Tag Archives: Germanium 4 Big Muff

What’s in a Fuzz? (Part 2)

29 Jul

(for Part 1, click here)

This time around we’re going to unpack even more Fuzz options. Keep in mind that while Fuzz circuits produce a unique sound, they are very similar to distortion. I prefer a Fuzz stacked on a Keeley Modded TS9 with settings for more of an OD to a distortion pedal any day. The point is that even though Fuzzes can be moody and take some tweaking, they are versatile pedals that can really pay off.

Courtesy of EHX.com

Big Muffs Part 2: We got some Muff variants out of the way last time, but I’d like to follow up on this topic. The thing to keep in mind with Muff iterations is that EHX has tried many tweaks on their basic deisgn. They are all based on 4 gain stages and almost all use silicon transistors, but the circuit tweaks created many variants, most of which have a set of fans. I know that I glossed over the NYC Muff last time, but I wanted to point out that many people love the basic NYC version of the Big Muff Pi. It’s fairly versatile, can get you some good strong breakup, and shows exactly what the Muff sound is after.

Bass Muff: Although I like the Reissue Russian Muff just fine for bass, the EHX Bass Muff has its place. Really, since this circuit is similar to the Russian Green issue mentioned last time, it’s a great pedal for guitar as well as bass. This is one you’ll want to play with a bit, but it definitely keeps your low end in tact very well. The added Bass Boost switch is a fantastic way to beef up your Muff Fuzz.

Tone Wicker: This compact NYC Big Muff Pi has a switch that engages a bypass of the pedal’s tone section. If you are after a strong silicon Fuzz, but are having trouble finding a pedal that doesn’t eat up your guitar’s tone dynamics, you might want to try this one out.

Double Muff: This pedal is simply two stacked muff circuits. You would get a similar sound if you took two NYC Big Muffs and stacked them. The result feels like a thick Distortion more than a gritty Fuzz. I’m not a personal fan of the sound, but those interested in a Metal Muff might want to try this out in order to keep your options open.

Courtesy of EHX.com

Germanium 4 Big Muff: This pedal stacks an OD circuit with a Distortion circuit. The pedal can get a Fuzz tone, but there are many other options as well. Here, EHX employs germanium transistors unlike their earlier Muff models. This gives the Germanium 4 Big Muff a choppier sound, with thick breakup. At its heaviest, it’s like stacking Tone Benders. Keep in mind that there is a lot of control here, you can get a wide variety of germanium tone from this pedal, but as even EHX recognizes, you’re getting more OD and Distortion than straight Fuzz.

Courtesy of DeviEver.com

Devi Ever: (Edit: Devi’s circuits are not based on Muff / Tone Bender — they are original except the Silver Rose, which is an IC Muff / Super Fuzz hybrid.) What sets these Fuzz boxes apart from many others is that they get sounds that you don’t expect. Devi’s pedals have a character that many big names have taken a liking to. (Just click through the pedals on her website for an idea.) It seems like Devi took a heavy silicon circuit and tried ways of getting at that intense breakup you hear in germanium psychedelic Fuzz. The result is a thick Fuzz with a very unique sound, which Devi refers to as “Bit” noise because of how it sounds like old 8-bit gaming sounds.

The bit Fuzz sound comes in various forms with the straight Fuzz pedals, but there are other firsts in Devi’s catalog. If you’re interested in getting strange sounds, check out the oscillating Fuzzes, the Eye of God‘s feedback Fuzz, or Devi’s joystick-controlld Manglers, which push the Fuzz sound way over the top.

Ge/Si Hybrids: One simple innovation that some pedals have adopted is to use silicon transistors for the drive sections and germanium diodes. Diodes change clipping (germanium is a little smoother), which affects how the Fuzz is voiced. The results can vary. For instance, the original MXR Distortion + has germanium diodes, but so does the ZVEX Fuzz Factory that we mentioned in the last post. The circuit design and transistors have a lot to do with the Distortion and Fuzz you get, but diodes play a part. Additionally, the Wampler Leviathan lets you switch between germanium or silicon diodes for clipping, if you’re looking for versatility.

Courtesy of TunnelVisionMusic.com

Beyond the hybrids that utilize germanium diodes, some pedals actually let you switch between germanium drive and silicon transistors for variable drive. Because the diodes only affect clipping, the Fuzz difference isn’t as drastic until you get to the transistors. The Mojo Hand Huckleberry has both transistors for the ultimate choice in a single pedal. There is no real setback to this, the circuits get your from Muff to Fuzz Face pretty damn well.