Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Big Muff

  • By Ian Garrett @tonereport
  • August 04, 2014

The DBM is at its heart, a NYC Classic Big Muff. This is a good thing, as it the basis for what a Big Muff should sound like. But at the same time this new version can sound radically different too. And that’s a great thing.

It has the classic controls of the NYC BMP: Volume, Tone and Sustain. New to the DBM on the left side is a Bass Boost-Normal toggle switch. In the Normal mode, you get the classic Big Muff tone. Flip on the Bass Boost, and you get a deeper, warmer, fatter low end. It becomes more noticeable with the tone control past noon. I liked it on for just about everything.

The next two controls, Attack and Gate, are new features. The Attack control is tweaked from their Steel Leather pedal, and it enhances the pick attack by filtering the dry signal. It is more noticeable when the sustain (amount of distortion) knob is set lower—it adds a little brightness and overall clarity to the tone. The Gate control is just that, turn it up to just above nine o’clock and the gate kicks in to filter out hum and hiss, and does a fantastic job of it. True, it can cut down on the amount of sustain you get, but I never found that a problem if set low—plus you can always bump the sustain control up a little more. In some cases you might have to adjust your pick attack a little bit, but overall this pedal is dead quiet now when in operation. Set the gate high, and it can cut out quickly, which can also make for a cool, heavy staccato-like tone. Be creative and try it at different settings—you might be surprised as its usefulness.

The last three controls are dedicated to the midrange section: they are Level, Freq(uency), and the Q toggle for high/low mids settings. All of these controls are activated only when the Mids foot switch on the bottom left is engaged. There is also an expression pedal input for using a separate pedal to control the mids. These controls together, have fundamentally changed the Big Muff.

Without the mids option turned on, I like the DBM a lot. The slight warmer bass boost is welcome, the attack adds a little more clarity, and the gate feature is great. But with the mids control engaged, it becomes a different beast—it’s literally as if you added a graphic equalizer into the pedal, capable of adding a wide midrange of options for boosting or cutting. It becomes a warmer, fuller- sounding tone—and yet it can be meaner and nastier at the same time.

With the Mids level control, you can do what many players for years have been asking—boost the mids! But here’s a bonus, you can also cut the mids even more if you so desire—the noon position is about neutral. The Freq knob controls a wide sweep of the midrange, from 310Hz to 5 kHz. The Q toggle switches the bandwidth of this range from low to high—it brings about a tighter focus of the midrange. I liked both settings, they each offer unique tone shaping capabilities. Bottom line; if you can’t cut through the mix with this pedal, you shouldn’t be playing guitar, it’s that simple.

You might be worried that you will be constantly fiddling with this pedal, and that’s true for the first hour or two. But you’ll quickly find your sweet spot, and realize you don’t need to adjust that much.  But for different gigs and environments, you’ll likely welcome the ability to be able to tweak some on the fly when necessary—and the expression pedal does just that, adding more of this frequency or cut it as necessary. In fact, when rocking an expression pedal with the DBM, it almost sounds like you’re running a wah pedal at the same time—a very fun effect.

You can easily replicate most of the other Big Muff versions out there with some dedicated tweaking. Bottom line: the DBM sounds awesome, and is now much, much more versatile than it has ever been before.

What we like: If you love the classic Big Muff tone, but want more flexibility out of it, you are going to love the Deluxe Big Muff. And as far as value goes, at $119.70 it is an absolute steal. You can find many good boutique muffs out there that offer a fraction of the different tones for double or triple the price. Why compromise—this is the new master of Muff.

Concerns: You might find your muff collection ending up in various pedal emporiums soon. But hey, the upside is more money for more pedals! Also, I had one shaft that was slightly bent, very insignificant though, though the overall build quality was very good.

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