Buffalo FX has been a favorite among tonehounds chasing boutique sound without all the hang-ups and pitfalls that are commonly associated with either exorbitant prices or finicky performance. Last year’s TD-X showed Steve’s take on the hallowed BK Butler Tube Driver, and this year’s M-1 shows his take on the classic Ram’s Head and Power Boost combination, a common trick practiced by many Muff users. This technique was arguably pioneered by David Gilmour, and is heard on his aggressive and massive tones from Animals, The Wall and onward. Running a Power Booster after a Muff “adds” an extra EQ stage, as well as another boost and gain stage to help sculpt Muff tones to be more dynamic and open. Steve apparently didn’t like the way his 18-volt Power Booster sounded with his BC239C Ram’s Head, so he set out to create a new pedal, mating these two classic circuits into one rip-roaring Muff that’s easy on the ears and not on the neighbors.
A Chameleon of Tone
The enclosure here is solidly built, with a nice texture that I always enjoy on Buffalo FX’s pedals. On the front we have controls for Bass, Treble, Sustain, and Volume. The Bass and Treble controls aren’t extremely prominent, and seem to have been tuned to a very specific frequency so there will be no “ugly” points at any place in the pot. Steve originally created this pedal to fix some of the original problems of the Power Boost and Big Muff combo, one of them being that the sound is very easily too bright and boomy with the drastic EQ of the Power Boost. This pedal is not a combination of the two circuits, rather a synthesis of them, and it shows. This is not your standard dark Big Muff tone control, nor is it your glassy Power Boost EQ. When maxed, the Bass control doesn’t really introduce the low-end whomp I expected, but more of a low-mid roundedness and throat. The Treble control is a little less subtle, and opens up the picking dynamics and clarity of the sound. When cranked completely, it’s not unpleasant, but it is a little harsh on the ears. Darker amps like Blackstars or Marshalls would very much benefit from cranking the Treble control, and brighter or more brittle sounding amps will benefit from the low-mid girth this pedal offers.
Home is Where the Highs Are
I have played a lot of Muffs, and I tend to measure how good they are based on the high-end response. It’s easy to add crushing low end in a Big Muff circuit, but tuning your EQ circuit to make the pedal sound concise and dynamic is what sets the top-shelf boutique Muffage apart from the rest. Because of the nature of the Big Muff tone circuit, this is no easy feat. However, the marriage of Power Boost and Big Muff here easily avoids this common pitfall, and makes this pedal sound very much like other boutique “interpretations” of the circuit that cost ten times as much. It doesn’t feel particularly like it’s breaking new ground (it still sounds and feels like a Muff), but what it does with the classic formula is quite impressive. It takes a couple of nods from Steve’s own TD-X at the lower gain settings with the volume rolled back. The M-1 has a bit more of that “open-mids” character that I see a lot in boutique takes on the IC Big Muffs, but with the low end throat and uncongested, smooth highs that you would see on something like the Pete Cornish P-1.
The Buffalo FX M-1 is definitely worth a shot if you are after boutique Muff tone in a package that is both reasonably priced and versatile. The M-1 can work on a lot of different rigs and setups, and finds itself at home with almost anything you throw at it.
WHAT WE LIKE:
Boutique Muff tone at an affordable price. A really good take on a classic pedal combo with versatile tone controls and a concise voicing.
Tone controls are tuned a bit too finely. Bass EQ band isn’t as deep as I’d like it to be.