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I’ve seen a lot of distortion pedals. There must be a million of them. What does the RAT distortion pedal have to offer that the other devices don’t?
(1) Better sound (2) More controllability (3) True bypass switch (4) Micro power operation (5) Improved reliability.
Why does the RAT distortion pedal sound better?
Because it was carefully designed to produce “musical” distortion. Most conventional distortion pedals clip the signal in a totally haphazard way, producing a lot of extremely “brittle” sounding high-order odd harmonics that result in that tinny “fuzztone buzz”. The RAT pedal has specially contoured EQ circuitry that alters the frequency response as the distortion is increased to simulate the smooth sustain of an overdriven tube amp like a Marshall or a Fender Twin. This “sweet” but raunchy sound is what we refer to as “musical” distortion, because it enriches the signal in a musically desirable way.
But can’t you get the same effect using an amp with a master volume control?
Only a very few of the best tube and FET designs could match the “musicality” of the RAT pedal, since a lot of the “musical” distortion that guitarists find in certain amplifiers is the result of saturated output transformers or distorting loudspeaker cones – which a master volume does not control. Another point to bear in mind is that setting the controls on the amp for good “dirty” solo sound severely limits the variety of sound available for rhythm work when playing “live”, unless the amp has two totally independent channels and a footswitch to select between them. The advantage of the RAT distortion pedal is that it allows you to preset the lead sound you want and then simply footswitch it on and off as desired, while retaining a basically “clean” sound from your amp for rhythm playing.
I just put “super-distortion ultra-fizz cosmic feedback” pickups in my guitar. Do I still need the RAT pedal?
High-output pickups do not in themselves create distortion – they merely offer more output voltage to enable you to overdrive your amplifier more, thus producing more amp and speaker distortion. Such super-output pickups can certainly help the guitarist to obtain a fuller tone, but the overall sound is still highly dependent on the preamp, and speakers being used, and on the volume that the system is being operated at. The RAT distortion pedal, being a device that thrives on input levels, responds similarly to the increase in signal from “hot” replacement pickups, but the distortion produced is easily pre-settable and not dependent on volume to produce overdrive and sustain. Thus, your “hot” pickups will make the RAT pedal even more effective in obtaining sustain and power.
You say that the RAT pedal “thrives on input level”. Does this mean that it won’t work well with the weaker signal from the single coil pickups in my Stratocaster?
It works magnificently with Strats (and other guitars with single coil pickups). The RAT pedal was designed to ensure that “Strat” players would have enough gain to compete with any humbucking-equipped instrument.
I’ve got an amp with two channels and a footswitch selector. Why do I need a RAT distortion pedal as well?
Even if your amp sounds as good as the RAT pedal you can improve the performance of your other devices such as phasers, flangers and so on, as well as gaining another good sound to use for solos. How can the RAT distortion pedal improve the performance of your other effects? Simple. By placing your flanger (or similar device) after the RAT pedal you are providing the flanger (etc.) with a signal that is greatly enriched harmonically and thus obtain a lower hiss and noise level when using such devices because the massive gain necessary for distortion and overdrive effects in happening before the flanger (etc.) instead of after it (as would occur when using an amp with a master volume control for preamp distortion). Furthermore, many devices need near-”hi-fi” reproduction in order to produce the maximum depth and impact – for instance, reverb and echo.
My amplifier has the sound that I like. What can the RAT distortion pedal offer me?
More controllability. You probably have to crank your amp up pretty loud to get a good “dirty” sound—and sometimes it’s probably too loud for club or studio use. The RAT pedal offers you the same great distortion sound at any volume, whether on stage at Madison Square Garden or practicing in your bedroom.
What makes the RAT pedal more controllable than other distortion pedals?
