Price paid: $ 80
Purchased from: Guitar Center - Edina, MN
Sound — 10
This has the tone of the gods. I've played it next to the Sovtek russian one and the USA one just has a much clearer tone, more powerful, more of that raw gritty distortion. The difference is great enough that it is worth pitching in the extra $30 more to get this incredible tone. I don't think it is that noisy, when I first played it I was amazed at how little noise it makes if you just hold the strings, I'm used to a humming sensation. The sound comes out insanely good all the time, gives you a very powerful feeling (like if you drive a Humvee or hold a .44 Magnum). To hear the tone with a lot of low end: "Aluminum" and "Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground" by The White Stripes (the first song has the Big Muff used with distortion on the amp). To hear it how I love it with a bit thinner sound but more fuzz and crunch: "Touch Me I'm Sick" by Mudhoney, the classic Grunge song. Nirvana used it a little bit (it was used on the song Lithium according to the producer Butch Vig) and the Smashing Pumpkins also used it, one example is on the song "Hummer." As I've said, turn it to the right to get the crunch and fuzz, turn it to the left and that fades away to some low end. If you want to get a perfect balance of both, turn the tone knob all the way right and turn the low end dial on your amp up to the 8-10 zone. Now you're in tone heaven. I'm using it with a Washburn Maverick BT4, an Epiphone Les Paul Jr. and a Behringer GMX212 (pretty good setup for very little money).
Overall Impression — 10
Overall this is probably the greatest and most infamous distortion pedal ever created. In the instruction sheet it calls the Big Muff Pi the greatest distortion/sustain device ever created (but this coming from the company themselves). One thing also in the instruction manual I'd like to point out is that it claims it was used by Jimi Hendrix - FALSE, the Big Muff was introduced in 1971, a year after Jimi died. Anyway, I love the tone, the cool graphics, ease of use, how it comes alive instantly, no delay in turning on, that tone is the best damn tone I've ever heard. I'm not so fond of: the size, it is kind of big and clunky and could be a little smaller, that the company constantly brags about how it was used by Hendrix, the warranty card only gives you 10 days to mail in the sheet or else no 1 year warranty, it isn't as strong as it could be, on the high E string on the very high frets, sometimes when you're playing fast it gets clipped (some of the notes don't make it). If you're thinking about getting it, you should. The tone is very distinctive, you can tell a Big Muff over any other generic distortion pedal. It's so rich, creamy, crunchy, and all analog. Check the Wikipedia. com entry for Big Muff to see what songs it was used on and more information (and I took the picture there - it is of my pedal).
Reliability & Durability — 7
If you've ever seen the pictures of this taken apart, it's basically one circuit board and a few wires, protected by one very thin metal sheet. It could probably fit inside a Boss or DigiTech pedal size, but then where would the kickass graphics go? My point is that it is pretty hollow, so don't jump on it or you might crush it in. You can stomp on it to an extent though, but usually just needs a little tap. I would use it at a gig if I had my adapter with me ($12 extra. It comes with a battery which I've heard last over 6 months but just get the adapter so you don't have to know in the back of your mind that it might die. You'll spend $12 on batteries after a while anyway.
Ease of Use — 10
This is very very simple to use. It comes with an instruction manual that doesn't say much, here's basically how the 3 huge knobs work. Volume - kind of a useless dial. Why wouldn't anyone want this all the way to the right? Adjust distortion with the sustain dial or turn the volume down on your guitar or amp. Tone - this knob has infinite possibilities. Turn it all the way to the right to get a very crunchy, fuzzy and thin tone with not much low end. As you gradually turn it left you lose that crunch a bit and gain the low end. For a great balance of the two, turn the tone to about 3 o'clock. From about 12 to 2 o'clock you get a lower, richer tone which is pretty good but I prefer more crunch. From all the way left to 12 o'clock you get this very low, muffled tone that sounds like your amp is behind a wall. Sustain - this is basically if the distortion knob on your amp went to 20. I don't think I've ever had it at anything but max. Turn it all the way to the right and have your mind blown.