Famous Users of Pro Co Rat Distortion Pedal

famous pro co rat users

If we were to look through the history of rock music, it wouldn’t take long for us to realize the importance of particular amps, pedals, or guitar models that made an impact on the genre.

What’s more, one particular piece of gear along with a random accidental decision can be responsible for a total revolution in a genre.

Such an example can be seen with the Rolling Stones and Keith Richard’s use of Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz-Tone on the legendary hit “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”

And this wasn’t the only example of a simple compact pedal completely changing the genre.

There are a few great examples, like Boss DS-1, Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi, and Ibanez Tube Screamer, just to name a few.

But the one that we’re interested in here is the legendary Pro Co Rat.

Many guitar players like to side with one of the clans – overdrive, classic distortion, and fuzz.

Each of these distortion types has its own distinctive clipping process, which results in a different type of tone.

However, Pro Co Rat sits somewhere close to the distortion, but still not that far from the fuzz territory.

We could say that it offers both brightness and chaos of the fuzz effect, while still keeping tightness we can hear with classic distortions.

Offering that unique-sounding heavy tone, it eventually became so widespread that guitarists of many different genres began using it.

But the pedal’s simple controls and special kind of tone mostly won the hearts of hard rock and heavy metal legends.

This is why we decided to take a closer look at the pedal’s history and see who used it over the past few decades or so.


pro co logo

History of the ProCo Rat

But before we begin, let’s find out more about how this pedal came to be and its different versions over the years.

The story begins in the late 1970s, right around the time when rock music was seeing some significant changes. Obviously, this was the perfect time for a new pedal to emerge.

Scott Burnham (pictured below, right), one of the employees in Pro Co, which was then a cable manufacturing company, always enjoyed modifying different distortion pedals.

craig vestal and scott burnham

After a while, he made a decision to try and create his original circuitry. This was a pretty lucrative idea at the time, as distortion pedals as we know them today weren’t that easy to find.

Interestingly enough, this peculiar circuitry came as a result of an accident – Scott added a wrong type of a resistor in there.

Luckily, the resulting tone was more powerful than anything he’d ever heard at that point. After playing around with this new circuitry, he finally came up with the name – the Rat.

Starting its production in 1978, the pedal saw a huge breakthrough in the 1980s.

There were a few different iterations of this original version, but the real change came in 1988 with the release of Rat 2.

About a year later, the company also released Turbo Rat, with a noticeably fuzzier tone.

Years went by and we got more and more different versions of the Rat. These pedals include Fat Rat, You Dirty Rat, Deucetone Rat, Solo Rat, and others.

Needless to say, its peculiar tone made it really popular among the famous guitar players in the 1980s, 1990s, and even in the 21st century.

But the most surprising thing about Rat is that it’s not expensive at all, making it a great choice for beginners or any other guitarists on a budget.

So let’s see – who are these famous guitar legends who used the Rat over the years?


jeff beck playing guitar

Jeff Beck

Ever since the 1960s, Jeff Beck remains up there as one of the most influential guitar players of all time.

But the secret behind his huge yet incredibly subtle tone is not due to some elaborate rig. No – Jeff just uses a Pro Co Rat pedal. Well, at least he did for a significant portion of his career.

Combined with some legendary amps that he uses, like Fender Bassman, Vox AC30, or any of the Marshalls he loves, it produces a really powerful tone.

After all, what else would you expect from such a pedal when it’s paired up with these tube-driven monsters?

Visit Jeff Beck’s official website


David-Gilmour playing guitar

David Gilmour

If you were to hear David Gilmour’s guitar tone for the first time in your life, you’d never assume that he would use a high gain distortion pedal.

However, he has quite a history of using some pretty heavy stuff, like Big Muff Pi, or even Boss’ HM-2 Heavy Metal that’s mostly known for its use in those more extreme genres.

Another one of these examples is Pro Co Rat.

To be more precise, Gilmour used the famous Rat 2 version. You could see this particular pedal model in his live rig, most notably for the legendary “Pulse” live album.

Knowing that his tone still retains some of the more refined and softer traits, this proves that Pro Co Rat is actually a very versatile pedal.

Which is really a surprise for a device that only has three basic controls. When put in the right rig, it can add that much-needed sustain and attack without ruining the warmth of the tone.

Visit the official David Gilmour website


robert fripp playing guitar

Robert Fripp

King Crimson’s creative force, Mr. Robert Fripp, is one of the most innovative musicians of the 20th century.

Although he’s a guitar player, it’s really hard to just look at him as a regular 6-string rock star.

In fact, he even reinvented the approach to the instrument with his technique, theoretical knowledge, and the practical implementation of both.

Interestingly enough, Fripp is a Pro Co Rat user.

But he’s also known for using EHX Big Muff Pi, so the accent on the overall sustain and “thicker” tones are something he’s very fond of.

And these are just some of the reasons why he inspired so many guitar players in metal music.

Visit Robert Fripp’s website here


john scofield playing guitar

John Scoffield

Looking more into the “old school” side of guitar-based music, we also have Mr. John Scoffield on this list. And this is yet another of these “unexpected” mentions.

Nonetheless, this, once again, proves how Pro Co Rat can be versatile. In many cases, this depends on the other pieces of gear, but Rat is capable of creating very unique tones in almost any setting. And having such flexibility is what makes one pedal so great.

So whenever you hear John Scoffield play with distortion on, there’s a high chance he’s using the almighty Rat.

And if you still haven’t gotten the chance to listen to Scoffield’s music, then you’re missing out a lot.