We provide variable controls for the three most important parameters of the sound. The distortion control allows subtle “soft” distortion that can be increase to a maximum intensity that is almost synthesizer-like in its smooth, endless sustain – because our circuitry offers 10dB more gain than any other competing unit. This massive distortion capability is shaped by the variable-frequency low-pass filter that adjusts the tone of the signal after it is processed by the overdrive section, resulting in a rich, full sound with fully controllable “bite” and presence instead of tinny “fuzztone buzz”. Finally, the RAT pedal’s volume control allows precise matching between “straight” and “distortion” modes, and also permits a boost of up to 18dB in output level for added “kick” during solos. (Unlike some distortion pedals that only offer “unity gain” at best and sometimes actually reduce the signal level.) Furthermore, the range and taper of each control has been carefully “human engineered” to allow easy controllability without annoying crackles, “dead spots” or abrupt changes in volume or tone. This makes the RAT distortion pedal an amazingly versatile device for stage or studio use.
How is the filter knob on the RAT distortion pedal different from the tone control on a guitar?
The RAT pedal’s filter control is a variable low-pass filter that allows a selective high-frequency cut after the signal has been amplified, equalized and limited by the distortion circuitry, thus allowing the control over the higher-order harmonics that is an absolute necessity in order to obtain a smooth, “fat” lead guitar tone. Your guitar’s tone controls, which cut the high frequencies before they are processed by the RAT pedal, will also reduce the “bite” and attack of your instrument, resulting in a sound that is muddy and lifeless. Our filter circuitry helps preserve the “presence” of your sound while eliminating that tinny “fuzztone buzz” that other distortion pedals produce.
I like to control the distortion of my amplifier by turning down the volume on my guitar when I want a cleaner sound. Can I control the RAT distortion pedal in the same way?
Yes. The RAT distortion pedal responds to changes in input level in much the same way as a typical guitar preamp stage – the more input is fed to it the more distortion it generates. For this reason we highly recommend that you set the volume controls on your instrument on maximum when full overdrive and sustain are desired from the RAT pedal.
Many distortion pedals are very limited in the sounds they can produce. Does the RAT distortion pedal offer a wider variety of different sounds?
The controllability of the RAT pedal allows for a broad spectrum of fuzz, distortion, sustain and overdrive tones.
You say that the RAT distortion pedal offers a “true bypass switch”. Don’t all effects have bypass switches?
Many effects pedals use a single-pole double-throw (SPDT) switch to select either the effect output or “bypass”, but this arrangement only disconnects the output of the effect circuit from the signal path. Your guitar’s signal is still “split” between your amp and the input of the effect pedal. This results in what is technically known as “loading effect”, a phenomenon that occurs as the result of running high-impedance guitar pickups into too low of a load impedance. This mismatch causes an overall loss of signal level and a corresponding increase in the background noise and hiss. It also changes the frequency response of your guitar – it’s characteristic “tone” – resulting in a sound that may be thin and mushy even when the effect is supposedly “bypassed”. Although they may not have understood it, many musicians have experienced this annoyance when using effects pedals, and indeed some even refuse to use pedals at all because of it.
So why is the RAT pedal bypass switch better?
The RAT distortion pedal was designed to use a triple-pole double-throw (3PDT) switch, which has two circuits instead of just one as in SPDT types. This allows us to use a switching arrangement that directly connects the guitar to the amp and totally removes the RAT pedal from the signal path when not in use. This eliminates the problem of improper pickup loading and the resulting losses, ensuring that your instrument retains its tone and power.
Why don’t more manufactures use 3PDT switches in their products?
Probably because a 3PDT switch costs about 50% more than an SPDT type, and most manufacturers lack the real-life experience with the problems of musicians that makes Pro Co different from the other “gadget makers”. We pay close attention to the details that most effects pedal manufacturers overlook or ignore, and use our ears and our instruments to produce designs that are both electronically correct and musically useful. Out test gear includes not only thousands of dollars worth of the best precision electronic lab equipment available, but also such items as a Vintage Fender Stratocaster, a Gibson Les Paul, a Fender Concert amplifier, a 1958 Hammond B-3 and multitude of other “real-life” test equipment. This enables us to evaluate not only the objective electronic performance of a device, but also its subjective performance with real musical instruments as well. And while you may not notice the effects of one “gadget” loading your guitar, you’ll probably find that having two or three pedals with SPDT switches will cause a noticeable deterioration in the quality of our “straight” sound – which is why we think that it’s best to have real bypass switches, to keep your “straight” sound clean and clear.
