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Electro-Harmonix's classic Big Muff Pi gets smaller by thinking big.

 

By Chris Loeffler

 

Companies are always trying to think BIG. Bigger is better, as they say. That sentiment may be true when talking about ideas, but when it comes to the size of an effect pedal, getting small is the surest way to earn a place on the pedal board. Electro-Harmonix has been arming players with some of the most innovative, groovy tone tools available for over four decades, but many of their effects conpliment their big tone with a big footprint. While these massive enclosures are undeniably cool, many players have resorted to creating custom enclosures and rehousing their classic EHX effects to squeeze them into their signal chain. Electro-Harmonix took note of this and has answered with the Electro-Harmonix Nano Big Muff Pi.

In a nutshell, the Electo-Harmonix Nano Big Muff Pi is the exact same circuit and produces the exact same tone as the current production Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi: same schematic, same components, same basic circuit board layout…. only in a much more pedal board friendly format. The Nano Big Muff Pi features Volume, Tone, and Sustain controls and is powered by a 9v battery (included) or an optional 9.6DC-200mA Boss-style adaptor.

Nano Big Muff Pi

What You Need to Know

  • The Sustain knob, like all Big Muff Pi pedals, controls the level of distortion and, by virtue of the distortion type, gain saturation applied to the input signal. At the lowest settings, the gain is still heavier than the typical overdrive and sitsclearly in the distortion category with spitty, nasty fuzz produced with lower output single coil pickups and , transistor-like chunky distortion when fed by high-output humbuckers. Around noon the distortion becomes perfectly saturated and creates violin-like lead tones that are compressed but harmonically complex. Cranked all the way up, the Sustain sounds like an amp about to explode, with layers of distortion stepping over each other and copious feedback generated by sustained notes.
  • Like almost all EHX pedals, the Nano Big Muff Pi isn’t afraid to give you enough range in controls to enter non-traditional, unorthodox territory for those seeking unique applications beyond traditional, “classic” tones. As such, the Tone control is essentially a filter that can go from over-the-top bass woof to crisp, ragged treble that will cut through the mix as surely as a treble booster. Most players will find a sweet spot somewhere in the middle half of the sweep based on their guitar and amp settings.
  • The Volume control reaches unity gain around noon, leaving tons of extra output on tap to push the preamp section of an amp. With so much gain on tap, the Nano Big Muff Pi is as adept at being a stand-alone distortion creator in front of a clean amp as it is in pushing a hot amp into further distortion and adding its own layers of harmonic gain. Obviously, these two drastically different approaches require different settings, but anyone familiar with layered gain stages will be right at home with either application.
  • Like its big brother, the Nano Big Muff Pi is activated via true-bypass switching, which ensures no tonal coloration of the direct signal when the effect is in bypass mode. Given that the Big Muff circuit plays best early in the signal chain, this is especially handy as it ensures you aren’t creating loading issues with other early-chain effects that require as pure and direct a path to the pickups as possible. Aside from the small form factor, the EHX Nano Big Muff Pi is likely to please players who use standard barrel adaptors in a daisy chain or power supply as opposed to the 1/8” input on its larger sibling.

Nano Big Muff Comparison

Limitations

  • There really aren’t limitations to be found in the Nano Big Muff Pi… it sounds identical to the current large format version, so players familiar with the Big Muff sounds know exactly what to expect. For those not familiar, low gain and touch sensitivity aren’t its forte.

 

Conclusions

The Electro-Harmonix Nano Big Muff Pi is every bit the equal of the standard Big Muff Pi at one-quarter the size and with the added benefit of a more standard power supply input. While it is hard to deny to cool factor of its larger sibling’s enclosure, the Nano Big Muff Pi is all around more practical for those looking to fit Muff tones on a cramped board. With Pink Floyd, MBV, Smashing Pumpkins, and dozens of other icon distortion tones a couple of knob adjustments away and a very modest price tag, the Nano Big Muff Pi might be one of the biggest bang-for-buck distortion devices available. 

 

Resources

Electro-Harmonix Nano Big Muff Pi at Musician's Friend (MSRP $93.06, Street $69.80)

Electro-Harmonix Nano Big Muff Pi Product Page

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