Big Muff Op-Amp Review - ICBM and SUF Op-Amp Fuzz

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by Kit Rae, Aug 2, 2010.


  1. Kit Rae

    Kit Rae Member

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    [​IMG]
    This is a review of the op-amp Big Muff replicas, inspired by our discussion of Billy Corgan's Siamese Dream Big Muff tone, from this thread.
    http://www.thegearpage.net/board/showthread.php?t=625478&page=18&highlight=big+muff

    For anyone not familiar, op-amp Big Muffs were only made for a few years in the late 1970s. They are a bit rare but can be found on ebay every now and then for around $150-250. V4 Muffs are rarer so they typically sell for more than the V5, which was practically the same circuit with an added switch that allowed bypassing the tone section. Here is some more info and history on the op-amp Big Muffs.
    http://www.kitrae.net/music/big_muff_op_amp_history.html#Version4

    Billy likely used a V4 op-amp Muff for most of Siamese Dream, and some of the later SP songs. This was determined based on Billy's recollections, photos circulated of that Muff, and the enclosure graphics for that version. Also, Billy's pot position settings can be done with the V4, but not the V5 due to the way the pots were mounted to the board by EHX. Slight possibility it was a V3 transistor Muff with the pots replaced or resoldered to allow Billy's knob settings, but honestly, you just have to play some Pumpkins with a transistor V3 Muff vs a V4 op-amp through a loud, clean tube amp with lots of head room and it is obvious which one he used.

    The only current replicas I am aware of are the ICBM, first introduced in 2005, from Euthymia/Erik Miller, and the recent Op-Amp Fuzz from Stomp Under Foot. I had never played either op-amp replica, but I read some complaints from ICBM users who said their ICBM sounds different from a vintage op-amp Muff, so I was interested to see how they compare. MuffinMan74 offered to let me test drive his ICBM, and Matt at Stomp Under Foot offered up his Op-Amp Fuzz to check out (thanks guys!). I compared both to My Version 4 op-amp Big Muff. I have owned a few V4 Muffs and found they sound very similar from unit to unit. Slight treble and bass differences, but nothing as extreme as the transistor Big Muffs. The first thing I noticed is that setting the knobs on the replicas to match the knob positions on the V4 does NOT produce the same sounds. This is a common mistake people make when comparing vintage pedals to replicas. I set the V4 to the sound I like and then tweaked the knobs of the replicas to get as close to that sound as possible. The ICBM tone/sustain pots are very different from the V4 in the same positions. That may be why some people thought it sounded different from a V4 - They did not take the time to find the matching settings. The SUF was fairly close. Here are the settings to match my V4.
    [​IMG]
    Both pedals sound slightly different from each other, and both slightly different from the V4. Erik at Euthymia said his was based on an op-amp Little Big Muff and verified against a V5 Big Muff and Matt at SUF said his was based on a V4 Big Muff. If you look at each of those original circuits, they are slightly different. The ICBM uses NOS op-amps also, so that may account for some of the difference between it and the SUF. Both the ICBM and SUF seem to have a slight bit more gain than the V4. The ICBM had the most gain, but I had to back the gain way down to get into the tone range that matched my V4 (the tone and sustain pots are very interactive in this circuit) so it took some time to find the sweet spot on the ICBM. Found it quickly with the SUF. For the clips I used a Fender Strat with Seymour Duncan SSL-5, which is a bit hotter sounding than Fenders standard pups, into a Reeves Custom 50 EL-34 tubed Hiwatt clone. Very loud with lots of headroom - little amp breakup. I first compared all three Muffs with a simple power chord in dropped D tuning. Many of Corgans best songs are in dropped D, and the op-amp Muff was MADE for deep, octave buzzing, grungy dropped d. Excuse my sloppy playing.
    http://www.kitrae.net/music/V4BigMuff_ICBM_SUFOpAmp_DroppedD.mp3

    Here is the intro to Hummer.
    http://www.kitrae.net/music/V4BigMuff_ICBM_SUFOpAmp_Hummer.mp3

    Cherub Rock riff and chords.
    http://www.kitrae.net/music/V4BigMuff_ICBM_SUFOpAmp_Cherub_Rock.mp3

    Silverf*ck intro.
    http://www.kitrae.net/music/V4BigMuff_ICBM_SUFOpAmp_Silver.mp3

    Here's the tone pot sweep for each, sustain at maximum.
    http://www.kitrae.net/music/V4BigMuff_ICBM_SUFOpAmp_tone_pot_sweep.mp3

    Bit of White Stripes.
    http://www.kitrae.net/music/V4BigMuff_ICBM_SUFOpAmp_Stripes.mp3

    I'll let others comment on the differences, but the replicas both sound good, but are slightly different sounding from the V4. Overall, I think both come across as very good for playing SP tunes.

