ProCo has reissued their legendary 1985 "Whiteface" RAT pedal. How close does the reissue come to the original?


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 Basics
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.

Plugging In
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.

Dialing In
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.
Buy if...
you’re looking for a versatile distortion with some classic tones
Skip if...
you want the real thing. For the street price, you can just about buy an original.
Rating...


Street $199 - ProCo Sound - procosound.com

The Cicognani Imperium is packed with tons of tones at all volumes


Download Example 1
Classic Crunch - 15W setting
Download Example 2
Clean - 50W setting
Download Example 3
Modern Lead - 15W setting
All clips were recorded with a Gibson Les Paul Double Cut w/humbuckers into Cicognani H150 head with matching 4x12.  Mic'd with a Sennheiser e609 and a Rode NT1 into a Focusrite Saffire PRO 24 DSP using Logic Studio.
Manufactured in Italy by pro audio equipment manufacturer FBT, the Cicognani (pronounced: chee-koh-nah-nee) Imperium H-150 head with 4x12 cab is a beautiful-looking rig. The black tolex and silver grillecloth with stainless steel logo screams good design. It’s very similar in appearance to a Mesa, but there is one thing that really sets this amp apart from a Mesa Boogie aesthetically: the insane amount of LEDs on the controls. Turn it on and the amp comes to life in bright blue, green, and red. The use of individual LEDs on the digitally encoded pots, in place of the usually arbitrary numbers 1 through 10, can be a bit intimidating at first, giving it the appearance of a hard-to-use piece of gear. It really isn’t true, though, as I discovered after diving into the completely programmable valve amplifier with 127 selectable and user storeable presets (accessible from the control panel or a MIDI footswitch). This combination of valve tone and modern technology provides the guitarist with a perfect blend of both worlds. The Imperium is not a modeling amp designed to replicate other amplifiers; it is an analog tube amp all of its own, but with digital user preset and recall capability, it’s setting the bar a bit higher for other amps of its ilk.

Loaded for Bear
The Cicognani Imperium H-150 is a class-AB1 amplifier with five 12AX7 preamp tubes and four 5881 power tubes. There is only one input provided, along with three EQ controls—Treble, Middle and Bass is all you really need when it comes to a well-voiced amplifier—as well as Gain and Volume controls. A final Master volume control for live use can’t be preset, but the rest are programmable, so when you adjust them to creat and save a preset, or use a MIDI footswitch to toggle presets, you’ll see the front-panel LED indicators on the pots light up according to the level positions. These LEDs also make it easy to see your settings no matter what stage lighting conditions you have to deal with, which is a good thing.

There are six sound buttons for selecting pre-installed amp sounds: Clean 1 and 2, Sexy, Crunch, and Lead 1 and 2. This allows you to create presets in any given Sound mode and switch to other presets in other Sound modes, like having a six-channel amp, or even six different amps at your fingertips, all with presets accessible via MIDI footswitch. Also on the front panel are the four buttons for the four pre-preamp effect loops available on the back of the amp. Any stompbox effect placed in these loops can also be stored with your presets, using any number of them simultaneously. The manufacturer says that with some time and experimentation, this will enable you to use multiple effect types and loop assignments to nail the specific tones of particular artists or songs and save them as presets—giving you flexibility similar to that of a modeling amp, but with analog, all-tube circuitry. Rounding out the front panel are a two mode buttons: one switches between classic and modern voicings. The other, labeled Hi, Mid and Lo, allows you to switch between the three different output power levels: 150W, 50W and 11W. This is an innovative approach to allowing you to achieve the tone of a cranked valve amp at lower volumes.

The back panel provides a MIDI In and Thru for the footswitch to control the user-created presets. There are three mono speaker outputs provided at 4, 8 and 16 Ohms. Also, there is a Slave Out, which is interesting—for one, I don’t know of any companies using that term since the ‘70s. This is cool for guitarists who may own a vintage amp with a Slave In but no Slave Out, such as the Sound City 120 that is my workhorse. This would allow the Cicognani to be the master, providing the tones, while still utilizing the power of the other amp. The wheels did begin turning in my mind about running both the amps together this way, but the prospect of having to listen to my neighbors complain curbed the thought.

On the back, five individual effects loops are provided; one is a post-preamp loop for running an equalizer or other rack effects. The other four are pre-preamp effect loops for stompbox effects, which can be selected from the front panel of the amp. Two knobs control the mix and level of the effects connected to these four loops. Individual ground lift switches are provided for the effect loops, plus a ground lift for the amp itself. There’s also a 9V (1500ma) wall wart-type power supply input with four 9V outputs, so you can power each stompbox individually, as long as you provide external power by plugging a 9V supply into the back of the amp.

