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Electro Harmonix Green Russian Muff π

Proof that you can keep your hands warm with a different kind of Russian muff ...

 

by Chris Loeffler

 

The Electro-Harmonix Big Muff fuzz pedal, possibly one of the longest running in-production pedals of the effects world, has seen many variations since it’s debut around 1969, with subtle (and not so subtle) tweaks to the circuit. The resulting changes produced different flavors of the distinct, thick sustain and distortion the Big Muff is known for, creating sub-cults of the Church of BMP. Some canonize the smooth, singing lead tones of the 70’s era USA Muffs, while overs prefer grungier, more gated fuzz tones. The army-green Russian Big Muff, always a favorite among guitar and bass players alike for its lower gain tones, fat bass response, smooth high end, and military-themed enclosure and packaging, debuted in 1994 and was produced until 2000. The seemingly endless demand for all flavors of Big Muff and proliferation of boutique cloners dropping Green Russian clones caught Electro-Harmonix’s attention and prompted the reintroduction of the Green Russian circuit.

 

The Electro-Harmonix Green Russian Big Muff Pi reissue comes in EHX’s mini enclosure and has controls for Volume, Sustain, and Tone and runs on a standard 9v Boss-style adaptor or 9v battery.

 

What You Need to Know

 

First thing first… players hip to Electro-Harmonix pedals before 2010 likely remember the massive, unwieldy folded-steel enclosures, ready-to-chip paint, and non-standard power supplies as part of the package when you joined the EHX army, up to and including the wooden boxes they came in that would have looked at home in a Russian ammunition supply warehouse. I mention this only because that complete overkill in presentation and format created an experience that added a vibe and attachment to the EHX line. With those memories top of mind as I opened the box, I was surprised to see such a small, sturdy looking pedal.

 

If you don’t know what to expect in a Big Muff, think thick, saturated gain that straddles the line between fuzz and distortion and varying levels of scooped mids, depending on the circuit. Subtlety is not the Green Russian's game, and the controls typically offer different shades of the same color, with limited dynamics and nothing to speak of in the lower range of the gain spectrum. The Electro-Harmonix Green Russian Big Muff Pi doesn’t stray from that equation, differentiating itself from the pack with a significantly beefier low end, more prominent (but still slightly scooped) upper mids, and a grittier texture to the distortion character. There’s less sustain than a current production Big Muff Pi and subtle gating in the decay.


The Volume control gives access to more volume above unity, something I appreciated and don’t remember being the case with the original design, ensuring jumping from clean to the Muff’s distortion stands out and minimizing the tonal shift that comes with the cut in mids. The Tone knob provides limited focus in the fuzz, and helps settle into a place that best fits your amp’s EQ, either taming the highs or reigning in the lows. The Sustain knob controls the character of the distortion, and while I didn’t find much of interest in the lower half of the control, the upper half of the dial is crucial to fine-tuning the pedal to different pickup output levels.

 

Another thing about the standing popularity of the original Green Russian is how well it played with the bass guitar. This carries forward with the Green Russian reissue. The expanded subs and distinct mid voicing creates a sludgy, lo-fi bass tone that would be equally at home on a Weezer or Sleep album. Said differently, I asked a bass player in a local band to demo the pedal against his Bass Big Muff Pi and received a text a day later asking if he could buy it (no).


Limitations


The “ideal” tone is a highly subjective, but to my ears the Green Russian excels at rhythm parts and immediately disappears in the mix for guitar leads, especially in a live setting.


The black knobs and font against the capo green get difficult to read in poorly lit spaces.


Conclusion


The EHX Green Russian Big Muff Pi is unapologetically what it is; a grainier, deeper cousin to the smooth, violin-like USA Muffs of the 70’s. At less than half the cost of boutique clones, it is a no brainer for people looking for the grinding fury of the 90’s Muff tone. There is a little Easter egg printed on the PCB that brought a smile to my face, but I'll leave that a secret for the curious to discover themselves! -HC-

 

Resources

 

Electro-Harmonix Green Russian Big Muff Pi Product Page

 

Buy Electro-Harmonix Green Russian Big Muff Pi ($107.50 MSRP, $80.60 Street) at SweetwaterGuitar Center , B&H

 

 

 

____________________________________________ 

 

Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer. 

 

 

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