A master of Big Muff-style circuits builds a Ram’s Head clone that’ll be tough to beat at any price.

Ratings

Pros:
Wide-open, airy, super-smooth, and ripping classic Ram's Head tones. Awesome for chords and rhythm playing. Crazy sustain. High quality.

Cons:
Big if you're space conscious. Expensive.

Street:
$324

Wren and Cuff Caprid Blue-Violet Special
wrenandcuff.com



Tones:


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Most Big Muff freaks agree that the Ram's Head pedals—a series of Muffs built by Electro-Harmonix in the early-to-mid-'70s—embody most of the breed's very best attributes. Not all Ram's Heads are amazing. Component inconsistencies mean some sound better than others. But devout Muff-heads insist that the very best of the best come from a run that coincided with Electro-Harmonix's use of blue and violet paint. This collision of sound and color birthed the legend of the Violet Ram's Head.

Wren and Cuff's Matt Holl knows much about these nuances. He chases authentic Big Muff sounds with fervor. And though Holl has built great Ram's Head clones before, his efforts have really reached an apex in the Caprid Blue-Violet Special.

All in for Authentic
The Blue-Violet Special is a feast for a vintage fiend's senses. It features the same dimensions, on/off switch, “backwards" tone control, and Arnold Böcklin typeface that distinguished the original. Even the hand-populated circuit board is a fastidious near-clone of the original “3003" EHX Big Muff board—right down to the shape of the solder traces.

But the real treats are the sounds. And the Caprid Blue-Violet Special underscores the fact that the magic behind the Ram's Head's wall of sound resides in the spaces in between. The source of this space is a perceptible mid-scoop that highlights the white-hot-but-smooth top end and gut-walloping bass. This is the classic formula behind any good Ram's Head. But the Blue-Violet Special adds perceptible extra airspace, even when the gain and tone controls are cranked to their feistiest levels. The result is more room for dynamics in both touch and composition. And it compelled me to play a lot of austere, melodic phrases where I could bask in the sweet cello- and violin-like overtones.

This signing quality can lead you down predictable alleys. It can be hard to avoid punctuating every lead phrase with an eternally sustaining David Gilmour or Ernie Isley bend. But there are many other benefits to the open, scooped, and super-detailed voice. Chunky punk/metal riffs sound huge, with a just-right compression on transients that excites fast staccato riffs. And if you stack drives and fuzzes, or like to leave room for modulation and delay echoes to bloom, the extra air gives these effects plenty of room.

The Caprid Blue-Violet Special is an extraordinary, head-of-the-class Muff.

Room to Range Outward
The impressive range in the Blue Violet's controls is a source of bountiful and colorful voices. The Caprid's ample headroom means you can use cool, buzzing lower-gain settings without sacrificing output. The volume control is a powerful tone shaper, too, inducing smooth but pronounced compression at extreme volume settings and more open, detailed tones at lower levels (which are still monstrously loud).

The tone and sustain controls also yield abundant and varied rhythm and lead tones—enabling super-precise coloration when overdubbing or arranging for multiple guitar parts. There are many incredible, dusky, no-highs fuzz sounds on tap here. But if you max the treble, keep the volume low, and the sustain right around the 2/3 mark, you have the recipe for spot-on Bosstone and Maestro-style “Satisfaction" buzz.

The Verdict
Picking at micro-nuances in basically similar fuzz pedals can get ridiculous. After all, a ripping, soulful solo will probably sound ripping and soulful regardless of the gain-stage transistor. But as a sum of many thoughtfully assembled parts, the Caprid Blue-Violet Special is an extraordinary, head-of-the-class Muff. It's audibly smoother and more effectively scooped in the midrange than less authentic Ram's Head clones. And its knack for sweet, unbroken sustain is extra-impressive—even by Big Muff standards—opening up possibilities for lyrical, spacious solos and extra-expressive finger vibrato.

If you're an entrenched Big Muff cultist, the Blue-Violet Caprid is a must-hear experience. But even if you can't tell a Ram's Head from a rooster, it's impossible not to be wooed by the smooth, sinister sounds from this ultra-authentic take on a legend.

Watch our First Look demo of the Wren and Cuff Caprid Blue-Violet Special

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