Visit John Scoffield’s website here


joe perry playing guitar

Joe Perry

Now going over to the classic rock and hard rock territory, we have Aerosmith’s main axeman and one of the Hollywood Undead members, Joe Perry.

Joe is pretty well-known for his extensive collection of many different guitars, amps, and other gear.

Some very valuable pieces can be found in his collection. But even with such a vast and impressive arsenal, he still often used a Pro Co Rat pedal in his signal chain.

This is one of those guitarists that that’s more expected to stumble upon on such a list.

After all, Perry is one of the guys who developed and defined hard rock and heavy metal music.

Therefore, Rat was an obvious choice for a distortion pedal back in the day.

Visit Joe Perry’s website here


james hetfield kirk hammett playing guitar

James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett

And there’s no surprise to see Metallica frontman James Hetfield and lead guitarist Kirk Hammett in here.

Pro Co Rat was an indicator that the music was changing. At the same time, Metallica were one of those bands who were actually changing the music with their unique approach to songwriting.

With the birth of a faster and heavier movement in metal music, a pedal like Rat is an expected choice.

After somewhat of a turbulent start, the band finally got the chance to enter the studio and record their debut album “Kill ‘Em All.”

In order to get that dirty tone that still retains all the tightness, James and Kirt used the Rat. And the results are more than impressive, we must say.

To this day, the album is praised for its innovativeness and especially its raw and powerful guitar tone.

Visit Metallica’s website here


kurt cobain guitar dress crown

Kurt Cobain

The late 1980s and the early 1990s saw another significant change in the world of rock music.

Slowly, but surely, the stereotypical songs about sex, partying, and other superficial issues were replaced with more serious topics reflecting on the society and an individual’s place in it.

And with such a different artistic approach also came the change in the guitar tone as well. It became darker, grittier, and more in the vein of early heavy metal from the 1970s.

However, both glam metal and grunge guitarists used the Rat, which just further proves that this pedal was extremely potent and versatile.

That’s exactly why a grunge legend and an impeccable songwriter like Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain decided to use one of these.

Visit Nirvana’s website here


dave-grohl-guitar

Dave Grohl

Although first getting the spotlight as a drummer, Dave Grohl also became known as a great guitar player, singer, and songwriter.

And knowing he was in Nirvana with Kurt Cobain, it’s only obvious that he’ll use the same distortion pedal.

The somewhat fuzzy distorted tone of the heavy rhythm guitars you can hear on some of the Foo Fighters’ songs is actually due to Pro Co Rat.

As Dave himself explained, he uses this pedal when he’s layering rhythm guitar tracks in the studio. Knowing what Grohl’s music is like, this pedal is a perfect choice for it.

Visit the Foo Fighters website


nuno bettencourt playing guitar

Nuno Bettencourt

Emerging around the same time when the grunge movement started shaking up the world of rock music, Extreme kicked off their career as well.

Although doing something that’s a bit different compared to grunge, they too relied a lot on some heavier tones.

This is exactly why their lead guitarist Nuno Bettencourt opted to use the Rat back in the band’s early days.

And even years later, Nuno still uses this legendary pedal. As he explains, he can’t go without a Rat when playing through any of his Marshall amps.

Just thinking of how awesome this particular combination is, we completely understand Nuno’s decision.

Visit Extreme’s website here


graham coxon guitar

Graham Coxon

Blur is one of those bands that blew up in the late 1990s thanks to just one hit song.

In their case, it was the legendary “Song #2,” featuring that easily recognizable riff by Graham Coxon.

Being their creative and sonic force, Coxon was really conscious of his guitar tone. In fact, he’s one of the biggest pedal freaks of all time.

And in his signal chain, he often uses the Rat as his main dirt box.

And if a pedal maniac such as Coxon loves this pedal so much, that just speaks about how great it is.

Visit Blur’s website here


peter buck playing guitar

Peter Buck

It’s a little weird to see R.E.M. and their guitar player Peter Buck on this list. While most of the guys in here are known for heavier tones one way or another, one wouldn’t think that about Buck.

Nonetheless, the famous musician really loves the tone of Pro Co Rat. One of the most famous examples is R.E.M.’s entire “Monster” album.

Released back in 1994, there’s a whole lot of song parts where Buck recorded through the Rat.

Again – another example of how this pedal finds use in almost any subgenre of rock music.

Visit R.E.M.’s website here


Thanks for reading our list of the most famous Pro Co Rat guitar pedals users.  Did we forget anyone?  Let us know in the comments!

Visit the Rat Distortion website here

Also check out…

David Gilmour Guitar Setup And Rig Rundown

Kirk Hammett Guitar Setup And Rig Rundown

James Hetfield Guitar Setup And Rig Rundown

Graham Coxon Guitar Setup and Rig Rundown

Our Favorite Albums That Use Proco RAT Distortion Pedals

A Beginners’ Guide to Guitar Pedals

beginners guide to guitar pedals

The world of electric guitars opens up new horizons of expression in music. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that it’s one of the most popular instruments out there. After all, there are so many different things that you can do with an electric guitar, making it a very potent musical tool for almost all of the genres that we can think of today.

The fact that it’s an electric instrument that sends a signal to an amplifier opens up new ways for further altering and improving its tone. With the development of guitar effects, guitarists worldwide were given a new tool that would help them to more easily convey their artistic message.

So it’s not unusual to know that many guitar players have dedicated their time and effort in building elaborate pedalboards. Some of them even feature very complex loops and even external controllers to create different combinations of sounds.

huge guitar pedal board

If you’re new to guitar pedals, some things might get a bit confusing. Well, you’re definitely not alone in this, and even the most experienced guitar players have been there. After all, with so many different pedals and effects, it does get difficult to keep up with how things work.

