmonix.
David Gilmour started using the Big Muff around 1976, with the recording of Animals. It was a natural transition from having used the more overdrive sounding germanium Fuzz Face and later, during the Dark Side of the Moon era, the slightly more aggressive silicon transistor Fuzz Face.
The Ram’s Head Big Muff was David’s main distortion pedal for the Animals tour, his 1978 solo debut, the recording and touring of the Wall and Final Cut. Read more about David Gilmour and the Big Muff pedal here.
The Ram’s Head was introduced as the second generation Big Muffs in the early 70s. It got its nickname from the ram head graphics on the chassis.
The first models, with red graphics, had a distinctly brighter and more aggressive character compared to its predecessor, the so-called Triangle. Later versions of the Ram’s Head, had violet graphics and more gain and an overall smoother tone.
EHX’s new Ram’s Head reissue is based on the mid 70s Violet Ram’s Head, with the familiar controls for volume, gain and tone, as well as true bypass switching, led and 9V powering.
Electro Harmonix has done an amazing job with all four reissues (the fourth and perhaps not as Gilmourish – the late 70s OP amp model). They’ve managed to capture the true essence and character of each original model and some serious competition to the boutique market.
Tonewise the Ram’s Head is very close to the mid 70s Violet. It’s got a lot of gain, a nicely balanced low end and that slightly compressed and smooth character. And it’s loud! Probably one of the loudest Big Muffs I’ve played.
You can instantly recognise the classic tones from Wall and Final Cut. Especially with a Stratocaster and a Hiwatt style amp. There is a distinct string definition and the sustain is rich yet easy to control. Adding an Electric Mistress and a bit of rotary brings you straight into the super modulated tones of the Wall.
The pedal require a bit of tweaking though. Depending on the pickups and amp, the tone control seem to have a narrow sweetspot. Too low and with the gain high, the pedal gets a tad too saturated and mooshy. Rolling up the tone control too much doesn’t really solve it, so you need to find the right balance between the volume and gain.
Rolling back the volume a hair, really brings out those rich fuzz harmonics and opens up the whole character of the pedal.
So, how does the new Ram’s Head compare to the other reissues? The Triangle is darker, with a distinctly scooped mid range and much more low end. The upper frequencies seems a bit too compressed, while the Ram’s Head sound more balanced and open and slightly brighter.
The Green Russian is a slightly different beast, with more mid range and an overall more mellow gain character. It’s more modern sounding perhaps, fitting a wider range of gear and tones. The Ram’s Head is much more aggressive and raw.
Should you get them all? Well, why not? Still, the Ram’s Head is definitely the more vintage or classic sounding and perhaps best suited for David’s late 70s and early 80s tones.
The Green Russian is spot on the 90s tones in particular. The Triangle is somewhere in between. That being said, all three can easily cover all of your David Gilmour Big Muff tones.
See ehx.com for more.