The Original Big Muff vs the American Reissue

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The Original Big Muff vs the American Reissue

How To Tell The Difference



Electro-Harmonix has been big into reissues for a while now, capitalizing on the demand for their vintage units.  Unfortunately, their choice of copying the exteriors exactly has led to many people selling what are claimed to be, whether accidental or intentional, vintage units that are actually well-used reissues.  This is the first in a series of articles to help prospective sellers and buyers identify whether their unit is vintage or reissue.

The Big Muff was the first reissue for the EH company, being originally built in Russia. Eventually an American-made version was reissued. Logical choice as it was one of their original pedals and pretty much built the company. The American-made reissue borrows heavily from the original 3rd generation Big Muff with it's red and black graphics. There are a few differences, though, that immediately make it recognizable as a reissue. Take a look at the pics below. On the top, a 2002 reissue. Below it, an original 1981 EH Big Muff, Model EH-3034. How many differences can you find?


Let's start with the obvious, the reissue has an LED on the left, below and between the VOLUME and TONE controls. True, it could be added to a vintage model by an enterprising modifier, but there's more. Look at these pics of the rear of the pedals.

Reissue Big Muff rear view
original Big Muff rear view
Notice that on the back of the reissue, there's only the INPUT and AMPLIFIER jacks, as well as the AC adapter jack, whereas on the original there's also a slide switch plainly labeled on the top panel as TONE-BYPASS. On some original models, it may just be labeled as ON-OFF because it was a power switch, a holdover from the 2nd version models. At any rate, on vintage models there should be a rectangular hole w/ 2 screw holes for the switch.
reissue Big Muff inside

original Big Muff inside

Inside the reissue the wiring's fairly neat, with a 3PDT footswitch already installed (note: early reissues used black SPDT switches, not the blue 3PDTswitches). Notice the circuit board of the original has 3 large solder pads on the right, just below where the VOLUME control is soldered (follow the arrow). These pads were used when this circuit board was used in the Little Big Muff Pi. The Little Big Muff Pi had it's VOLUME control soldered to these pads and the SUSTAIN and TONE pads had resistors soldered across them to preset the levels. Other Big Muffs of this vintage may have different circuit boards, such as the infamous op-amp Big Muff. Also, you may notice that the reissue has pots with solid backs on them whereas the original had open back pots. In the center hole of the original, you can see the interior moving part of the pot (the wiper). There's also a slot on the wiper that allows turning with a screwdriver.

Knobs on both these units are what I refer to as "cylindrical" knobs but both vintage units and early reissues had the black pointer knobs as well.


To sum it up, the easiest and quickest way to determine if the unit is vintage or reissue is to look at the back for a slide switch.  If it's not there, it's a reissue.  If it is there, look at the position of the AC adapter jack.  On the vintage units it sits a bit closer to the amplifier jack.  You might check this to make sure a slide switch wasn't added to a reissue as a mod or to purposely deceive the buyer.  Of course, if it's original there should also be labeling on the top for the switch.