Electro-Harmonix Flatiron Fuzz
By Chris Loeffler | (edited)
Electro-Harmonix Flatiron Fuzz
Do I smell a RAT?
by Chris Loeffler
The Pro Co RAT first emerged from Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1978 as a dozen, made-to-order distortion boxes before achieving a mass release in 1979. Its entrance couldn’t have been timelier with rock guitar getting harder and more distorted and before racks took over the gear landscape for a decade. Like the Boss DS-1 (also released in 1978, albeit in a more confident way), the RAT took a simple hard-clipping diode approach to creating extreme distortion with the now iconic Motorola LM308 opamp’s lackluster slew rate creating the raunchy character that defined the gain sound.
The RAT dominated the pedal-based distortion sound of the late 70’s and early 80’s, finding itself onstage with Metallica, REM, and Sonic Youth. Going through several tweaks, both cosmetic and functional, the RAT evolved based on parts availability and perceived market wants. Today, the RAT is one of the fundamental starter pieces of gear because of its ubiquity and price, with hundreds of companies offering modifications to either bring a current production RAT to vintage specs or expanding on the clipping options offered by the manufacturer.
Enter Electro-Harmonix, an effects manufacturing legend that seems to move the category forth on multiple fronts; vintage-correct releases of their own line, technology-breaking new effects types, and, as of recently, putting out their take on classic effects from other brands. The Electro-Harmonix Flatiron Fuzz makes no bones about its inspiration, the Rat2. Featuring Voume, Drive, and Filter controls, the Flatiron Fuzz runs on a standard, center-negative 9v power supply or battery.
What You Need to Know
The Electro-Harmonix Flatiron Fuzz delivers symmetrical hard clipping tones that cover all ground from light overdrive to saturated fuzz, with most people seeking the classic distortion textures found somewhere in the middle.
The Drive knob sets the amount of clipping the pedal produces, with tight, light crunch in the first ¼ of the sweep, chunky distortion of varying shades in the middle half of the sweep, and spitting, raunchy fuzz-like qualities in the final part of the sweep, as more compression leads to more sustain.
The Volume control exceeds unity gain even at the lowest Drive levels, and the Flatiron has a punishing amount of output available the moment the Drive is set to noon.
The Filter knob takes the place of the standard Tone knob found in many overdrives by setting a low pass filter that progressively grooms off the high end as it is dialed back (counterclockwise). This control has been an integral part of the RAT sound, as it neither messes with the low end nor bumps the mids.
I have an original White Face RAT and a couple of clones I ran against the Flatiron, and while they indeed sound similar, the Flatiron Fuzz consistently had a bit more warmth and fuzziness to it at all settings. A direct A/B proved the RAT to clip harder and faster, with a tighter attack, while the Flatiron was softer and looser; falling somewhere between a RAT and a Triangle Big Muff. There was also a touch less clarity to the Flatiron which, depending on the tone you’re going for, is either a huge advantage or missing the point of a RAT-inspired circuit.
The Flatiron Fuzz is such a great sounding distortion/fuzz hybrid that EHX almost does itself a disservice by aligning so closely with the RAT. It does sound similar, but people who are seeking a dead-on RAT clone will quickly feel/hear the differences.
If the Electro-Harmonix Flatiron Fuzz were released by a small builder with a quirky name and had a hand-painted enclosure I am confident it would jump to the top of flavor-of-the month pedals at 3x the price. It is really that good; warm, responsive, chewy, fuzzy, and articulate. It’s neither as tight nor clinical as a RAT, and it isn’t as loose and muddying as a fuzz pedal, taking chord work and leads on with equal aplomb. If you want a 100% accurate RAT, they are still available from Pro Co. If Muff-style fuzzes have appealed to you but always felt too sloppy or bass-heavy, on the other hand, the Flatiron was made for you. -HC-
Electro-Harmonix Flatiron Fuzz Product Page
Buy Electro-Harmonix Flatiron Fuzz @ Sweetwater ($96.90 MSRP, $72,70 Street)
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.
Edited by Chris Loeffler