Rat 2: Product Reviews
March 22, 2005
Today’s music gear market is moving at light speed. New companies burst onto the market with the next must have piece of gear and then just as quickly, they are gone. Larger more established companies put out a new piece of gear only to discontinue it before you can save up the money to buy it. Then there is ProCo Sound. ProCo sound is one of very few companies that still produces and sells a product that they developed and brought to market over 25 years ago in the original Rat pedal now known as the Vintage Rat. Over the years, new Rats have been developed to suit the needs of a changing music market. ProCo continues even today to bring you new Rat designs while still offering most models that they have developed along the way. In this review we are going to focus on the Rat 2, the evolution of the Vintage Rat.
The Rat 2
Distortion—A desired consequence of a change in the waveform of a signal from a guitar.
Stomp—To tread or trample heavily or violently on.
Distortion Stompbox—The Rat 2 by ProCo Sound.
While the Rat has been copied and emulated by many other companies over the years because of it’s signature sound, nobody has been able to replicate the quality that ProCo puts into their pedals. Rat pedals are hand built one at a time in the ProCo factory, located in the old Gibson building in Kalamazoo, MI. Rats have one of the best warranties in the business for a stopmpbox effects unit. They stand behind their products and still offer them at extremely competitive prices.
Out of the box you will notice the heavy steel chassis of the Rat 2 that is synonymous with most pedals built by ProCo. This unit is built to withstand many years of heavy underfoot use. In fact, many Rat users are still using the original Rat pedals they bought many years ago. Couple this with the military grade circuit boards, industrial foot switch and the high quality potentiometers, you end up with the workhorse of the stompbox world. The pots are smooth and offer just the right amount of resistance to make them comfortable to use without inadvertently overcompensating. The conductive plastic control knobs feature glow in the dark hash marks that make it easy to see your settings even on a dark stage environment. There are not a bunch of bells and whistles on this unit. It is a straight forward easy to use distortion pedal that is designed to get the distortion job done and get it done well.
The Rat 2 is very similar in sound as the Vintage Rat with a few technological advancements that have set it apart from the original. In the original Rat pedal the LED indicator light was wired into the signal path and had the ability to introduce unwanted noise into the signal path. The LED has now been bypassed from the guitar signal path creating less unwanted noise. This allows the LED to work without creating more unneeded buffer stages that can affect the end sound.
The Test Drive
I decided to test the Rat 2 on two very different amps and two different guitars. I choose a Johnson hybrid 30 watt amplifier and a Peavey Bandit 75 watt solid state. The guitars used in this test drive were the G&L S-500 and the Greg Bennett Ultramatic by Samick.
I set the filter and volume level at dead center and then I started playing with the distortion control. The travel in this control was very wide allowing you to dial in distortion levels over a very broad spectrum from warm to fuzz to grind. What surprised me the most is how the Rat 2 made the solid state Peavey amp sound nearly like an overdriven tube amp. The Rat 2 was able to do this at even low volume levels without driving the amp itself. It sounded even better on the hybrid tube amp.
After giving the distortion control a spin, I then started using the filter control. This control worked very much like a tone control. Turning it to the left allowed for more treble and to the right allowed for more bass. When adding more bass the sound seemed to become noticeably warmer and seemed to smooth out. The treble added more bite and sizzle to the sound. I preferred a more bass sound for punchy rhythm work and the bite of the more treble level for cutting through the mix for “in your face” lead guitar parts.
Next I tried the volume level control. Just a little was enough to boost your sound subtly for less dramatic effect, while turning it higher allowed you to go to an extreme aural assault. The Rat 2 allows for a maximum of 60 decibels of gain, more than enough for most sane players!
All guitar and amp combinations worked great. The Rat 2 does nothing to change the original signal like many other distortion units do, so you are still able to hear the unique characteristics and properties of each amp and guitar come through. This is very important since many players select guitars and amps for their unique tonal properties. That sound should be preserved.
I have found the Rat 2 to be one of the most versatile I have had the pleasure of using. Many pedals on the market are designed to a specific type of distortion or overdrive, requiring that you buy anywhere from a few to several separate units to dial in the sounds you want in different situations. The Rat 2 was simple to use, but able to cover a wide spectrum of tones in one compact strong and rugged unit. I have immensely enjoyed the Rat 2 and it will be a regular in my rig for a long time to come.
Written by Gary Allen
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