17 September 2014

Pedals: ProCo RAT Whiteface reissue


Note: this entry was already published in my old Spanish version of this blog, around March, 2012. I'm just reproducing it here because it can be of interest to someone.

I am quite sure that any guitarist that is searching his/her distortion pedal, probably checked at least one of the pedals belonging to the RAT family (ProCo is the builder).

Even that this is one of the very old designs, the RAT family grows from time to time with the addition of a new member. Currently, there are several ProCo pedals, all based in the original RAT but, incorporating some modifications to cover the needs of RAT users.

You should probably know already that the RAT pedal's design was based in the MXR Distortion+ but, the original design was modified to increase the gain, among some other sonic differences.

Some time ago, I've purchased a Chinese RAT 2, which has a bit more gain than the traditional RAT. And, it seems to be one of the classic distortion tones that I like more.

I wanted to check the differences between the cheap version (RAT 2) and the expensive RAT Whiteface reissue, since it seems that the last one was built with a selection of components closer to the original unit. Specially, the IC is the same as the original one.


This pedal was built in a very sturdy box.
Pots have a nice touch, not loose, not tight.
As in the case of the original, there is no LED that can inform you if the unit is switched on.
This is a true-bypass unit so, it doesn't affects the tone of your rig when switched off.

At the bottom of the pedal, there is a metallic door for the battery, with a big screw (that can be handled with the hand with ease). The issue I see is that such a screw is so big that it a mess to insert the pedal in my pedalboard.

Externally, the pedal looks like the RAT 2, with very few differences (pots, battery door' screw and the logo). The most important differences are inside, in the circuit.

An advertising shirt comes as a gift with this pedal.

Testing the pedal

I can just establish direct comparison with the RAT 2, since I've got no other ProCo RAT deriveds.

Respect to the RAT 2, the Whiteface has clearly less gain (a booster or a transparent overdrive before can be a good thing). The sound is similar but, the WF sounds a tad more refined, less processed than the RAT 2. The RAT 2 sounds a tad more raspy and wild.

So, there is not that big difference between the expensive and the cheap but, I prefer the sound of the WF.

While the RAT 2 has a lot of drive with volume and gain knobs really low, in the WF you need to increase more the volume to be able to make the distortion and filter knobs to deliver a similar response as in the Rat 2.

But, once you get the sweet spot of the three knobs (Volume, Distortion and Filter), to hear the neck pickup around the 12th fret is fantastic, generating a nice vocalish, guttural sound.

A light touch of a booster or clean overdrive before this pedal can help to get the best from the WF.
I am using the Xotic EP Booster before, just to meat the body of the Strato, before it reaches the WF.
I was setting the booster level while the WF was switched on, to get the best interaction between both pedals.

This pedal seems to work better with humbuckers than with single coils so, the extra gain that the booster gives to the single coils definitively help to get better results from the WF.

Additionally to this slight increase of transparent gain (that couldn't be necessary with pickups with a hotter output), the tone and grain of the distortion can be modified stacking some coloring overdrive before (OCD, TS808, etc.). In this way, you can achieve a more dense and sustained sound, with a color slightly different.

Wah, Phaser and Compressor work really fine before this pedal.
A excessive reverb or delay effect after, could "wash" the sound too much, pushing the sound back in the mix space and, stolling part of its energetic sound.

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