Most should know by now that I’m a huge Rat aficionado - and for me Rat doesn’t just mean those original ProCo Rat varieties but all the different derivatives - direct and indirect - old and new, classics, rarities and outliers. This category is titled ’Rat-Style’ so there’s a few Rat-adjacent pedals here too which share some of the core fundamentals and bring to mind some key associations with that well-known highly textured frequency profile.
For me at a fundamental level there are 3 general classifications of Rat - original style LM308 plastic OpAmp chip versions, LM308H Metal Can varieties and an assortment of other near-match but wholly different designation OpAmp types. There can be a significant difference in output too - with some sounding far more edgy and textural - rawer and with more gain and aggression, while at the opposite end you can have some pretty smooth, rich and elegant mid-rangey overdrive-sounding examples. Some have a very crisp mids and upper -focused profile, while others have some glorious low-end extension. I like all the different varieties - I find it’s really about the blend of frequency profile - to the extent that I have two of these featured pedals currently in my chain (Frazz Dazzler and Germanium Dirt) and a few more on heavy rotation - the Alpha Dog, Rattler, and Warthog in particular.
I find the whole aspect of the different opamp types and designations wholly fascinating - and it was a while before I realised that ’H’ and ’AH’ was specifically Metal Can (H-designation) - while others of my more conventional opamps are variously labelled just LM308, or have the suffixes A, AN, AM, AP, AT and single letter equivalents.
My JHS-modded ProCo Rat 2 uses NE5534, my Kinnatone variety uses LM308N, and then you have AD797, Burr Brown OPA134, OP07CP/DP, TL061 and TL071 - all different varieties used in making Rat-style circuits and pedals. The Slew Rate being the key metric associated with the noise floor and gain range for a particular derivation. Many of these can be combined with complementary components to sound very similar to the originals, while others have markedly different profiles - refined and otherwise.
On this occasion I am just focusing on the compact enclosure format - which means I exclude the many medium size boxes - like my 2 ProCo Rats, EQD Life Pedal V2 and 1981 Inventions DRV. My current overall ’Rat’ collection stands at around 20 specimens of all sizes - including exactly 10 that appear in this listing - including my long-term favourite Frazz Dazzler and newest addition Reuss Germanium Dirt - both of which are actually Rat-adjacent!
The ones I personally own here are the Animals Pedal Tioga, Basic Audio Shore Bird, BBE 427, Foxpedal Wrath, JAM Pedals Rattler, Magnetic Effects Dual Drive, Reuss Germanium Dirt, ThorpyFX Warthog, and VFE Alpha Dog. Interestingly there are 3 pedals I own here that share a pretty similar sea-foam / mint green colourway, while the colours typically associated with Rats are Black, White and Red!
Related to this listing I also own a Catalinbread Katzenkönig - for which the Blood Donor is a somewhat recent evolved / enhanced version, I also have a JAM Pedals Rattler+ (Metal Can variety), and a Magnetic Effects Lonely Robot. I decided I should only list one pedal from each brand - and I deferred to either the more recent or my more preferred variety in each case.
As someone who loves this category - I always try to add one or two of these to the collection each year - and the new ones for this selection are the Dual Drive and Germanium Dirt. I still have my eye on a number of these others - including a Big Ear Woodcutter, Pettyjohn ROUS, SUF Skinner box and Walrus Audio Iron Horse - also a discontinued JHS All American if I can find the right one at the right price. One of the varieties that’s really cool here but very much unobtanium is the discontinued John Landgraff MO-D Distortion - at one stage just recently there were two listed on Reverb.com for £1,100 and £1,200 equivalent respectively - both those seem to have been snapped up! Also the hand-painted Freakshow Effects Brown Rabbit pedals are somewhat sought after - and there is one currently listing at £300 equivalent on Reverb.com.
