Guitar - Fender Stratocaster, with D Allen Voodoo 69 neck and middle pickups and Seymour Duncan SSL5 bridge pickup
Gibson Les Paul with P90 pickups
Amp - Reeves Custom 50, Laney LT212 cabinet with Celestion V30 speakers
Mic - Shure SM57
What’s the best sounding, ultimate Big Muff on the market? Well, you tell me but I know you were probably as enthusiastic as I when Buffalo FX announced their new M-1 Fuzz a few months back. I’ve spent some time with it and here’s my review.
Steve and Buffalo FX have become one of the more popular brands among us Gilmour fans. Not surprisingly perhaps, as most of his designs are clearly inspired by Gilmour’s choice of pedals and tones.
Another reason might be that Steve seems to have an ear for good tone and what it takes to add something new to the classic designs, without completely changing them.
In my opinion, most of his designs are improvements. A few tweaks here and there to meet the more modern demands.
I’ve reviewed several Buffalo FX pedals over the years, including the Patriot, Powerbooster, Evolution and not least, the TD-X. I don’t think I’m biased. It’s more the case of having extremely high expectations.
The M-1 is not a redesign of the old Ram’s Head NOS BC239c, which is now discontinued. It’s a brand new design, although still based on the Ram’s Head circuit.
I did try an early version of the M-1 and after some back and forth with some comments (and I’m sure not only from me), the final version emerged, which what I’m reviewing here.
Like all of Buffalo’s current pedals, the M-1 is housed in a sturdy box, with top mounted jacks, bright led and true bypass switching. No battery. Only 9V (negative tip) adapter powering.
In addition to the familiar level (volume) and sustain (gain) controls, the M-1 also feature active treble and bass EQ controls allowing you to really fine tune the frequency range. While several Big Muff clones feature a contour/mid range switch or cut/boost control, the M-1 is designed with the classic Muff and Powerbooster stacking in mind.
Plugging into the M-1 and switching it on, reveals that this thing is both loud and has tons of gain on tap. Still, the gain range is wide and, as you can hear in the clip, you can dial in pretty much anything from mellow overdrive tones to screaming fuzz. The huge amount of volume allows you to add a bit of boost and drive the front end of a tube amp, which adds to the smoothness and compression.
A common issue with most Big Muffs is that they’re either too boomy or a bit on the thin side. The active bass control allows you to dial in just the amount of low end you need for your pickups and amp and even for a smaller bedroom setup, which often needs a bit of low end boost.
The treble control behaves like kind of a mix between the treble on the Powerbooster and the tone control on a Muff, with noon as a good start for fairly neutral Muff tones. Unlike most Big Muffs though, the treble can be set quite high without any harsh overtones or thin sounds.
The M-1 sounds huge. It’s a loud beast, with that familiar growl and uncompromised attitude of the classic Big Muff. But there is a definition and clarity that I’ve never heard from any of the countless Muffs that I’ve played. Even at the highest gain settings, you can strum a chord and hear every single string and the attack in your picking is crystal clear.
The sustain is impressive and you can really hear the benefit of the mid range and slight compression that’s present in the tone. Increasing the bass and backing off the treble a bit, takes the M-1 closer to the Patriot and those early 90s Sovtek tones, with that throaty, almost hollow tone.
So, I guess now you’re all asking “which Muff out there is the closest to the M-1”. The Electronic Orange red Pig Hoof and Skreddy Rust Rod are close. Both are based on the Ram’s Head, with lots of gain and that raw, edgy tone. Still, the M-1 has more mids than the Pig Hoof and more string definition and top end than the Rust Rod.