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9 of the Best Mini Rat-Style Distortion Pedals

Bright Onion PedalBYOCDistortionFunction F(X)FuzzGDMC PedalsKO AmpsMooerOpAmp FuzzPickdropperProCoRat DistortionRat Style FuzzShift LineWampler+-
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I really wanted the Wampler Ratsbane to have its time in the spotlight - as it’s truly a great example of the genre - albeit delivered with a TL071 ompamp in place of the more typical LM308 or OP07 variant.

 

As always, it’s not the only game in town - and in fact is my 3rd min Rat pedal following my BYOC Li’l Mouse and Mooer Black Secret. The BYOC sounds fantastic texturally, but is a little lacking in output - which is why generally I favoured the Black Secret on most occasions.

 

Beyond those three stalwarts there are a number of other worthy candidates - albeit most of them are fairly stock 3-knob replicas of the original Rat - and nearly all utilise the classic LM308 variety of opamp - mostly in chip format, but also the slightly milder Metal Can varieties.

 

Many of these are built in a rather ad-hoc fashion, and we don’t always have suitable further collateral for them - including demo videos.

 

I am generally very satisfied with my 3 mini rats - besides the output issue of the BYOC Li’l Mouse - yet I’ve always wanted one of Dave ’Pickdropper’ Friesema’s mini rats too - with 4 control knobs and clipping option switch on the side.

 

As mentioned - the Wampler Ratsbane is my 23rd Rat pedal as such - this is very much a genre I favour and collection - and I likely have a few more varieties to go before I’m fully satisfied.

 

Under Final Thoughts I’ve detailed the current status of my Rat Collection, and likely target pedals remaining - of which I will undoubtedly acquire a few more - but no way near all. Once I get to 30 I think I will be satisfied!


Bright Onion Pedals Mūs [LM308N] - £50

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Bright Onion Pedals is best know for its patch-switching and utility pedals - while it also does the cool Mūs Mini Rat and Mini Russian Muff pedals too. This is a classic Rat replica in miniature - with the classic LM308N opamp as far as I understand - and the standard 3 controls of Distortion, Filter and Volume. It looks and sounds great in brushed aluminium enclosure - while those knobs are a little oddly clustered together - typically I prefer a little more separation - but this is all-round another worthy candidate.


BYOC Li'l Mouse [LM308N] - $90

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This LM308N classic replica with standard 3-knob controls was my very first mini-Rat pedal. Texturally it sounds great, while I feel it is somewhat underpowered as regards its output volume. I often had to boost downstream to get maximum utility out of this, and longer-term I tended to rely more on the Mooer Black Secret. There are still seemingly no official demos of this - and so I will use the larger compact variety as a reference - the circuit and key components are supposedly identical - while the larger size has a few extra clipping modes.


GDMC Nutria Mini Rat Distortion [LM308N] - £70

Alas no demo appears to be available for this particular variant which comes from Pedal Kit purveyor GDMC. Several assembled versions have been made available on Reverb.com and Ebay over the years - and this is for sure another classic Rat replica - with standard controls for Distortion, Filter and Volume. I will of course add a demo as and when one materialises.


Function F(x) / Pickdropper Mini 4K Rat [LM308N] - $169

I've long meant to acquire this variety from Dave 'Pickdropper' Friesema of Function F(x) fame. I really rate his mini fuzz pedals in particular - and this is for sure another must have. This has a fairly unique 4 controls - Cut (Filter), Sweep (Ruetz Mod), Level and Gain - and comes with 3-way clipping selector which I believe covers Turbo and Fat Rat varieties - I can certainly see 2 Red LEDs in the circuit - and one of the sets of Diodes looks to be Germanium - so Turbo/None/Fat most likely! Update - actually as amended now the Ruetz Mod is the 'Sweep', and the Clipping is actually LED/Non/Silicon.


KO Amps Pocket Mouse [LM308H/AH] - C$150

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Kevin O'Reilly undoubtedly makes some very fine Mini Pedals - I have two of his to-date - a Skreddy Mayo clone, and a TB MKII clone. Kevin's Pocket Mouse is another high quality reproduction with classic Metal Can LM308 opamp - and those standard 3 controls - Volume, Filter and Gain.


Mooer Black Secret [LM308N] - £42

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This was my second Mini Rat - and very much stepped in to take over from the BYOC Li'l Mouse - which sounds equally great, but doesn't have quite enough output volume for my liking. The Black Secret is far more effortless to use - and despite its Chinese mass-manufactured origins - has the original high quality opamp for an all-round quality delivery. It also comes with a 2-way Mode Switch - which switches the clipping diodes between stock Silicon, and 2 Red LEDs - to create the Turbo Mode!