My preferred format for the Rat varieties tends to be compact enclosure as with most else - and there are some truly magnificent specimens at this level - at a variety of different price points. I keep waiting for someone also to do a modified version of the EHX Flatiron - but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any day soon. I previously also had a BYOC 6-way clipping Mighty Mouse in the listing - but elected to rather feature its sister pedal - the Big Tone Music Brewery Classic Distortion. I’m also waiting for Zander Circuitry’s Alex Millar to bring out a more compact variety of his Cranium Distortion - demo’d recently to fantastic effect by Eric Merrow - I might just get the medium box there if the more compact variety doesn’t materialise any time soon. I may also be collaborating on another more refined compact variety soon - and will let you know more when that project gets properly underway.
There’s certainly plenty to get stuck into - and here follow the individual details :
Acid Age is of course now Earthbound Audio, and the compact Acid Pig has morphed into Earthbound Audio's larger and more capable Iron Pig unit - which is one of the few medium-sized varieties still on my Rat wishlist - alongside the Zander Cranium - if that doesn't get a smaller derivative soon like I discussed. The Acid Pig has the typical 3 Rat knobs - with the Tone dial more conventionally arranged. The two toggle switches allow you to select between Overdrive and Distortion Mode, and LED + Silicon or Silicon only clipping - which is the default Rat style. This is a cool variety if you can find the right one at the right price. I would of course prefer the Iron Pig feature set in this more compact format! So an interesting version for sure - and a great sounding one, but not one that I'm actively pursuing. I believe this utilises an H-designation Metal Can variety IC.
Aion is primarily a DIY Kit supplier but we're seeing more and more pre-assembled versions on Reverb.com - with just a single Helios currently available. Aion have done a decent job of getting pedals out to demoers and I've seen RJ Ronquillo feature a few - including this variety. The Helios has a 4th 'Sweep' knob which controls low-end frequencies and thickens the tone, there's also a 3-way Clipping Diode switch which I believe goes from 2 Silicon, to 4 Silicon, to 2 LEDs (Turbo mode). I actually really like this version which makes use of the OP07 OpAmp same as the current Rat 2 - and I will likely add one to the collection one of these years, while it's not really a priority.
This cute Japanese brand of pedals still doesn't have a UK dealer as far as I'm aware, I got mine a while back on Reverb.com. This is a collaboration with Wren and Cuff's Matt Hall - who has created a slightly different take on the classic Rat. Pretty standard 3 knobs, with a 3-way clipping switch - Up is Symmetric, Middle is Clipping Bypass, and Down is Asymmetric. I don't believe this uses an LM308 variety - more likely one of the more modern derivatives - it sounds pretty great though, and as a fan of Wren and Cuff and this format - it makes a nice addition to the collection, probably not entirely essential though.
This is one of those slightly more refined Rats - utilising the LM308N OpAmp. Although differently labelled to the Aion Helios - the 4 knobs here do largely the same thing - with the 4th 'Fat' variety controlling and enhancing the low-end frequencies. There are no additional clipping options here, and while this is a favourite of many, for me it's not quite one of my top-tier units, it has the same status within my15-strong Basic Audio selection which has some really stellar performers. So a pretty decent variety but not one that gets into rotation on my pedal-chain too often, unless I'm doing a focus on Basic Audio really at the time. There's lots of players that really like this variety - while I have other preferences as noted.
Another classic and conventional Rat actually fairly recently re-launched but currently in short supply. I picked mine up shortly after a Josh Scott JHS feature - mine came from South Korea at the time. The site describes it as being an LED-based distortion and doesn't specify its IC / OpAmp - most likely one of the more modern derivatives therefore. Sounds pretty decent, this is quite an affordable version - actually on par with the Helios and Tioga mentioned - of that trio I would probably go for the Helios nowadays - if I had to pick one of the affordable ones!
This is for sure one of the The classic Rat varieties - based on Grant Wilson trying to reconstruct his own all-time favourite Rat which was assembled by the legendary 'Woodcutter' per the attached QA label - an early 90's variety supposedly. Conventional wisdom states though that all Rat assembly personnel followed exactly the same guidelines and that there should not be any significant variations in batches from that time. However - as always these myths grow and take on a life of their own. This is indisputably one of the best sounding straight up Rat clones out there, and is currently the only remaining one of what I consider the top-tier at this level. This is definitely high up on my wishlist as one of the upper-tier varieties I still need to get. Not sure whether it would necessarily oust any of my already formidable top-tier contenders - but it would be nice to have one in the collection so I can further cross-reference and benchmark. Definitely one that I will acquire sooner rather than later.