With all this said, we figured we could help clear things up for beginners and do a detailed guide on guitar pedals. We sorted them out by categories, explaining what these effects do, and how adjusting their parameters affects your tone. At the end of this guide, you’ll have a better understanding of guitar pedals and enough knowledge to start building your pedalboard.


Tuners

Peterson Stomp Classic Strobe Tuner

Tuner pedals are not effects, but we still need to include them in this guide. Essentially, they are like regular guitar tuners, only in the form of guitar pedals that you can put in your signal chain.

What’s important to note here is that they have a display or an array of LED lights along with a display so that you can easily see when the open string hits the desired note.

They’re nothing fancy, but they serve their purpose for live settings. You just hit the footswitch, mute the tone, and tune your guitar. That’s it!

However, tuner pedals usually have buffered bypass, which can serve its purpose in the signal chain. Essentially, they can balance the signal and sort things out, but that’s a whole other discussion that we’ll touch upon some other time.


Filters

DigiTech X-Series Synth Wah Envelope Filter review

Up next, we have filter pedals that serve the purpose of filtering out certain frequencies in your tone. This means they can also pronounce certain frequency ranges of the audible spectrum by filtering out everything else. One of the examples of filter pedals is the wah-wah.

Wahs can change the peak frequency, pronounce it, while everything else stays the same or gets filtered out. By moving its rocking part, wah pedal sweeps over the spectrum. We also have automatic wah pedals that change these frequencies according to the input signal, or the dynamics of your playing.

Other types of filter pedals are “static” and keep the tone according to your parameters. As a result, they can emulate some quirky synth tones. An example would be Line 6 FM4. However, these are usually more advanced “toys” that you don’t exactly need as a beginner.


Equalizers

eq700

Just like your guitar amp has a 3-band equalizer with bass, middle, and treble controls, there are standalone pedals that can further shape your tone.

The simplest form of an EQ is a tone control on your guitar, and the most complex examples would be things like 30-band EQs or parametric EQs.

EQ pedals for guitar usually have anywhere between 5 and 10 frequency ranges that you can control using sliders. By turning the pedal on, you change the tone according to the set parameters, and then go back to the original tone when it’s turned off.

This is pretty useful if you need to change the tone for a certain section of a song, like pronouncing mids for a solo. MXR’s M108S is a good example of a 10-band EQ pedal.


Boosters

Fulltone Fulldrive2 MOSFET Overdrive Boost review

We could say that these are the simplest types of pedals out there. All they do is boosting the guitar signal without creating distortion in their circuit. If you need a slight volume boost without changing your tone, they come in handy.

However, they are also very useful with tube amplifiers or other tube pedals and devices in your signal chain. Tube amps tend to “break” their tone and cause that “natural” or “organic” distortion when reaching their limits.

A simple booster can help you achieve that vintage-sounding distortion with a tube amp or another tube-driven pedal.


Compressors

boss-cs-3-compression-sustainer-pedal-review

Compressors often get overlooked, which is quite a shame as they are pretty useful. The proper name for them would be dynamic range compressors as they turn up the volume of quiet parts and keep the louder parts quieter.

Of course, you’re able to set parameters and intensity of this compression. They can also boost the signal when needed, but the main purpose is to keep everything in check and prevent anything from popping up in the mix.

This is why they’re very useful for bassists and rhythm guitarists.


Expanders, aka noise gates

Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor Pedal review

An expander is the opposite of a compressor – quiet parts get quieter, and louder parts get louder or just stay at the same volume.

This effect is perfect for dealing with high gain distortions that tend to add that hissing sound when you’re not playing. While it can’t filter out the hissing during your playing, it does keep things quiet in between the notes.

They usually have just one control that sets the threshold at which the effect is activated. They’re simple to use but still require some experience to implement properly without soaking up your tone.


Pitch-altering pedals

digitech-whammy-pedal-re-issue-with-midi-control

This is where the fun stuff begins. Pitch shifters can alter the pitch of your whole output or add one or more intervals to what you’re playing.

For instance, the famous example here is the Digitech Whammy that can alter the pitch of your tone as you rock the moving part of the pedal back and forth.

Kind of like a wah pedal, but it changes the pitch. You can hear this one in Rage Against the Machine’s famous song “Killing in the Name.”

Octaver pedals are also pretty common on pedalboards, and they usually have settings to add two additional tones to what you’re playing, one and two octaves below.

They can find uses in lead sections or anything that doesn’t involve playing more than one note at a time. Boss has some great Octaver pedals, like the OC-3.

We also have harmonizers that add the desired interval above or below notes that you’re playing. These can either work chromatically by adding a fixed interval (i.e. major third) or diatonically where they work “smart” and accommodate the intervals according to the scale that you’re playing.

To use these “smart” versions of harmonizers, you need some basic music theory knowledge. Examples of harmonizer pedals include Boss VE-2, Boss VE-8, TC Helicon Harmony, and many others.


Distortion

Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion review

Now we get to the most important part of every pedalboard – distortion pedals. In the world of guitar, the distortion effect is divided into three categories, which are overdrive, classic distortion, and fuzz.

They create this effect by intentional boosting and clipping of the signal. Different types of clipping create different types of distortion.

There’s something for everyone’s taste these days, and the most attention is usually dedicated to finding proper distortion pedals for certain styles of music and playing.

Some of the famous examples include Ibanez Tube Screamer with all of its variants, Boss DS-1, Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, MXR M75, the legendary Klon Centaur, Pro Co Rat, and many others.


