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Best of Mini, Compact, Medium and Large Rat Style Fuzz/Distortion Pedals

Dr ScientistFuzzFuzz-Drive and FuzzstortionFuzzrociousLone Wolf AudioMooerOpAmp FuzzRat Style Fuzz+-

This is obviously just a quick addendum to the very recent 16 Best Rat Style Pedals feature. I started doing these sorts of articles at the end of last year to indicate different size options - as befits divergent emphasis and scope, available pedalboard real-estate etc. Generally I look for a combination of best mix of tone, price, feature set, versatility and practicality - meaning all manner of things are considered including pedal-placement and power supply requirements. Ease of use is also a consideration, but not necessarily the major one - while I tend to penalise unnecessarily over-sized enclosures with few controls.


So my all-round favourite sits top right - the compact Frazz Dazzler, next to the really quite potent mini Mooer Black Secret - which I also have, but does not get too much of a look in these days. Next we have the Lone Wolf Audio Plague Doctor which is one of the favourites for next likely acquisition - with no less than 10 dials to go with its dual footswitches. Finally we have the large-ish Cat King from Fuzzrocious which combines 8 dials, a clipping toggle-switch and triple footswitches - obviously the enclosure size is justified by the number of controls and footswitches in particular. There are many fans of the 1981 Inventions DRV pedal - which I also consider excellent, however I’m not sure the circuit and 3 controls deployed warrant such a large enclosure. By contrast the Plague Doctor could only ever be the size it is and wins the selection therefore for that category.


Pedal are listed in order of size:

Mooer Black Secret Distortion - £42

This a surprisingly good mini clone with the usual dials - Level, Filter and Distortion - as well as an additional 'Turbo' LED clipping mode. If you're tight for space or funds, this is really a no-brainer. Mooer makes two stellar mini drive/distortion pedals as far I'm concerned - the Black Secret is one, and the Hustle Drive is the other in that best of category. The Black Secret pedal really sounds great - not quite as thick as many of the others but definitely the right sort of harmonic distortion and very close to the original.

Dr Scientist Frazz Dazzler Fuzzstortion - £219

No surprises that this is my overall favourite - 7 dials plus separate gain stage footswitch all within that compact form factor. This just sounds immense - there are so many flavours to be found here - and with the combination of Wet Mix, 3-band EQ and Volts voltage starve there really is nothing anywhere near equivalent at this size. As far as I'm concerned Dr Scientist makes essential pedals - The BitQuest Fuzz Bitcrusher/Modulator, Elements Multi-Drive and Frazz Dazzler Fuzzstortion - while the Atmosphere Reverb is great to, but needs to be fully stereo to work with my rig - hopefully V2 of that might satisfy my needs...

Lone Wolf Audio Plague Doctor - £269

As reported, this medium size pedal has superb tone-shaping capabilities with no less than 10 control dials - Volume, Filter, Sub, Gain, Feedback, Hi-Cut, Lo-Cut, Blend, Variable Clipping and Depth. The second footswitch here is a feedback overload - which is controlled from the Feedback dial and level of Gain applied obviously. LWA have gained a pretty solid reputation for making great sounding high-gain pedals with some extra bells and whistles attached - and this one is no exception - my most likely next 'Rat' pedal.

Fuzzrocious Cat King Distortion - £199

Size does not always equate to cost - as can be seen by this relatively reasonably priced offering from Fuzzrocious. This is essentially the Deluxe version of the Cat Tail pedal (they were both formerly known by Rat Tail and Rat King monikers) - and comes complete with 8 control dials, one clipping toggle-switch and 3 x footswitches - including a momentary Feedback switch, and a channel-switching footswitch to toggle between Distortion 1 and 2. So you have essentially the original 3 dials - Volume, Filter and Distortion, with a further Channel 2 Distortion setting as well as separate variable controls for Clipping 1 and 2, a Feedback dial to go with that footswitch and a variable Diode control dial. The Cat King has certain advantages within a live setup versus the Plague Doctor - which justifies the size increase, while my preference possibly leans more towards the combination of form factor and tweakability of the Plague Doctor - but these are both fantastic pedals. (Note that the above demo is of previous Rat King version with same functions/circuit but slightly different layout).

Final Thoughts

Having watched the That Pedal Show episode which I have attached to this post, I generally agree with their findings. They obviously could have had more varieties in the mix, and there are lots of Rat pedals which don't sound so much like the raw original - which seems to be the sort of pedal Mick in particular gravitates towards - selecting the JAM Pedals Rattler as his favourite I think.


As I've stated previously there is a core tone and timbre at work here, and different pedals work it in a different fashion - lots of people like the raw raucousness of this pedal and use it more for proper noisy high gain applications - while Mick will always tend to operate within the tuneful spectrum - which means he is looking for a more tamed and toned-down version - like the JAM Rattler, and in fact the VFE Alpha Dog and 1981 Inventions DRV even.


Hopefully the above will help you fine-tune your selection somewhat - there are so many varieties of this genre out there that I would struggle to believe that you could not at least find one with some degree of appeal. Rat research henceforth concluded for a while.


Note as always that these are my preferences and choice and they may or may not match exactly with yours!

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
Guitar Pedal X
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