This comprehensive exploration delves into the rich tapestry of the top 10 Big Muff variants. Beginning with the iconic Triangle Pi Reference Board, the journey traverses through the evolution of the Big Muff circuit, from its humble beginnings in the late 1960s to its modern incarnations. From the classic “Standard” Triangle Big Muff Pi to the enigmatic Black Russian Version, each pedal offers a unique blend of nostalgia, innovation, and sonic exploration. Let’s dig deeper on the Big Muff lineage and its enduring impact on the world of guitar effects.

Big Muff Timeline


In the realm of guitar pedals, few names evoke as much reverence and fascination as the Big Muff Pi. Since its inception in 1969, this iconic distortion pedal has left an indelible mark on the world of music, shaping the sounds of countless artists across genres. Yet, what truly sets the Big Muff apart is its remarkable adaptability and enduring legacy, evident in the plethora of variants that have emerged over the decades. In this comprehensive exploration, we embark on a journey through time and sound, delving deep into the history, evolution, and sonic nuances of the top 10 Big Muff variants.


Historical Background

To understand the genesis of Big Muff variants, we must first unravel the historical tapestry of the pedal itself. Conceived by Electro-Harmonix founders Mike Matthews and Bob Myers in the late 1960s, the Big Muff Pi emerged during a period of unprecedented experimentation in guitar effects. Inspired by the burgeoning psychedelic and rock movements of the era, Matthews and Myers sought to create a pedal that could deliver the soaring, saturated tones craved by musicians.

The original Big Muff circuit, often referred to as the “Triangle Pi,” laid the foundation for subsequent variants. Featuring a simple yet powerful transistor-based design, the Triangle Pi captured the essence of vintage fuzz while offering unparalleled sustain and clarity. Its release in 1969 marked the dawn of a new era in guitar effects, setting the stage for a wave of innovation and imitation.

As the 1970s unfolded, demand for the Big Muff skyrocketed, prompting Electro-Harmonix to expand its production and distribution. Yet, with success came imitation, as rival manufacturers sought to capitalize on the pedal’s popularity. Thus began a cycle of emulation and iteration, with companies around the world producing their own interpretations of the Big Muff circuit.

Why So Many Variants?

The proliferation of Big Muff variants can be attributed to several factors, each contributing to the rich diversity of the pedal’s lineage. Firstly, the simplicity and versatility of the original circuit lent itself to experimentation and modification. Guitarists and engineers alike were drawn to the Big Muff’s modular design, allowing for easy substitution of components and tweaking of parameters.

Secondly, as the demand for distortion pedals grew, so too did the need for differentiation and specialization. Manufacturers sought to carve out their niche in the market by offering unique twists on the classic Big Muff sound. This led to the emergence of variants tailored to specific genres, playing styles, and sonic preferences.

Furthermore, the evolution of technology and manufacturing processes played a significant role in the proliferation of Big Muff variants. Advancements in component sourcing, circuit design, and production techniques enabled manufacturers to experiment more freely and push the boundaries of pedal design.

Evolution of the Components

Central to the evolution of Big Muff variants is the constant refinement and experimentation with component values and types. From resistors and capacitors to transistors and diodes, every element of the circuit plays a crucial role in shaping the pedal’s sound.

Early variants, such as the Triangle Pi and Standard Triangle Big Muff Pi, featured components sourced from readily available stock, resulting in a relatively consistent sound across units. However, as manufacturing processes improved and component availability fluctuated, subsequent variants began to diverge in tonal character.

One of the most notable changes in component values occurred in the transition from the Triangle Pi to the Rams Head variants. Larger resistors in the tone section and revised capacitor values led to a more pronounced midrange scoop and smoother overall tone. Similarly, variations in transistor types and clipping diodes influenced the pedal’s distortion characteristics, giving rise to distinct tonal signatures.


Exploring the Top 10 Big Muff Variants:

1. Triangle Pi PerfBoard:

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The Triangle Pi Reference Board, the holy grail of Big Muff enthusiasts and pedal historians alike. Picture this: it’s the late 1960s, Electro-Harmonix is just a fledgling company, and Bob Myers and Mike Matthews are tinkering away in a dimly lit workshop. This early perf board version, with its oversized collector resistors and point-to-point wiring, is a testament to the DIY ethos that defined the era. It’s raw, it’s unrefined, but my oh my, does it pack a punch. From its massive, high-gain sound to its slightly muddy undertones, the Triangle Pi sets the stage for what’s to come – a distortion revolution unlike any other.