Modulation

mxr-m134-stereo-chorus-273109

Modulation effects include everything that adds the copy of your signal, alters it a little, and blends it in with the unprocessed signal.

The most famous modulation effect is the chorus that adds a very short delay and alters the pitch up and down according to the set amplitude and speed.

We also have flanging and phasing, which are in some technical ways similar, but in practice produce completely different effects.

Most of the modulation pedals have a “mix” or “blend” control that determines the ratio between unprocessed and processed signals.

There are also depth and speed controls, along with a few other things. Strymon has a great chorus pedal called Ola. MXR has the M134 stereo chorus that’s pretty great too.


Atmospheric effects: delays and reverbs

electro harmonix holy grail reverb

To keep your tone more interesting, you should think of different “atmospheric” effects. After all, you can’t keep it “dry” all the time. For this purpose, we have delay and reverb pedals. Both of these add repeated copies of your tone to create an illusion of a bigger or smaller room.

Delays add simple repeats according to set parameters. You can control the time distance between these repeats, the number of repeats, and the mix between the original and repeated signal.

It’s the classic echo effect. In some cases, pedals also have separate EQ controls for shaping the tone of the repeated signal. There’s anything from the simple stuff like the MXR carbon copy, up to very complex pieces like the Empress Echosystem.

Reverbs also repeat the signal, but in a more “shimmering” manner, giving the impression of one prolonged atmospheric continued repeat. It’s as if you’re playing in a large hall or a cathedral.

They also include blend or mix controls, just like delays. Strymon’s Big Sky is a great example of a very spacious-sounding reverb.


Volume pedals

morley-volume-pedal

While they could be the most boring part of one pedalboard, volume pedals should be an essential part of every signal chain, especially if you’re playing in a bigger band or an orchestra.

They’re pretty simple – you use them to control your output volume. They have a rocking part that you use to turn the volume up or down. There’s usually the “minimum volume” switch that sets the volume when the pedal is at its minimum position.

There’s a common misconception with beginners thinking that the volume pedal can do the same thing as the booster pedal. The thing with volume pedals is that you’re reducing the volume to the desired level. You use it when you’re supposed to keep quiet in the mix.

There are high impedance and low impedance volume pedals, but we’re not going to get too much into technical details about this. Low impedance pedals are more common and they go at the very end or near the end of the signal chain. Ernie Ball has its MVP volume pedal that’s very reliable.


Expression pedals, tap pedals, and sequencers

8StepProg-large

Some of the effects we mentioned usually support connectivity with external control sources. For this, we have expression pedals, which are just multi-purpose potentiometers in the form of a pedal.

Automatic wah-wah, certain modulation pedals, or even delays can work with an expression pedal, but only if they have a separate input jack for it.

On their own, expression pedals do nothing, although many volume pedals also have the expression pedal functionality.

Tap switches work the same way, it’s just that they have one control switch that sets the tempo of the effect. For instance, you connect it to a delay, and when your delay pedal is turned on, tap the switch pedal twice and the tempo of your repeated tones will be set according to the tempo that you tapped.

Sequencer pedals are a bit more complicated, and they’re definitely not something that a beginner would use. It’s a complex controller that has a sequence of adjustable steps.

It controls any effect with the expression pedal connectivity feature, but it does nothing on its own. An example here would be the well-known Electro-Harmonix 8-Step Program Analog Expression Sequencer.


What’s the correct order of pedals in the signal chain?

First off, there’s no such thing as the “correct” order of pedals. There are, however, some standards in arranging your pedalboard that may help you get the clearest tone without any unwanted noises or hisses.

This is the usual order, but you’re free to experiment. The whole thing is open for discussion.

From guitar to the amp, it goes like this: tuner – filter – EQ – compressor – boost – pitch altering – distortion – modulation – volume pedals – delay – reverb. Volume pedal can also come after the delay and reverb.

We Review the Best Distortion Pedals For Metal

We Review the Best Distortion Pedals For Metal

Horns-Simpsons-Drooble

When the gods made heavy metal, as per the gospel of Manowar, one of their first and only tenets, were to play it as loud and wild as (in)humanly possible. Since those early days, cunning minds and champions heavy music have been finding new ways to make their guitar sound louder, meaner and nastier.

And let’s be honest here – very few things in life feel better than when you plug in your guitar, strike that first evil chord and feel the very foundations of earth shake and scream at the tips of your fingers, or when you start laying down a deep, wicked gallop and an evil grin starts creeping up your lips as you something raw and animalistic stirring deep in your belly, and you’re lusting to burst into a full sonic charge, no quarter to be given.

Well, distortion pedals are one of the things that make all this possible.

guitar metal face

Although we’ll be referring to the equipment in question as distortion pedals in the rest of this article, there are a few differences in ways various pedals dirty up your sound, and, technically, distortion is just one of the three effects from the unholy trinity of overdrive, distortion, and fuzz.

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In short, overdrive enhances your fundamental guitar signal without drastic changes, distortion clips the hell out of it, and fuzz clips it so hard that it’s barely recognizable (although when speaking specifically of metal, this one isn’t used that often as it produces a warm, wooly grumble more characteristic of stoner rock for instance).

Of course, there are overlapping areas between the three, but here we’ll focus mostly on distortion and pedals suited the most for aspiring metal ax-wielders. Without further ado, here are some of the best guitar pedals to use for heavy metal…


Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff

MetalMuff-large

The metal successor to Harmonix’ Big Muff Pi has been around for a while now and has proven to be a simple, yet effective solution for metal distortion, all wrapped up in a gorgeous design that just screams metal.

