These are the most brutal Muff variants I’ve ever played. I’m sure there are more out there that are as hard-hitting as these, but these are the ones I’ve found. So which are they?
Quickly, let me mention that a Muff style pedal or Muff circuit is a derivative of the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, which is a 4 stage transistor fuzz circuit. This type of circuit tends to be more stable, louder and more saturated than other fuzzes such as those with two transistors. The EHX Big Muff and the plethora of variants out there tend to be described as fuzzy distortion pedals since they share a lot of qualities of high-gain distortions but have a fuzzy edge.
The three most brutal Muff variants I’ve found are:
These high-gain fuzz pedals, as with most Big Muff pedal variants, do not need to have the guitar plugged directly into them to perform correctly. You can put a buffer in front of them often referred to as, “Buff Your Muff.” More creatively however, you can shape the tone of the fuzz pedal with a different distortion or overdrive pedal before it. You can achieve similar results with an EQ pedal. Generally, I feel that the main reason for this tone stacking is mostly due to EQ and how loud the pedal in front of it is… or how much boost. I find that this tone-stacking is a good way to tame low rumbly notes.
I’ll compare these three fuzz pedals below.
Let’s start with the Keeley Moon. This one is based on the tones of David Gilmour hence the name… As in, “Dark Side of the Moon.” I often find it to be very similar to the Hizumitas. It’s just voiced a little differently. However, the common trait of both of them being stupid loud is true to either of them. Unity volume is around 9 or 10 o’clock. I usually don’t go above that because that’s already pretty darn loud.
Let’s Look at the Keeley Moon and EQD Hizumitas first
The Keeley Moon and Hizumitas offer incredibly high gain fuzz with gobs of sustain. They are both very addictive to play. They sound awesome with single coils, P90s and humbuckers. The EQD Hizumitas is the signature pedal of Wata from the band Boris. Her typical approach is to hit the Hizumitas with a BOSS DS-1. I’ve played the Keeley Moon and Earthquaker Devices Hizumitas with various pedals in front of them including, JHS PackRat, Empress Para EQ MKII, EQD Special Cranker, EQD Plumes and a BOSS SD-1 Waza Craft. All of those can push these Muff variants to extreme high-gain distortion that can only be described as brutal and savage. It’s super heavy stuff that does not follow the typical dry cut palm-muted sound of typical metal. It’s looser and dirtier. This sound is not just for metal. It works really well for punk when you’re not looking for a palm-muted chuggy sound.
To me, the pros of the Keeley Moon are the smaller enclosure and the EQ switch. The EQ switch enhances the pedal’s versatility for different mixes. The Hizumitas would need some sort of EQ or mid-hump pedal in the mix to help expand it’s versatility. This is because while it does have a sweeping tone knob, it can emphasis mids the way the EQ switch in the Keeley Moon can. That said, the Hizumitas gets points for the top mounted jacks and soft-switching flexi switch. Furthermore, for switching systems the Keeley Moon would be better as it can be left on all the time, even after initial power-up. It just depends on what you need. Both are fantastic.
What about the Way Huge Swollen Pickle?
I left the Way Huge Swollen Pickle for last. The reason is I find it to be the most brutal of the three. I find that saturation-wise, it’s the most aggressive of the lot. The tone knob on these 3 Muff variants is a lot like it is on a ProCo RAT – It’s more like a frequency sweep rather than just a tone control. This is even more pronounced on the Way Huge Swollen Pickle Muff variant. Additionally, the crunch and scoop controls can either tame the fuzz into more of a distortion territory, or take it in the other direction and make it all extra brutal and scooped.
The Way Huge Swollen Pickle currently comes in two versions. One is the larger Way Huge Swollen Pickle Jumbo MKIIS which uses tapered pots for the scoop and crunch controls and also has a battery compartment. This one’s the most versatile, but it also takes more space.
The other one is the Way Huge Smalls Swollen Pickle Fuzz MKIII. This one is more pedalboard friendly as it’s much smaller. However, it doesn’t have a battery compartment and the scoop and crunch controls are not variable tapered pots but rather toggle switches that go from one end to the other. That’s the one I have, but I wouldn’t mind picking up the other one at some point.
Which Big Muff Variant is the best?
Like I said above, the Way Huge Swollen Pickle is the most brutal of the three in this group. By that account, and the more detailed controls, it’s on paper the best one. Having said all that, the Keeley Moon is my favorite. I find it has all the brutal fuzz I could possibly want or need and I love the little EQ toggle to go from flat, to mid-hump to scooped. It offers less control than the Swollen Pickle, but much quicker to dial in. I’m also a sucker for elegant black guitar pedals, so that’s the one for me. I still absolutely love the Hizumitas though. The pedalboard the Hizumitas is on only has soft-switching pedals, along with a few other EQD pedals… so I wouldn’t consider putting the Keeley Moon there anyway. It would be too much of an oddball on there. At the end of the day, I play them all and I play them often. Try one for yourself. They are loud, absolutely brutal and loads of fun.