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JHS PackRat Review

Eric Lapp • Posted on 11/10/2021 • 4 min read

It's an infestation!

If you've ever found yourself deep diving into the archives of legendary rock music, you might see a certain little critter make an appearance on boards across the decades. Now, you're probably already familiar with this famous buzzing black box, but certainly never in this form. This classic distortion rears its little head again, and wouldn't you know it, this time it's a family reunion. Enter the JHS PackRat.

A Legendary Rodent

Originally conceived and crafted as a project between Kalamazoo pedal experts Scott Burnham and Steve Kiraly, the RAT came from a desire to introduce a new distortion pedal to the masses. The first RAT was unveiled in 1979 and since then, distortion has never been the same. Legendary artists have used RATs to craft iconic tones from the grungy smashes of Kurt Cobain to the warm sustain of David Gilmour. From punk and metal, progressive and alternative, many players hold a special place for the RAT. Today, the tenacious little rodent gets its time to shine.

The minds at JHS came together in spirit of their Muffuletta and Bonsai "Multi-Mode" pedals to celebrate the legacy of the little, black-boxed superstar. Utilizing a specialized digital runway system to tap into nine unique analog circuits, the PackRat replicates nine RAT tones from across the decades. The PackRat carries both popular and obscure RAT circuit tones to deliver on an experience that is both familiar and exciting for RAT fans across the board. With nine RATs to play with, let's let 'em loose.

Meet The Rat Pack

  • The OG V1 ("OG") - The original Version 1 Big Box RAT from 1979

This mode will be an excellent starting point to make yourself at home. With the Distortion and Filter knobs at noon, OG gets smoothly overdriven. On Filter positions past noon, the distortion grows fuller. On Distortion positions before noon, the fuzziness cleans up nicely for some lush overdrive.

  1. White Face V3 ("WHT") - The first Small Box RAT fashioned with an inverted Filter control and a white block letter logo

This mode revs up the power from OG with more grit. As the Filter control is inverted in this mode, moving Filter past noon will subdue the distortion for lower undercurrents of buzz. The Filter control can be rolled back before noon to let thicker bursts of distortion rip.

  1. Turbo V5 ("TRF") - The first RAT to introduce LEDs to the clipping section.

This mode will ramp up the distortion further for a brighter tone with higher output. A sharper RAT, you'll get distorted tones with more sizzle with the Filter set past noon.

  1. BRAT V6 ("BRAT") - An officially modified RAT released in the 1990s

This mode is noticeably more subdued with lower output, so turning the Filter and Distortion dials before noon will summon some soothing undercurrents of fuzz. Drop this mode in for some subtle fuzziness that can be a swell substitute for a dirtier overdrive.

  1. Dirty V7 ("DRTY") - A RAT utilizing germanium diodes instead of silicon diodes

This mode keys into grungier fuzz tones with lasting sustain and resonance. Pushing Distortion and Filter past noon will only enhance the fuzziness of this particular mode. DRTY delivers on its namesake for distorted leads.

  1. LA ("LA") - A Japanese RAT recreation circuit from the 1980s

This mode comes out the gate swinging with higher output volume. A more throaty sound that delivers heaps of grit, this tone is blissfully distorted and in your face in the very best way. Distortion and Filter settings dialed past noon enhance the volume-boosting, raucous voice of this mode.

  1. Landgraff MO'D ("GRF") - A boutique RAT recreation from the late 1990s

This mode makes for a more pronounced mix of distortion and volume boost. Not overly fuzzy, GRF gives the RAT circuit some extra push and bright distortion for shredding through solos or slicing through mixes with some sick leads.

  1. Caroline Wave Cannon - A take on the RAT circuit from Caroline Guitar Company

The Wave Cannon's circuitry makes a guest appearance on the PackRat as it fuzzes up smoothly and easily with Distortion and Filter controls set at noon. Setting either dial past noon makes for pure distorted poetry. With the Wave Cannon, smooth overdrive and boundary-pushing fuzz are both in reach for a circuit as versatile as the original RAT itself.

  1. JHS Mode ("JHS") - The discontinued JHS "PackRat" ProCo RAT modification

This sharper, more distorted circuit was fashioned by JHS for over a decade and now finds a spot on the last stop in the PackRat journey. JHS Mode shares a classic RAT tone with bright tonal character and crunchy distortion with a kick in volume. The love for the RAT surely shows with this mode.

JHS PackRat Final Thoughts

The JHS PackRat is an example of not only a passion for all things raucous and rat-like, but inventive design at work. JHS Pedals' one-of-a-kind Multi-Mode design shines in this compact pedal. Joining the JHS Multi-Mode series alongside the Muffuletta and Bonsai pedals, the PackRat makes an excellent addition to any player's collection. The PackRat seamlessly loads a full board's worth of RAT tones into its compact casing, which makes it a standout among dirt pedals. Starting with the straightforward RAT formula that made itself famous across decades, three knobs and a selector switch are all you need to dig in. Like every RAT before it, it's an effortless distortion to dial and get in on the fun, and with nine modes to choose from, the tonal possibilities are limitless.

As a warm love letter to everyone's favorite rodent, the PackRat makes a name for itself among the long lineage of RATs that came before it. It's about time someone let it out of its cage.