In addition to its name written in spike-y chrome script, you’ll see several knobs that might seem intimidating at first glance, but all are very straight-forwardly arranged and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding your way around it.

The Metal Muff sports a three-band EQ that helps you manage the gain, as well as a boost mode that really cranks up your signal.

It’s suitable both for gentler distortion as well as producing sounds that might have come from Satan’s own BDSM dungeon, and you’ll find that it works great both with passive and active pickups.

However, if you’re looking for a pedal capable of extreme amounts of distortion, look no further.


KHDK Dark Blood

khdk dark blood

Is there a more metal thing than Kirk Hammett’s signature distortion pedal?

This angry beast is perfect for both fans of Metallica as well as anyone who might be looking to hopefully stand toe to toe to Hammett when it comes to producing killer distorted tunes on your instrument.

The pedal itself looks gorgeous, with a red and black interface with a human heart painted on it. It is perfect for cutting off background noise with an onboard noise gate, but the real treat here is the Doom knob that really brings up that bottom end that Metallica’s sound is known for, letting you wield the powers of metal gods Hammett and Hetfield themselves.

There’s also a Hi/Lo switch which lets you play with two distinct modes – a gruff one for laying the foundation riffs (Lo), and a shrieking one that makes you soar through lead breaks with boosted top-end and sustain (Hi).

A surprisingly versatile treble control is the icing on the cake here. This thing comes with a fairly reasonable price too and is perfect for beginners and veterans alike.


Wampler Triple Wreck

triple wreck wampler

This one may not be a looker like the previous two, but let me tell you, it packs a brutal punch. Straight off the bat, you’re looking at ungodly amounts of gain, which is complemented by – you guessed it – even more gain.

This blasphemous thing was made possible by Wampler’s efficient three-band EQ and dedication to providing smoothly-nuanced gain curves.

Once you plug it in, you’ll realize that, although you’ll have command over more gain than you’ll ever need, the pedal is very easy to temper and lets you play with a tremendous specter of distortion. It’s all about them gainz bro.


Blackstar HT-Metal Guitar Effects Pedal

ht-metal-front-view-large

Coming from the company with a hefty reputation of making top-notch amplifiers for headbangers around the globe, the HT-Metal Guitar Effects Pedal is a product of extreme quality and reliability.

This pedal’s cascading tube gain stages and the tube amp response are revered by amateurs and professional musicians alike.

It will provide you with a sound as gritty as Clint Eastwood’s spit, with organic qualities of the excrement to boot – you won’t hear anybody complaining about your sound sounding “too digital“ despite buckets of gain and distortion.

Its vacuum tube circuitry is powered by a 300V DC connection, and the pedal’s numerous features include 3-band EQ, Clean/Overdrive switch, and a tone shape knob, really letting you play with various effects as much as you want.

The Blackstar HT-Metal Guitar Effects Pedal is an all-in-one toolbox, perfect for both garage, studio and stage.


MXRM116 Fullbore Metal

FullBoreDist-large

MRX has been around for ages, and in their case, ‘age’ most certainly equals quality and reliability.

This one gives you an incredible amount of bang for your buck, and really lays down the foundation of your metal sound. In addition to pure distortion, loads of features let you tweak your sound even further.

Although it is (arguably) the least pretty of the bunch, the MXRM116 Fullbore Metal pedal simply emanates with no-bullshit-just-metal big dick energy.

True to its meat-and-potatoes pedal nature, it is fully analog, with a built-in noise gate as well as true-bypass.

Also, this pedal gets the job done with underpowered single-coil guitars as well. If you’re looking for a really heavy, industrial metal sound, this is as good as it gets.


Conclusion

Distortion pedals are essential tools for any musician intent on wreaking some heavy metal havoc. And after all, there’s no reason not to use one – they’re tremendous fun, and you’ll be able to experiment with your sound like you never could without one.

Besides, not only will having a reliable pedal be a must-have if you ever decide to take your music to the stage, but it will also encourage you to take a stroll down that path as you realize how easy and fun it is to produce sounds that the gods of metal themselves would be envious of.

Each of these five is more than a solid pick, and any musician is bound to find one that suits his taste and budget the most. I hope that you do too.

Recommended Rig Run Downs

Crowther Audio Hotcake Distortion Pedal Review

crowther-audio-hotcake-pedal

Boutique grade effects pedals have been taking off in popularity in recent years. More and more people seem to be looking for something unique, which is a requirement most commercial pedals are just not capable of meeting.

The issue with boutique effects pedals is that they usually offer a pretty niche performance. Most of the time, the models in this category reflect the ideas of their creators who are usually smaller shops. Speaking of which, there are well-known and not so well-known boutique pedal shops. Some of them reach fame, while others are still pretty obscure. The one we are going to talk about today is somewhere in between.

crowther-audio-hotcake

The Crowther Audio Hotcake distortion pedal is the work of Paul Crowther – a very well known New Zealand based boutique effects pedal builder. His creations are not numerous, but he’s the type of a guy who always strives for quality over quantity. In the case of Crowther Audio Hotcake, that approach turned out to be the key to success.


Crowther Audio Hotcake Distortion Pedal Review

Boost and overdrive pedals are the essential part of every quality rock tone, especially if you are going for a more vintage vibe. Considering how close in nature these two effects are, sometimes it is hard to find the line of separation between them.

Crowther Audio Hotcake falls within that gray area. With that said, whatever magic Crowther used, it just works. A testament to the quality of Hotcake is the fact that Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits has been using this exact model for years now. It took Crowther decades to achieve that type of reach. After all, Hotcake is old enough to be considered a vintage pedal.