2. “Standard” Triangle Big Muff Pi:


Fast forward to the early 1970s, and we have the “Standard” Triangle Big Muff Pi – the workhorse of the Big Muff family.

t’s like the reliable old friend you can always count on to deliver the goods. With its larger resistors in the tone section and ceramics replacing electros, this variant strikes the perfect balance between aggression and clarity. It’s the sound of rock ‘n’ roll distilled into a single pedal – gritty, raucous, and utterly irresistible. The moniker ‘Triangle’ derives from the layout of its three controls – Volume, Sustain, and Tone – a design that pays homage to the 2018 50th-anniversary commemoration.

Additionally, it boasts a luminous LED indicator, though one might argue that its blooming harmonics, lush sustain, and full-bodied fuzziness serve as sufficient clues to its activation.


3. “Rams Head” Big Muff Pi 47nf Version:

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Venturing further into the Big Muff chronicles, we encounter the illustrious Rams Head 47nf Version – a true gem from the early 1970s.

Named after its distinctive enclosure graphics, this variant represents a leap forward in Big Muff evolution. With its larger .47uF capacitors and revised filter configurations, this variant delivered a harmonically rich sound teeming with vintage charm. Embraced by luminaries like David Gilmour, its legacy endures as a paragon of classic fuzz tonality, immortalized in the annals of rock history.


4. Rams Head “White Can” Big Muff Pi:

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The Rams Head “White Can” Big Muff Pi – a rare beauty from the mid-1970s that’s as elusive as it is iconic.

This sixth iteration in the V2 circuit lineage epitomizes Electro-Harmonix’s quest for sonic perfection. Adorned with distinctive white axial poly film capacitors, this variant introduced subtle yet significant modifications to the circuitry, including revised filter configurations and altered resistor values. Resulting in a tonal palette characterized by its warm, articulate response, this rendition found favor among discerning musicians seeking a blend of vintage warmth and modern versatility.


5. Rams Head 1975 Big Muff Pi:

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Step back in time to 1975 and you’ll find yourself in the presence of greatness – the Rams Head 1975 Big Muff Pi. With its subtle tweaks in resistor values and capacitor configurations, this variant offers a modern take on a classic design. It’s like taking a trip down memory lane, only to find that everything sounds better than you remember. From its crisp, articulate highs to its thunderous lows, it’s a sonic journey worth taking. The Ram’s Head, produced between 1973 and 1977, earns its name from the Electro Harmonix emblem, a small ram’s head nestled at the pedal’s bottom right corner. Revered for its association with David Gilmour, who utilized it for his iconic solos from 1976 onward, particularly on Pink Floyd’s albums like “Animals” and notably “The Wall,” including the unforgettable moment in “Comfortably Numb.” Dinosaur Jr.’s J. Mascis also favors this variant for its pronounced sustain, warm tonality, and subdued highs compared to the Triangle.


6. Black Russian Version:

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Now, let’s fast forward to the early 1990s and venture into the world of the Black Russian Version – a pedal that’s as enigmatic as it is alluring. With its larger value resistors and unique clipping capacitors, it offers a sound that’s both familiar and intriguing. It’s like exploring uncharted territory, where every twist and turn reveals a new sonic landscape waiting to be discovered. From its gritty, raw texture to its thunderous bottom end. Due to durability issues with the Green Russian’s paint, Electro Harmonix transitioned to a more resilient black finish in 1998. Serving as the final Russian-manufactured version before production shifted to the USA, the Black Russian holds a special place among collectors. While sharing a circuit with its predecessor, subtle distinctions emerge, notably in its weightier bass response. Some deem it optimal for bass applications, a sentiment echoed by Muse’s Chris Wolstenholme, showcasing its capability to produce awe-inspiring tones. Ideal for low-tuned guitars.


7. “NYC Reissue” Big Muff Pi:

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Taking a trip down memory lane to the resurrected Big Muff Pi in 2000 (now discontinued), while there’s a circuitry that diverges from its modern-day counterparts. This iteration marked a fresh interpretation of the beloved Big Muff Pi circuit by Electro-Harmonix designer Fran Blanche, during the company’s revival in the USA. Melding elements from the late 70s V2 BMP and early V1 BMP, coupled with 390Ω emitter resistors borrowed from Sovtek BMPs, this rendition exudes a distinctive mid-scooped tone with a touch of vintage warmth. Its uniqueness lies in its sonic character, loved by enthusiasts for its nostalgic charm. However, as Electro-Harmonix tinkered with the circuit in 2007 and 2008, ushering in a heavier and doomier sound in the current model, debates ensued over the fidelity of the reissues. Yet, amidst the discourse, it’s essential to acknowledge the fluid nature of the Big Muff Pi’s evolution. As time unfolds, this rendition is poised to become a prized collectible, akin to its 1970s predecessors, solidifying its status as an enduring classic of guitar gear history.


