When it comes to effects, we all have our preferences. I really like what pedals I’m using now, but in my current band situation, I’m always looking for a new pedal or two which could possibly fit better in the mix – not just in my head. While my EHX Stereo Electric Mistress is enjoying a comfortably “permanent” place on my board, the other two are always subject to new challengers. Today, the challenged one is my MXR Blowtorch, and the challenger is the EHX Bass Big Muff. SIZE: Both are the same size – no different than your typical SansAmp BDDI or Little Big Muff. However, the Blowtorch’s “Torch” switch sticks out a bit beyond the chassis, and its overall orientation is the opposite of the Bass Big Muff. POWER: The Bass Big Muff runs on either a single 9V battery or a typical Boss-style 9VDC source (2.1mm, center-negative). The Blowtorch runs off of either two 9V batteries or a typical MXR-style 18VDC source (2.1mm, center-negative). CONTROLS: The Bass Big Muff is deceptively simple – besides your usual Volume, Tone, and Sustain controls, there is a 3-position toggle switch for 3 different modes: Bass Boost (fairly obvious), Norm (again, obvious) and Dry (which adds in your dry signal to the fuzz at a fixed unity gain level). I’d recommend Bass Boost mode if you really like the tones you get past 12:00 on the Tone knob, but want more bass. Below that, it can be overwhelming in the low end. The Norm mode is good for all-around use and has plenty of bottom end. The Dry mode will probably be the popular favorite, but it can be a bit tricky to get used to. Because your dry signal is fixed at unity gain in this mode, the Volume knob lets you make the fuzz signal louder or quieter than your dry signal. This is somewhat similar to what you’d expect from a Blend knob, but you can’t manipulate your dry signal. Still, I wouldn’t consider it to be a drawback, because unless you want a quiet dry signal, it’s easy to work with. The Blowtorch, on the other hand, is complicated yet straightforward. It has a Volume knob (for overall output volume), Gain knob (for the fuzz signal only), Blend knob (to mix the dry and fuzz signals), a 3-band EQ (Bass, Midrange, and Treble – all of which only affect the fuzz signal), and a 3-position sliding switch to set the center frequency of the Midrange knob (adjustable from 250Hz to 750Hz to 2KHz). It also has a Torch switch on the side of the pedal for an extra helping of thick fuzz. The trick to getting the most out of this pedal, I’ve found, is to craft your preferred fuzz tone using all of the available controls while the Blend knob is at maximum, and then roll it back as desired to bring in your dry signal while turning up the Volume knob to make up for lost volume. I’ve found that in the 250Hz position, boosting it could result in unpleasant boominess, but cutting it affords some cool tones. For the 750Hz position, it’s worth experimenting with both boosting and cutting. Arguably, the 750Hz position is the most “traditional” sounding. The 2KHz setting is the prize with the modern bite, IMO. INPUTS / OUTPUTS: Both pedals have a single mono input, an effect output (the output you’ll normally want to use) and a dry output (which is your clean signal only). On the BBM, the dry output is labeled “Dry Out” and has nothing to do with the Dry mode. On the Blowtorch, it’s labeled “Thru”. If you’re bi-amping, I’d suggest using the dry output for your second amp. SOUND: So now that I’ve covered the basics on how to use them, how do they really sound? People who have read my discussions on the Blowtorch already know what it can do: it has a more abrasive, brighter, defined, and synth-like tone than your typical fuzz pedal. It also is surprisingly quiet and “controlled”, almost like a gated fuzz will be between notes. It has a moderate range of gain and a wide variety of mild and aggressive tones. The Blowtorch is definitely outside the norm. The Bass Big Muff, on the other hand, is thicker, darker, more traditional, and capable of more gain. While it won’t get as nuts as its predecessors, the adjustments made to this version allow it to be friendly even with active basses, while maintaining surprisingly low noise. Basically, it’s the classic Big Muff tone with more bottom, more definition, less gain, and less noise. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the Muff to end all Muffs (barring the boutique Muff clones out there). It may be time to put those Sovtek tanks and USA-made Big Muffs into retirement. TBH, these two pedals cover very different territories of fuzz. But my point in buying them was to compare the areas where they overlap. The Blowtorch gets closest to the “Muff” sound with the mid switch at 750Hz. 2KHz is too modern to be Muff-ish (but my favorite to work with), and 250Hz is too different. Where they sound similar, the Blowtorch provides more bite and midrange, while the Bass Big Muff provides more bottom-end growl. On notes played in the higher frets, the Blowtorch provides more punch to stand out in a mix, while the BBM “blooms” and sounds more massive to fill out the mix. For fingerstyle playing, they’re both amazing, and I lean towards the Blowtorch for a sonic preference because of its cleaner response and modern definition. But with a pick, I find the BBM to sound more “pleasant” to the ear, while the Blowtorch is more abrasive. It’s not surprising to me that they can cover common ground, as I used to own a Little Big Muff and had once compared it to my Blowtorch. But the LBM wasn’t very good with bright tones because of the noise and lack of bottom end, whereas the Blowtorch has excelled. With the BBM, however, the quirks that bugged me about the LBM are rectified. SUMMARY: The Bass Big Muff is, IMO, superior on bass to any previous Muff pedal that EHX has made (unless you’re looking for chaotic levels of gain). The Blowtorch, meanwhile, is not a “Big Muff Plus”; it is definitely a unique and modern-sounding monster, ideal for someone who is trying to steer away from a vintage fuzz tone. SOUNDCLIPS: I currently don’t have a means of recording good comparison clips, but I plan on picking up a new interface soon… For now, Bryan R. Tyler’s MXR Blowtorch review and Grygrx’s EHX Bass Big Muff review are good videos to check out (both can be found on YouTube, and You can also see the BBM review on bassfuzz.com). And finally… WHICH AM I KEEPING? I’m keeping the MXR Blowtorch. My “doubts” were quelled when I ran both through my new head (a GK Fusion 550). The Blowtorch works fantastically with tubes. During A/B band testing, my bandmates and I all agreed that the Blowtorch sounded more appropriate for what we were playing.