So, here's another one of my crazy ideas bought to life ..............
As lots of you know J Mascis is a huge Big Muff collector. He also collects OEM versions of the Muff. OEM stands for "Original equipment manufacturer" who can also make a product for another company to sell as their own product. Lots of companies have done it over the years and EH did it for a few shops around the USA in the early to mid seventies.
They were essentially the current production Big Muff, in the same enclosure but branded for another company.
One of the pedals J's been after for ages is one called a Lyle Distortion Sustainer. They were made for a business called L.D. Heater Music Co. of Portland, Oregon in around 1973. They were essentially a Ram Head Big Muff but more specifically a "Violet" Ram Head so I thought I'd kill a flock of birds with one stone and make a VERY limited number of them based on my Big Mudd series.
The idea behind these is to give one to J until he gets a "real" one. I thought it would be cool to make him one to tide him over until one of these rare versions comes along for him to own. It also happens after being continuously asked, I was going to make a production version of the "Violet" Ram Head as part of my Big Mudds but was just going to change the current Ram Head to a violet print, like EH did back in the day. Then this idea hit me. Make J one, make it even cooler by making the same circuit but in a rarer enclosure. There's plenty of good Violet Ram Head clones out there, this just makes it a little cooler (I think ?)
The other thing that made sense was since it's my 15th anniversary as a business this year, I am only making 15 of them. That's right. ONLY 15.
Let me tell you why. I'm not one of these builders who makes my production pedals in limited numbers because I only have a few hard to get components or a hand full of NOS parts making it possible to only make a certain number. To me, if I'm going to offer my production Big Mudds (and other pedals) I want to get the best possible sound using common, easy to get components. I also want them to sound as consistent as possible. This is why I spend so long getting the tone right while using modern components like metal film resistors, and modern electro and poly caps. Sometimes it takes a little more time, but it means I can keep on making EXACTLY the same pedal for as long as people want them. Well designed and made PCB's and tight tolerance modern components make this possible.
In cases like this where I start out knowing I'm only making a limited number, I'm happy to use components that I know I only have enough of to make that run, and make it consistent. So, these are the same PCB as my usual Ram Head but I'm using carefully selected and positioned NOS 2N5133 transistors in the old TO106 package, which as some of you may know, is exactly the same transistor used in some of the original Triangle and Ram Head era EH Big Muffs.
While i have a reasonable collection of these I only have enough in this hfe to do a few runs like this and I've been saving them for a special occasion.
These transistors give a slightly "darker", "warmer" tone compared to my medium gain 2N2222 and 5088's I use in this period Mudds with everything else being equal. I've used medium gain ones in these as I found the tone was better and they have HEAPS of volume and bottom end. These transistors are noisier than the modern equivalents I use in most of my Big Mudds giving that noisier background hiss much more like a vintage era Muff with the volume on full.
The rest of the circuit is very much like my favorite "Violet" sound which I personally don't like as much as a "standard" Ram Head, but many would disagree with me on that.
I will be making some other "special versions" like this in coming months too so keep an eye out. ALL will be limited to 15 units each.
Read more about OEM Big Muffs on Kit Raes wonderful site.