My favorite gain pedal of all time but shrunk down and with additional features? Word.
Overview & Cost: $149.00
I’ve already written several articles about my love of RAT pedals, their clones, knockoffs, and variants. While the Mosky Black Rat wasn’t a big winner for me, the Wampler Ratsbane has actually kicked my Pro Co RAT2 off of my pedalboard. Now, that is partially because it is way smaller and more convenient, but it also because this little box sounds so freaking good. They also missed a major opportunity to give the pedal a Star War’s themed named and go with the “WAMPRAT”….
This is Brian Wampler’s take on the classic Pro Co RAT circuit, without the classic LM308 op amp. You won’t miss it. The right toggle switch controls the voicings, of which there are 2. The left is your standard classic RAT, which is my favorite, while the right is a more compressed and a little bit less fuzzy when you crank the gain. Think of it as a more modern distortion sound. The other toggle switch (on the left side of the filter knob) controls 3 gain control options. All the way to left produces a smoother, turbo charged distortion sort of in the Turbo RAT neck of the woods. Flip to the middle for a stock RAT setting. One more over, all the way to the right, and you got a creamier, vintage-style distortion with some RAT-like fuzziness still there, but dialed down a bit. Standard filter (tone), volume, and gain controls round out this lovely little 9-18v powered Wampler pedal.
Sound & Opinion:
Yup, it sounds just like a RAT, but with much more control over the frequencies and gain. It’s not too dissimilar to my beloved $70 RAT2 pedal, which is a major plus for those sticking to their affordable, time tested gain box. However, the Ratsbane packs in a ton of features, new voicing options, and tighter controls which is what really separates it from the pack. It just sounds huge, with a ton of top end and bottom end snarl. The turbo-charged mode is definitely encroaching on fuzz territory, which I love about the RAT-style distortions. However, the ability to dial in smoother, creamier distortions is quite a nice feature. Now you could conceivably replace both a RAT and high gain overdrive on your board with the flip of these little toggle switches. It really took my clean Vox AC15 signal, chewed it up, and gave it this huge, stadium filling sound for Oasis, Green Day, and Arctic Monkeys’ style riffs and chords. Dialing in some of the compressed tones was more useful for when I wanted to tighten up my playing and signal chain, which I don’t do often. But I really think this makes it more appealing to those seeking very 21st century guitar tones with a semblance of RAT madness. But Wampler’s Ratsbane really shined when I cranked lazy, sloppy power chords and pentatonic riffs through it as I tend to do.
Conclusion & Final Score: 9.0 out of 10
This is how you do a unique take on a RAT in my humble opinion. I have had this on my board for months now and see no end to its reign as my go-to distortion sound. It is flexible enough for most any distortion fan to find a sound they like, but it is also just a plain good RAT in its own right. While I think the $70 RAT2 is wonderful and one of the best pedals out there, this gets good value ratings because I think it wasn’t necessarily designed to replace or compete with my RAT2 pedal. This is the RAT for people who need more from a distortion section or need multiple RAT-like tones for a recording or gigging project. If your RAT pedal is already doing 100% of what you need, this isn’t for you. But for me, this did everything I already had and loved, in addition to more that I wasn’t able to pull out of my rig. All that in a small, pedalboard friendly enclosure feels right for about $150. Especially at a time when pedal prices are out of control, this feels responsible and reasonable. I’m delighted with Brian’s take on the RAT, and I think most people who try the Ratsbane will be too.