Big Muff Pi


When I was younger before I started getting into pedals, I had always only kind of liked the BMP, but that was because everything I had played with was either the IC version (meh), or one of the EHX Nano reissues (ugh). And then, one of my best friends was cleaning out the closet at his parents’ house and unearthed a bona-fide Electro-Harmonix/Sovtek Russian “Civil War” BMP (!), which he had bought back in the mid-90’s. Unlike the aforementioned versions of the BMP, this one was an original circuit that uses silicon NPN transistors. My friend has since moved countries, and has stopped playing guitar altogether, so he had no idea what he had. I then mentioned to him what kind of prices these things were going for on eBay, and by the whites of his eyes I could tell he understood.

An original Civil War BMP (left) and my first ever clone (right)

Needless to say, I plugged my bass into this thing and it just blew my mind, and instantly became my favorite vintage circuit. An absolute monster on the bass, and nothing to sneeze at on guitar, either. I had come to learn that fuzzes and overdrives on bass are complemented well by a dry blend knob, but not on the Civil War. This thing sounds best when the signal output is pure, unadulterated Big Muff.

My first build (seen in the picture above) used the Tagboard layout, but it got loaned out to a fellow musician at work and was never seen again. So I decided to build myself another one, this time using my own vero layout because I don’t like off-board wiring. Below is that layout, accompanied by some pictures of my build.

This uses cuts between holes on the vero tracks and standing resistors, making for a slightly smaller build. For those of you who want to tame slightly the output volume (which I know can be rather beastly, yes), you can add a large resister (e.g., 1.5M) from the Output to Ground. There’s enough room at the bottom left on my layout—from S3 to U3. Also, track T on this layout can definitely be omitted if you don’t mind the fact that lugs 2 and 1 of the Volume pot will be adjacent, whereas all the other pot lugs have a one-track space between them (i.e., you’re not OCD like me).

And if you are not yet familiar with Kitrae’s Big Muff page, do yourself a favor, clear out some room in your schedule, and get ready to read about the history of one of the coolest circuits around. My layout above uses his schematics’ numbering standards, so it can also be used to build several different flavors of BMP.

Also, if you’re interested in getting a verified PCB and taking on this project DIY-style, I’ve got some Lemon Haze PCBs for sale up in the store.

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