The Raincoat is an amalgamation of thick distortion, warm overdrive, and crispy top-end rolled into a package that just begs to be your main overdrive, distortion, and everything in between. This gray Raincoat is the second pedal from Robert Bird over at BuggFX (of Daydream fame) in Georgia, and it’s take on the distortion formula may seem on its cover like a classic Electro-Harmonix circuit, but there are bits and pieces hidden away in the tone that separate it from the saturated crowd of lookalikes and clones. There’s a storm a-brewin’, so grab your Raincoats and let’s face the elements.
Before stomping it on, it’s clear that this pedal takes some sort of inspiration from the Big Muff circuit, with the controls “Volume” “Sustain” and “Tone” giving it away pretty completely. Upon stomping it on, the first thing that hit my ears was a very clear Sovtek influence, albeit slightly brighter and crispier in the upper midrange. The original Sovteks are quite dark and heavy in the midrange, as you can see here (Tone Report Weekly issue 132), and have a slightly sluggish sonic character that makes it a favorite amongst doom rockers. When asking Mr. Bird about the influences behind this pedal, he said it takes inspiration from the old Russian Big Muffs, but has quite a few tweaks in the circuit that transformed it beyond that. While sonically it is very similar, there are a few critical changes Mr. Bird made to take on the old Sovtek circuit and make it his own, namely in the lower and higher extreme sides of the spectrum.
I can’t read a schematic, and my knowledge of circuits and what they do is remedial at best. I can only comment on what I hear, and the bright upper-mids that I mentioned before are what set this pedal apart from a bevy of post-Soviet influenced noise boxes. On the lower gain settings, with my guitar’s volume knob rolled back, there is an air and clarity to my tone that a normal Sovtek wouldn’t have been able to achieve; it works wonders for maintaining clarity and note definition even at low gain settings. It sounds almost like a BK Butler Tube Driver, except without that earth-shattering low end girth and sometimes piercing and ragged top end. On the higher side of the gain spectrum, pick attack was clearly defined, and pinch harmonics sailed out of the strings with ease. The voicing here was not changed fundamentally, but it felt like a cross between an old Fender Bassman in the looser bass and defined treble, and a modern Marshall in the midrange liquidity.
MODS FOR DAYS
Like with all dirt pedals voiced to sound huge, adding a bit of delay and modulation widens up the sound beyond just the dry signal. This is a common trick employed by many guitar players, and with the Raincoat’s versatile voicing it works equally well on dirts as well as cleans with modulation and delay added.
There aren’t many pitfalls with the Raincoat, but it may alienate a few players that know exactly what they want. If a player is looking for a straight Russian Big Muff sound, you’d be better off with one of the excellent clones from Stomp Under Foot or Wren & Cuff. The Raincoat is a somewhat experimental design, and really demands you to push it limits and see where it can go. Like a good distortion should, there are plenty of new and interesting dirt tones to be found under the hood here, if you’re willing to look.
WHAT WE LIKE:
Articulate and clear and both low and high gain settings. Works well with volume knob rolled back, and maintains a clarity that both Big Muff inspired pedals and clones do not achieve.