Ready to Rumble
I first plugged into directly into the Imperium H-150 using a Gibson Les Paul DC with Burstbucker pickups and a Monster cable. Selecting the bridge pickup with the volume and tone all the way up, I started out in 11W to see what the amp could do at a lower wattage. With the Clean preset setting, Treble at 12 o’clock, Middle at 11, Bass at 12, Gain at 11, Master at 10 and the Volume dialed all the way clockwise, the amp was very transparent, with most of the tone of the guitar coming through. There was a small amount of distortion on the overtones, so I rolled back the volume on the guitar a quarter of a turn and backed off the Gain to 9 o’clock. This helped with the distortion on the overtones for cleaner tone. With the volume on the guitar still the same, I pushed the Clean 2 preset, which backed off the Middle to 11 o’clock and pushed the treble to about 1. The sound was still warm on the bottom end and provided a little more presence on the high-end frequencies. While still in the same setting, I decided to switch from the Classic to the Modern setting. This setting seemed to compress the tone, which made the guitar and amp sound a bit flat, so I switched back. Selecting both pickups, I backed off the bridge pickup a quarter of a turn but still felt that the tone was a bit too dark and flat. It seemed that I wasn’t really using the tubes at their full potential at 11W. So, I switched to the 50W power setting and was treated to a more responsive amp, with the sparkling cleans I was trying to achieve at the lower power level. Turning up the heat to 150 watts the volume didn’t change much, but it provided more bass and a punchier midrange.

Bringing it back down to 11 watts, I decided to move on to the Sexy preset. Backing off on my bridge pickup just hair, I wanted to see if I could get the same sound of lower-wattage valve amps. Cranking up the Master volume to 3 o’clock to light up the tubes, the sound that came from the amp was a classic blues tone with a good amount of sag. Although not as musical as lower-watt amps loaded with EL84s, the H-150 did deliver a nice blues tone with great responsiveness. Moving on to the higher gain settings, I switched to the Crunch preset. In the 11W mode the amp really lit up, delivering a healthy dose of classic British rock tone. The Imperium H-150 would be especially useful for recording at low volumes, or for the bedroom player who needs the sound of a valve amp, but can’t reach the volume necessary to hit the “sweet spot” in the tubes. Moving on to higher volumes, I pressed the 50-watt switch, which raised the volume, reminding me of the Marshall DSL50 I used to own. Heading away from the Classic Crunch, I decided to venture into Modern territory. In Modern mode, I found that the sound fell somewhere between a Marshall and a Bogner. Delivering smooth bass response and a good amount of presence from the midrange without sounding too shrill.

The Final Mojo
The Cicognani H-150 is very innovative and very versatile. The three different power settings worked out wonderfully. While you may get lost at first among the flashing lights, it was easy to dial in a good tone, or just tweak the amp’s six Sound presets a bit. The EQ controls are straightforward, but don’t allow a great amount of range when turning them left or right. The effects loops worked outstandingly well—both delay and modulation effects sounded lush, and without affecting tone. They also reduced the stompbox noise compared to plugging directly into the effects and then to amp’s input. Using the effects loop coupled with a MIDI footswitch controller offers a lot of possibilities as well. You’ll need one to access the 127 user-definable presets, and you can use it to switch through the six amp “sounds” as well. Cicognani makes one for use with the H-150 with heavy-duty steel casing, a numeric LCD screen and a 9V output to power your stompbox effects, but you can use other MIDI switches if you prefer.

The only thing I would change is the speakers in the cabinet. I found the Jensens somewhat thin-sounding, so the choice of them is a little puzzling to me, especially from such well-thought-out amplifier. I will say that the amp is matched well with the cab, which is beautifully built out of 13-ply poplar plywood, and the added option of closed or open back allows for a lot of experimentation. The Imperium H-150 from Cicognani seems to be a one-stop amplifier and effect switcher that provides good tone at all volumes.
Buy if...
you’re looking for an analog all-tube amp with modeling amp versatility.
Skip if...
you’re looking pure simplicity, or a cab with more low end.
Rating...


Street $1999 (Head); $999 (Cab); $319 (MIDI footswitch) - Cicognanicicognaniamps.com  fbtusa.net 

The Morpheus DropTune may be the solution or those wanting to use drop tunings without the hassle.

