“How can one box do it all and come in at less than $100?”
The reality is that while the Rat is a super versatile distortion pedal, it’s not truly three different pedals in one box. But depending on how you set it you can useit for some very convincing tones that sound like overdrive, distortion, and fuzz.
A lot of these different factors rely on what kind of amplifier you are using, the type of guitar, and how you set the pedal. This in-depth demo will convey some of those different sounds and give you some fun uses for the pedal outside just guitar playing.
For all of these demos, my goal was to keep it as easy to replicate for pretty much any recording enthusiast or guitar player at home.
In that spirit, I’ve used guitar equipment that easily fits into the average guitarist’s arsenal, so you know what your hearing is “average guitarists” gear, and that I’m being as objective as possible with this review.
I hate trying to make a decision on the sound of a pedal when the demo features a fancy custom guitar going into a really expensive boutique amp that’s been mic’d up with 3 different expensive microphones. That’s not what most of us have access to, so how can you know what the pedal really sounds like?
I’ve opted for some guitar and recording “staples” that are all affordable and accessible to anyone.
Guitar 1: Epiphone Les Paul Classic
I don’t think I need to explain why an Epiphone Les Paul Classic is a good “demo” guitar for pretty much anything since Les Pauls are some of the most popular guitars in the world across all music genres. It also helps that they’re more affordable than most. This one, in particular, has been upgraded with Gibson 490R/498T pickups so it’s not 100% stock.
Guitar 2: Fender Player Telecaster
This is a friend of mine’s parts built Telecaster. I realized that I don’t have a “standard” single-coil guitar in my studio right now, which is fine for my own personal needs but for the purpose of this demo I thought it would be important to see the sound of single coils with the distortion and fuzz of the Rat.
This guitar has Fender’s noiseless pickups installed in it, which helps with the inherent noise of the single coils and the noise that the Rat adds making the samples a little cleaner.
I will say that Rats are not exactly the quietest pedals on the planet, but most distortions are going to add noise to your signal due to the large amounts of gain they add to your initial guitar signal.
I used two different guitar amps for the guitar demos to give you two different options for tone and “style” of recording.
Fender Blues Junior
The first amp I used is the undeniably highest selling tube guitar amp in the world, a Fender Blues Junior. These amps are known for their great tone, portability, and affordability, and makes a fantastic candidate for an “amp anyone could have at home.”
Orange Micro Dark
The second amp I used, in a somewhat unconventional way, was an Orange Micro Dark head.
Rather than run it into a speaker cab, I used the headphone out on it to run direct into my DAW (kind of like how I ran the sound samples out of the DAW using the headphone out), through a DI box.
Again, not exactly its intended purpose, but it sounded good and it worked, so I ran with it. My reasoning for running directly instead of through a speaker was to both give guitarists with modeling amps a good idea of what this sounds like, as well as to give a good “direct in” sound of the pedal, essentially using the Orange as a guitar-focused pre-amp.
It’s also a very nifty and affordable piece of gear that you can use to get great big guitar tones without getting a noise complaint from the neighbors with the headphone out.
To keep my guitar sounds consistent, I recorded a loop for each “demo” using an Electro-Harmonix 720 looper, with the Rat after it in the signal chain so that my loop was totally “clean” from the distortion pedal. That way I could manipulate the pedal as I wanted to show different sounds while keeping the guitar “part” totally consistent using a loop instead of the natural human error risk of my own guitar playing (I’m good, but not that good).
I mic’d up the Blues Junior with the industry standard Shure SM57, directly on the center of the speaker right up on the grille.
When It comes to no-brainer options for a guitar amp mic the SM57 is probably the most likely choice, and placing the mic right on the speaker cone is going to give us the most direct sound from the amp.
For the direct sound from the Micro Dark i used a Radial ProDI. Any DI would work totally fine for this, or you could even run it directly into your interface if you’ve got instrument level inputs, I just find using the DI lets me get the most out of my interface’s preamps.
I sometimes find plugging instruments directly to the inputs on my interface set at instrument level doesn’t give me quite enough gain so I still use a DI box.
Speaking of, both of these signals were run into my trusty Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 recording interface, going into Pro Tools on my computer.
Alright, now that I’ve explained in detail the excruciating lengths I went to to be transparent and not use particularly “high-end” gear in this demo, here’s the good stuff: the sounds!
ProCo Rat (Sound Samples & Audio Demos)
Rhythm Guitar Samples
Lead Guitar Samples
Using the Rat on Other Sources
I don’t really do a lot of work on electronic music so I was definitely lacking in the sample side of things, but I wanted to give a demo of this pedal with electronic samples so you can see how useful things like this can be in your own production rig for all styles of music and not just guitar-focused music.
