[review] JHS Pedals Muffuletta (by JJ Tanis)

JJ Tanis is a demo artist and guitar instructor from The Netherlands.
He also operates the YouTube channel.

JHS Pedals is Josh Scott’s company. They offer handmade effects that stand out, visually as well as design-wise. They are based in Kansas City, Missouri and have been around since 2007. Besides making pedals, they also do several mods to existing pedals. Recently, they did a collaboration with Robert Keeley on the Steak & Eggs pedal - a Keeley compressor and JHS overdrive in one pedal. The JHS Muffuletta is their latest offering, it has no less than six different Big Muff sounds from a single pedal with all-analog sound path.

Big Muff legacy

The Electro-Harmonix Big Muff has been around for for over 40 years and is one of the most influential guitar effects ever produced. David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr, Carlos Santana, Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins and Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys are all very different players who have used this fuzz with great results. JHS MuffulettaThere have been many versions of this pedal over the years. Check out Kit Rae’s excellent bigmuffpage.com for an in-depth guide. JHS claim to offer five classic versions in this Muffuletta: Civil War, Sovtek, Pi, Triangle, Ram’s Head plus their own take on the circuit simply labeled JHS.

Test gear

I tested the Muffuletta using my Vox Humana CarbonTech Special Tele with Kinman Broadcaster pickups and my Vox Humana modded Tele Thinline with Seymour Duncan P-Rails pickups. I used my Vox AC15C1 with a Celestion Greenback speaker.

Sounds

The Pi setting, modeled on the red and black model from the ‘70s, sounds nice and aggressive as it should - instant Smashing Pumpkins. I immediately noticed that the tone control not only cuts the highs when rolled back, but also accentuates bass. Very nice tone shaping possibilities. The Russian setting sounds more open and slightly less compressed. Like the original, it has a nice bass-heavy tone with the tone rolled back before noon. The Triangle Big Muff was one of the first Muffs, it was introduced in 1969. This setting sounds less aggressive, nice and gnarly. I especially liked the JHS and Ram’s Head settings, the latter for a big and saturated lead tone and the JHS has a tone that is more open and feels more responsive to picking dynamics and guitar volume settings.JHS Muffuletta

For my video demo, I used a loop pedal to play back a pre-recorded part through the Muffuletta and tweaked the knobs in real time (that way, you can really listen to and concentrate on the sounds without worrying about what you’re playing). Although I have my favorite sounds from this pedal, I have to say that the differences between some settings are marginal. Do you really need that many different tones from a fuzz? Personally, I don’t think so, but I can understand the Muffuletta’s appeal: it’s a lexicon of Big Muff tones that will satisfy even the very critical tone hounds. Also, it can be a godsend in the studio where you really want to dial in a tone that is exactly right. For live playing, I would probably set it to its JHS mode and leave it there.

Marketing or mojo?

In my research on this pedal I came across a thread on The Gear Page in which Josh Scott himself commented that JHS had compared several versions of Big Muffs to their pedal in the design process. They tried different transistors and diodes, but Josh commented that - at the end of the day - the actual components do not really make all the difference. The final version of the Muffuletta does not actually contain all the parts that the old Muffs had, but it is voiced like those classic pedals… and of course it’s all analog - no digital modeling going on here. Fuzz purists will argue that this pedal is more marketing than mojo. Having owned several Big Muffs myself (black and green Russians, several USA-made models and the more modern versions), especially the older ones don’t all sound the same either, so it’s pretty hard to set a real benchmark.

JHS MuffulettaBuy if…

You’re looking for some really nice Big Muff sounds from a simple, road-worthy and good looking pedal.

Don’t buy if…

You already have some nice Big Muffs in your arsenal. In terms of sound quality, the Muffuletta is hard to beat, but there’s also something about owning those classic pedals.

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