Take a look at this Crowther Audio HotCake demo courtesy of Tone Factor.

Check for deals on the Hotcake on Amazon now

Features

When you first look at the Hotcake, it looks just like most other overdrive pedals on the market. The enclosure is made of quality metal capable of taking constant abuse, which makes it great for stage use. Graphic design is reduced to a minimum. You have an all white theme with the control designations written in black, along with a Hotcake logo surrounding the foot switch. In terms of controls, you have your standard Drive, Level, and Presence.

Drive lets you adjust the amount of distortion in the signal, while presence is your EQ control. The Level knob is self-explanatory. The combination of these three knobs is more than enough to tap into both the boost side and the overdrive side of the pedal.

On the inside, you can find hand-wired circuitry and a neat little jumper that lets you switch between the standard Hotcake and Hotcake Bluesberry setting. This is a relatively new addition, which only makes the Hotcake that much more versatile in general. The pedal can either be battery powered or you can use an adapter – pretty standard stuff.

crowtheraudio_hotcakeoverdrivedistortion

Performance

The type of sound you get from the Crowther Audio Hotcake is where this pedal stands out from the competition. If you leave the Drive alone and only increase the Level, you get a booster type effect. What is truly awesome is the fact that adding distortion doesn’t influence the clean sound of your guitar.

Instead, it adds layers of overdrive while preserving the nature of the clean channel, much like a tamed fuzz box would. Once you start cranking the Drive knob, you can go pretty far without hearing any significant change in your tone. For example, with the drive at some 12 o’clock, you will still have a perfectly clear clean tone, however hitting a chord with some force will produce a light and crunchy overdrive.

The more you go clockwise, more overdrive you add to the signal. Simple as that. What people have figured out in the meantime is that Crowther Audio Hotcake works great with Vox tube amps, especially the AC line. It’s not something you want to use in an effects loop, which is also what Crowther himself recommends. The range of tone colors that are possible with the Hotcake goes anywhere from light bluesy sound to a more Plexi-like overdrive. Playing with the Presence knob reveals a whole array of great sounding configurations. The way the EQ works is pretty transparent for a pedal of this type.

Using the internal jumper switch is not something you’d want to do often. It’s there to basically allow you to adjust the pedal in a way which makes it work better with your amp. Switching between two available modes frequently can cause damage to the circuitry, or at least put the integrity of the effect at risk. Once you figure out which jumper position works for you, it’s best to leave it at that until you have a real necessity to temper with it again.

It’s worth noting that Crowther Audio Hotcake is not really a cheap pedal. It will cost you a pretty penny, but it is definitely worth it. The pure range of boost/overdrive you can achieve with this stomp box is impressive, to say the least. That type of performance is worth paying extra for.

Check out another demo for the Hotcake here, this time by YouTuber David Fisher.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, Crowther Audio Hotcake is something you would want to use for rock, blues or similar genres of music. The fact that it combines a pretty transparent boost with the ability to stack a nice layer on top of it, is great for who know exactly what kind of tone they want.

From 1976 to this day, Paul Crowther created and perfected a very capable little pedal that offers the quality and performance rarely seen these days. He is still relatively unknown outside certain circles, but those who are looking for a more refined overdrive are bound to run into his name during their research. Paul is undoubtedly a master of his trade, and he knows it.

This guy has reached a level where he doesn’t have to produce a ludicrous amount mediocre of pedals in order to stay afloat. Instead, a good amount of guitar players are turning to him for pure quality, and Crowther delivers.

Crowther Audio Hotcake Effect Pedal

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Our Favorite Albums That Use Proco RAT Distortion Pedals

It’s no surprise why many a musician, famous and not, have gotten themselves a ProCo RAT to use how they like.  It’s noisy, but in just the right way.

RAT Distortion History

The RAT story begins in downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan, at the Pro Co Sound Factory.

As RAT has always strove to be the “Sound of the Underground”, it seems only fitting that they found their beginnings in a basement, with actual rats, developing the prototype for what would become the first RAT pedal, the Bud Box Rat, from 1978.

There were only 12 of these pedals made, prototype included, and they were all hand made, drilled, and finished with a silk screen logo.

The first actual “Rat” came out in 1979 and was the first to be mass produced, achieving the classic look and sound of the pedal we (or some of us) know and love.

From there, the RAT chronology goes a little something like this.

  • The Rat (ver. 2) 1981-83
  • Small Box RAT 1984-88
  • R2DU 1984-88
  • RAT 2 1988-present
  • Turbo RAT 1989-present
  • Vintage RAT 1991-2005
  • Brat 1997-2001
  • Deucetone RAT 2002-present
  • You Dirty RAT 2004-present

There are alternatives to the RAT pedal such as the VFE Alpha Dog, Dr Scientist Elements, Emma Reezafratzitz, and others.  But most RAT fans I think will agree that you can’t quite get the same effect as the real deal, which is why RAT users stay RAT users.

They might buy other pedals, but generally they don’t take the RAT away.

Not only have RAT pedals been used by just about everyone trying to get some decent distortion in their sound, but there’s a whole bunch of musicians you definitely would know that love the RAT’s distorted sounds to the point where they have featured the pedal in some of their biggest songs.

We wanted to share with you some classic albums that changed our lives personally, that have a healthy dose of the RAT distortion sound.

Some of these albums you may know, some you may not, but we suggest you to go check these albums if you somehow missed ’em.

