When I hear the word “reissue,” I can’t help but be a little skeptical. Too often the end product is disappointing, leaving people again scouring the Internet and pawn shops for an original—and paying the hefty price tag that usually accompanies one. That said, I put these preconceptions aside when tasked with reviewing ProCo Sound’s latest RAT reissue.
The RAT has changed a lot over the years, both aesthetically and tone-wise. This particular reissue is based on the legendary 1985 “Whiteface” version. ProCo did their homework, using the same steel chassis, circuit board layout, large CTS pots and the crucial LM308 chip, and true bypass switch. And the work paid off—this pedal sounds as close to the original as you can get without owning the real deal.
The RAT is a very straight-forward stompbox with three controls: Distortion, Filter and Volume. The RAT’s Distortion really gives you three different types of distortions in one. The control not only adds more gain as you turn the knob clockwise, but it also takes on different characteristics—everything from a bluesy overdrive to biting distortion to fuzzed-out sonic bliss. The Filter control, which is a 6db octave low pass filter, acts as a reverse tone control. Turning the Filter knob clockwise the treble rolls off, allowing for smaller adjustments to the harmonic frequencies provided by the RAT.
The rest is standard fare: Volume control, mono input and outputs, 9V jack, and a battery compartment on the backside of the pedal. Everything is housed in the same black U-shaped chassis with white graphics, just like the original.
The first time I plugged into the RAT was at a local show just a day or two after receiving the pedal. Armed with my Les Paul DC Classic with Burstbuckers, I felt that the crowd was savvy and small enough to warrant some improvised sonic destruction, which I had no problem unleashing. After hitting the switch I was overcome with joy upon hearing that early Melvins tone coming from my speakers. I ended up changing an entire end of a song that night just to get a chance to use the pedal more. This is the great thing about the RAT—its simple layout and overall good tone allow me to use intuition rather than the user manual to dial in great tones.
After spending more time with the pedal, I found myself running the Distortion around 12 o’clock, the Filter around 2 o’clock, and the Volume around 3 o’clock. This allowed for a cutting distortion with just a tiny bit of breakup, and enough treble rolled off from the Filter to provide warmth and midrange. At this setting there is still plenty of sustain, which tends to increase as the Distortion is turned clockwise. When a lot of sustain is needed, the RAT can certainly deliver.
Turning up the Distortion knob past 3 o'clock changes the whole character of the pedal and it’s suddenly more of a fuzz pedal with some rather tube-like qualities. It responds almost like physically adjusting the sag on a tube amp. This is where the Filter becomes your best friend, because the overall sound can tend to break up and become a little muddy. The Filter can reintroduce more treble to cut through and provide the harmonic nuances that everyone has come to love about the RAT. My only qualm with this pedal was the amount of headroom in the Volume pot. With my Sound City L120 and Orange 4x12, I had to turn the Volume up to 3 o’clock before getting to stage volume.
The Final Mojo
While the Whiteface RAT can achieve classic ‘80s tones ala Eddie Van Halen, but the infinite sustain, harmonic distortion, and growly fuzz has allowed the RAT to find its way into other genres, such as blues, grunge, stoner rock, doom and drone, making the RAT a highly versatile pedal for players of all types. The RAT's tagline, "The last fuzz you will ever need,” isn’t simply hyperbole. The RAT made a believer out of me—I’ve shelved my beloved Keeley-modded Boss DS-1 for the time being.
you’re looking for a versatile distortion with some classic tones
you want the real thing. For the street price, you can just about buy an original.