With its origins dating back to 1978, the RAT is one of those simple yet unique pedals that are at once legendary, widespread, and affordable. There have been many different variations of the circuit from the original builder, Pro Co, but overall, the line has remained fairly true to the original, delivering thick distortion and borderline fuzz tones adopted by countless heavy rock bands. No wonder it made our list of the Best Distortion Pedals of All Time!
This article will guide you through the many versions of the ProCo RAT and the variants and clones manufactured by other pedal builders. For those interested in the history of this pedal, look no further than this video by JHS Pedals.
As successful as it is, the RAT is also a rather misunderstood pedal, as it seems to be too gritty for some, yet not gritty enough for others, and this quality has contributed to the rise of a parallel market of clones that attempt to expand on the original’s sonic palette, or “perfect” its tone, whatever that may mean.
Op-Amp Wars: LM308 vs OP07
While many classic overdrive pedals get their saturation from diodes and transistors, the RAT circuit was originally designed around an LM308 op-amp, and the pedal’s aggressive distortion is achieved by overdriving this chip, which, in the early aughts, was replaced with an OP07DP op-amp chip (present in the current RAT 2), with its quicker transient response and slightly brighter tone.
While vintage RATs might be a bit tough to track down, there are several clones trying to replicate the sound of the early models, while others attempt to recreate a distortion that is at once faithful to the original and also more versatile. Needless to say, fans of the LM308 chip will find in this article plenty of vintage RAT clones that are employing one.
Browse through the various pedals in our interactive galleries. As usual, a mouseover or first tap will open a description, while a click or second tap will open a YouTube video.
Original RAT Pedals
There’s nothing like the real thing. Pro Co, the original designer of the RAT offers many variations on the circuit with additional features and a few models designed specifically for bass guitar. Most of these models are still readily available today from the company, you can find them in the gallery below.
Best RAT Clones: High End (above $200)
The models in the following list claim to offer a better-sounding RAT-style distortion, through high-end components and hand-made build – let’s not forget that a new Pro Co RAT only costs $69, which means that there is room for improvement, component-wise. They come at a high price point, but they might tickle trained ears just the right way!
The pedals in this list use the coveted LM308 chip and stick to the 3-knob layout of the original – which is the essential distinction between clones and evolutions. However, some of these designs are not exact replicas of the vintage RATs, applying slight modification to the circuit.
Mid Priced RAT Evolutions ($100-$200)
In this category, you’ll find most of the established boutique builders’ take on the RAT-style circuit. All these solidly built (but rarely hand-made) RAT evolutions moderately expand on the original’s palette with a few extra control (rarely more than two or three between knobs and toggle switches).
Tweaker’s-Dream RAT-Style Distortions
Some musicians like to have more knobs, more options, more sonic possibilities. The pedals in this list will make them happy, delivering the basic RAT-style distortion and a lot more than that, and providing extra tone sculpting features, often delivering also overdrive and fuzz tones, or emulations of several existing original models.
Affordable RAT Clones (under $100)
Due to the relative simplicity of the RAT design, the circuit is easily copied. There are quite a few options that provide great tone and construction for a low price point. Many even include the one thing that everyone agrees can make or break a RAT – the LM308 chip.
DIY RAT Clones
For those who can pull it off, building your own pedals is a fun and rewarding experience, with the added benefit of cutting costs significantly. Here’s a list of DIY Kits with that unmistakeable RAT flavor.
Modding existing stompboxes and reselling them at a premium price is a model that has become a little outdated, but several now established manufacturers adopted it in the early aughts, including JHS Pedals, Keeley and Analog Man. More than one of these builders felt compelled to improve the RAT design with their own mods. By the way, if you know how to use a solder you can mod your own RAT!
Notable Discontinued RAT Clones (used)
The RAT fauna is of noteworthy variety! Dozens of boutique companies built their own take on this classic distortion circuit, and the majority of them at some point discontinued it. Here’s a list of out-of-production RAT-inspired pedals that still have a market.
RAT Pedal Shootout Videos