Electro Harmonix Deluxe Big Muff Pi Review – Best Fuzz Distortion Pedal?

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The Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi is a legend among guitar pedals. With a legacy dating back over 40 years, the BMP is a long-standing force to be reckoned with. The new Deluxe Big Muff Pi has finally reached what is without a doubt the most versatile iteration yet. The classic 3-knob Muff is expanded with an Attack knob, a dedicated noise “Gate”, a Bass Boost, and a foot-switchable Parametric MIDS EQ section which is also controllable via expression pedal. This may not only be the best version of the Big Muff Pi but the best fuzz distortion pedal… period. Here’s a detailed feature rundown before we serve up some “Pi” in our Electro Harmonix Deluxe Big Muff Pi review.

Features:Electro-Harmonix-Deluxe-Big-Muff-Pi-Review-Best-Fuzz-Distortion-Pedal-02

  • Delivers all the classic sounds of the original NYC Big Muff Pi, plus extra features.
  • Foot-switchable MIDS Section helps you cut through when recording or playing live.
  • MIDS section features four controls (Mids knob, Freq knob, Q flip-switch, On/Off foot-switch) so you can fine tune your midrange boost or cut.
  • Noise gate with adjustable Gate control eliminates noise and hum while preserving your attack and original tone.
  • Adjustable Attack control adds punch to your single notes and chords.
  • Switchable Bass Boost for added bottom when you want it.
  • Expression Pedal input lets you sweep the mids in real time.
  • True bypass for maximum signal path integrity.
  • Powered by 9 volt battery or 9VDC power supply.

Visit Electro Harmonix for more info about the Deluxe Big Muff Pi.

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Sound & Performance:

I’ve always been a huge fan of the EHX Big Muff Pi, so naturally I was very excited to hear about the Deluxe Big Muff Pi. Unlike some guitarists I don’t swear by any particular vintage unit as the be all, end all version of the Big Muff. The Big Muff Pi has been released in countless variations, and Electro Harmonix continues to reinvent the “Muff” sound and expand upon its tone and feature set with each new version. (See the Big Muff Pi with Tone Wicker for another example.) Basically, the “Muff” is getting better and better, and this Pi takes the cake.

Electro-Harmonix-Deluxe-Big-Muff-Pi-Review-Best-Fuzz-Distortion-Pedal-03The first thing to point out about the Deluxe Big Muff is that it easily captures the classic Big Muff Pi sound, making it immediately worthy of its namesake. Just leave the Attack and Gate rolled down, and the MIDS and Bass Boost off, and you’ve got the original Big Muff Pi with Volume, Tone, and Sustain controls. But of course if you wanted just a Big Muff Pi, you probably wouldn’t be reading this as this pedal indeed offers so much more.

Starting with the basic Big Muff Pi settings, the first “Deluxe” feature we’ll check out is the Gate control. With a high Sustain setting you can mute the strings and still hear some background noise when you’re not playing, typical of most high gain distortion/fuzz pedals. Bringing up the Gate to just around 9 o’clock will instantly cut out any unwanted background noise. The Deluxe Big Muff Pi’s Gate immediately cleans up any noise without compromising the response and tone of the fuzz. Dialing in the Gate just a little higher ensures a very quick response between your riffs for tight stabs of saturated Muff goodness.

Electro-Harmonix-Deluxe-Big-Muff-Pi-Review-Best-Fuzz-Distortion-Pedal-04The Attack control may seem underrated at first, but it actually gives the Deluxe Big Muff Pi a very unique feel compared to other Muff style fuzz pedals. It’s essentially a volume control for a parallel signal that adds emphasis to your initial pick attack. It may be hard to hear how this is impacting your sound at first if you’re using high Sustain settings. By turning the Sustain nearly all the way down and alternating between minimum and maximum Attack settings, you’ll hear how it adds a more noticeable emphasis on your plucking and strumming. As you bring up the Sustain and listen to the Attack, you’ll find that it really helps recapture the transient response of your playing, an essential remedy for anyone who’s ever felt like Muff pedals had a dulling effect on their pick attack. It’s effect is less prominent on extreme Sustain settings, but it’s a subtle touch that shows EHX spent time carefully considering how to refine the Big Muff Pi sound. The Attack control adds an essential vitality to the Deluxe Big Muff Pi, and I find myself usually preferring to max it out for more transient articulation.

When boosting the Tone past noon for more high-end emphasis, the Big Muff Pi’s low-end is typically reduced. This may be fine in a band setting with another guitarist or if you just want a cutting treble-focused sound, but sometimes guitarists may wish for a little more low-end presence. The Bass Boost control on the Deluxe Big Muff Pi is just what was needed. I usually find similar controls on pedals being a little overbearing, but this pedal’s Bass Boost is worth leaving on most of the time, especially if you’re scooping the MIDS section a bit for emphasis on upper and lower frequencies.