All the Big Tone EQ'd Vintage Series of pedals were launched in June of 2015 - all with 3-band EQ and parametric mids. And the BTMB Classic Distortion adds Vintage and Turbo (LED Clipping) switch to that formula. While BYOC mostly makes kits - its BTMB sister brand made fully assembled pedals from the start - including the 8-strong EQ'd Vintage Series - from which I would quite like a number of varieties - including this Classic Distortion, and the Triangle and Ram Muff derivatives and possibly one or two more. There's few-to-no Rat pedals with 3-Band EQ and Parametric Mids - so it's pretty unique in that department, and I already have a very healthy respect for BYOC's Keith Vonderhulls - while as this would be my first BTMB edition. I've encountered a few on Reverb.com, but always with prohibitive delivery costs thus far. This one is not really a top-tier priority for me, but I would like to add it at some stage if all the conditions match up to my expectations!
The recent charitable Blood Donor editions were somewhat refined and supposedly enhanced versions of the Katzenkönig that I already have - which is an interesting hybrid of Tone Bender MKII and Rat. Volume, Filter and Gain controls are very reminiscent of the classic Rat, while the 4th control 'Input' is actually Input Gain / Sensitivity as mostly applies to the Tone Bender half of the circuit. You get glorious best-of-both-worlds distortion here with a really distinct texture. I've still to make up my mind if I need the Blood Donor as well as the Katzenkönig - there are still some Black and White ones available at Sweetwater - where my preferences would definitely be for the black edition as pictured above. This circuit seems largely transistor-based while Catalinbread are scant on OpAmp details!
A classic LM308N circuit with Volume, Hi-Cut and Drive controls - no extra frills or flourishes but a very handy unit at a very decent price. There seem to be lots of players who really like this pedal - and depending on your budget it's certainly a fairly easy choice to make. Probably not distinctly different or sufficiently standout for my own preferences - so I'm unlikely to add one of these to the collection - but that should not mean this is not the perfect choice for some players. Also props to Chicago Stompworks for their guerrilla marketing efforts on Rabea Massaad - where indeed the pseudo-signature variety in Bea's above demo is simply a re-badged Vermin!
Another LM308N classic - this time with 3-way clipping switch - standard Rat in Down position, Clipping Lift in Middle, and Turbo / LEDs up top! Knobs are exactly how you would expect them - just a great sounding Rat really at a decent price. Again possibly not sufficiently differentiated or variegated for my own preferences - but certainly has a loyal following.
If you've scanned though this site at all you would likely have encountered several mentions and references to the Frazz Dazzler - which stands up as probably my favourite overall fuzz of all time - certainly the most consistently deployed in my own pedal-chain. This is a quite unique high-ranging, high-gain 2-Channel Fuzz - with no less than 7 controls - Bass, Mids, Treble, Mix, Gain, Volts and Volume and two footswitches - one of which toggles between the Low / High Gain Channels - where both Channels are actually pretty darn high gain anyway. It's run on a series of NE5532P OpAmp gain stages and creates a gloriously rich harmonic texture - which can be nuanced enormously courtesy of the Volts / Voltage Starve control. Most equate this to a high-gain Muff, while for me it has many of those same frequency clusters as those higher gain Rats. There is a huge amount of range onboard and you can easily get a whole number of different Rat-style tones out of here. It's probably not the best for the more mid-rangey slightly smoother Rat drive styles - but for most things else it's just spectacular. The Frazz Dazzler will always go straight onto my list of favourite Fuzzes and favourite Rat-style varieties - and most who have encountered it tend to agree.
Classic 3-knob symmetrical hard-clipping distortion - obviously based on the Rat 2, and likely to be OP07CP OpAmp-based too. Standard 3 control knobs - and very cost effective. I've been waiting for someone to do a modded version of this - either JHS, Kinnatone or Alchemy Audio even - but does not look like there will be any as there are so many Rat pedals out there now - and it probably makes more senses to modify the authentic ones. Had there been some interesting modification of this particular pedal I might have considered it - it's a very cost effective version of the circuit - and it really sounds great too, but there are many more here which fall much closer to my preferences.