    •The ICBM lacks some of the clarity of the V4 or SUF, and has a bit more bottom end playing some stuff, a bit brighter playing others. Still sounds good though. It seems to match more of what I hear on the SD albums when playing only the guitar, but play to a backing track with bass, and the clarity is not as evident. The SUF has a bit more clarity and crunch, which is better when playing with a backing track, or with a band against a bass guitar occupying the same scooped tone range. Maybe a bit less bottom end than the ICBM. Overall, I think the SUF sounds closest to the V4, but I actually liked it a bit more than my V4.
    •ICBM had more gain than the SUF, but also tended to fuzz out more when playing chords at Max gain. Good for solos though.
    •Both run off a standard boss adaptor, or 9v battery.
    •The ICBM enclosure is the larger of the two and takes up more space than the SUF, and looking under the hood, more than half the ICBM enclosure is empty. Maybe Erik at Euthymia just likes big look the pedal has in that large box. I prefer the real estate a smaller pedal takes up on a board though. The solder jobs look top notch on both.
    •Both are true bypass.
    •Noise level at high gain is about the same for each, but it is very low for a Muff.
    •The SUF includes a power LED, ICBM does not.
    •Circuit components - I can't say how accurate the circuits are to the V4 or V5 Muffs or what mods have been made to suit the makers, so maybe Erik or Matt can chime in.
    •The ICBM costs about $20 more than the SUF, but both are reasonably priced for a hand made pedal.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Here are both websites:
    http://www.stompunderfoot.com/
    http://www.euthymia.org/
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2010
  2. imguitardan

    imguitardan Member

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  3. lux_interior

    lux_interior Member

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    Excellent work, thanks a lot! Please make sure you include this into your wonderful Muff page for future reference!
     
  4. goldie-gold

    goldie-gold Member

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    Great comparison. Thank you very much for sharing.

    I tried an ICBM myself a few years ago and loved it. I tried a Frantone Cream Puff at the same time and took that home instead. I have always regretted that. I think that the SUF one sounded even better to me. I think I shall have to pick one up.

    Oh, and I approve of the fact that you own your own domain too :aok
     
  5. gishlullmoon

    gishlullmoon Member

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    ........ stomp under foot isn't my thing......i had the civil war muff and wasnt impressed at all.........i hear about how good the cwmuff is all the time but i also see it selling used a lot. so im assuming the op amp must be a brother of the civil war muff in some way........which to me seems to be a dangerous investment....... never heard or tried the other clone..........i have the muff talked about here and its fantastic..... can be harsh at times but its great.

    it is smashing pumpkins:bow
     
  6. muffinman

    muffinman Member

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    Thanks for doing the shoot-out Kit! Glad to know the ICBM is in the ballpark, but still a tad unique too. It's my go-to for that SD sound. Erik is super-friendly and helpful with great customer service. Kudos!
     
  7. Sui_City

    Sui_City Member

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    Yup, from the clips the ICBM gets my vote.

    The SUF is just too top heavy. More mid-rangey than the rest.
     
  8. Kit Rae

    Kit Rae Member

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    Well, I love the CW Muff, but the sound of that vs an op-amp Muff are night and day. The CW is a smooth sounding, relatively low gain transistor Muff.

    I'll get it on there eventually. I like to post in the forums for a while first because I get some good feedback from you guys that helps make the review better.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2010
  9. gishlullmoon

    gishlullmoon Member

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    @kit rae

    yes you are true.....they are night and day, but im just saying if an op amp from stompunderfoot isnt good like a real opamp electro hx op amp muff, then a suf civil war muff is most likely not a good way to go comparing to a ehx civial war muff........

    but as you wish with money limitations..... i completely understand

    i just found the civil war muff unusable sounded too cheap reminded me devi evers.....

    ive said this before but i dont posts a lot so no one knows me, i think boutiqe pedals re not as good as the masses.

    ive sold all my boutiqeu pedals. a digitech pedal is better than devi ever, the only boutiqe pedal im interested at the moment is that dmb lunar echo..... skreddy is great .......zvex is good as well.

    shoot me if you wish but i think with the right tubes and amp the op amp cannot be beat :bow o so sexy op amp muff do bad things to me baby:bowsex me up:bow
     
  10. Kit Rae

    Kit Rae Member

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    Well, I have two Civil War Sovtek Big Muffs and I did compare them to the SUF CW Muff. That was the first SUF pedal I bought. It was spot on to my favorite Sovtek CW. I actually replaced the CW on my pedal board with the SUF one, it was that close. Not all replicas are going to exactly match any particular Muff version, simply because the real Muffs vary so much from unit to unit, but that CWM was about as close as it gets. But if it's not your thing , it's not your thing.
     
