ibanezDCP ibanezDCP jacques stompboxes

Vintage Vault
: The Rat pedals


The RAT was one of the first distortion to achieve the status of electronic being. Before the rat, distortion pedals were nothing more than useful tools that complete your electric guitar arsenal. Of course silly names were nothing new after the Electro Harmonix plethora of monickers but somehow the RAT made all this a very serious matter. After all, describing a distortion is quite uneasy, so why not finding its personality. And the RAT really fits this great distortion like a glove. Many famous guitarists have trust its full rodent-like aggressivity and it is still today a standard among modern distortion. My example is from '86 and is considered by its creator Scott Burnham as the best vintage, also referred as the Jeff Beck model.

The bathroom-blue rare direct box looks like a little blue rat and that is why I bought it. Isn't it cute?

This is the RAT 2 with its nasty red eye. While somehow different from the older model, it is a fierce rodent alright. I love its phosphorescent pots but what a disappointment : I missed the special discount on the tee-shirt: it expired on august 30, 1990!


Better known for their machine heads, Schaller has also adventured in the pedal realm.

I only saw this format in their production, wha, wha-fuzz and volume pedal. They are made of plastic with a heavy metal base, just like the bug 5 series from Ibanez. This means that when you take off the plate to access the innards, you are always surprised by the feather weight of the rest.

Yes, the look is ugly. Hard to imagine they are rock music-related. They seem more to command some industry machinery in a sawmill of the black forest. But...

These components are 100% made by Siemens. You can not dream of better quality electronics in the world. And it is obvious this is the main reason why this pedal works like brand new even if it has been produced at least 20 years ago. As a pedal manufacturer myself , this is a second goal a serious maker must achieve, after good tone of course! And this pedal has good tones ! The wha is great but the fuzz is OUT OF THIS WORLD!!! I was really surprised the transistors were not germanium listening to that gorgeous deep hendrix sound. This is one of my favourite fuzz ever. What a growl!

The disappointment comes from this wha: I expected much more from the twin Siemens inductors, one for wha-wha and the other for yoy-yoy. Yoy-yoy. Serious. I expected some tyrolian yoddling, an all time metal bands favorite but the two sounds are nearly the same. Is there a problem in my pedal ? Let me know by email if you own one or simply yoddle loudly in the Alps. I am not very far.


Gosh, crinkle grey from Western Germany! Is this cool or should we expect an interrogatory ? A beautiful casing anyway for this very special wha. And you think the 'Z' is just a catchy name? Oh no, guys ! Those german Hofner engineers do not appreciate this decadent English humour. The 'Z' means impedance, like in any physics book! Because this pedal is fitted with an impedance booster, selectable by the side switch ( you must wear motorcycle boots...or military ? ), working even with the wha off.
This useful feature goes well with the very good wha, making this pedal a true speaker-destructor goodie.

It is funny to see that Hofner has chosen the other German electronic giant ITT ( Schaller used Siemens stuff) and the least I can say is that the quality is as perfect as it can be. Needless to say that more then 35 years after its manufacturing, this pedal works perfectly without any service.


Another obscure brand from stompbox history : BLACK BOX.
From too much time passed in physics class those brits came up in the late '70s with a complete pedals line, including a power-all , noise supressor and wah pedal screaming COLORSOUND.
Notice the ultra-cool '70s telephone cables which spring could easily throw a sharp metal enclosure distortion unit to your knee if you adventure too far from your rig.
Those were nice times.

 And here's my survivor : a lush sounding phaser .
It is a mystery to me how this module could connect to the ENERGIZER base, and there is no other port inside or out except the in/output jack .
So much for stompbox history puzzles.