Download Example 1
Download Example 2
Download Example 3
Download Example 4
Download Example 5
Clips recorded through a Sound City 120 to a VHT 212C with Motu Mk11 w/ Sennheiser e609 Mic. 
Growing up in the early ‘90s my guitar heroes were Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains), Kim Thayil (Soundgarden), Adam Jones (Tool) and Justin Broadrick (Godflesh), so it’s no accident that I began experimenting with drop tuning early on. I’ve run the gamut when it comes to lower tuning, having owned an Ibanez 7-string and a 6-string baritone in the past. When I was asked to check out the Morpheus DropTune, I was excited but skeptical. After watching the company’s NAMM demo my expectations were high. Questions, concerns, ideas began swirling in my brain. Could I finally put lighter gauge strings on my guitars and let the Morpheus DropTune do all the work? The Morpheus DropTune is a polyphonic pitch drop pedal that allows the player to drop up to 3-1/2 steps in half step decrements. An Instrument tuned to E can be tuned down to Eb, D, Db, C B, Bb, or A. What separates this pedal from the rest of the pack is that with the DropTune you can play not only single notes, but full chords. There are also two Octave effects, one to drop the instrument down to a full octave, and an octaver that blends your original note and the octave note together. The DropTune comes housed in a slick silver-and-black metal chassis with 3 footswitches and a large easy-to-read display. Also provided is an Input, Line Out, Trim Level and a Mini USB for firmware updates—all powered by an included 12V DC adapter. Before going into detail on the features, I must add that the power adapter is small, taking up only one space on a power conditioner, which is refreshing, because power supply real estate is important.

The footswitch features are (from left to right): Down, Up and On/Off. The Down switch allows the player to move down in steps whether the unit is on or off. The Up switch only allows you to step up when the effect is off, but it doubles as a toggle switch when the effect is on to allow the user to toggle back and forth between the effect On/ Off—a red LED indicates when the effect is On. The rear-panel Trim Level knob allows you to adjust the line level input of the guitar, which you can also track by the input level meter on the pedal.

How’s That Drop?
Plugging in to the DropTune for the first time, I ran directly into my pedalboard from the output of the DropTune. Adjusting my line level, I first listened for any comparable sound difference between running the pedal in my signal chain and not running it. Although this pedal is true bypass, the guitar’s signal is being processed digitally, which can be a hard pill to swallow for analog enthusiasts. The pedal is very transparent and doesn’t seem to color the tone in any way. Clicking the effect on, I began with the first half step down, playing an open E chord in clean. I noticed immediately how well the DropTune tracked the notes of the chord I played. As we say in the digital music world, there was very little latency, which didn’t affect my timing when playing through the DropTune. With the initial test out of the way I began my descent. When I made it to two-and-half steps down there was a bit of warble when notes were sustained. This is also where my tone began to sound processed when playing full chords—a little disappointing at first blush, but to be fair I had to really listen for it, and it only seemed really noticeable while in clean.

The warble disappeared when I switched to distortion, especially at louder volumes. That being the case, I don’t think the warble and slightly processed sound would be noticeable when playing in a live setting. The DropTune does track single notes better than chords when tuning down to B or A. I had a lot of fun dropping down the full octave to bass levels, especially when I played my guitars that were already tuned low. The Octaver effect is pretty awesome, putting to shame other Octave pedals that can’t track both notes perfectly. Now the real test: could the Morpheus DropTune replace the .015–.068 gauge strings I currently have on my Gibson Les Paul DC that’s tuned to Drop A? For comparison, I plugged in an Epiphone Les Paul with .012–.048s, tuned to standard E, and began chugging a muted E chord dropped down to A by the DropTune. While the note was a spot-on match with the A of the Les Paul DC, there was a distinct difference in attack between the Epiphone and the Gibson. That comes along with using heavier gauge strings, which create lower frequencies than lighter strings. Although the DropTune can replicate the tuning, and do it very, very well, it won’t replicate the sound of heavier gauge strings on a guitar. This may not affect players who are just looking to drop a step or two, or hit that B note in the Steve Vai riffs they’ve been learning. The heaviest players may want to look at the Morpheus as more of a cool effect than a definitive solution to drop tuning. The Toggle was indispensible when using this approach—kudos to Morpheus for thinking of it.

The Final Mojo
The Morpheus DropTune is definitely a pedal worth checking out. Even for players who tune low, the Morpheus could serve as a useful effect, or allow you to drop even a few steps lower when playing a lead to achieve notes never before possible. While the DropTune may not be suited to my style at the moment, I could see myself owning one in the future. The Morpheus is well built, sounds good and is an innovative solution to tuning low, not to mention it’s made to be used with all stringed instruments. I should also point out here that while trying this unit out I didn’t notice any tracking difference between the lighter and heavier gauge strings, which happens with other units. 
Buy if...
you’re looking for a drop-tuning solution without heavier gauge strings.
Skip if...
you’re comfortable tuning low and aren’t looking for a pitch effect.
Rating...
4.5 

Street $199 - Morpheus EFX - morpheusefx.com

Blankenship''s Carry-On delivers classic British sound in an extremely portable 21-watt package.