I set these up by running them out of my DAW to a physical output on my interface that was connected to a headphone amp. I then took the headphone output and patched it into the input of the rat, then connected the output of the rat to a DI box that ran back into my computer.
In a dream world, in this situation you should use a reamp box to make sure that the signal level and impedance of your line out from your DAW is converted back into the high impedance level that a guitar would normally put out, because guitar pedals are designed to see this type of input.
I don’t currently own a re-amp box and knew that since my headphone amp had its own output level I could combat that issue this way, and it turned out pretty great overall.
I did have to raise the output level of both the pedal and my preamp on the way in to get a good signal level, which is what using a reamp box would have helped with, but as they always say, if it sounds good then it is good!
All of these guitar examples feature a couple of different settings on the pedal, played with various guitar parts to just give a wide example of what the pedal does.
The settings I did in each example are: All of the settings at noon, a sweep of the tone knob across it’s full range, a sweep of the gain knob across it’s full range, the pedal set at a low gain setting, and the pedal set at its highest gain setting.
Rhythm Guitar Samples
Les Paul & Fender Blues Jr. – Rhythm Samples
Telecaster & Orange Micro Dark – Rhythm Samples
It’s interesting to note how the Rat kind of evens out the different sounds of single coil/vs humbucker guitars to kind of just sound like it’s own sound, especially on rhythm/chord playing parts.
What I love in these samples is how the rat is really good at keeping the tele’s snappy single-coil character intact even at very high fuzz settings.
The following samples all demonstrate some of the different usable “tones” you can get with the rat. I tried my best to create an overdrive, distortion, and fuzz example.
Les Paul and Fender Blues Jr. distortion around 7 o’clock (almost off). Tone around 11 (slight high end boost). Volume noon
Les Paul & Fender Blues Jr. – Overdrive Tone
With the distortion set really low (almost off) and the tone set to just slightly boost the high end, you can get some pretty convincing amp-like overdrive tones. It’s also really cool to hear how the amp and pedal both react to the dynamics of my playing, so you can hear it getting more distorted when I dig in and hit the notes harder later in the clip.
Les Paul and Orange Micro Dark for rhythm. Lead first is Orange Micro Dark. Second is Fender Blues Jr. Pedal set with distortion around 3-4 o’clock. Tone set around 11 to add extra high end.
Les Paul – Distortion Samples
One of the things the Rat excels at is being able to take an already distorted amplifier and push it into extra sonic mayhem, as well as take a somewhat dirty amplifier and really push it into overdrive. The micro dark is designed to get super saturated pretty quickly, and in the sound example, you can hear how you can use the rat to get even more gain and saturation out of the amp to make a really nasty fuzz sound, almost like a recording console-style distortion, with a direct signal. The third example in the clip shows how it can help push the Blues Jr into its own overdrive territory while also injecting the Rat’s own tonal character.
Telecaster and Orange Micro Dark, gain max. Tone around 1 o’clock (slight high-end cut). Volume 1 o’clock (pushing the amp a little bit extra)
Telecaster & Orange Micro Drak – Fuzz Tone
This clip really shows how much gain you can add with the rat, and it sounds CRAZY. It’s got a ton of gain but you still get a very sharp and pointed tone from the pedal, but when switching to chords you can get some of the sputtery almost gated tones out of it as well.
Using the Rat on Other Sources
Using a guitar pedal on your drumbeat/drum machine might be too insane of a sound for a lot of uses or for building your beat off of, but you can absolutely use the sound of it running through the pedal in parallel with the clean to give your sound a little grit while still retaining its initial style.
My biggest find in this in-depth demo is that while the Rat definitely can be used as an overdrive with the gain set at its lowest settings, it really excels as a distortion and a lead tone fuzz more than an OD.
It’s very musical in the way it operates.
The filter knob in the middle is incredibly versatile for helping you to sculpt good high gain rhythm and lead tones.
The distortion knob kind of has 3 “settings” to me throughout its range, from a really small overdrive range from 7-9 o’Clock, meaty distortion from 9-about 2 o’clock, and all-out fuzz madness past 2 o’clock on the distortion.
Within those 3 “zones” the overall distortion done doesn’t change much to my ear, you get a lot more range out of tweaking the filter to your desired tone rather than adjusting the distortion in fine levels.
Overall I really liked all of the sounds that I was able to create using the pedal. It’s versatility and low price makes it a great pedal to have around for any guitarist or anyone looking for a solid distortion.