I think this was my first ever actual LM308 pedal - here in LM308N designation - but it came in after the Frazz Dazzler, and has not really gotten too much of a look-in on the rotation although I really like it. It comes with the clever Reutz modification for smoother lower-gain tones, and has a 2-way toggle switch with that Red LEDs Turbo clipping mode. The controls are actually very similar to the Aion Helios - here though labelled Level, Gain, Cut and Sweep. This is an upper tier pedal really, but it seems that the Aion Helios is not too different and has one more clipping mode! I still rate this, and will pf course keep on deploying it, but possibly if I was making the decision today I might go for the Aion Helios first?
I was unaware of the Freakshow Brown Rabbit until very recently, but these individually distinct hand-painted pedals seem to have quite a following. There's one currently up for sale on Reverb.com. It is a classic LM308 OpAmp variety with the 3 standard Rat controls - Volume, Drive and Filter. The 3-way switch for selecting Asymmetrical Diode Clipping, Clipping Bypass and 2 red LED's 'Turbo' mode. At one stage I might have been tempted by this pedal - it's rather pricey relatively, and there are other versions here I would probably take in preference. This one is very much about the right pedal at the right price and the right time. So certainly not for me this time around - I'm sure many would love it though.
One of a handful of relatively new Rat-style models - alongside the EQD Life Pedal V2, Magnetic Effects Dual Drive and Pettyjohn Electronics ROUS. Quite a vanilla LM308 variety with standard 3 knobs - Volume, Gain and Tone. Obviously it's been finely tuned and calibrated by Nick Greer and I really like a lot of his stuff, but this edition really did not spark off any particular connection for me. I've listened to most of the demos and I don't know whether it's indicative of the quality of some of those - but I somehow wasn't particularly captivated by this derivation - I did not hear the pedal-equivalent speorg note! It's certainly picked up some fans, but I just seem to prefer other varieties currently for whatever reason. Perhaps this one will grown on me over time.
A number of people have forgotten that back in the day Ibanez had its own take on the ProCo Rat circuit - here based around a Japanese JRC5534 with different complementary components - so you can't simply switch out the OpAmp. It actually does a pretty decent job in replicating the early ProCo Rats - and has more conventional Distortion, Tone and Level controls. I've never been a particular fan of the 10 series aesthetics - same for the Tube Screamer and Mostortion. And while I might very well pick up an early edition Ibanez Mostortion - I don't see the same in the appeal of the Fat Cat - which nonetheless sound pretty decent, but is not really in anyway specifically authentic as such.
This is easily one of my favourite versions of Rat - right in the heart of my upper tier selection and regularly in my pedal-chain. I prefer the tone and texture of the standard LM308N version versus the metal can LM308AH Rattler Plus version - I have both actually - as mentioned in my 'Twisted Tale of 4 Rats' feature. My custom Rattler+ is a slightly older version which doesn't have that beautiful inner wiring of the new custom shop Rattler+. I still really want the version with the fantastic wiring / circuit arrangement - but it's a pricey choice - so I certainly need extra funds to be in place - which is the opposite of what's happening within this Coronavirus period. When people ask me about a Rat pedal - this is typically one of my first recommendations!
I've featured this pedal on the site in its more raw StewMac kit version - per my relatively recent DIY Kits article. I believe this is a classic LM308 variety 4-knob edition - with the 4th knob being the 'Sweep' - like on the Aion Helios and Foxpepal Wrath. I really don't need this particular edition and it's not a priority in any way as such - but it's something I might get if it materialises at the right price and time. Currently there don't seem to be any in circulation - all the fully assembled varieties and kits seemed to have been snapped up!
