Thursday, February 13, 2014

ProCo RAT 2 Review

Back in the late 90's I was using a Tube Screamer with an older Peavey amp for my setup. I tried a few different pedals but this was what I kept coming back to. About the same time a friend of mine picked up a ProCo RAT 2. He used it for a while but decided it wasn't working for him. A few years ago he let me borrow it, at first I wasn't crazy about it but after doing a bit of research on the net and trying out some different settings I'm sold.

The history of the RAT is pretty interesting. It started back in the 70's ProCo engineers were tweaking and hot rodding pedals like the Fuzz Face to try and get that big Fuzz into Marshall sound at bedroom levels. They decided that they could build something better. The RAT has become a popular pedal used by a wide range of players like Jeff Beck, John Scofield, Andy Summers, Joe Perry, Jerry Cantrell, and David Gilmour. It has a rougher sound to it than the Tube Screamer but that doesn't mean you can't get smooth tones out of it.
The ProCo RAT II

note the power adapter

The RAT 2 that I have is based around the original LM308 chip. It features true bypass switching and a red LED light in the A. The input and output are located on the top of the pedal (or back depending on how you look at it) as is the power supply. It doesn't use a lot of power and a 9V battery will last you a long time. The power supply is not the standard Boss style but adapters are cheap. I use the Visual Sound One Spot Combo Pack and it came with the adapter. On the front of the pedal you'll see 3 knobs, Distortion, Filter, and Volume. The Filter acts like a tone knob but is a bit different, it seems almost backwards in that it gets brighter when you turn it counter clockwise. ProCo has now moved production overseas and doesn't use the LM308 but from what I've read they have found a suitable replacement chip and it's still housed in a small metal box. You can see in the picture how small it is next to other pedals. I really like that the inputs are on the top of the pedal because you can put the pedals right next to each other. Sometimes I wish all pedal manufactures would move to this setup. These are also popular pedals to pickup and mod. I don't have any experience with this but like the tube screamer circuit the modded RAT circuit is very popular with a lot of  boutique builders
The RAT along with a few of my other favorites. It's small!

While looking around on the interwebs I've found a few different settings to try. John Scofield likes to use his RAT with the Distortion at 7, Filter 5, and Volume 2 o'clock respectively. David Gilmour used a RAT in the late 80's and early 90's and while he has always adjust settings he seems to like using it with the Distortion at 1, Filter 2  and Volume 2 o'clock respectively. I've found that running the Distortion around 1:30 or 2, the Filter at 2 and the Volume around 2- 2:30 works very well for me. With my Strat that is loaded with Seymour Duncan APS II's and into a clean sound the RAT by itself is similar to a Hendrixian "Fuzz into a cranked Marshall" type sound. A little less bottom end and a rough, fuzzy mids and highs. But here is where I have fun, If I click on an analog voiced delay behind it, the sound gets very smooth. This is great for Gilmourish lead tones. While it doesn't sound quite like a big boomy Big Muff that Gilmour is famous for it is a lot easier to tame. 

The ProCo RAT 2 is not an amp in a box. But it is worth spending some time with. It's a great classic Overdrive and Distortion unit that many distortion units have copied over the years. It's still fairly affordable and sounds really great once you've learned to use it. If your looking for something other than the classic TS-9 circuit this might be right up your ally. 

This review was completely unsolicited, I received no compensation for it and all views and opinions are my own.

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