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Rat vs Big Muff: Which Pedal is Better? [2022 Edition]

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If you’re interested in learning more about the Rat vs Big Muff guitar pedals, this post is for you!

In short:

I’d recommend the Rat for conventional distortion and Big Muff Pi for blues, stoner rock, and doom metal.  

I’ll unpack this more in the sections below.

Pro Co Rat

Check out this video for a demo of the Pro Co Rat 2!

The pedal that we know as Rat has its roots to the mid-1970s. This small-scale project eventually turned into one of the most influential distortion pedals. Pro Co began the mass production. However, even to this day, everyone knows it as Rat. It’s like a brand of its own.

There have been plenty of versions over the years. In the late 1980s, we got the pedal’s second iteration. These days, we have six different variants on the market. The standard one is the Rat 2. But we also have:

  • Lil’ Rat
  • Turbo Rat
  • Fat Rat
  • You Dirty Rat
  • Deucetone Rat

They come with a few different features and modifications. But in their essence, they’re all modified versions of the Rat 2.

This is a simple 3-knob distortion pedal. However, the pedal’s tone is a bit fuzzier compared to the conventional distortion effect. But, at the same time, it’s not entirely a fuzz effect.

What matters the most is that it can achieve a wide variety of tones. It goes from crunchy overdrive-like stuff up to soaring buzzing leads. However, you can always notice the pedal’s overall razor-sharp character.

Particularly interesting is the filter control. It’s not exactly like your regular tone knob. The counterclockwise position is super-sharp and piercing. Going all the way clockwise makes it super-saturated. It’s kind of fuzzy and muddy although it still retains its tightness.

It’s very effective with tube-driven amps. In particular, I love how it works with vintage Fender amps. 6L6 power amp tubes break up nicely with the Rat engaged, even on lower-gain settings.

Of course, different versions have their twists. Some even have germanium diodes, a feature that brings a real vintage twist to the tone. But the regular version, the Rat 2, comes with silicone ones.

Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi

Big Muff takes us back to the late 1960s. It’s one of the earliest distortion pedals. And although technically not the first one, Big Muff is the first pedal to be marketed as a standalone distortion device.

The pedal has gone through so many changes over the years. Mike Matthews designed the original one with his partner Bob Myer. Over the coming decades, it had plenty of different iterations.

The classic version today is Big Muff Pi. It comes with the classic 4-transistor circuit. There are three basic controls on it for volume, tone, and sustain. Now, the sustain knob might cause some confusion among those who are not used to vintage-styled stuff. While it adds more gain, it has a bit of a twist to it.

As you increase its value, you’ll notice more harmonic content. As you go further, there’ll be more compression involved. Ultimately, it increases the sustain.

And it’s this one control that brings so much variety to the pedal. If you set it at a lower value, you get a more conventional distortion tone. Sure, it’s still softer, but you get some of that tightness. As you increase the value, the tone feels like it’s spilling.

The pedal can get really muddy but in a good way. It’s that super-saturated fuzz that makes one note feel like a chord. There are strong undertones and you may even feel like you turned on an octave pedal. This makes it super-useful for lead sections.

The pedal has found use in plenty of different genres. Anything from blues and psychedelic rock and up to modern metal. It’s a timeless piece. And, in my opinion, it’s all due to its specially conceived sustain control.

Rat vs Big Muff: How Do They Compare?

You need to bear in mind that we have two completely different distortion pedals here. Sure, some of their features might make you think that they’re similar. After all, both have only three basic controls, right?

Well, their overall characters are, in fact, completely different. Firstly, Pro Co Rat brings a more piercing tone. I’d call it grainy and sharp. In some ways, it reminds me of Boss’ classic DS-1. However, its filter control brings a lot more options. It gets pretty close to fuzz pedals when you turn it all the way up.

But then we have Big Muff Pi that’s, overall, closer to a fuzz than a conventional distortion. It sounds much fatter. And, most importantly, it has no conventional gain knob. The sustain feature might be weird to get used to, but it brings a variety of options.

Overall, I’d recommend the Rat for lovers of conventional distortion pedals. In particular, it reminds me of 1980s metal tones. Meanwhile, Big Muff Pi is a massive one. It adds a lot of harmonic content and a significant boost to the bottom-ends. This makes it a great option for blues, stoner rock, and doom metal.  

Rat vs Big Muff: Conclusion

I hope this article has helped clarify how these pedals differ and which you might want to use based on different situations and styles.

And as usual, feel free to leave a message in the comments below if you have questions about this or another guitar-related topic!

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