For guitarists, distortion pedals are a lot like chocolate to a gourmand—one can never have enough, and the many different varieties are all delicious in their own unique ways.
Mike Matthews and Electro-Harmonix are like the music world’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, serving up outrageous creations that never fail to amaze the imagination and satisfy the senses. EHX’s most recent distortion offerings include a reissue of the coveted and highly collectible Green Russian Big Muff fuzz box from the Nineties and a newly concocted single-box combination of the vintage Hot Tubes and recent Crayon overdrive pedals called the Hot Wax.
The new Green Russian Big Muff offers the same basic electronic guts as the original Sovtek Big Muff Pi pedal, circa 1993-2000, that helped get Electro-Harmonix back into business.
The original version, which was made in Russia, was beloved by grunge, punk and experimental guitarists as well as bassists for its massive bass, gritty treble and compressed sustain. As a result, these pedals now sell for $400-plus on the vintage market while boutique knockoffs and clones start around $150 and up. The new EHX version is significantly smaller, housed in the standard EHX Nano-sized box but featuring similar military-issue olive green paint. Improvements over the original include a jack for an optional 9-volt power supply, metal input and output jacks and the much more pedal board-friendly compact size.
The Hot Wax is an incredibly versatile dual-overdrive pedal that combines the Crayon and Hot Tubes distortion circuits, which can be engaged independently or blended together. The Crayon is placed at the front of the signal chain before the Hot Tubes, and both sections feature their own volume and drive controls and on/off footswitch. Both sections share bass and treble EQ controls as well as a blend control that lets guitarists adjust the mix of dry and distorted tones. The pedal operates only with a 9-volt, center negative plug power source (an adapter is included with the pedal), and the bypass is buffered.
One word is all it takes to summarize the sound of the Green Russian Big Muff: massive. This is not a fuzz box for the mild-mannered or meek. From the get-go it delivers thick, meaty bass and glorious distortion grind, but, like a good distortion should, it cleans up quite nicely when you back down the guitar’s volume control, making for incredibly expressive dynamics at the twist of a knob.
For most of its range, the tone control provides varying degrees of fat, warm bass that never gets too muddy, but around four o’clock to max it adds a vicious, gritty treble bite. There’s absolutely nothing thin about the sound—even weak single-coil pickups will sing like vintage humbuckers, making this pedal a great option for solo boosts.
The Hot Wax pedal looks deceptively simple, but it delivers an amazingly wide range of tones and textures that will certainly satisfy discriminating overdrive connoisseurs. The Blend control is the secret weapon here, allowing players to retain the crystal-clear definition of a dry guitar signal while dialing in additional layers of dirt for added body and sustain.
The Crayon section boosts the midrange, while the Hot Tubes provides generally transparent overdrive and distortion with crisp treble and tight bass. With both sections engaged and simply by adjusting each section’s volume level control, a surprisingly wide range of tones are available that can be further tweaked to perfection using the master bass and treble knobs.
LIST PRICE: Green Russian Big Muff, $107.50; Hot Wax, $148.90
MANUFACTURER: Electro-Harmonix, ehx.com
● The Green Russian Big Muff provides the same sounds as the coveted Nineties Sovtek Big Muff Pi that’s a favorite of bassists and grunge players.
● The Hot Wax combines independent Crayon and Hot Tubes circuits that can be engaged individually or combined to create a wide variety of tones and textures.
THE BOTTOM LINE
From the massive bass and gritty treble of the Green Russian Big Muff to the nearly endless tones and textures of the Hot Wax, these new distortion pedals from Electro-Harmonix are certain to color your world.