Speaking of the MIDS section, this is the defining feature that makes the Deluxe Big Muff Pi a clear winner among fuzz distortion pedals and other Big Muff Pi variations. The dedicated MIDS foot-switch lets you essentially have 2 sounds on call, like say, a standard rhythm tone and a mid-boosted lead tone. And as I mentioned there’s also plenty of scooping potential thanks to the Freq knob. The Q knob gives you a choice of High and Low settings for thinner or wider tonal sculpting. You could dial in a wide mid-boosted hump or a surgically precise mid-scoop.

Perhaps the most fun feature of the Deluxe Big Muff Pi is the expression pedal control of the middle frequencies. Try setting a maxed out +10dB MIDS boost with the High Q selected. Rock the expression pedal through its sweep for some extreme filtering effects. You can activate/bypass the crazy expression effects with the MIDS foot-switch for instant access to normal Big Muff Pi sounds and wild wah-style filtering effects. You can also control this with CV (control voltage). I’d love to see a synth experimentalist running their keys into this thing. Or maybe your band’s keyboard player can hijack the pedal with CV while you take a solo; you stomp on the MIDS and shred while your band mate goes wild with the filter. The Deluxe Big Muff Pi is a dream dirt pedal for sonic renegades. Get weird with it!

I must say, this pedal is definitely my favorite version of the Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi so far. It’s obviously the most feature packed version of the “Big Muff”. It’s nearly perfect in fact. It would have been interesting to see a “Tone Wicker” flip-switch that allows you to achieve a Tone circuit free, full-range signal that could then be used with or without the MIDS section. Speaking of dream Muff possibilities, I’d also like to have seen some kind of adjustable “character” control that could adjust the looseness/tightness of the fuzz. These are just a few ideas that came to mind while thinking about where the Big Muff Pi could possibly go from here. As far as that loose, Muffy fuzz sound is concerned, this is the pinnacle of EHX Muffs. It’s great to see Electro Harmonix still tweaking the legendary fuzz pedal into the 21st century. The Deluxe Big Muff Pi contains a world of extreme fuzz textures and is a great value considering its reasonable asking price.

This pedal rocks like no other Muff before it. Electro Harmonix have done it yet again.

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Overall-Rating-5.0

The Electro Harmonix Deluxe Big Muff Pi is without a doubt the ultimate version of the Big Muff Pi that EHX have released so far. Rather than just adding a bunch of random extra features, EHX took careful consideration of how the Big Muff Pi could be improved. The noise gate was long overdue. The Attack adds transient emphasis. The Bass Boost makes this Muff more massive. And the MIDS section adds an infinite palette on tonal coloring and performance flexibility. I look forward to seeing if EHX can take the Muff anywhere else from here. Until they do, the Deluxe Big Muff Pi reigns supreme.

That concludes our Electro Harmonix Deluxe Big Muff Pi review. Thanks for reading.

 

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Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh Supreme Review – Best Fuzz Distortion Pedal?

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The Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh Supreme is the final evolution of the legendary Pharaoh fuzz distortion pedal. The Pharaoh has long been known for its plethora of musical fuzz tones that forge a link between your guitar and amp without masking the inherent character of each. This rich legacy of tone has led many guitarists to bow down to the Pharaoh, extending its dynasty across pedalboards the world over. Now the Pharaoh Supreme ascends to the Osirian throne, promising all the tones and sounds of the original Pharaoh and more. Will it rule supreme as the best fuzz distortion pedal? The answer will be revealed in our Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh Supreme review.

Pharaoh vs. Pharaoh Supreme

There are a few distinctions between the Pharaoh and Pharaoh Supreme pedals. The Pharaoh is already an incredibly versatile fuzz distortion pedal, but the Pharaoh Supreme appears to be for those who want even more. While the Pharaoh has 3 clipping modes (asymmetrical Germanium, Silicon, and no clipping), each selectable via a 3-position flip-switch, the Pharaoh Supreme features those 3 modes plus 3 more (Germanium, Mosfect and LED), all 6 selectable from a 6-position rotary knob. Also, while the Pharaoh had a 2-position Hi/Lo switch that lets you select from tones with more headroom/lessing clipping or less headroom/more clipping, the Pharaoh Supreme replaces it with a Pre knob for even deeper contouring between those tonal characteristics. Here’s the full list of features before we jump into our Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh Supreme review.

Black-Arts-Toneworks-Pharaoh-Supreme-Review-Best-Fuzz-Distortion-Pedal-02Features:

Fuzz control knob sets fuzz distortion level from a cleanish boost, to a light overdrive, all the way to saturated fuzz.

Tone control knob adjusts tonality, designed to suffer little volume loss and give a natural sound.

Volume control knob sets output level.

High control knob replenishes highs cut by the Tone control when boosting lows.

Pre control knob replaces the Hi/Lo switch of the standard Pharaoh and adjusts the front-end saturation between tones with more headroom/less clipping and less headroom/more clipping.

Clip 6-position rotary knob selects from 6 different clipping stages, from left to right: Germanium, Asymmetrical Germanium (standard Pharaoh), Silicon (standard Pharaoh), Mosfet, LED, and Bypass (standard Pharaoh).

True bypass foot-switch for letting your signal pass unaffected when disengaged.

Powered by 9VDC power adapter.

