Almost every electric guitarist owns a distortion pedal of some description or, failing that, a switchable high-gain channel on their amplifier. Distorted guitar tones have come to represent the sound of rock music ever since the early days of overdriven tube amp tones, which were first used by blues players of the 1940s and ’50s. This was followed by the transistor-based fuzz pedals of the 1960s, as used by Keith Richards on the seminal hit “Satisfaction,” which developed into the heavy, saturated stompbox sounds we know today.
Distortion pedals provide more aggressive distortion than overdrive and are ideal for heavier rhythm parts and leads. From Kurt Cobain’s well-used Boss DS-1 unit that was used on every Nirvana record and sold at auction for $75,000, to David Gilmour’s Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi, as heard on “Comfortably Numb,” we are familiar with the sounds of various distortion pedals, even if we are unaware of their exact make and model.
The Pro Co RAT is one such distortion pedal that helped shape the sound of modern rock. It has been championed by James Hetfield of Metallica and Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme for its versatility of tones, which range from smooth-as-silk to chainsawing-sheet-steel. Like the Tube Screamer, it features three controls, namely “Distortion,” “Filter,” and “Volume,” which perform much the same duties, although Filter blends with your guitar’s natural tone when rolled back. The latest version, the RAT 2, is exceptional value at $100 for such a rugged piece of essential gear that will not let you down.