Electro-Harmonix J Mascis Ram's Head Big Muff review

The Dinosaur Jr. main man gets his own signature Muff and it's one for connoisseurs and collectors alike

Electro-Harmonix J. Mascis Ram’s Head Big Muff Pi
(Image: © Future)

Guitar World Verdict

Ultimately, Dinosaur Jr. fans are going to love this. For everyone else, it’s a fuzz pedal that is more usable than some of the more wooly examples. If it’s re-voiced from EHX’s standard Ram’s Head, then it’s subtle. So, one for the collectors.

Pros

  • +

    Quality vintage fuzz sounds that work well with open chords.

  • +

    It plays nice with an amp.

  • +

    Compact.

  • +

    Collectible.

Cons

  • -

    Might need a noise gate in the chain if stacking.

  • -

    Standard Ram's Head models are a little cheaper.

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Fuzz is often the Marmite of the gain world: to those who love it, it’s a mammoth sonic tool that can beef up your sound and enhance any riff. To those who hate it, it’s written off as muddy and devoid of articulation. 

One person who is a fan though is Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis. Having had an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff on his ’board throughout his career, his love for Big Muffs was displayed through his collection in the documentary Fuzz: The Sound That Revolutionized The World

J uses the Big Muff, specifically the ‘Ram’s Head’ version of the pedal from the ‘70s, as the basis for all of his drive sounds, sometimes solo, but often stacking them with other gain providers.

Now, this is, of course, a signature version of the Ram’s Head Big Muff, a standard reissue of which you can also buy with a list price of $15 less than J’s pedal. However, the gap widens once you start looking at street prices, and according to EHX, both are based on a 1973 V2 Violet Ram’s Head, and both boast enhanced articulation over other Muff examples. But geekery aside, what does it sound like? 

Well, there’s definitely more note separation and attack than on our standard Big Muff Pi reissue – with the Sustain (that’s gain) and Volume (output) cranked as-per J’s settings, it’s then down to the tone control to govern how much bite you get. And there’s a surprising amount.

Electro-Harmonix J Mascis Ram’s Head Big Muff Pi

(Image credit: Electro-Harmonix / Reverb)

J’s playing uses a lot of open chords, and we found that backing the gain off a bit helped with the clarity, while pushing it up and backing the tone off gives us a thick, Gilmour-ish lead sound. It’s great in front of our overdriven valves too, but unless you have a noise gate we’d suggest backing things off somewhat if you’re stacking. 

Specs

  • PRICE: $131.50 / £129
  • TYPE: Fuzz 
  • CONTROLS: Volume, Sustain, Tone
  • SOCKETS: Input, output, power
  • BYPASS: Buffered
  • POWER: 9v PSU (not included), battery
  • CONTACT: Electro-Harmonix (opens in new tab)

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Stuart Williams

Stuart is a freelancer for Guitar World and heads up Total Guitar magazine's gear section. He formerly edited Total Guitar and Rhythm magazines in the UK and has been playing guitar and drums for over two decades (his arms are very tired). When he's not working on the site, he can be found gigging and depping in function bands and the odd original project.