Electro Harmonix Op-Amp Reissue vs Original Vintage 1978 V4 Big Muff

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9 Months ago today I released my Big Muff shootout video. Finally I’ve managed to post this article with some additional Info. These are “the Muffs”

In my Video, I compared an original Op-Amp Big Muff V4 and a current line Op-Amp Big Muff Reissue. The reissue comes in the standard EHX nano sized metal enclosure. I got the reissue as a Christmas gift to myself, a highlight at the end of a 2020 that otherwise pretty much sucked. I actually bought it from the tip money I got off my Corona Job during the first lockdown and the summer which involved overseeing the enforcement of mask wearing regulations at a local supermarket. Talking about a pedal well earned!

A brief History of the Op Amp Big Muff V4

Following the Triangle Muff, the Ram’s Head Muff and a Red & Black Version 3, EHX introduced the V4 around 1978. In an effort to reduce production costs, the circuit design was changed. Instead of four transistors, the new design featured op-amp chips and one less gain stage. The V4 was in production for a brief period of time and was phased out in the same year or in 1979. The V5 has the same circuit but differs in other design aspects (see below).
The V4 shares a lot of sonic characteristics like the scooped mids with its predecessors. However, a lot of players claim it’s a bit more rough around the edges and that it has less bottom end than the V3 and V6 transistor versions. These characteristics make it a desirable pedal for punk/ alternative players such as Billy Corgan.

In 2017 EHX released the Op-Amp Big Muff Reissue. It features a tone switch which removes the tone control from the circuit. This is a feature that was actually part of the V5 design (the V4 had a power on/off switch). The reissue is true bypass.

If you want to go more in depth about the history of the V4 in particular, and the big Muff in general I highly recommend a visit on http://www.kitrae.net/music/big_muff_history.html. This is a great source of info on all things Big Muff.

The Guitars

For my comparison I wanted to feature different guitars. In the end I settled on the following selection:

In the Outro Music I play my 1995 Fender Made in Japan Jazzmaster. The synth sounds here were kindly provided by my colleague Michael Miller from the YouTube Channel Pitch Patch.

The Setup

The Pedal Setup is fairly simple: I used the Boss LS-2 Line Selector Pedal to create two independent FX Loops for each pedal. I put the tuner behind the LS-2 because I wanted to hit the Big Muffs as directly as possible.
The amp is the Marshall Silver Jubilee Combo Reissue. I chose this amp because I wanted an amp with more midrange than the Fender amps I have sitting around my studio to complement the scooped mids of the Big Muff.
I mic’d up the amp with a Shure SM 57 and a Neumann KM 84 according to the 1: 3 ratio rule. Instead of having the diaphragms of the mics aligned on the same plane, the KM is placed 3 times the distance from the speaker than the SM 57. This usually gives a nice sound with a bit of air. If any phase issues arise I may nudge the regions in Logic. In this case, however, everything sounded fine from the start.

The Big Muff has been my favourite Distortion/ Fuzz Pedal for the most part of my time as a live player. I still have my early 2000 Small Black Russian Big Muff that I used during my Polcid AC Years. Maybe I’ll compare that one to the Op-Amp Reissue in a future Video.

By Paul Reno

Hi there, I'm Paul (@paulrenogram), and I am a music producer / sound designer and live in Munich.

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