Electro-Harmonix Double Muff
Electro-Harmonix’s Double Muff ($85 retail/$61 street) is a very different beast than its stoney predecessor, the classic Big Muff , which is known for yielding milky lead lines and low-end sludge. The 9-volt powered Double Muff (adapter optional) offers a decidedly different tonal take. The Double Muff sports three controls: Muff 1 and Muff 2, along with a Single/Double slide-switch that lets you toggle between the two, uh, Muffs. Set on Muff 1, and running through a clean Fender Deluxe Reverb, I got a robust, musical overdrive with just the right amount of hair surrounding the notes. By flicking the switch to Double and employing the Muff 2 control, the sound became more extreme.
In this mode, the Muff 1 and 2 circuits work in tandem—Muff 1 controls the output volume and Muff 2 adds a raspy-ass fuzz that, although intense and not for the faint of heart, is extremely sensitive to changes in pick attack and guitar volume. Using a Gibson SG with the Muff 2 control set halfway, I was able to dial up a tone akin to Keith Richards’ sick and sputtery intro to “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.” Crank up Muff 2 a little more and you’ll sound like a session guy on a ’60s biker-movie soundtrack. Hell, put a Small Stone phaser after the Double Muff and you can even ape Ernie Isley’s “Who’s That Lady?” tone.
Although I dug the Double Muff’s retro rasp, a tone control would be nice for those who want to tame the top-end fizz a bit. The biggest bummer, however, is the lack of a footswitch for toggling between the two modes. That aside, the Double Muff’s tones are way happening, and the pedal is a real boon for fuzz freaks.
Jacques Mercer Box II
Designed by French boutique pedal builder Jacques Charbit, the Mercer Box II ($199 retail/$150 street) is the latest addition to his line of factory-built pedals. (Charbit also makes costlier hand-crafted pedals that feature point-to-point circuitry.) Featuring an attractive and sturdy cast-aluminum enclosure and enigmatically labeled Hate, Blood, and Love controls, this compact tone machine is simultaneously cute and creepy.
The Mercer Box II covers a lot of sonic territory thanks to its powerful controls. Love increases gain and harmonic content, and Fuzz adds even more over-the-top drive and piercing grit. Conversely, with Love and Fuzz at their minimum settings, this little wonder-box can also serve up pristine clean-boost tones. The Hate control unleashes copious quantities of low-end depth, and the Blood control can be used to either de-honk or punch-up the midrange. Moderate Love and Fuzz settings can transport you to fat and sassy Tube Screamer realms, and higher settings can go far beyond that in distortion intensity. Capable of replacing a box of distortion pedals, the small-but-mighty Mercer Box II provides a fantastic tour through the world of distortion. Bon Voyage!