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JAM Pedals Rattler: A highly refined Rat

Pristine clean tones can be beautiful on bass. They let every nuance of your playing come through and let your dynamics shine. But in certain musical contexts, these tones can get buried in a mix. 

And this is why distortion has been one of the secrets of mixing engineers for decades. The right amount of distortion will add just enough compression and harmonic richness to your signal so that you can cut through without having to increase your volume and drown everything out. 

That’s the reason why many bass players become so attached to their overdrive and distortion pedals. It lets your bass sound better within the context of a mix if used subtly. 

And if subtle is not your thing, heavily distorted bass can do wonders for your sound and support the whole band if necessary. 

The problem is that finding the right distortion can be a challenge, as most distortion pedals are tuned for guitar frequencies. This usually means our precious low end can get lost when adding the drive. 

JAM Pedals decided to right this wrong by creating a bass-specific version of their Rattler distortion. 

Read on to find out if the JAM Rattler will drive your tone in the right direction. 

In the beginning, there was a Rat.

In case there were any lingering doubts, the Rattler uses the ProCo Rat circuit as its foundation. 

The Rat's origins can be traced back to the mid-1970s when Pro Co engineers Scott Burnham and Steve Kiraly were repairing and modifying existing distortion pedals. Burnham eventually decided that he could build a better pedal from scratch, and the Rat was born.

Image of the Pro Co Rat Distortion Pedal, likely an early version of the pedal

The original Rat was a simple pedal with only three knobs: Distortion, Filter, and Volume. The Rat's sound was raw and aggressive, with a thick, fuzzy distortion that could be dialed in for everything from light-ish overdrive to searing high gain.

The Rat quickly became a favorite among underground guitarists, and its popularity grew in the 1980s and 1990s. It was used by such iconic guitar players as Kurt Cobain, Billy Gibbons, and David Gilmour.

And as you’d expect, their bass-playing buddies tried the Rat and were delighted to find that it worked well on bass. 

If you really want to nerd out on the pedal’s history, I recommend reading this article. 

One of the challenges of bass distortion is that it can make you disappear in a mix, but that didn’t happen at all. 

The Rat does a great job at keeping the bass frequencies and adding additional compression which helps it hold its place in a mix. 

A great example of a Rat is on Nirvana’s song 'Breed' from their Nevermind album, according to Kris Novoselic’s recollection in his interviews, he plugged a Rat into an SVT and that is how he got that gigantic distorted bass tone. 

Showing a Rat new tricks

The Rat sound with its big distorted tone is downright awesome, but it is a one-trick pony kind of deal. 

Move anywhere from that sweet spot and it doesn’t really work so well for bass.

If you lower the distortion, you lose the bass, and the sound thins out. If you lower the volume, the same thing happens, which makes it very difficult to match levels with your other tones. And the filter knob only has a very small area where it makes sense for bass, if you move it past it then it just gets clanky.

And this is where the folks over at JAM Pedals in Greece saw an opportunity. 

It’s like they asked themselves “What if we could have a Rat that had more than just 1 awesome sound?” 

The Rattler is an extremely flexible distortion pedal that can go from a modest amount of grit, all the way to fire-breathing distortion, while still maintaining the original character of the Rat. 

They do this in part by using the same LM308N chip that was used in the original Rat pedal, and by modifying the circuit to solve all of its problems, as well as giving it an additional gain stage. 

Simple controls, massive flexibility

The crew at JAM Pedals designed the Rattler to make getting a variety of tones very intuitive with its 4 knob and 2-switch layout. 

The knobs control the gain, volume, mix, and tone. 

Pretty simple. 

But the beauty of the Rattler lies in how usable each of these knobs is throughout its entire range. 

Unlike the original, you can use the gain in a low setting. At its lowest setting, under 9 o'clock, the pedal sounds like a harmonically rich pushed tube amp with some very flattering amount of compression. 

Move the gain around 12 and you’ll start getting firmly into distortion territory, and by the time you reach 3 o'clock, you're in bass distortion heaven. 

The pedal has enough output to let you reach unity volume, even with the gain at its lowest setting, all the way to providing a hefty amount of push to your amp if you are so inclined. 

The tone knob is analogous to the original Rat filter knob, which is the secret sauce of the Rat circuit. As you increase the knob you add more high-mids and the character of the distortion changes. It starts sounding more aggressive and with an extra bite. If you want a smoother sound you can find it in the lower ranges of the tone knob. 

The mix knob is what really makes it fit perfectly for the needs of bass players. Even though you still get to keep most of your low-end intact with the Rattler, the circuit always adds some squish to your signal. So if you want to keep more of your low-end dynamics and keep your sound punchy, you can mix in your clean signal to reach the perfect balance. 

And to make it even better, the second switch adds another gain stage. This means you can have a low or mid gain setting, and switch on the second gain stage for more distortion at any time. 

The only distortion you’ll ever need?

Having a wide range of distortion available is great, but does the Rattler sound any good? 

Yes, it sounds very good indeed. 

Even though the Rattler isn’t what I would consider a “transparent” type of overdrive, it still manages to keep most of your signal’s EQ curve intact. 

This makes the Rattler very easy to fit into most signal chains because it just works. Essentially it just adds distortion and you don’t really need to adjust EQ or any downstream settings. 

The biggest surprise for most bass players is how awesome the low-gain settings sound. They let the character of your bass come through with just enough of the character from the pedal. 

The Rattler’s low gain settings sound so good that it becomes a great candidate for an always-on type of pedal. You can dial in settings with a low amount of gain, and when you want more simply click the second switch and enjoy its big distorted sound. 

With its wide range of tones, ease of use, and good looks, the JAM Pedals Rattler could very well be the only distortion pedal you need. 

But if you’re still on the fence about whether or not the Rattler is the right choice for you, feel free to give us a call or shoot us an email. We’ve helped thousands of bass players find the perfect pedal to meet their distorted tonal dreams. 

Ready for a JAM Rattler? Grab it here.