Does the footswitch “pop” when used?
Being a mechanical switch there is a click when the RAT distortion pedal is switched on or off – but the circuitry is designed to minimize the DC bias shifts that cause annoying “pops” and “clicks”.
What about so-called “noiseless” FET switches?
They are a good idea for some applications, such as solo busses on mixing consoles, but they have some major drawbacks for instrument-level applications. They require that the signal always pass through some active circuitry, thus limiting headroom and dynamic range, introducing undesirable distortion of the “straight” signal, and adding noise. They become erratic in operation at low voltages – when the battery gets weak, the bypass switch quits working! And, since the extra circuitry for the FET switching consumes more current the battery gets weak faster, while a mechanical footswitch does not increase the power demanded from the battery and as a result offers more economical and reliable performance. We think that a high-quality mechanical switch is the only true bypass switch for use in effects pedals – because only this type of switch can offer a true bypass of the effects circuitry while requiring no current and contributing no more distortion, noise or coloration to the “straight” signal than a piece of wire does.
A lot of devices need a lot of “juice” to operate and require frequent battery changes. Does the RAT distortion pedal’s “micropower” circuitry help alleviate this problem?
Yes, quite dramatically in some cases. The RAT pedal requires only 800 micro-amps of current from a 9-Volt battery when not switched in the signal path, and a maximum of only 2 milli-amps when in use at full drive. These amazingly low figures mean that a good alkaline battery should last for about 100 hours – that’s 10 hours of playing a week for 10 weeks between battery changes!
I’d rather power my pedals from an AC power supply. Does the RAT pedal have a jack for doing this?
The RAT distortion pedal is compatible with any 9-Volt tip positive/1/8” plug DC power supply. Power is supplied via the 1/8” mini jack located between the input and output jacks on the back panel of the RAT pedal.
Is the RAT distortion pedal very noisy in operation?
Being a device with an enormous amount of gain, the RAT distortion pedal may seem to increase the noise level when in use, because it amplifies not only the musical output of our guitar pickups but also their non-musical output (hum, buzz, hiss, etc.) Well-shielded, high-quality pickups and wiring will minimize this potential problem.
The RAT distortion pedal is bigger and heavier than many other effects pedals. Why was it designed this way?
Years of experience on the road have taught us that small boxes tend to get “lost” – or stolen – easier than larger, bulkier units. They are also harder to use because their light weight means that they move around when you step on them, and their small size makes them smaller “targets” – and thus harder to switch on and off in the heat and tension of live performance. The RAT pedal’s steel chassis offers better shielding and strength than cheap sand-cast or folded “mystery metal” boxes.
I don’t like effects pedals because they always break down and disrupt my show. What makes the RAT distortion pedal any different?
We ensure the RAT pedal’s reliability with an exhaustive program of inspection and testing. All components are chosen for dependability and long life. Our all-PC construction places all controls and switches on a durable military spec epoxy-glass printed circuit board for dependability surpassing traditional assembly techniques. Each unit is designed to simulate the “attack” of an electric guitar to allow realistic assessment of each unit’s performance. This meticulous attention to quality allows us to maintain a reliability figure that exceeds 99% (less than one failure per hundred units in the field – not bad for a products that spends most of its like being kicked and stomped on!)
Is the RAT distortion pedal useful for instruments other than the guitar?
Yes, the RAT distortion pedal has been found to be quite effective when used with pedal steel, bass guitar, violin, organ, electric piano, clavinet, and even synthesizer (try it!). Virtually any situation that requires a warm “tube”-like distortion sound with low noise and maximum control over the sound can be solved with the RAT pedal and a little bit of experimentation to obtain the desired effect.