Rat Distortion / ProCo Lil' Rat [OP07CP] - $79

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I featured the forthcoming Lil Rat earlier this year - in every way an exact circuit replica of its larger Rat 2 sibling - with the more modern OP07CP opamp which many modern Rats nowadays deploy. It's significantly smaller than the medium-sized core Rat enclosure - but relatively quite a 'Fat' Mini Rat. It's about as stock as these come - with just the core 3 controls of Distortion, Filter and Volume.


Shift Line La Rat Mini [LM308H/AH] - £160

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I'm a big fan of Russian brand Shift Line - they made one of my favourite fuzzes of all-time - the Termofuzz! This is another fairly classic Metal Can Opamp variety Mini Rat - with just the 3 core parameter controls of Level, Filter and Gain.


Wampler Ratsbane Mini Rat Distortion [TL071] - £149

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I just latterly came to know that the Ratsbane deploys neither of the typical Rat opamps - Vintage LM308 or modern OP07 - but instead favours the enhanced harmonics of the TL071 opamp. This is truly clever engineering in getting all of that lovely blooming harmonic texture - and combining with different degrees of Saturation / Distortion and EQ. Everything about this production screams quality - down to those finely textured milled aluminium knobs. For me the competition here is really between the Picdropper / Function F(x) 4-Knob custom Rat - and this Ratsbane.

 

I've actually been having some fun mixing up the Ratsbane with the Pigtronix Mini Octava - which together generate that sort of Sunn O))) Life Pedal sound!


Final Thoughts and Overall Rat Collection

As I already concluded - the 2 favourites here are likely the Function F(x) Custom Mini Rat, and the brand new Wampler Ratsbane Distortion. While all those others are worthy candidates in the straight replica stakes. I'm still not entirely convinced by the Lil' Rat - figuring that most would rather go for one of these even tinier others. And the Black Secret is still the economy choice - and indeed my 3rd favourite ion the Minis.

 

I always feel that if you're going to do a replica - you should bring some enhancements with you. Obviously there is a significant benefit in form factor for most of these - while Function F(x) and Wampler significantly move the game forward and compete with pedals twice or more times their size.

 

There's no reason why the best of these could not be your Rat pedal of choice - across any size. While my favourite all-time Rat candidate is likely to remain the Dr Scientist Frazz Dazzler - which in real terms is actually not a Rat at all. In fact you could argue that the Ratsbane isn't really a proper Rat either - I though really love both of those for their enhanced harmonics and extended levels of saturation!

 

Here follows a brief overview of my own Rat Collection - Mini, Compact and Medium varieties :

 

 

MINI OWNERSHIP

  • BYOC Li'l Mouse
  • Mooer Black Secret
  • Wampler Ratsbane

MINI WISHLIST

  • Function F(x) / Pickdropper 4K Mini Rat


COMPACT OWNERSHIP

  • Animals Pedal Tioga
  • Basic Audio Shore Bird
  • BBE 427 Distortion
  • Catalinbread Katzenkönig Hybrid Fuzz - Rat/Tone Bender
  • Dr Scientist Frazz Dazzler
  • Drunk Beaver Bat Rat Dual-Opamp Distortion
  • Foxpedal Wrath
  • JAM Pedals Rattler
  • JAM Pedals Rattler+
  • Magnetic Effects Dual Drive TS + Rat
  • Magnetic Effects Lonely Robot
  • Pettyjohn Electronics ROUS
  • Reuss Effects Germanium Dirt
  • ThorpyFX Warthog
  • VFE Alpha Dog
  • Zander Circuitry Cranium Distortion

COMPACT WISHLIST

  • Big Ear Woodcutter
  • Big Tone Music Brewery Classic Distortion
  • BMF High Roller Distortion
  • Electro-Harmonix Flatiron Fuzz
  • JHS All-American Distortion
  • Stomp Under Foot Skinner Box


MEDIUM OWNERSHIP

  • 1981 Inventions DRV
  • EarthQuaker Devices Sunn O))) Life Pedal V2
  • ProCo Rat2 JHS Pack Rat Mod NE5534
  • ProCo Rat2 White Ikebe Edition Kinnatone Mischief Mod LM308N

MEDIUM WISHLIST

  • Caroline Guitar Company Wave Cannon MKII
  • Earthbound Audio Iron Pig
  • Fuzzrocious Cat Tail Distortion
  • Lone Wolf Audio Plague Doctor


As I've said previously - I'm unlikely to get all those wishlist targets where priority is ever more finely nuanced. I will probably call it a day when I hit 30 varieties or so. While the Function F(x) / Pickdropper 4K Mini Rat and Big Ear Woodcutter are currently the two highest priorities. As always I'm opportunistic here - and it depends very much on pricing and availability - such that a lower priority pedal may hit the top if it is offered at the right price point!

 

Would be cool to hear what some of your own favourite Rats are - and how your tastes match up to mine!

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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