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I’ve always liked the ProCo Rat sound - as utilised by the Arctic Monkeys and hundreds of other indie and alternative rock bands. There is always the debate as to whether the Rat should be considered a Fuzz or more of a Drive / Distortion type pedal - I definitely have it as a fuzz pedal - it has that very obvious fuzz sizzle to its core tone. I might concede this to the neologism - fuzztortion which covers both - but the fuzz stays! The Rat’s core tone is usually generated from the highly idiosyncratic LM308 Op-Amp chip which gives it its interesting ’fuzzy’ texture -although some builders have more recently managed to tame it and smooth out its rough edges - which is actually the core tone element I really like about it, and why I look to the turbo-charged Frazz Dazzler as my main pedal for this category.
I in fact already have 4 Rat-style pedals to my name - 3 of which are listed here - the Frazz Dazzler, Wrath and Black Secret, and the BYOC Li’l Mouse - which is the mini version of the BYOC Mouse in this list. I never really liked the slightly over-sized enclosure of the original / authentic pedal, but if I had to have one of those, I would go for the Fat version with its 2 additional voicings - Fat and Mosfet - which can be used together to give you more tonal variety and oomph. Many prefer the sound of the older ProCo pedals, but they are slightly too low output for my liking - and still sit in that weirdly over-sized box. Considering how easily you can fit the original circuit and components into a mini size pedal - I don’t really understand why you need such a large enclosure - especially considering how good even those mini pedals sound. If you like that medium enclosure size you also have the Arc Effects Soothsayer and Blakemore R.O.U.S. which give you a slightly different take on the original. The Fuzzrocious Rat King goes one or few further and liberally sprinkles all the bells and whistles into a larger enclosure - and features no less than 3 footswitches.
All the compact pedals here are exceptional - the now discontinued compact BYOC Mouse - with its 6-position voicing dial, Frazz Dassler and Wrath as already mentioned. Then the Jam Pedals Rattler which many love, the Retro-Sonic Distortion, VFE Alpha Dog and fairly recently updated Walrus Iron Horse V2.
In truth I already have all the Rats that I need, and if I were to add any more, I would likely try and dig up one of the older discontinued 6-voiced BYOC Mouses (as pictured) on Reverb.com - it’s very unlikely to happen for a while though considering how many other higher priority pedals I already have on my wishlist.
Pedals listed alphabetically by brand.
As I said in the intro - if I had to go for an authentic Rat pedal - then I would choose the Fat Rat - with its extra 2 voicing options (Fat + Mosfet). I however don't like the unnecessarily large enclosure - and feel that I can get equivalent, even better sounding and more feature-rich pedals for the same sort of price but at a much more compact size.
This has your regular 3 dials, but this time a 4-way clipping toggle and a slightly narrower enclosure than the originals. It's more keenly priced - but there's not really much between this one and the Fat Rat above - If I was OK with the enclosure size - I could go either way here.
A more moderately priced medium Rat-style pedal, with more tone-shaping options - separate Bass and Treble controls and a 3-way clipping toggle - LED | None | Silicon. I've already stated my marginal dislike for over-sized enclosures, but I feel that the R.O.U.S. offers significant advantage over the 2 aforementioned ones - and would be my choice in a mid-size-enclosure shoot out.
I have the little brother of this one - the Li'l Mouse mini pedal which only has the classic 3 dials and no additional clipping - it's available on Reverb.com (£83) from Alchemy Audio (Johnny Balmer) the same guy I got mine from and who supplied me with my modded Xotic and Boss pedals - all superb quality. BYOC (Build Your Own Clone) specialises in DIY kits of popular pedals - featuring wholly accurate circuit reproductions and using authentic high quality components. Several builders offer these ready-made too via sites like Reverb.com. I just happened to see the Li'l Mouse on Alchemy's shop page and I was after a Rat at the time - it sounds great, but it could do with more volume and a Fat/Turbo switch like in fact the Mooer Black Secret has - which became my second Rat-style pedal as a result of that. The full-size BYOC Mouse gives you an incredible 6 different clipping options - which makes for exceptional tone-shaping capabilities. In truth this is probably the only additional Rat pedal I might want - apart from the related Catalinbread Katzenkonig - which is a mix of Rat and Tonebender - both these are excellent and really good value pedals.
This is my mainstay Rat-alike - it's metaphorically an exceptionally violent electrical storm in a pedal - which is the Frazz Dazzler. It's not based on the Rat exactly, but gives me a mix of sizzling, crackling crazy fuzz and hard distortion. With it's 7 dials and twin footswitches this pedal is just a modern classic and it's weird that it hasn't become more popular than it is - it sounds tremendous to me, and is like a totally supercharged Rat pedal with bells on - featuring full 3-band EQ, Dry Mix, Gain, Volts and Volume - with normal Bypass and additional Gain/Distortion footswitch. I cannot recommend this pedal highly enough, it's one of the few constants in my pedal chain and I can't see myself ever relegating it.