John Landgraff is best known for his point-to-point straight-line-wired swirl-painted pedals. In particular the Landgraff Dynamic OD which was famously cloned as the Clay Jones Overdrive, then there was the Landgraff Distortion, and Landgraff MO-D Distortion as here - all pedals currently fetching ridiculous prices on Reverb.com. These pedals look amazing inside and out and have a typically very open and dynamic sound signature. These are only for players with a massive inheritance or billion-dollar job. Somewhat unobtanium for us more regular folks! The Landgraff MO-D has the usual 3 knobs, and a 3-way clipping switch which adjusts the character of the distortion and its compression in particular. Update! Actually one's just been listed on Reverb.com here in the UK - going for £650 which is a relative bargain! (for some!).
This is a clever dual-channel variety of Tube Screamer style Overdrive into LM308 Rat - which you can of course stack to fantastic effect. I feature this here as the newer of my Magnetic Effects Rats - while overall I probably still prefer the slightly lower cost Lonely Robot predecessor with its 6 knobs all dedicated to Rat-style tone-shaping. The Dual Drive is fantastic, but the Lonely Robot is slightly more nuanced somehow.
The Socrates is rather unusual in having straight-up 2-Band EQ. Otherwise it's a fairly typical LM308 variant with 2-way Symmetrical or Asymmetrical Clipping selection. It's the kind of pedal that I might snap up if I came across one for really decent / reasonable money - but it's not that distinctly different to be on the priority list. More of an opportunistic thing really and rather low priority for me currently - but another decent contender here overall.
Pettyjohn's most recent pedal kind of confuses me with its vaguely defined different options - where you can buy it in 4 different versions with increasingly upgraded parts supposedly. It sounds like a decent extended range version - but from the sound file demos I've heard it doesn't have any specific magical tonality or character which reels me in - at least not yet. Probably just needs a couple of decent demos - Pettyjohn make some excellent pedals - and for me I'm most likely so start off collecting Pettyjohn with either this or the Rail fuzz - which I slightly prefer currently (actually Rail fuzz has been acquired!). I am open to persuasion in any case - so this one still intrigues - but isn't a priority target as such yet. Sometimes I hear something unique or captivating in one of the YouTube demos or reference sound files which reels me in - I just recognise a particular tonal / frequency / harmonics character that appeals to my senses. The Fire/Swamp clipping switch alternates between Silicon and Germanium-mix Clipping Diodes. I feel that this is probably quite a capable Rat as such - but isn't quite fully defined yet - certainly not to my satisfaction. This is the newest specimen listed here - actually production models only ship in early July - and Pettyjohn is being unusually coy on sharing the exact details - in fact fully opaque in not properly referencing the core opamp type or those upgraded ones?? Once there is a demo video out I will append it here - for now you need to reference the sound-files that can be found on the Pettyjohn website.
This Canadian brand makes some superb vintage-inspired pedals like its recent Flanger. A number of players / reviewers haven't been particularly complementary about this pedal for whatever reason - possibly the earlier models though, and since refined. It has an interesting 4-knob topology - not dissimilar to the Blood Donor / Katzenkönig - with a Ratness control which tweaks high gain frequencies. It has 3-way clipping - Asymmetrical, LED or Symmetrical, and to my ears sounds pretty decent, albeit not quite one of the standout versions here - but the latest edition should appeal to most.
As Anders Reuss explained to me himself - this is actually closer to an MXR Distortion+ at its core but with the LM741 OpAmp swapped out for a LM308AH metal can and those superb harmonics coming from 4 NOS Germanium Diodes. When you crank it you get much of that rawer, grittier Rat-style character, but at lower gain it's just the most amazingly textured and harmonic overdrive. I love Fuzzy-Drive / Fuzzstortion pedals, and while obviously Rat-adjacent I feel this sits nicely within this category as a slightly different take outlier. In fact I so much like this pedal that it's currently ousted my favourite Demon Pedals Kondo-Shifuku for those wonderfully textured fuzz-edged drive sounds. This pedal has lots of range to it and some incredible dynamics - while the tone control is rather subtle and more of a High-Cut. You get plenty of bottom-end here too which I love. Note that at lower gain I feel that this pedal could really do with a little more volume, and in my pedal-chain I apply a little post-gain boost to get it up to my rig's unity-level.
