Muff-style circuits can be muddy-sounding beasts—at least in a loud, crowded band mix. And in the last few years we’ve seen a lot of Muff-style circuits with midrange controls built to address that shortcoming in the design. Maxon’s FWA10 Fuzz Elements Water takes that concept a step further by taking the company’s FEA10 Earth Fuzz circuit—itself a lovingly crafted take on the famed ’70s Electro-Harmonix “Ram’s Head” Big Muff Pi—and adding a sweepable parametric EQ circuit for boosting or cutting specific frequencies. It handily solves the classic Muff malady of missing upper midrange, but it’s also flexible enough to add extreme low-end rumble and fine-tune the pedal’s high-end output to add more detail, definition, and destructive power to their fuzz tones.
Ramming Speed in Water World
The Water’s volume, tone, and fuzz controls will be familiar to any Muff user. Where the Water deviates from dogmatic Muff design is the two-knob parametric EQ section. The rightmost EQ knob, freq, enables you to pinpoint the frequency you want to boost or cut. The b/c knob on the left enables you to boost or cut the selected frequency.
Paired with a Fender Stratocaster and a Marshall JCM800 half stack, the Water sings with the sustain and hard-edged chunkiness that made the original Ram’s Head Muffs a grunge and indie-rock prize. I started with the parametric EQ boost control set at noon, which effectively puts the Water in stock Ram’s Head-style mode. Here it’s easy to hear the signature Big Muff midrange scoop that makes it so easy to play fluid legato licks and thick, bluesy leads that sustain for what seems like an eternity. Even in these standard modes, the Water exhibits classic Ram’s Head tendencies and generates ferocious, rich chord textures and hot lead tones when you crank the fuzz.
The parametric controls are both versatile and easy to use. Turning freq to 1 o’clock and boosting the signal a hair fattened my fuzz tone’s midrange without sacrificing an ounce of the hefty low end, resulting in a velvety but huge and searing lead tone that’s equally menacing for chords. Boosting and emphasizing the highest frequencies while piling on the gain sends the Water to realms that few Muff-style circuits can touch, including some fantastic notched-wah-type tones. Meanwhile, using a Les Paul and scooping the mids with the freq control resulted in seriously brutal metal tones with drum-tight lows that made classic metal riffs feel effortless.
The original Ram’s Head Big Muffs were among the most aggressive-sounding Muffs ever produced, and Maxon’s new FWA10 Fuzz Elements Water pulls no punches in replicating those tones. Adding parametric EQ capability makes the Water a monster of power and versatility with a much bigger tone palette than the average Muff. With its rock-solid build and small footprint, the Water is a no-brainer for Muff fans who want the soul of an original Muff and the sonic expansiveness of a more modern fuzz.
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