The Big Muff Pi was originally created by Mike Matthews, the founder of Electro-Harmonix. Matthews said that the design of this powerful fuzz box was heavily inspired by the tone of Jimi Hendrix, who used punctured cones in his amp to purposefully distort his tone into a fuzzy sound. Fuzz boxes created a distorted tone more intense than normal distortion pedals that emulate this broken speaker sound. Jimi Hendrix was also supposedly one of the first people to try out this new box, which was being worked on in 1969 and 70. Jimi Hendrix died in 1970, however, so he never recorded with one.
Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi
There is a little confusion for those new to Big Muffs because they are made by two different companies. Electro-Harmonix, as the original creator of the fuzz box, makes a number of great pedals including the metal muff, big muff pi, and mini muff. Many people, however, choose to go with the Russian made Sovtek version of the Big Muff Pi because it has a different sound. The USA version is designed to make a very heavily distorted and rougher sound that is great for some forms of music, but not for everyone. It is easily spotted by its silver casing.
Sovtek Big Muff Pi
Fortunately, Sovtek creates an alternate version of this great fuzz box with a slightly different configuration. This Russian version is known for its smoother, violin like sustain and less distorted tone. This fuzz box is still very strong, but it maintains the tonal quality of your guitar instead of mussing it up like the USA version tends to do. The Sovtek has a distinctive black casing and is known for its large size which can be a hassle with pedal boards.
What is the Big Muff Pi Useful For?
All forms of hard rock and alternative rock are perfect for the Big Muff Pi. Many guitarists use it for screaming solos with amazing sustain or for punk power chords. It is heads and shoulders above other similar fuzz boxes on the market because it has such a distinctive tone and (in the case of the Sovtek especially) it is great for stacking with other effect boxes. Bass players also love using this box because it has great low end response and makes for a great fuzz bass tone.
The Sovteks were originally much cheaper than the USA versions but they have recently been discontinued so getting your hands on one may be more difficult than the USA version, but it will be well worth it.
Source: personal experience, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Muff
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