I'm a huge fan of the alas recently folded Foxpedals - and have 3 of Todd's pedals already including this one, and still aim to get a few more before they all go. Fortunately there is still some stock with dealers - so others can benefit too. Todd has created a really smart Rat-alike in the Wrath - which is very smartly tuned with the Reutz Mod applied via 4th Sweep Dial, as well as 2-way LED/Turbo voicing toggle. It's a perfect backup for the Frazz Dazzler - although it does not go nearly as crazy as that pedal. I would heartily recommend both though.
A super-size 'kitchen sink' of a Rat featuring clipping diodes, multiple gain stages and no less than 8 tone-shaping dials and 3 footswitches including momentary feedback. I am just glad that this King of Rats was created - it's a little over the top in every way, and fun to mess around with, but does not generate as satisfying tones as either the Frazz Dazzler or the Wrath. It's been discontinued for a while but mint examples appear every now and again on Reverb.com, and there is one currently on sale for exactly £157 which is pretty good money for everything you get. The over-sized enclosure somewhat lets things down for me a touch, but this box needs to be this big to accommodate all the footswitches and dials.
I mostly knew Jam for their time-based effects before this particular voyage of discovery - Llama Delays and Chill Tremolos. On this tone quest though I've discovered that Jam do some pretty exceptional fuzz-types too - with the really smartly voiced Fuzz Phrase and this Rat-style Rattler. There's also a Rattler+Limited version which features a Low gain stage - but with my 5 other overdrives in my chain I really don't need that - I want heavier and gnarlier if anything for my Rat. This is just a clever voicing of that classic circuit in a compact enclosure - lots of pros really like this one, I though prefer my Wrath with its additional features and slightly more oomph!
This is essentially Mooer's clone of the Turbo Rat - with that additional voicing toggle which gives it slightly more gain and more bottom end. It's a more than competent sound-alike for the original Rats. although it cannot offer quite the same depth of delivery of either the Wrath or the Frazz Dazzler. Easily the lowest cost in this listing and really decent for that sort of money - with lots of usable tones.
Another great sounding Rat-alike with plenty of tonal variations through a really expressive Tone control, alongside a 3-way voicing toggle which adds gain and compression. Had I not acquired the Wrath I might have considered this - certainly sounds full-frequency, rich and suitably gnarly when you want it to. Comes in black and white colourways.
Quite a different sort of Rat really - based on the LM308 OpAmp chip, but largely for a much smoother output - achieved through the addition of 3 smaller dials to the regular Level | Gain | Filter ones - we have Fat | Hard | Soft - which makes this mostly sound like a really rich and full amp-like overdrive. You can achieve some gnarlier tones by cranking the Hard dial. Overall though it's about as far from a regular Rat as you can get though - I guess for all those who profess to hate the Rat sound. From my own perspective I have other pedals that can deliver similar overdrive sounds - there's no question this is an interesting pedal - but in some ways it's a bit of red herring or odd one out.
After the relative smoothness of the Alpha Dog, we are back to more sizzling Rat-style tones - albeit Walrus have filtered out some of the more electrical crackle that is often associated with the core sounds. The 3-way voicing toggle allows you to crank up the level of compression, while for V2 - each of the control dials has been given a slightly wider range for more versatile dialling in of preferred sounds, as well the ability to hit unity volume with more ease. This pedal is definitely smoother than the run-of-the-mill Rat, but nowhere near as smooth as the Alpha Dog. I guess it really depends what characteristics of the LM308 your are after. There's no doubt that this is a great sounding pedal, but it's not quite as interesting to me as the Alpha Dog above.
So having reviewed my notes again, listened to some more sound examples and viewed a few more videos - has my initial thinking or appreciation been interrupted or changed? Well yes and no really - I still have an innate dislike of larger pedals - no matter how good they sound. But here I find that apart from the crazy Rat King - it's the compact pedals that are the most interesting.
I really don't need any more Rat pedals, but if I had to, I must say I'm rather warming towards the VFE Alpha Dog - which is actually largely nothing like a proper Rat. So my favourites are still my 2 main ones - the Frazz Dazzler and Wrath - but I also really like the last 3 listed for their own specific takes on the core tones - and I feel I really might be tempted to look up an Alpha Dog V2 - currently none listed on Reverb.com but some dealers still have stock in fairly off colourways (rust?).
Possibly I will check back in a year or two to see if a black colourway version has made it onto Reverb - no bother though either way.