There are many flavors of fuzz pedal out there from Tone Bender to Fuzz face and beyond.
Yet, the fuzz circuit that arguably has the most flavors within its own design is the Big Muff Pi from Electro Harmonix.
But I’m not here to talk about an EHX Big Muff.
I’m here to talk about six Big Muff circuits that have been crammed into one pedal: The Muffuletta from JHS Pedals.
If you’ve been trying to decide which style of Big Muff Pi fuzz circuit is going to work best for you, the Muffuletta gives you enough options to start (or end) your search for the ideal Big Muff style fuzz.
- Five classic Big Muff circuits in one pedal
- One original JHS fuzz
- Improved Tone control
- More versatile than any standalone Big Muff fuzz pedal
- Extremely well built and cleverly designed
- Aesthetically pleasing
- Honestly, none for fans of Big Muff Fuzz
The Muffuletta is an all analog fuzz pedal with five classic voices of Big Muff fuzz as well as a sixth, custom voice from JHS. The pedals are based on Big Muff pedals in Josh Scott’s personal collection, of which he picked the best sounding and most historically influential circuits.
Buying any one of these original pedals could cost you hundreds, even thousands of dollars on the used market and their functionality can be notoriously shotty despite sounding phenomenal. I’ve mentioned in previous fuzz articles that there are few pedal builders that love fuzz as much as Josh. His attention to detail, combined with his collaboration with Jon Cusack of Cusack Music, has resulted in impeccable tonal replication of these vintage circuits.
The Muffuletta is also built with incredible quality, as the pedal feels sturdy and ready for long term use. In addition to housing six voices in one enclosure, it’s also about 2/3 the size of the original muff pedals, saving you room on your pedalboard.
The pedal consumes only 4mA of current, making it a much less glutenous than its name might imply., and it runs on standard 9V DC Negative Center power.
JHS designed the Muffuletta to function like a traditional Big Muff Pi. The three controls that work in parallel with other Muffs include:
Volume – Overall output. Left results in less volume. Right results in more. I find unity volume/gain is usually around 1:00.
Sustain – This can also be thought of as Fuzz or Distortion. Just like the vintage units, more fuzz results in longer sustain.
Tone – One of the common complaints about vintage Big Muffs is the Tone control. JHS used the Tone control from a Green Russian Bubble Font muff pedal that tapered evenly. According to JHS, this tone control changes the pedal’s character more than most pedals’ tone controls. Turning to the left results in a darker, wooly sound. Turing to the right creates harmonically rich high end.
Then there’s the Version Selector rotary dial. This is where all the magic happens.
- JHS “2015”: JHS Original. More powerful, with less compression that is perfect for bass guitar.
- ’73 Ram’s Head “73-77 V2”: This dark sounding style of Big Muff has less gain and a scooped midrange that was utilized by David Gilmour.
- The Triangle “1969-1970 V1”: The OG Big Muff circuit and the most sought after by collectors. The combination of a deeper low end and highly articulate response made this a favorite of Santana and Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine).
- The Pi “1977-78 V3”: Most famous for its aggressive sound and giant Pi logo that continues into today’s Big Muff pedals, this version from the late 70’s has a more aggressive quality that is favored by Frank Zappa, Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins), and Jack White.
- The Russian “1999-2009 V8”: based on the “Made in Russia” pedals of this era, this voice has less low end and less clarity than the other voicings. This voice would be loved by the likes of Dan Auerbach (Black Keys).
- The Civil War “1991-93 V7”: Less gain, brighter high end and present midrange best describe this mode. Civil Warm Muffs were used by the likes of Peter Buck (REM) and Jeff Tweedy (Wilco).
With each of the six voices offering their own unique flavor of Muff style fuzz, there are a wide array of uses for this pedal beyond the typical “Wall of Sound” distortion sound that has made this pedal famous. Because there are so many great demo videos of this pedal on YouTube, I thought it would be fun to give you my top three settings for this pedal.