8. Ace Tone Fuzz Master FM-3:

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Now, let’s take a detour into the world of Japanese innovation with the Ace Tone Fuzz Master FM-3 – a pedal that’s as quirky as it is groundbreaking. With its switchable volume boost stages and nuanced tone controls, it offers a level of versatility that’s unrivaled by its contemporaries. It’s like having a Swiss army knife for your pedalboard – you never know when you’ll need it, but when you do, it’s an absolute lifesaver.

Renowned as one of the quintessential fuzz tones, the legendary Ace Tone (pre-Roland) FM-3 Fuzz Master stands as one of the rare clones revered over the original.

Its split circuit introduces a secondary channel for volume boost/overdrive, elevating it beyond a conventional fuzz pedal. With volume and tone controls for each channel, it offers unparalleled versatility in sculpting your desired tone.



9. Japanese Super Fuzz Sustainar:

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Ah, the Japanese Super Fuzz Sustainar – a pedal that’s shrouded in mystery and intrigue. With its subtle modifications in tone shaping and component values, it offers a fresh take on the classic Big Muff sound. It’s like discovering a hidden treasure in your attic – unexpected, yet utterly delightful. From its lush, sustain-rich tones to its dynamic, expressive response, it’s a pedal that’s sure to leave a lasting impression. Manufactured by Elk Gakki Co., the Big Muff Sustainar served as a distinctive clone of EHX’s Triangle Big Muff Pi. While sharing similarities with the original circuit, notable differences arise, including a unique Tone Stack that yields a fiercer and distinctly different flavor. Utilizing NEC A733k46 Transistors, it diverges from the classic 2N5133s, offering a fresh take on the vintage fuzz sound. Dating back to as early as 1973, these pedals represent a significant chapter in fuzz pedal history.


10. The Jordan Creator: Fuzz with Rocking Pedal Volume/Sustainer:

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Last but certainly not least, we have the Jordan Creator – a pedal that’s as rare as it is revolutionary. Crafted with precision and ingenuity, it offers a glimpse into a bygone era of pedal design. From its unique rocking pedal volume and sustainer control to its biting, aggressive tone, it’s a pedal that defies convention and demands to be heard. It’s like stepping into a time machine and experiencing the birth of a legend firsthand – exhilarating, electrifying, and utterly unforgettable. Conceived in 1971 by George Cole of Jordan Electronics, The Creator – Volume/Sustainer emerged as a modified iteration of the Electro Harmonix v1 Big Muff.

Inspired by the pedal’s captivating sound, Cole endeavored to craft a clone with nuanced alterations. Encased in a treadle design reminiscent of the Jordan Gig-Wah prototypes, it strikes a balance between warmth and articulation, akin to a fusion of an early ProCo Rat pedal and v1 Big Muff. Offering a distinct “buzz” character, it defies conventional categorization as either a distortion or fuzz, embodying a unique sonic identity.


Efektor Moon Muffin – This 10 variants right at your fingertips:

In a harmonious fusion of vintage charm and cutting-edge technology, Kuassa presents its latest masterpiece: the Efektor Moon Muffin – Big Sustainer Fuzz. Inspired by the rich legacy of the 10 iconic Big Muff variants, this VST/VST3/AU/AAX/A360 plug-in embodies the essence of classic fuzz, distortion, and sustainer pedals.

With features like 8x oversampling for pristine audio quality, a Dry/Wet control for seamless signal blending, and a resizable interface for ultimate user convenience, the Efektor Moon Muffin redefines the art of guitar processing.

And for those seeking unparalleled flexibility, the plugin seamlessly integrates into Kuassa’s Amplifikation 360 platform, unlocking a world of possibilities for sonic exploration and experimentation.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to elevate your music with the Efektor Moon Muffin. Get it now at the special introductory price of $19, available exclusively from March 11 to April 11, 2024, through the Kuassa webstore and selected resellers.

Join us as we embark on a journey through the rich tapestry of fuzz history, one sustain at a time.