Since its inception, the Big Muff has undergone almost too many iterations and revisions to count. However, each “era” of Muff is denoted by certain unofficial terms. The earliest versions are now known as “triangle Muffs” because of the triangular placement of the knobs. The "ram’s head" (regular and violet) versions followed, named so because they contained the logo of Electro-Harmonix—a "ram’s head"—in the bottom right corner. Soon, op-amp, Tone Bypass, (Russian) Civil War and two other different-colored Russian versions followed. Throughout rock history, each Muff variant has a group of famous rockers that swear by it. The triangle version is closely associated with early fuzz adopters such as Yes and the Motels, as well as Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine. David Gilmour is the prince of the ram’s head and Civil War versions, and one can’t traverse many gear forums without hearing of Dan Auerbach’s love of the green Russian Muff.
Now imagine, if you will, a new Muff type; one built with vintage components in mind, lost in the ether of the “mainstream” Muff epoch. Imagine an undiscovered Muff circuit from the mid-‘70s, one that exists only in an ink-and-paper format, and in no other physical realm. Kit Rae over at the Big Muff page has such an artifact—an authentic Big Muff schematic dated October 15, 1975 with a set of values never before seen in any Muff before or after it. Whose signature sound might this have been, had it been released? Well, my fortunate friend, you’re going to build it. It may very well be your signature sound, with you, the reader, as the foundation of its imminent legacy.
Before starting, it begs noting that I was perusing the DIY forums and I came across an intriguing post: A user had gotten access to a vintage Muff (FS36999 transistors) and was able to remove and measure the devices out of circuit. The results were astounding: The transistors all measured between 160 and 200 hFe—noteworthy because most modern Muff clones (including the current Electro-Harmonix release) use 2n5088 or 2n5089 transistors, which boast 300 hFe at the absolute minimum. Clearly, this is a significant discovery, and a rule I will recommend when building this pedal. Obviously, any NPN transistor of higher gain will work (and one may certainly like others better) but they will not be “vintage-spec.”
And now, the disclaimer:
Disclaimer: Neither I, nor Tone Report Weekly bears any responsibility for any kind of personal or property damage that may occur as a result of the instructions provided herein. Legal mumbo-jumbo aside, we ask that readers be familiar with a soldering iron and its accompanying safety procedures before trying anything listed here. Furthermore, if you fire the pedal up and it does not work, it will need troubleshooting. Assuming the components are not damaged, the pedal will work. I built this very unit according to these instructions and it fired up, first shot, so I know the instructions are correct.