Being a Gilmour fan, I have tried many different versions of the classic transistor based Muffs, but the IC Muffs never really caught my attention . . . until now. The Wren and Cuff Eye See Pi is a Big Muff based on the mid-‘70s integrated circuit (IC) circuit. Instead of using transistors, like the classic “ram’s head” or “triangle” versions, this Big Muff relies on an IC to get its distortion. IC Big Muffs were used on many early alt-rock records, the most famous being Smashing Pumpkin’s Siamese Dream. The tonality of these Muffs are historically quite dark and heavy, but Wren and Cuff’s offering adds a whole new dimension to the IC Muff formula. The Eye See Pi is wide, dynamic and articulate, with a huge low end, crisp highs, and a clear and concise scooped midrange. Many pedal makers these days are afraid of copying vintage Big Muffs, for fear of guitarists complaining about getting lost in the mix, but Wren and Cuff is fearless and has made an IC Big Muff that is both true to its form and beautiful in its delivery.
The pedal has a premium feel to it. It’s got a nice weight, beautiful faux leather back and side panels, and a slanted design to make the footswitch easy to hit. The graphics are a cheeky poke at the design of an original IC Big Muff—a little kitschy but it adds to the overall charm. Stomping the pedal on, I was expecting a sludgy mess to flop out of my speakers, but instead was rewarded with that classic deep distortion tone that Big Muffs are so famous for. It was thick, but very clear and dynamic; it responded to every subtle change in pick attack and fret work in earnest, without feeling overly compressed or controlled. However, when I added a transparent booster after the Muff (I used the Buffalo FX Powerbooster), it unlocked an entirely different side to this pedal; I felt as if I had stumbled on a hidden feature. The tone blew wide open, adding even more dynamics, harmonics, and clarity. The notes seemed to bloom out of the amp, and sustained notes were open and emotive. Adding some delay made it feel even bigger, making it ideal for soloing and heavy riffing. Rolling back the guitar’s volume knob, as with all Big Muffs, creates a dark break-up. Additionally, in this setting, players can hear the effect of the filter (tone) circuit in the pedal. This is one of my favorite settings on Muffs, and many of them can’t seem to nail it because the tone circuit interferes with the clarity of the guitar. The Eye See Pi’s tone circuit seems to add to this dark overdrive setting (although it can be a bit nasal past 10 o’clock), but engaging the Tone Bypass switch absolutely nails it. Not only did it excel at a setting most Muffs aren’t even built for, it made it feel almost intimate when picking with my fingers, like a dark thundery night.
Many distortions and modern Muff clones are compressed, to control dynamics. They provide both the sound and tonality, but they don’t leave much to your technique. This IC Muff relies on the natural attack, decay, and sustain of your hands and your tube amp, feeling like a natural extension of your playing and guitar. When it’s on, you’ll forget who you are, where you are, and just revel in the tone. This is an incredible Big Muff; it’s warm, open, responsive, and huge sounding. It feels like a vintage Muff, but doesn’t have any of those vintage “artifacts” that come with it. It has the added conveniences of a modern pedal from a company who clearly knows their Muffs. The wide sonic variety this pedal is enhanced with the clever addition of the Tone Bypass switch, making an amazing Big Muff all that more addictive.
What we like: Articulate and dynamic, with a wide and detailed frequency spectrum. Has many uses and setting beyond the initial stomp. Dead silent without sounding compressed.
Concerns: Tone settings can be a bit nasal past 10 o’ clock.