Pro Co Lil' Rat review

Get your teeth into some classic distortion – now in a smaller package

ProCo Lil' Rat
(Image: © Future)

Guitar World Verdict

There are Rat variants everywhere you look these days, but for well under 100 bucks, this wee fella will give you some original rodent magic without taking up too much space on your pedalboard.

Pros

  • +

    Classic Rat 2 hard-clipping distortion.

  • +

    A versatile distortion.

  • +

    It's nice and compact.

Cons

  • -

    No room for a battery.

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From Gilmour to Grohl, the Pro Co Rat has earned its place as a bona fide classic distortion pedal since it was first released in 1978.

It’s been through many guises, too, including the Rat 2, You Dirty Rat and Vintage Big Box Rat reissue and many more. But now everyone’s favourite rodent-based dirt box has been given the miniaturisation treatment resulting in a ratlet measuring just 5cm wide by 8cm front to back and 5cm high.

Now, we know that people get sniffy about reissues and clones of classic pedals, so it’s worth pointing out that Pro Co says the Lil’ Rat uses identical components to our – fairly ancient itself – Rat 2. But there are a few changes.

ProCo Lil' Rat

(Image credit: Future)

Most notably the controls have been shrunken, and while it doesn’t run off a battery like its big brother, the Lil’ Rat has thankfully had a power jack upgrade to a standard diameter barrel size, and Ratfans will be pleased to hear that the ‘A’ glows red when it’s engaged, just like you’re used to.

Most importantly, how does it sound? Well, like a Rat! The Distortion control winds in that familiar fuzzy-edged gain, and the volume governs your overall output, but the key to the Rat’s personality really lies in the filter control.

All the way to the left with maximum clipping gives you the full frequency range, and it’s here that you’ll find the airy presence and grind that helps achieve the little rodent’s distinctive sound. It’s an aggressive sweep, and you can smooth things out easily by backing off the gain and turning the filter to the right to roll off the highs. 

The filter also helps if you want to start stacking with other drives or into your amp’s distortion channel, bolstering your sustain à la the original Dave G, but without careering too far into ‘grunge’ mode. 

It’s been a little while coming, and surely the sight of other brands producing Rat-like mini-pedals has lured Pro Co out of hiding, but for well under $100, why not catch a genuine Rat that you’ll be able to fit on even the most cramped of ’boards?

Specs

  • PRICE: $69 / £89
  • TYPE: Hard clipping distortion
  • CONTROLS: Distortion, Filter, Volume
  • SOCKETS: Input, output, power
  • POWER: 9 volt PSU (not included)
  • TRUE BYPASS: Yes
  • CONTACT: Rat Distortion (opens in new tab)

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Stuart is a freelancer for Guitar World and heads up Total Guitar magazine's gear section. He formerly edited Total Guitar and Rhythm magazines in the UK and has been playing guitar and drums for over two decades (his arms are very tired). When he's not working on the site, he can be found gigging and depping in function bands and the odd original project.