Bye, Bye Miss Big Muff Pi - Part 1

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Bye, Bye Miss Big Muff Pi

This time we're going to take a look at the Muff family. As you all know, the Big Muff Pi was probably EH's most famous product. Thousands of these things were sold to crazed guitarists around the world seeking that down and dirty sound that only a Big Muff could deliver. It was most likely the 2nd or 3rd EH effect I bought (the 1st was a Small Stone and the 2nd might have been a Memory Man).

The Big Muff was a mainstay of EH almost since the company's beginnings. In its long history, it went through several changes which I shall discuss here.

Version 1: The famous "triangle knob" version, so called because of the triangular arrangement of the knobs (Figure 1). The model number at this time was EH-3003 and the list price was $39.95. This is the smallest of the Big Muffs, only slightly larger than a Small Stone. This is also the best sounding one of the bunch with tons of sustain and a smooooth distortion. The electronics were pure analog: transistors (4), capacitors and resistors. Power was switched on by a slide switch just above the volume knob, but some early ads show the power switch as actually being on the volume control. At this time it was also possible to purchase the Big Muff as a kit for a lower price of $26.95. This gave you the satisfaction (and possibly the frustration) of putting it together yourself.


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Version 2: By 1975 the Big Muff had moved into a bigger house with a bigger price tag, the house being a large box like the one used for the Electric Mistress and now listing for $49.95. The controls were also laid out in a straight line across the top of the pedal with the power switch moved to the back between the jacks. The lettering was black with "Big Muff" printed in red across the middle and the EH "face" in the lower right-hand corner. The face logo was sometimes shown as a circular graphic and sometimes a square one. These versions are commonly referred to as "Ram's Head" models. I don't like this designation because the logo is obviously not a ram or any other kind of hoofed mammal. I prefer to just call it the "V2" (preferred) or the "face model".


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Version 3: Around 1977 EH updated the paint job on the Big Muff to the famous red and black paint job with "Big Muff" in big red letters and a large black area around the footswitch but kept the earlier circuitry of the Version 2. You can easily identify these by the power switch on the back. Another new feature was the inclusion of a 1/8" DC power jack for an AC adapter. If you look inside the unit, you'll also see that it has the earlier "3003" circuit board. The original box also has the correct layout pictured on it along with the model # EH-3003. All versions from here on kept the graphics of this unit, sometimes with some variations in color.

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Version 4: Big change for the Big Muff!!! Around 1977 EH completely changed the circuit of the Big Muff and created the "op-amp Big Muff". The earliest models were still marked on the circuit boards as EH-3003 but soon the model was changed to EH-1322. From the outside, it appears identical to the V3.

 

 


Version 5: Another op-amp Big Muff I own is pot-dated 1978 and labeled as EH-1322 but has a TONE BYPASS switch. With the addition of the TONE BYPASS switch the circuit was modified so that power was switched on when you plugged into the input jack. A V5 unit that came in for repair was labeled as EH-3003 and had a pot-code of 1979.

 

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Version 6: The op-amp circuit was dropped and the transistor circuit brought back. The model continued as the EH-3003. The TONE BYPASS, which was first found on the V5, was retained. By 1981 the model # had changed to EH-3034.

 

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So, what did we learn from this? There are more Big Muff versions than you can shake a 5X Junction Box at. Here's a quick recap of the article:

The Big Muff: The Crucial Differences
Version 1 EH-3003, the "Triangle-Knob" version Early 70's to 1975
Version 2 EH-3003, the "Face Model" 1975 to 1977
Version 3 EH-3003, the "Face Model" in new red/black graphics w/ ON/OFF switch. All units from here on use Version 3 graphics 1977
Version 4 EH-3003/EH-1322, the first op-amp version w/ ON/OFF power switch 1977 to 1978
Version 5 EH-1322/EH-3003, op-amp version w/ TONE BYPASS switch 1978 to 1980
Version 6 EH-3003/EH-3034. Changed back to transistor circuit w/ TONE BYPASS switch 1980 to 1983

 

 

If you're wondering how the different Big Muffs stack up against one another, check out Kevin Macy's article in the March 1994 issue of Vintage Guitar. He had access to a lot more of them at once than I did.

Not enough? Well, for those of you who need more, these was the Big Muff's big brother, the Deluxe Big Muff Pi (Figure 4) which you could buy in 1978 for the grand price of $89. This puppy was AC-powered and had a Soul Preacher compressor built-in as well. I've seen two versions of this: the EH-1330, which had a Blend switch (apparently the earlier model) that allows you to switch the compressor in or out and the EH-3053/3054 which had a Series/Parallel switch. In the latter case, both effects were always on and the switch allowed you to reconfigure the way they were hooked together. For some reason it also cost more, with list price set at $130. All Deluxes, to my knowledge, were made with ICs.

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Next, Part II of the Muff family....... Thanks to Bruce Beemblossom at B&B Guitar Elite for the Version I Big Muff. I forget who sold me the Version III back in December 1995 although he worked at a local second-hand store and recognized me. Chris Carruthers supplied me with the Deluxe Big Muff (Blend switch model).