Kill ‘Em All by Metallica

When people think RAT distortion, they tend to think of that classic dirty sound, but then from there it becomes somewhat confusing as to what genres of music actually fully embrace the RAT.

The reason we say that is because in the gear forums, there are arguments on whether or not RAT pedals are good for metal or not?  Some say no, some say hell yeah.

The thing is, one of the metal gods themselves, Metallica, was big on RAT pedals back in the day, and featured them on their debut album – Kill ‘Em All.  Now, you might argue that Metallica wasn’t even “metal” at the time, but instead “thrash”.

But, the term is actually “thrash metal”, so it’s a type of metal music.  No, it’s not not death metal, but it still falls under the metal banner, and paving the way for many bands to follow.

With Kill ‘Em All, we will say that there is even some debate about the presence of RAT distortion in the mix.  People attribute their sound back then to other parts of the early Metallica rig.

It does makes sense that it is slightly vague, because Metallica weren’t famous yet and so no one was keeping track of their rig by taking press pics or fan pics or whatever people do now to try to figure out what pedals a band uses.

However, we believe that RATs are in there, and once you tune into the sound, there seems to be no denying it.  Here’s a video that makes a good argument that Metallica was beefing up their sound with some RATs, particularly Kirk.  Watch this and see what you think.

If you are still on the fence about whether Kill ‘Em All was using RATs, it’s going to be hard to convince you 100% at this point, short of a direct quote from the band or a picture of their pedalboard (which we can’t find – goddammit).

Then, we feel, the question becomes – Can you use a RAT to get the Kill ‘Em All sound (since we can’t travel back in time to take pics of their gear back in ’83), and the answer to that we think is HELL YEAH YOU CAN.

Watch this video which seeks to mimic Search and Destroy’s tones and see if you think that the tones match.  We think you’ll agree, it’s pretty damn close.

Now, for the album in question.  Here’s Kill ‘Em All.  Listen and enjoy, and if you hear a RAT in the mix, let us know in the comments.


Monster by R.E.M.

rem-monster-album-rat-distortion

R.E.M.?  What are they doing here? 

R.E.M. isn’t necessarily the first band you think of when you think of “dirty” or “heavy”, since they are generally considered to be more of a jangle-pop band by reviewers trying to describe their sound.  It’s typically full of arpeggiated guitar licks and they never did release a metal album of any sort, did they?

But, to be fair, R.E.M. did have a period back in the ’90’s where guitarist Peter Buck got into using that unmistakeable RAT distortion sound for their Monster album, especially live on tour that year in 1995. 

The goal, at this time, was to hit people with something that they maybe didn’t see coming – a real ROCK album, followed by a real stadium rock tour.

Tracks such as “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?”, as well as severals others from this album, feature RAT distortion.

By the time Monster arrived in ‘94, R.E.M. had long since left behind being maybe the best underground band to come out of Athens, Georgia besides the B-52’s.  They were, by the mid-90’s, well known for albums like Green, Out Of Time, and Automatic For The People. 

For the most part, R.E.M. was almost known as a folk band because they used a lot of instruments like mandolin and acoustic-y sounds which gave them more of a lighter touch on their mid-career albums.

On Monster, Peter Buck finally let loose with some decidedly heavier riffage, influenced most likely by the “Seattle Sound” that had swept across the nation a few years prior. 

Although tremelo was also a big part of the Monster album, the RAT pedal was in there just as much as the tremelo, providing some spicy mids. 

R.E.M. eventually did return to their more subdued side before calling it a day in 2011, but for a while there, they were rockin’ the RAT and getting some fat sounds.


Blur by Blur

blur-self-titled-graham-coxon-rat-distortion-pedal

Blur is a band that has been around since the early 90’s, and they started their career as a Brit-pop band, writing slightly woozy and somewhat psychedelic songs like “She’s So High” and “There’s No Other Way”.  In other words, songs that had nothing to do with RAT distortion.

Once they hit their second and third albums, the band was getting huge in the UK, and basically writing some of the UK’s most classic albums with Modern Life Is Rubbish and Parklife.  Still, they were not known to get “heavy” really…ever.

That said, Graham Coxon, the band’s wizard guitarist, is a master of tones and effects.  As the band grew, so did his pedalboard.  It was just a matter of time before Blur decided to do what R.E.M. did at the mid-life point of their career – get kinda pissed off, and go heavy.

In 1997, the band was fed up with being “brit-pop” and hit the public with their most distorted song to date – Song 2.  You know, the “Whoo hoo!” song.

Well, this song was brought to you by RAT – specifically, not one but TWO Proco Turbo RATs to get that beefy sound, and on the bass yet, and maybe the guitar too.  It’s just one giant wall once the song really kicks in.

But we wouldn’t put this album, actually called Blur, on this list if the RAT was just used on Song 2.

If you’ve actually listened to this album, you would know that there are several really distorted, dirty songs that really boost up the grunge a whole lot.

The album goes in several different directions at once, and this is because Graham, the guitar player, is having a field day with some new sounds for the band.

The RAT was just one sound he incorporated into this mish-mash of a weird-ass album, but he managed to succeed in creating what is definitely the heaviest album of Blur’s career.


Foo Fighters – Self-Titled Album

foo-fighters-first-album-rat-distortion

You may not remember this, but the Foo Fighters were once a quirky little punk pop rock band.  Their first album was released to no fanfare with an alien laser gun on the front, and even the singles from that time had UFO imagery all over them. 

