The ProCo RAT2 distortion pedal is an update on a classic from the early 1980s. With an appearance similar to the footswitch of a Marshal Amplifier, the pedal’s sound is reminiscent of the dirty channel on those British tube amps. However, Rat2 also features a thinner crunch characterized by solid state amps like the Fender M80 or Roland Jazz Chorus. Overall, it is a sound that harkens back to grunge, alternative and 80’s hard rock.
The RAT2’s controls are straightforward. There are three knobs (distortion, tone and volume), a footswitch and an LED to indicate when the pedal is on. The tone knob controls the frequency of a low pass filter, which allows the pedal’s inherent brightness to be attenuated, while the volume knob provides gain boosts appropriate for solos or lead parts. With the distortion knob in the first quarter position, the pedal functions like natural tube overdrive. Around halfway up, the sound begins to break up noticeably and at the three quarters position (especially when with fed through an additional channel of overdrive), the RAT2 can achieve extremely fuzzed-out tones.
The RAT2’s construction is very sound. Housed in a steel frame, the pedal is built to survive repeated abuse. The RAT2 also features true-bypass, so when the effect is off, the clean tone runs unaffected.
Compared to similar compact distortion pedals, the RAT2’s sound holds up. In contrast to Boss’ DS1, the RAT2 possesses noticeably more sizzle and definition in the top end. Next to the more expensive Ibanez Tube Screamer, the RAT2 lacks some of the pedal’s warmth but makes up for it with biting tone. For the price of $79.95, the RAT2 has the versatility to stand on its own, while being specifically well-suited to lead riffs. – Ezra Tenenbaum