Big White Monkey Howler Distortion Pedal – A Keely RAT clone!!

Okay, so recently we had a look at an original mid 90s ProCo RAT2 Distortion pedal, so let’s see how the Big White Monkey Howler Distortion Pedal stands up!

First up, let’s have a listen to how she sounds. Today we have Darren playing a Fernandes Super Grade Les Paul, fitted with Seymour Duncan Seth Lovers. He’s playing through the Big White Monkey VT5 hand wired amp.

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As mentioned in all of my previous BWM articles, BWM are based in Queensland on the Gold Coast, with their products being produced in China. However, their service is excellent, they are really decent guys and they generally produce a really good product for a small cost (e.g the Howler pedal is about $60, whereas the RAT reissue is $180 on average).

Big White Monkey Howler Distortion Pedal

Big White Monkey Howler Distortion Pedal

The Howler is basically a RAT clone with the well-known Keeley mod, which has a 3 way toggle switch for different tonal options. It is 100% analog and has a military grade PCB board.

The vintage style chicken head knob controls are…

  • Water = Volume
  • Peanut = Tone
  • Banana = Gain.

So aesthetically, the Howler pedal is cased in the same indestructible steel case as the rest of the Big White Monkey pedals, including the ‘Spider‘, ‘Curly Fuzz‘, ‘Freaky‘, ‘1980AD‘ etc…, and it has the same yellow finish with the distinctive grey monkey face smack dab in the middle of the pedal. The on/off LED is red.

On first impressions of the build quality, it looks like the pedal is very solid and built to last.

There was a very satisfying and solid clicking sound when I stomped on the on / off switch, so it seems the switch used is of good quality, and the pedal felt very solid and sturdy underfoot.

Okay, so how does it sound???

So for this review I tested the pedal by plugging it into both a Laney LH50 all tube head, and a BWM Kong head. The speaker I used was a generic greenback style speaker.

I noticed with the pedal off there was no tone suck or any extra noise by it being in the signal chain (it is true bypass).

So I strum out an open E power chord and my first impressions of the sound is that it is immediately and quite distinctively Ratty sounding!!

With the selector switch on position 1, I heard a very creamy and warm fuzz like gain setting, which I thought was probably the most Rat sounding of the three modes.

With the tone set to about mid way and the gain cranked to 3/4’s of the way, it really thickened up my Strat bridge pup with a really nice soft edge distortion, which produced a lovely rich sustaining tone that was slightly reminiscent of the powerful Comfortably Numb tones that I love.

With the toggle selector switch set to position 2, there was a BIG jump in the volume which really surprised me. I found that the gain was reduced slightly and I thought that it had more clarity and the accent was more of a gritty in your face crunch, reminiscent of a vintage overdriven sound. This would be a great position for humbuckers or punchy Blues, Rock / rhythm work.

Setting the toggle selector to position 3, I thought there was a good balance between position 1 and 2. It was very similar to the first position, because it had that fuzz like distortion, but I thought it had slightly less gain than the first position with a little bit more mid range, which added a bit more of the position 2 crunch.

Overall, I thought position 3 was a good mix between positions 1 and 2 with a good variation and balance of the gain and tone.

Now I did find it nicer through my Laney LH50 head (that amp makes everything sound awesome!) rather than the lower wattage Kong Head (6V6 3/5 watt head) as the pedal seemed to want more head room and to ‘breathe‘ a  bit.

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So, how did it compare to an original USA RAT?

Well, I thought it did quite well, for the price it definitely was an awesome buy, but the original RAT2 was definitely a bit warmer, seemed more dynamic and the distortion seemed to be more organic!

I thought the Howler was its own pedal and not really a true sounding copy of the Rat, it had more of a mix between Distortion and Overdrive, kinda like an Overdrive pedal on steroids, whereas I think the Rat is leaning more towards a mix of Distortion and Fuzz.

Not putting the Howler down, honestly it is a great pedal for the price, and you can certainly have a lot of fun with it, because it really has a lot of versatility.

In Closing, the Howler definitely has that wonderful mix between distortion, overdrive and a bit of fuzz, which can can go from a high sustaining smooth lead tone to a crunchy, in your face hard-hitting Rock sound.

So if you looking for a low-priced pedal with a great build quality that will cover a few different bases, then the Howler comes totally recommended, as I still have one on my pedal board!

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About strataminor

Born in Brisbane I am a bedroom guitar player, although having played in front of churches (tough crowd!!) for quite a few years so some understanding of band dynamics, timing, gear (private use compared to public use) and melodic structure, instrumental breaks (okay leather pants solos....) and of course amps! Besides from my love of guitar and the G.A.S that goes with it (hey email me I am always offloading gear!! lol) I love languages, and can converse in basic Japanese, and study biblical Greek. I live in Logan with my young family (so not heaps of time at the moment) and will be contributing gear reviews based on a lot of gear I have or still currently have.

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