Download Example 1
Clean 1 - Single Coil Postion
Download Example 2
Clean 2 - Single Coil Postion
Download Example 3
Dirty 1 - Humbucker Postion
Download Example 4
Dirty 2 - Humbucker Postion
Download Example 5
Dirty 3 - Humbucker Postion
Recorded w/ Sennheiser e609 mic thru Motu Mk11 interface using Gibson SG-X w/ 500T Pickup (Single Coil or Humbucker noted) direct to Blankenship Carry On and into an Orange PPC412 w/ Eminence Governors
The Carry-On is part of Roy Blankenship’s LEEDS21 Series. It was designed to provide the traveling musician a small and lightweight amp to keep “that familiar sound” when taking your regular stack is not an option. Having been in the unfortunate position of having to borrow amps while on the road, I was curious about whether or not a small, 21-watt amp would deliver, especially since I use a 120-watt amp live. Looks can be deceiving—this little guy is loud, making it a worthy amplifier for both studio and live use. Employing two 12AX7s, two EL84s and a single 6CA4 rectifier, the Carry-On is voiced for the classic British tone of the ’60s, but with modern updates that may make some enthusiasts think twice about leaving the house again with their prized vintage amp. Created with the idea that less is more, the Carry-On is a sharp looking boutique amp with its cool nameplate and spade logo. At first glance, it looks like a lunch-box version of a Marshall plexi replica, with its familiar gold panels, black tolex and Marshall-style knobs. As for features, the Carry-On’s front panel provides Volume and Tone controls, one Input, On/Off/Standby switch and a huge, bright purple jewel lamp. The back panel has a 3-way switch for 4, 8 or 16 ohms, and two speaker outs.

When I first plugged into the Carry On, I ran a Gibson SG-X with a 500T humbucker straight in (no pedal chain) and used an Orange PPC412 cab with Eminence Governors. Going for all or nothing, I cranked the volume clockwise to 8 with the guitar volume at 10. I was instantly won over by the tonal quality of this amp. Before even touching the Tone knob I was surprised at how powerful the Carry-On was, but also how perfectly dialed in the tone was. I can’t imagine the care and time it would take to voice an amp this well with the idea of giving the player only two controls. The overall sound of the amp is crunchy, bright and responsive with excellent sustain. The Tone control adjusts the amount of low to high range; while it’s not a very extreme control, it does provide a final touch to an already killer sound. I found 6 to be to my liking, because it gave me a little more on the top end to match the Eminence Governors’ midrange. Turning up to 10 the sound didn’t fall apart, but provided even more gain and power.

Backing off my guitar volume and flipping the coil-tap switch to a single coil, I lowered the amp volume to around 4 to 6. The Carry-On provided a transparent clean sound, complimenting the bright and punchy qualities of the 500T in single-coil mode. After stumbling up the stairs and discovering that I’d been playing for about three hours straight, I was sold. While I had the amp, I got the chance to use it in the studio to double guitar tracks. I ran a ’72 Fender Telecaster reissue with Warmoth baritone neck, Rio Grande Dirty Harry singlecoil in the bridge and the stock Fender jumbo humbucker in the neck. The combination of the Carry-On’s raw crunch, the bite of the Telecaster and the low end of the baritone strings supplied plenty of low growl, complimenting my Sound City L120’s darker tones. The Carry-On also accepts pedals very well, if the gain provided by the amp isn’t enough. It handled all the distortion and fuzz pedals I threw at it like a champ. I only wish this amp had a line out, so I could have slaved out the Sound City for even more volume.

The Final Mojo
Though the Carry-On recreates the sound of old, there are some very modern traits to the amp that may make it more desirable than using a vintage amp live, or even in studio situations. The sturdy power supply is one. The other is that the Carry-On runs at modern voltages, unlike older amps that were made to run at lower voltages. This allows the Carry- On to achieve its full potential, giving you 1960s tone without having to change the caps on your vintage amp. Designed to give the player straight to amp tone, the Carry-On will make you forget all about a master volume (which squashes your preamp tubes anyway). While pedal effects makers and software companies may try to reproduce it and may come close, there is nothing quite as inspiring as standing in front of a revved up valve amp at full volume. Hiwatt, Sound City, and Marshall enthusiasts would do well to check out Roy Blankenship’s amp line. The Carry-On comes at a street price that makes it obtainable for a boutique amp—especially next to that plexi you’ve been watching on eBay. Now I just have to save my pennies to buy one, or skip the country with the one in my basement.

Buy if...
you’re looking for classic British tone.
Skip if...
21 watts is not enough.
Rating...
5.0  

Street $1499 (includes ballistic nylon carry bag and shoulder strap)  - Blankenship Amps - blankenshipamps.com
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