Black Mass 1312 V3 review: more than another RAT

A pummeling distortion beast with incredible range.

Black Mass Electronics 1312 Distortion V3

Image: Black Mass Electronics

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Review Overview

Our rating


Our verdict

An incredibly versatile distortion being built for good causes, the 1312 represents the best of small-scale US builders.

You probably don’t need us to tell you that there’s a certain type of guitar fan online who gets very angry about the perceived insertion of ‘politics’ into the apparently apolitical world of guitars and guitar music.

The truth, of course, is that guitar music has been a vehicle to express political, social and cultural opinions since Woody Guthrie slapped ‘This machine kills fascists’ on his guitar – if not before. Guitar music has always been political, overtly or otherwise, and if you didn’t notice, it’s probably because you happened to agree with what was being said.

The Black Mass 1312 is not flying under the radar – and perhaps that’s why the pedal has instilled so much vitriol from certain sections of the online world. It’s a pedal that was created explicitly to support Black Lives Matter, and features a burning, upturned police car adorning the casing.

For this particular version the 1312 V3 it has also been repainted in the colours of the transgender pride flag. As Black Mass says on its website: “Black Lives Matter. Trans Rights are Human Rights. If you disagree, our pedals are not for you.”

Black Mass Electronics 1312 Distortion V3
Image: Black Mass Electronics

50 per cent of the profits from the pedal will be donated to various charitable organisations that support racial justice and trans rights.

Which is all to say, that most of the conversation around the 1312 has very little to do with the fact that is a RAT-inspired distortion pedal, and a clever one at that. Version three features an internal charge pump to run on 18 volts by default. And like before, there’s a generous selection of clipping options; eight different modes accessible via a rotary switch with a choice of vintage germanium, red leds, silicon, asymmetrical mosfet, germanium/silicon, mosfet, asymmetrical silicon and quad silicon.

Next to our reference RAT there’s an across-the-board bump in clarity and headroom, and each control feels like it does more across its sweep, doubtless because of the higher internal voltage. It’s not hard to see why version three makes the 18 volt setting the default. The volume control gets louder, the gain control stays dynamic and clear in the lower ranges and gets hilariously dirty up near the top, and the filter control takes the pedal from sharp and spiky to smooth and fuzzy.

Each clipping option is distinct, even if differences are occasionally felt more than they are heard. There are some settings with more bass, more treble than others – cycling through, however, any sudden unwanted frequency interactions with the rest of your rig are quickly dialled out with a touch of the filter control.

Black Mass Electronics 1312 Distortion V3
Image: Black Mass Electronics

Germanium’s extra-spongy feel and lower output gives lower-gain settings a beautifully ragged texture, evoking a characterful low-gain overdrive more than a distortion. On the other end of the spectrum, the thicker low-end and tighter feel of red LEDs encourage far more aggressive playing. In any setting, dissonant, heavy chords retain the jangle and bite that makes them actually impactful, rather than a muddy fart in a wind tunnel. In a way, this is the true draw of a RAT-alike: the chaotic, hairy sound of a fuzz with the relative transparency of a distortion. The 1312 pulls that particular trick off perfectly, eight times in a row.

The pedal’s graphics, and the related causes Black Mass supports, are not separate from the music you might choose to make with the 1312. Delving into the mire of any online comments about the 1312 can be as good a motivator to make angry music as the pedal itself may be. But the 1312 is its own cure – you feel like you’re doing something tangible and positive in an increasingly bleak world, while adding a pedal to your board that you’ll never want to take off.

Key Features

  • PRICE $199
  • DESCRIPTION RAT-inspired distortion pedal, made in Salem, MA
  • CONTROLS Level, Gain, Filter, eight-mode Clipping dial
  • FEATURES Soft-switch relay true bypass, runs on internal 18V with standard 9V power supply (change internal dipswitches to run on external 18V), colour-changing LED indicating noise-gate activity
  • DIMENSIONS 120mm x 70mm x 50mm
  • CONTACT blackmasselectronics.com

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