This is another favourite builder of mine, and many people's favourite Rat variety. Classic LM308 circuit with those standard 3 knobs - Level, Gain and Tone. This is another that has been on my wishlist for a while - I really don't need another of the more vanilla varieties - but part of me still quite wants this one for the reference collection. It's not a high priority in any case - and there are sufficient numbers out there in the wild - I would have to have the white-knob version though, the black-knob version just doesn't look right! This is certainly one of the great sounding ones here - and upon further consideration - I probably would want to get this right after I've secured a Big Ear Woodcutter!
This is another essentially Rat-adjacent pedal which covers rather more extended territory courtesy of a Burr-Brown OPA804AP OpAmp and dual Red LEDS. You get the same twin gain-stage mechanics as on the Thorpy Gunshot - with controls for Gain and Calibre as well as Volume and Tone. The magic here is both in the component selection and how the EQ is applied to the gain stages. This is one of my top-tier rats and gets a lot of rotation in my pedal-chain - definitely a very worthwhile acquisition. Much loved also by Mick Taylor of That Pedal Show.
Another of my favourite top-tier Rats - this is the one I had to hunt down for the longest time, and I'm really very pleased with my sort of mint-green / seafoam colourway version even though I was gunning for a black version at the time. This is an exceptional extended range LM308N circuit with enhanced control. You start with the core Level, Gain and Filter knobs, but then have a Fat control for Low end, and a sort of infinitely variable proprietary HCC circuity which allows you to finely tune the harmonics, compression and clipping character of your tone - here courtesy of variable Hard and Soft clipping controls! This is VFE's all-time best selling pedal as far as I am aware - and understandably so - just a very unique and truly great sounding take on the format.
Another quite classic but slightly nuanced take on the LM308 circuit with appropriate OpAmp, 3-knob control - Level, Tone and Distortion. The 3-way mode switch on this occasion controls the amount of compression in the circuit with left being some compression, right lots of compression, and middle option - Open / no compression. This is actually a pretty great sounding Rat, with lots of loyal followers - it's been on my wishlist for a while, but is not one of my priority Rat acquisition targets at the moment. Like many of these - if I come across a pristine used one at a decent price I will probably snap one up!
It seems as if most builders have released some sort of Rat variant at some stage - and obviously not all are going to fit into the above feature listing, so here below are a few others still worthy of consideration. I really love the look of the Mad Elephant Shop Rotten Rat - as above - and would acquire that one solely for its looks as a nice bookmark to the collection. Alas that model seems that have been build only a handful of times, with just a couple of references too Reverb.com - but other variations on the theme - not quite as elaborate as the version referenced here!
I always get a kick out of doing these extended roundups as it sharpens my take on a a particular category. My top-tier favourites here are definitely these 6:
(in alphabetical order)
With the Frazz Dazzler being still my very first choice - currently joined by the Germanium Dirt in the active chain, and the Big Ear Woodcutter most probably my next acquisition target. The Woodcutter has to be the likeliest to land next - while I kind of have active feeds out on Big Tone Music Classic Distortion, Catalinbread Blood Donor Black, JHS All-American, Mojo Hand FX Socrates, Pettyjohn ROUS, Stomp Under Foot Skinner Box and Walrus Audio Iron Horse.
As mentioned - I will likely also be working on another metal can variety in collaboration with one of my pedal-builder friends - which hopefully should see light in some format later in the year.
I really don't need another Rat-style pedal as such - and there will come a stage where I decide I'm fully covered really - although there are still some extended featured medium boxes I'm after like the Earthbound Audio Iron Pig - and I'm waiting for Alex Millar to compact his Cranium! And I so like this category that if someone comes up with something notable it is bound to spark my interest.
Generally I'm in a position now where I'm looking for slightly more distinct and unusual varieties.
As to where you yourself should start - I would probably say Woodcutter or Rattler for more direct and straight-laced takes on the genre or the Stomp Under Foot Skinner Box - followed then by the subtly enhanced VFE Alpha Dog, and then the more Rat-adjacent styles for the more adventurous!
I hope this helps you all in your specific Rat ToneQuest - if you feel I've overlooked or misrepresented one of your favourites here by all means let me know!