I love Muffs. Big or small, vintage or new, be they from NYC or Russia (although I think those from Russia are overrated—read on), I love ‘em. That said, I love the Big Muff approach to fuzz because it’s fairly consistent across variations, so usually the biggest differentiator between Muffs is the features set. In fact, I have three pedals based on Muffs on my board, and I use one as a Fuzz Face and another as a sort of Robert-Fripp-in-a-box, so, in my world, a Muff doesn’t even have to be used as a Muff to be useful. With that in mind, the Greer Tarpit begs the question: Does the world have room for another Muff that only has three knobs? Spoiler alert: YES.
Greer Amps has built a veritable fleet of tough, high quality overdrive pedals, but their entry into the world of fuzz has been a little more measured. The Tarpit appears to be their first of Muff, and it’s based on the op-amp version from the late ‘70s. However, at the fairly refined level of detail at which one can differentiate between Muffs—splitting hairs one might say--the resemblance is slight.
When I was just a lad, first messing about with Muffs, I got into bed with the then-current “Civil War” models because, well, that’s all that was available to me. I went through several, as build quality was an issue, and articulation wasn’t great. However, the fat, squishy warmth was there in abundance, and it was wonderful. As I began to tour with my band, I finally ponied up for an original op-amp model and was in heaven. There was a little less body, but the overall tone was huge and the clarity greatly improved. The Tarpit manages to capture the best of both worlds, offering the thick, spongy heft of the Russian Muffs while offering the depth and articulation of the op-amp version.
Plugging into the Tarpit, I was staggered by how much tone is in this box. The fuzz is fat and the top end is sweet (a characteristic shared by most Muffs, but never more so than with this one). Some people describe Big Muffs as scooped, and I don’t know if I agree with that description, but I detect some atypical upper mids boosting the Tarpit’s sweet treble tones. With the Tone knob around 3 o’clock and the sustain way up the pedal offers up some gloriously rich Dinosaur Jr. lead tones (which probably explains where the name comes from) and compressed, muscular Smashing Pumpkins rhythm tones. Dig in and you’ll get all the tubular squealing you could ever want.
Rolling the tone back to around 11 o’clock gets some Black Mountain tones and, once there, rolling the fuzz back creates some Black Keys scuzz, as well as Clapton’s “woman tone” and The Guess Who’s “American Woman.” I’m not a “roll back the volume knob” kind of guy—I tend to use my picking hand for dynamics and my pedals for dramatic shifts—but I’ll be darned if the Tarpit doesn’t clean up wonderfully when you roll back the volume.
The Tarpit looks a bit like a Klon, but the top jacks keep it from taking up too much room on your board. Speaking of dinosaurs and the pedal’s size, the Tarpit will accommodate batteries for those who don’t care about the environment, and it offers a nine-volt tap for those who do.
What we like: The Tarpit is magnificent right out of the box. It is perhaps the single most prototypically Muff sounding Muff I’ve ever played, as it seems to capture everything I love about several Muff models while offering a surprising amount of versatility within the sweep of its traditional controls.
Concerns: I could’ve used a little more output (a critique that I frequently level at fuzzes, so that’s not a knock per se), and the more surgical tone shaping options offered by some other Muffs are genuinely useful.