Visit Black Arts Toneworks for more info about the Pharaoh Supreme.

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Sound & Performance:

Do yourself a favor. Don’t bother reading this review. Go ahead and send a check to Black Arts Toneworks with a note that says: “I want to serve the Pharaoh Supreme.” You can thank me later.

What, you want more convincing? Fine. Watch the Pharaoh Supreme review demo video. Then send your check to Black Arts Toneworks.

You’re still here? You must really want me to tell you about the Pharaoh Supreme, huh?

Okay, fine. Listen up.

If you haven’t played the standard Pharaoh fuzz distortion pedal due to living under a rock or other territory outside the jurisdiction of the Pharaoh’s epic fuzz majesty, you’ve been missing out. The standard Pharaoh offers a choice of Asymmetrical Germanium clipping, Silicon clipping, or no clipping in a single pedal for those who appreciate the subtle variations of one over the other or just like a little more variety out of life. The Pharaoh also has a Hi/Lo switch for shaping the overall response of the pedal considerably. The standard Pharaoh simply rocks and is a formidable fuzz pedal in its own right as the many Pharaoh worshipping guitar players and bassists will agree.

The Pharaoh Supreme differs from the standard Pharaoh by offering 3 more clipping modes: Germanium, Mosfet, and LED. That gives you a total a 6 selectable clipping variations! Also, in place of the Pharaoh’s Hi/Lo switch is a Pre control which adjusts between those 2 settings and anything in between.

The Pharaoh Supreme’s 3 additional clipping stages will be more than worthwhile for some guitarists. The Germanium clipping sounds quite similar to the Asymmetrical Germanium clipping with the latter having slightly sharper edges. The Pharaoh Supreme exclusive Mosfet and LED clipping settings are my 2 favorites among all 6 modes, making the Pharaoh Supreme my preferred choice among the Pharaohs. The Mosfet clipping just has this even dynamic response and definition that I really appreciate. The LED clipping has the most distinct sound from the rest of the clipping modes and provides a different foundation for sculpting your perfect fuzz distortion tone. The differences among the clipping modes may seem somewhat subtle at first, especially when playing with high Fuzz levels, but really listening to how the various controls interact with the different clipping modes will reveal their unique qualities and yield the best results.

The Pre knob may look like a minor alteration to the Pharaoh design, but it has a surprisingly essential impact for helping you get the most out of the Pharaoh Supreme. Especially noticeable is how at its highest settings, the Pre knob really pushes the clipping to achieve maximum breakup. But you can just barely cut it back and shave off a little harshness from your overall sound if you’d like. This control is highly interactive with the various clipping modes and is not to be overlooked when tweaking your Supreme fuzz tone.

Carried over from the standard Pharaoh is the brilliant combination of Tone and High knobs. When you have the Tone rolled clockwise, the High knob has little noticeable effect on the sound. But when you turn the Tone counter-clockwise, darkening the sound and reducing the high-end focus, the High knob can be turned clockwise to bring back the high-end. It’s a remarkably clever approach that yields some incredibly thick fuzz sounds. In the review video I mainly found myself showing the Tone knob at extreme settings, but definitely try setting the Tone between 9-12 o’clock with the High cranked for some killer tones that aren’t too bass heavy. Either way, the Pharaoh always has a beefy mid-range presence for a massive fuzz assault.

Reducing the Fuzz produces some great mellow fuzz tones, cleanish overdrive sounds, and mild distortion. The Pharaoh Supreme delivers some very smooth overdriven tones if you don’t want it all extreme all the time. There’s some solid cleanup from your guitar’s volume control as well. The pedal’s Volume knob can really crank your signal, too, if you need a boost. The Pharaoh Supreme also stacks amazingly well thanks to it’s wide selection of clipping modes and tone variations, making it a killer choice for a lead boost in front of another distortion pedal or your amp’s crunch channel.

The Pharaoh Supreme really is one of the more versatile fuzz distortion pedals I’ve played, and while you can easily kick it on and quickly find a usable setting, you’ll discover new levels of fuzz supremacy over time as you discover all the subtle nuances of this pedal. All the tones of the standard Pharaoh are intact in the Pharaoh Supreme, but the Pharaoh Supreme’s 3 additional clipping modes and unique Pre control make for a tempting sonic upgrade. This is the fuzz to rule over your other guitar pedals.

The Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh Supreme rules and is one of the best fuzz pedals around. Let’s see the final result.

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Overall-Rating-5.0

The Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh Supreme is one of most fun and intricately musical fuzz pedals I’ve played and will surely become one of my go-to fuzz boxes. Its 6 selectable clipping options provide plenty of starting points for shaping some killer fuzz tones. The masterfully designed tone circuit from the standard Pharaoh still reigns supreme and works well with the newly implemented Pre knob for putting the final touches on your fuzz distortion masterpiece. The LED and Mosfet options make this the Pharaoh of choice for me, and if you’re looking for the best fuzz distortion pedal around, perhaps the Pharaoh Supreme will serve your needs as well.

That concludes our Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh Supreme review. Thanks for reading.

 

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