Guitar - Fender Stratocaster, with D Allen Voodoo 69 neck and middle pickups and Seymour Duncan SSL5 bridge pickup
Gibson Les Paul with P90 pickups
Fender Telecaster Cream T Nocaster neck and TTS Custom bridge pickups
Amp - Reeves Custom 50, Laney LT212 cabinet with Celestion V30 speakers
Mic - Sennheiser e906 mic
I’ve been following, and a great fan of, Vick Audio for some years now and I’m always excited when new they release new pedals. The latest addition to their catalog is the 1861, a fuzz based on the early 90s Sovtek Big Muff. Here’s my review.
I’ve told the story before but my very first Big Muff was a green Sovtek bubble font that I bought new around 1995-96. There’s a never ending debate on which is better, the Civil War, the green tall font or bubble font?
I’ve played them all but none has really come close to my old green tank. Perhaps it’s nostalgia or affection but it really doesn’t matter. Tone is subjective and based on personal preference.
I’ve reviewed several pedals from Vick Audio over the years, including the ’73 Ram’s Head (which has often found its way to my stage board), the Overdriver and (one of my all time favourite overdrives) the Tree of Life. All of them done with great care and understanding of how the original pedals sounded like and what improvements needed to be done, without compromising tone.
The 1861 is based on the early 90s Sovtek Big Muff, a.k.a. the Civil War (due to its blue and grey colours). This was one of the first Big Muff made by Electro Harmonix founder Mike Mathews after he moved to Russia.
David Gilmour famously used a Civil War Big Muff during the recording of Divison Bell and on the 1994 tour, which was recorded for the PULSE live album and DVD. The pedal was once again added in late 2015 for the last leg of the Rattle That Lock tour.
While those early 70s ram’s head and triangle Muffs comes off as fairly bright and uncompressed, the early 90s Sovteks and the Vick Audio 1861 has a smooth and warm tone, with great sounding harmonics. With a moderate gain setting and the guitar volume rolled back slightly, you start to hear these subtle nuances and that fat, woody tone.
The 1861 has plenty of sustain and despite the fairly high amount of gain and low end, the pedal has very little noise so it’s easy to achieve those sustained notes without everything breaking into messy feedback and low frequency rumble.
As with all of the Big Muffs from Vick Audio, the 1861 features the 3-way toggle switch for different mid range modes. Flat is the stock mode, with a slightly scooped curve. This brings out those sweet harmonics but you might find it a tad too thin on low output pickups. Flat equals a slight mid range boost compared to stock. It’s fairly moderate but enough to add a bit more smoothness and presence.