There’s tube amp saturation, overdrive, distortion, and then FUZZ. Even further, in the fuzz world, there’s the ultimate classic distortion/fuzz hybrid: the Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi. The original EHX BMP was designed by Mike Matthews & Bob Myer and introduced in 1969. The pedal has had plenty of different versions, interpretations, and updates, all changing and adapting the classic circuit design for new and exciting sounds. The JHS Pedals Muffuletta combines sounds inspired by 5 sought after Big Muff pedals and adds an original JHS interpretation for 6 different Muff flavors in one pedal.
The high price and maintenance of old vintage units make it difficult for modern guitar players to have access to the full range of classic Muff tones. Luckily JHS intends to have us covered with this ‘greatest hits’ stompbox meant for rugged modern touring and studio work. Not too often can you get one pedal that is 6 iconic pedals in one small format, is incredibly easy to use, sounds great with no digital emulation, and weighs next to nothing.
I will attempt to approach my JHS Muffuletta review from a modern player’s perspective and not from the view of a vintage Big Muff purist or collector of those pedals. These pedals are a lot like microphones, guitars, and drums: no two units are the same and every original unit will have its own unique character making it difficult to replicate the sound of the definitive Muff of any era with 100% accuracy. There are a ton of fuzz pedals on the market with variations of the Big Muff’s design, but if 70’s The Who, 90’s alternative rock, or old school sputter-y sounds are your vibe, the Muffuletta may be the perfect pedal to add to your board.
- Six modes from decades of the EHX Big Muff Pi pedal’s design, including a new modern spin by the masterminds at JHS
- Great fuzz for guitar, but has enough low end focus to be a great bass fuzz pedal and enough high end control to be an electric violin pedal
- Tone knob that interacts with the fuzz type and style; not your typical high cut or cut/boost knob
- Analog sound quality is high and noise floor is low
- Understated and cool black and yellow with meatball sub graphic
- Incredibly lightweight pedal
- An overall great value and workhorse pedal that is perfect for covering many tones on tour and in the studio without having to collect and maintain pricy and hard to find vintage muff pedals
Sound & Performance:
The pedal recreates 5 different sought after ‘eras’ of the iconic Big Muff fuzz, a pedal that has seen countless updates and changes since it was introduced in 1969. The Muffuletta pedal covers so much ground that you can can easily replicate tones similar to the Silversun Pickups, many noteworthy John Fruciante Red Hot Chili Peppers solos, Bush, the Black Keys, The Smashing Pumpkins, and countless other famous guitarists and bands. In my experience, the gain is controllable, unlike many other fuzz pedals. Even playing with my hollow body Tele, the pedal doesn’t cause insane feedback (it can if you want it to!) or introduce large amounts of noise into the signal. I typically cascade overdrives and distortions to get the best qualities out of multiple pedals (à la Dave Gilmour), but I’ve found the Muffuletta has more than enough full body and touch sensitivity to hold down your tone all by itself.
The VOLUME knob controls output volume, and works well to match perceived volumes and level independently of the SUSTAIN knob.
SUSTAIN – The fuzz amount. Like the old school units, fuzz gives the notes more compression and sustain to the notes and chords for more expressive playing at high gain levels. The gain capability is dependent on the fuzz type selected, and can go from a touch of hair to over the top fuzzy goodness.
TONE – This is your EQ/tone control, and is not your typical fixed frequency boost/cut or low pass. Left gives you a darker tone by emphasizing the low mids, which gives your guitar that ‘woofy’ thick low end. Turned to the right gives you that added shrillness without cutting out your low end. What is cool and unique about this pedal is that the Tone knob interacts differently with whatever fuzz type you select. It’s worth noting that while the Mode knob changes the distortion character to selecting from 6 different Muff circuits, the Tone knob is always the same and is based on a Green Russian Big Muff Pi. JHS found this to be the most ideal Tone control.
MODE – There are 6 different ‘eras’ of the Big Muff in this pedal, each with their own cool symbol printed on the pedal. JHS’s designs are not exact recreations of the iconic pedals, but definitely nail the tones and character of these different types of the legendary muff. It’s best to know how old-school you want to go or what type of sound you are going for before deciding which one to start with. The types are not in order of ‘era’, with the left most being the original vintage muff design, and as you turn to the right, the tones become more recent and modern. I find that this pedal is a lot like picking a preamp for recording, whether it be SSL, Neve, API, etc: Start with what era or flavor you are going for and experiment away!
Civil War – More midrange, brighter tone, less gain.
Late 70’s Sovtek/EHX Russian design. It has less gain to work with, but cuts nicely with a high frequency boost character. Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth relies on this sought after old school muff sound.
Russian – Less clarity, less low end
Later updated Russian black design, used frequently by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys.
Pi – Aggressive Sound
Late 70’s design. This muff pedal is the most famous and popular aggressive and unsubtle fuzz tone you have heard from John Frusciante, Jack White, Frank Zappa, Pete Townsend, and various 90’s alt-rock guitarists, most notably Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins. Works great for solos, as the sustain and compression really force the solo to the front of the mix and you don’t have to dig into the strings to get the volume.
Triangle – Low End, Articulate
The original. This setting is a full bodied fuzzy tone that is usable for a lot of different types of music, and definitely old school. Gilmour, Santana, insert guitar god name here ____.
’73 Rams Head – Scooped Mids, less gain, darker tone
This setting is great for a more tightened rhythm tone that tucks in behind another guitar/violin/vocal. Great for fuzzy modern bluesy stuff like Black Keys or Jack white riffs.
JHS 2015 – Less compressed, great for bass, focus on midrange
Not only did JHS make admirable recreations of 5 iconic pedals, they added a new and unique Big Muff inspired flavor to this pedal. The JHS Mode is a great all around modern fuzz with added bass and a smooth midrange perfect for a modern take on the old school sound. This setting will smooth out shrill high frequencies and give your instrument a little body, perfect for a bass player that feels left out, a telecaster that needs some weight, or an electric violin that needs to settle down.
This pedal is truly inspiring to play. You can of course get a great sound out of the pedal by just plugging in and playing, but it really opens up possibilities of the pedal once you know the design and legacy of the originals, and I wouldn’t call this pedal a beginner’s pedal. Finding out which Muff your favorite guitar players have used and having the ability to dial it up without buying six pedals is very cool and should help you get writing and playing quicker.
The JHS Pedals Muffuletta delivers legendary sounds inspired by 5 iconic Big Muff Pi pedals and a 6th original JHS fuzz creation for one incredible value in a pedal. Collectors of the original units may scoff at the intricacies of these reinterpretations, but the Muffuletta is a workhorse and its many tones keep it from being a one trick pony on your pedalboard. Fuzz is generally not a subtle effect, but the Muffuletta can be dynamic and expressive or give you over the top gain while still maintaining that touch sensitivity and low noise we as guitar players always want to keep intact. You can dial up plenty of Muff tones from 70’s progressive music to alternative 90’s grungy fuzzy goodness, 2000’s Chili Peppers, and modern blues based riff rock. If you pick one up, you’ll likely not be disappointed.
That concludes our JHS Pedals Muffuletta review. Thanks for reading!
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