While any Big Muff pedal can get within the ballpark of these sounds, none can do all three as well as the Muffuletta.
As a reference point, I used my Suhr Classic Antique (S-style guitar) into my Helix, using the Brit Plexi Brt amp model (based on a Marshall Super Lead’s bright channel) and an Ownhammer impulse response of a Marshall 4×12 loaded with Greenbacks. Like all fuzz pedals, the Muffuletta interacts with your amplifier and I find it really comes to life when the amps are set just on the edge of breakup.
Octavia – Civil War Mode
The Civil War mode is by far my favorite setting on the Muffuletta. The boosted midrange and brighter high end solves my biggest issue with most Big Muff pedals, which is that I get lost in the mix when using them with a band. The Civil War mode, especially when set as I have here, fixes that and will actually help you stick out in the mix.
Start by diming the Volume and Tone controls, with the Sustain set around 8:00. Turning the Tone control on the Muffuletta accentuates the already brighter nature of the Civil War Mode and brings out frequencies that otherwise get lost. What results is an awesome, punchy, borderline octave up effect.
I like to play with this setting on the neck pick of my guitar and I think that the effect is most effective when playing double stops.
Vintage Mono Synth – Triangle Mode
I actually got the concept for this setting/technique from Jay Leonard Jay’s demo of this pedal, and added a few tweaks of my own. It turns out that the Big Muff Pi is incredibly effective at making your electric guitar sound like a distorted, vintage synthesizer. This is fitting, as the developer of the original Big Muff pedals, Mike Matthews, was an organ player.
To achieve this sound, turn the Volume to 2:00, Sustain to 3:00, and the Tone all the way up on the Triangle mode. Then, roll the tone on off on your guitar. Don’t be afraid to roll it all the way off.
Combining extreme settings on the Muffuletta’s tone control and your guitar’s tone knob creates a smooth and distorted sound that is accentuated by the Triangle mode’s articulate feel and deep low end response.
I like to take Jay Leonard Jay’s setting one step further by adding a Gate or a tremolo effect to really make my guitar sound like a synthesizer. I would also suggest playing around with your pick attack, even using your fingers, as the Muffuletta reacts to your touch drastically in this setting.
Clean Up – JHS Mode
Besides the wonky tone controls, another common complaint about vintage Big Muff units is that they don’t clean up with your guitar’s volume control like other fuzz circuits do. Not so with the new JHS Mode. Less compression and more power, along with a unique midrange, allows for plenty of dynamics.
For a good core tone to use this technique in, I set the Volume and Tone at 2:00 and the Sustain at Noon on the JHS mode.
With this setting, I roll my guitar’s volume down to about half way and I still get focused, edge of breakup tones that are perfect for rhythm playing. Then, when I really want to rock out, I turn the volume at the way out for a gloriously saturated, tube-like distortion sound.
This would work especially well on a guitar with pickup dedicated volume controls so you can access two great tones at the flip of your pickup selector switch.
Final Thoughts on the JHS Muffuletta
Vintage Big Muff fuzz pedals have reached a mythical status in the world of electric guitar, resulting in nearly unattainable price points and product scarcity. Thankfully, the JHS Muffuletta makes five of these great pedals available for us mortals.
I also think that the JHS mode of this fuzz is incredibly useful. The fact that this is an all analog pedal, with six amazing fuzz pedals crammed into one small enclosure is a pedal circuitry/engineering feat that can’t be overstated.
Whether you are curious about what a Big Muff style fuzz can do for you, or if you are a long-time fan looking for more versatility within a smaller footprint, you can’t go wrong with the JHS Muffuletta fuzz pedal.
It is deserving of being called on of the best fuzz pedals. It’s the last Big Muff style fuzz I’ll ever need… unless a vintage Civil War Big Muff magically falls into my lap for free.
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Davis Wilton Bader is a professional guitarist/writer based out of St. Louis, MO. He plays in the bands Lumet and The Outskirts.