This timeframe of the band as a wacky UFO-themed band only lasted about a year, with Dave Grohl kind of hiding behind the Foo Fighters name and the label, Roswell Records, which basically was Dave Grohl as president and that’s it.  Roswell Records was an imprint of RCA, so it wasn’t exactly an indie label.

dave-grohl-1995

Coming from the punk scene and Nirvana, and having worked with Butch Vig and Andy Wallace, it’s not surprising that the first Foo Fighters album was pretty grunge-y itself.  That is, full of big drums and distorted guitars.

People gave Dave flack for “copying” Nirvana somewhat, but Dave’s response was basically “Are you kidding me?  What did you expect me to do?” (<- not an exact quote)

Here’s the band’s first appearance on Letterman back in 1995.

The cool thing about that first Foo’s album, for some fans, is that it was actually more of a punk rock album than anything.  Before Dave was in Nirvana, he was in Scream, which was a total punk rock thing, and never really rose above underground status.  

Dave really wanted things to sound dirty, and scream-y, and punky.. but also huge.  So he turned to RAT for a boost, like many 90’s alternative rock bands did at the time.  It was kind of either Big Muff, RAT, or both.

Anyway, that first album is a whole lot of RAT distortion, and you can check it out below with a lesser known track called Winnebago.


Radiohead – The Bends

radiohead-the-bends-on-vinyl

Jonny Greenwood isn’t so much a guitar player as he is a guitar scientist.  The sounds he can make with his instruments are definitely otherworldly, but Jonny has always had a way of approaching his sound that is like Matt Damon solving a huge equation on a 10 foot blackboard, in that it looks complicated to us, but to him it makes perfect sense. 

There’s a lot of things going on upstairs with that guy in terms of musical ideas, and it reflects in his playing.  Half of it is experimental noise and madness, but half of it is very calculated and under control.  Is this the sound of a man who’s in control?

So, yeah, the guy likes to fuck around.  That said, if you cast your mind back to 1993, Radiohead was just a band that was considered a one-hit wonder with their song “Creep” from their album Pablo Honey.  Some people loved the song, others hated it.  But, what defined Creep, was Jonny’s big guitar ca-chunks that caught people’s attention right away.

At the time they released The Bends in 1995, bands like Oasis, Blur, and The Stone Roses were the big British alternative bands of the day, and it didn’t seem like Radiohead were going to take over as the next kings of British alt rock.  And then they kind of did.

They released Just, the first song to feature the band with a video that was rather strange, and this catapulted the band to the next level.  Just who were these weirdos?

While the band has been more known to the general rock fan as the band that made OK Computer and won some awards, it was The Bends that raised their profile, and one thing that was fairly characteristic of that album was the distortion it used, and this included RAT distortion.

Being an album full of angst, it makes sense that Jonny, Thom, and Ed would put the RAT to use.  Their layered guitar approach was, on this album, now becoming a staple of their sound, and they always liked to sneak some distortion into the mix when they could.

The tracks on The Bends, such as the first single, My Iron Lung, may not have had the brutal punch it did without the RAT.

Radiohead was a band that seemed to have developed a bit of a complex, like they as a band had been bullied by the press and some fans on the first album, for writing such a wussy song like Creep.  You know, it took them years to get over that.

Creep, while it is a good song, is basically a song about being a loser, but not a cool loser like Beck’s “Loser”, but an actual “I’m waiting to get my ass kicked” loser.

By 1995, it was time for the band to fight back, and they used RAT pedals to help them do it.


Sonic Youth – Dirty

Sonic Youth has been around since the early ’80’s and they are one of those bands that has a ton of music that they’ve released. 

At one point, they were dubbed as “no wave”, which is like a form of new wave but inverted to sound like the nightmare doppelganger of that movement.  In fact, Thurston might have been the one who came up with that label in the first place.  They were always kind of a heavy band.  They weren’t really about lighter fare.

With songs like Shaking Hell, Society Is A Hole, and Tom Violence, Sonic Youth established themselves as a band that were not on friendly terms with mainstream society.  Even though they did achieve some sort of mainstream success, they were basically a punk band to the end.

In ’88, they surprised a few people with Daydream Nation, an album that showed that they had some great super catchy riffs up their sleeve, and were willing to take their creativity to the next level.

It was then that their cult got very big, especially in Europe, where they toured a lot to some huge crowds who could relate to their “fuck absolutely everything” aesthetic that they managed to ooze through their amps and through the throngs of disenchanted Europeans of the ’80’s.

In ’92, Sonic Youth was back again with their album Dirty, which was…quite a dirty little album, featuring better production thanks to their label Geffen, more money thanks to Nirvana, but nastier and trashier songs that featured more noise, more guitar jams, and frankly more vision.  It was enough to drive your grandparents to drink.

Thurston Moore, being a real music nerd as he is, was always into pulling in as many influences as he could grab out of the air into the Sonic Youth palette, but one thing he always loved was a bludgeoning heavy dissonant riff. 

And yet, he also loved beauty, so him and Lee and Kim would come up with some nice, melodic passage, and then drop the hammer on it with some heavy distortion…

This is where the RAT pedal came into play heavily for Sonic Youth.  Thurston, being a RAT man for a long time by then, was way into the pedal by the time of Dirty and he really let it fly for that album. 

The RAT was the perfect pedal for Thurston to thrash out to, and when you turn it up loud, it really raises the hair on your arms and makes your little doggie pee on the carpet.  

The RAT isn’t the only pedal used on the album, because the band loves their effects pedals, but the RAT certainly it gets its day in the sun on Dirty.


So there ya have it – classic rock albums that sink their teeth into a RAT sandwich.  Visit the RAT website below.

Visit http://ratdistortion.com/