The Double Muff (DM) is a really cool dirt pedal made by Electro Harmonix, which there seems to be very little hype about on the net. I’m not sure why? I think this could be one of the best lower-gain distortion units I’ve ever played through; and I’ve played through lots of dirt boxes, from varying price points, many of which were useless for anything but recording. I guess someone famous needs to be seen using a piece of equipment in order for all the internet guitar gear fetishists to start raving about it. Oh well, my gain and everybody else’s’ loss.
EHX put two of their old 1969 Muff Overdrive circuits (not to be confused with the later Big Muff Pi circuit) in the same box and it allows you to choose between one or two of the circuits at once – the second Muff circuit apparently cascades into the first when the double mode is selected. I pretty much alway use it in double mode on top of an already dirty amp sound. It gives you more drive, an harmonically enhanced bottom end and slightly more attack and sustain. The cool thing about the DM is that it does a huge range of sounds – it walks the line between being a slightly dirty boost, an overdrive, a distortion and a fuzz. It’s true bypass (no tone suck that I can hear) and I run it first in my front-end pedal chain and power it by carbon zinc 9V battery (old school batteries are great for fuzz). I run it first so I can tap all of its dynamics from my guitar’s volume pot – putting it first, before buffered pedals, also seems to generate the best tone. In addition I also find I need to have the pedal before my modded GCB-95 wah so that the vocal quality of the wah sweep is properly articulated.
The trick to this unit is how you set the two knobs in relation to one another. Turning up one Muff circuit past 12 ‘o’ clock turns it into a gain knob and the other knob becomes like a master volume – I usually find an equal volume with my original signal around 9 ‘o’ clock on the selected master. I’ve found with this pedal that if I turn up Muff 1 and use Muff 2 as the master volume the pedal becomes smoother and more like an overdrive or a nice creamy distortion unit. If I reverse the knobs, making Muff 2 the gain and Muff 1 the master volume, the pedal becomes more like a nice sounding saturated fuzztone with some very sweet compression and some slightly raspy tonal artifacts that conjure up the sounds of the early 70s. Turning both knobs to around the 10- 11 ‘o’ clock region makes the pedal into more of a semi-clean/slightly dirty booster which is cool for lead boosts. Oh yeah, the pedal also has a lot of volume on tap, so it will really cut through in a band mix, as long as your amp has the headroom available. Also, the DM seems to really sweeten up the low end in a very musical way. And, even in single mode, where only Muff 1 is active, there is enough boost to push an amp already on the edge into a mild overdrive.
Using this pedal on top of a clean amp sound can be a bit disappointing at first, especially on a Blackface-Fender-voiced amplifier where there is naturally a lot of top end and little compression. The DM kind of sounds tinny, sharp and difficult to dial in without modifying your amp settings in this context – remember this pedal has no eq. I have found recently though that if I use it with a compressor on top of a clean amp sound it can give a kind of cool sharp edge that is good for a Robert Cray-style blues tones. It sort of sounds like a Fender Twin on 8, particularly when I have some reverb dialed in and a tremolo pedal engaged. But in my opinion the pedal shines in front of an already dirty amp where the natural compression of the amp’s overdrive smooths everything out. Unfortunately the video clips of this pedal on the net (including the official EHX video with Peter Stroud playing) don’t really do this pedal justice. It’s an absolute sonic masterpiece with a huge variety of tones that naturally enhance your guitar’s sound. It’s a pity that many others haven’t tapped this unit yet – it’s well built and isn’t ultra-expensive – I paid $100 AU S/H – more than I would usually pay for a dirt pedal but it was worth every cent just because of it’s amazing sonic versatility and musicality.