North Effects 22/7 Ram



The History

Designed by Bob Myer as part of Electro-Harmonix bossman Mike Matthews’ quest to nail Hendrix’s almighty live sound, the Big Muff crashed onto the scene in late ’69. It marked a considerable step forward from E-H’s original Fuzz Face inspired Muff Fuzz and was one of the key designs to take The Fuzz boldly into the next decade. Indeed, if the Maestros/Tonebenders/Fuzz Faces of the sixties were hot rods straight out of the garage, the Big Muff was a roaring Detriot muscle car.

The Big Muff has remained in production in some form or other for practically all its life; bearing testament to this is its legion of influential users down the years - from David Gilmour and Carlos Santana in the 70s to virtually everybody in the alt-rock/grunge explosion of the late 80s/early 90s up to Jack White and current pedalboard hero Dan Auerbach (again). Dinosaur Jr (probably my top ranked Muff manglers) even saw fit to give it a credit on a their first album.

The circuit topology has remained virtually constant (albeit with a brief foray into op-amp’s in the late 70s), but E-H were well known for making part substitutions depending on what they had on hand transistor/capacitor/resistor-wise. This may be perfectly understandable considering the availability of components back then, but means there’s a fairly wide tonal variation between units (even ones produced in a particular era). This can make buying vintage a risky proposition, and when building a clone it makes sense to base it on a good sounding unit rather than some idealised “definitive” schematic.

The Clone

Based on a fat '73ish "Ram’s Head" era pedal, the clone is built to a high standard using heavy duty Neutrik jacks, Alpha pots and footswitch, all wrapped up in a robust bare aluminium MXR-sized box. Some swear blind that the Big Muff sounds better on batteries, others clamour for a pedalboard-friendly DC jack, so I’ve provided both a zinc chloride PP3 and a standard Boss-type 2.1mm centre negative 9V DC jack – you be the judge. Switching is 100% true bypass, so it won’t sap your tone when off.

The Sound

It’s a case of “sit down sonny, the men are here”. I did say muscle car, and that’s an apt metaphor for the sound – it’s nothing if not muscular. The original Ram’s Head is known for it’s thunderous low end and supreme evil scooped mids, and that exactly what you get here. It practically begs you to drop-tune and dig in. Looking at the whopping input and output caps, it comes as no surprise to find it sounds more than decent on bass too. If the current E-H reissues aren’t doing it for you and going boutique isn’t exactly, um, financially viable – then this is for you.

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