  11. andrewface

    andrewface Member

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    holy wicked thread
     
  12. andrewface

    andrewface Member

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    out of those three the big muff sounds best by far, followed by the suf
     
  13. espechemode

    espechemode Member

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    I have had all three. Still have the original V4 muff. The ICBM has the most gain of the three and is the most scooped sounding. The one I had didn't have much output, but sounded really awesome. The SUF was ok, didn't really do much for me. There was just something about it that I didn't like. A lot of the SUF pedals have a sameyness to them. I have a Screaming Panda and it sounded very similar to the OpAmp fuzz. I still like the original best. The SUF sounded a lot different than my V4.
     
  14. Kit Rae

    Kit Rae Member

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    I just added some info to the review. For anyone interested, the ICBM was based on the op-amp Little Big Muff, which was an op-amp circuit without the tone and sustain knobs, and verified against the V5 Big Muff. The SUF Op-Amp was based on the V4 Big Muff circuit.
     
  15. analogsystem

    analogsystem Member

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    I've got an orignal V4 muff that I true bypasses and added an LED and boss style 9vt jack to. Its FANTASTIC.
    I had been using a green russian since it was new until I bought this one. Its got more volume than other muffs which is great and with some setups that are not otherwise muff-friendly, the tone knob bypass switch is just the ticket to get through the mix.
    I'm sure the clones mentioned are great too, but you can get the originals pretty cheap for how great they are. I think I paid $80 and then another $40 to have the mods done. This pedal really really sucked tone when bypassed before I had it modded, so be sure to factor a true bypass switch into your budget if you are looking for an old big muff.
     
  16. shood

    shood Member

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    Kit,

    This is a kiler thread, thank you for the comparison. I have been dying to pick up an ICBM or SUF op-amp for some time now, I've spent a lot of time listening to Siamese Dream recently and really want to cop some of those rhythm tones - Soma being my favorite.

    I have spent a decent amount of time on your Muff website as well, very cool of you to provide all of this information

    Sean
     
  17. Kit Rae

    Kit Rae Member

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    I love Soma. I have been listening to a lot of SP recently as well. The new Teargarden by Kaleidyscope tracks have gotten me to pull out all the early SP CDs again in the past few months. Still digging the last one with Jimmy on drums, Zeitgeist.

    Even though many of the later recordings after Siamese Dreram did not use the op-amp Muff, Billy was still going for that same sound, just using different gear that stood out better in the mix when performing live. The op-amp Muff still does those later deep, scooped guitar tone easily too.
     
  18. Gary Ladd

    Gary Ladd Member

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    Now this is what TGP is all about!
     
  19. Miles

    Miles Member

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    I'm sold. Where can one buy?

    The Civil War on your page looks great too.
     
  20. gishlullmoon

    gishlullmoon Member

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    smashing pumpkins are by far the greatest band in history, i recently about 2 months ago bought a 1984 jcm 800 combo 50 watt lead, and just got it modified with Vlave Art KT-88 tubes, for those who don't know they are chineese tubes and possibly pretty danm good tubes, im not too sure how good they are but they sound great to me so far...... anyway i play jelly belly but you cant really pull that off because its not a muff song but it sounds somewhaat ok, the muff i use the op amp muff sounds billy used kt88s in his jcm on SD and ive been jammin sd ever since i got my amp back (lasst week) ive been jammin all the muff songs.....even greatwith the amp + tubes. before i had the tubes in the amp something was always missing but the sound was there. Billy has stated before really the soud komes from the kt88s in my amp...........it could NOT be more true. thats all im gonna say......like i said im obseessive bc sp freak, and not really that good of guitarist and am often bored so i buy sp equpiment. i have a alesis 2620 for the MCIS ****, tho i dont have a godam straetegy 500 lol..................i've seen that guy on youtube who flaunts his straegy playing jellybelly, zero, etc etc......... im a bit jealous.i typed rally fast i have to go some shirt i said might not make sesne just thought i share since im sp fag muffin.:bow
     

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